Diving Komodo National Park
Fabulous Diversity, Above and Below
Sea fans, soft corals, sponges, basket stars, sea apples, and feather stars cover all available substrate.
Some liveaboard trips to Komodo National Park begin and end in Bali, diving around Lombok and the north coast of Sumbawa along the way. Some depart from areas closer to Komodo and involve a short domestic flight from Bali. Either way, if you're going to Komodo, your first stop is Bali.
As you travel east, volcanoes give way to white sand beaches and coral reefs in warm water, 28º-30ºC (86-90ºF). Visibility is excellent at 20-40m (66-130ft). The reefs are healthy and diverse with large stands of corals and exotic animals. The diving is easy and night diving is good. Heading south to Komodo and Rinca islands, water temperatures drop to a chilly 20º-24ºC (70-78ºF). A 5mm wetsuit with hood, at least, is recommended. The cooler Indian Ocean meets the warmer Flores Sea in the Sape and Lintah Straits, creating one of the richest marine environments in the world. Nutrient-rich upwellings rise while warmer waters sink dropping visibility to 5-20m (15-66ft). This process creates currents, whirlpools and thermoclines bringing in scores of fishes and filter-feeding invertebrates. The reef is dramatic with drop-offs, outcrops, canyons, pinnacles and boulders, bursting with color. Sea fans, soft corals, sponges, basket stars, sea apples, and feather stars cover all available substrate.
Great Year-Round Scuba Diving at Komodo National Park
Small World is an excellent macro spot with snake eels, ghost pipefish, bubble shells, and stargazers.
The best time to visit Komodo is March to June and late September to December. July and August are good times to go, but windy conditions sometimes prevent diving at the exposed southern sites. Horseshoe Bay, formed by Rinca and Kode islands, is a protected bay with several world class dive sites like Cannibal Rock, Crinoid Corner and Yellow Wall. There's a host of unexplored sites too. Mentjang Wall, on south Sangiang Island, drops off to 20m (66ft) and turns into a black sand slope. The wall is beautiful with soft corals, crinoids and basslets. The slope harbors a fascinating assortment of nudibranches and other invertebrates.
Banta Island has several terrific sites such as Star Wars, GPS Point, K-2, and Small World. Small World is an excellent macro spot with snake eels, ghost pipefish, bubble shells, and stargazers. Star Wars, GPS Point and K-2 are wide angle spots with big fishes, sharks and sea fans. The Gili islands, off northeast Komodo, have sites like ETF Rock, HTF Rock and Table 4. All have current, loads of fishes and good coral cover. Tatawa Besar/Sambal is excellent for wide angle with a gradual reef slope covered with table corals and masses of orange soft corals. Fishes include sweetlips, bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasses. Pink Beach takes its name from the bits of broken red corals that litter the beach. The water is noticeably cooler here and the marine life is excellent. Huge boulders covered with soft corals go to 30m (100ft). Sea apples and toxic sea urchins appear for the first time. Mobulas frequent the reef. On the south side of Padar island is a series of rock pillars that extend underwater called Pillarsteen. The huge rock faces are covered with invertebrate growth and lead to canyons and caverns. There's good fish life too.
Mantas, Sharks, Eagle Rays, Tuna, Amphipods, Crinoids–Everything!
Indonesia has many beautiful dive sites, but there is only one Cannibal Rock!
There are many beautiful dive sites in Indonesia but there is only one Cannibal Rock. This is a big rock with profuse and colorful reef life. There are frogfish, Miamira nudibranches, huge basket stars and bright red sea apples. It's a hub of activity any time but especially around sunset as the day and night animals switch places. Baitballs, sharks, tuna, snappers, groupers, eagle rays, reef fishes–they're all here. Night dives are incredibly colorful. The Yellow Wall is at the southeast entrance to Horseshoe Bay. It's best dived in the afternoon when the sun lights up the wall of yellow tree corals that bloom in the current. The wall has many crevices and a deep undercut at 26m (95ft) where the wall really turns completely yellow. Everything's yellow–the soft corals, the nudibranches, and the crinoids–everything. Ladybug amphipods live on colorful sea squirts in the shallows.
Topside Komodo National Park
There be dragons...
Komodo Dragons are giant monitor lizards found only on the islands of Komodo & Rinca. As the world's largest lizards they can reach three meters in length and weigh up to 135 kg.
Komodo National Park (750 sq km or ~500 sq mi), a World Heritage Site, is home to the famous Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard. Park rangers on Komodo lead "dragon walks" so visitors can view the reptiles in their natural habitat. The paths are clear and an easy walk often turns up local deer, pigs, and a variety of birds and butterflies. Villagers sell local pearls, shell jewelry, masks and T-shirts at the park entrance. Like with most vendors in Indonesia, they can be persistent. Komodo Dragons are giant monitor lizards found only on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar and western Flores in Indonesia.
As the world's largest lizards they can reach 3m (10ft) in length and weigh up to 135kg (300lbs) although 50-70kg (110-150lbs) is more common. Komodo Dragons have massive jaws, long powerful tails and can run surprisingly fast for short periods. They're cannibalistic, often eating younger dragons and occasionally other adults and they've been known to attack humans. Although they aren't poisonous, they harbor bacteria between their teeth which are easily transferred to their next victim. These bacteria lead to infections that kill the victim if the dragon doesn't. Dragons ambush their prey by lying in wait and pouncing when the time is right. Their diet consists of small animals and carrion which they sense with their long, forked tongues. When not hunting or mating, the dragons are generally lethargic. Mating season is May to August which makes it a more difficult time to observe them. During this time males are known to rise up on their rear legs and fight one another. In September, females lay their eggs in deep burrows, tending them until they hatch several months later. Baby dragons are 45cm (18in) long and live in trees where they feed on insects, small reptiles and birds. The park boundary extends underwater. Download an article on Komodo Dragons published in Scientific American (PDF file, less than 300kb).
International conservation organizations and the local government administer the park to preserve its extraordinary reefs from destructive fishing practices.
About the Authors
Larry and Denise Tackett are the authors of all of our Indonesian dive site and regional descriptions. They are professional photographers specializing in underwater and terrestrial natural history and travel subjects. They are represented by stock photo agencies in the US and United Kingdom and their photographs have been widely published in books and magazines worldwide. Their work has appeared in magazines such as National Wildlife, Islands, BBC Wildlife, Ocean Realm, Asian Diver, Unterwasser, Tauchen, Canadian Wildlife, Popular Science, Sport Diver, National Geographic Kids, Geo, and many others.