Komodo in a Nutshell
Big animals, small animals, and great biodiversity make Komodo, actually 2 destinations in one, a popular choice.
Intro to Komodo
Bordered by the Sulawesi and Flores Seas on the north side and the Indian Ocean to the south, Komodo National Park can almost be considered two different destinations. While close to one another geographically, these areas are often worlds apart in terms of conditions. On the north side, the water is generally warm and sparkling blue, as you might expect in such tropical latitudes.
In the south, however, upwelling currents deliver chilly, nutrient-rich waters from great depths, creating perfect conditions for plankton growth. Visibility often isn’t great, but most divers agree that the trade-off is well worthwhile, as this living planktonic “soup” supports an incredibly diverse and healthy marine life community. Despite considerable differences in temperature and visibility, underwater terrain is actually quite similar between north and south Komodo, typically consisting of drop-offs, pinnacles, fringing reefs and shallow coral gardens.
Komodo also attracts many divers eager to see a Komodo Dragon, the world's largest lizard, in the wild. This unique carnivore is found nowhere else in the world.
Divers returning from Komodo generally have stories of mantas, lots of schooling fish, reef sharks, turtles, a cornocopia of macro subjects and some "brisk" currents. Because of the currents, Komodo is generally not suitable for beginners.
Overview of areas
North Komodo is warmer and clearer than the South, and delivers what can be considered typical Indo-Pacific reef diving. The north has its share of big-fish sites and macro sites. Castle Rock is a favorite submerged pinnacle, full of trevally, mackerel, wide-angle and macro subjects. Even bottlenose dolphins have been known to visit the site.
Another submerged pinnacle, called Hard-To-Find reef, has many massive school of fish, reef sharks, and turtles. On these kinds of sites, you often don't need to swim far, but simply park yourself and watch the show.
With colder waters (low 70's fahrenheit) and lower visibility (20ft - 50ft) why would anyone come here? South Komodo has incredibly rich marine life, such as beautiful tiny amphipods, sea apple cucumbers, sponges, colorful soft corals, frogfish, stargazers, electric rays, lots of critters, and much more. Everything here is generally larger, and there is more of it, because of the rich supply of plankton.
Top dive areas include Rinca Island’s Horseshoe Bay, home of iconic sites like Cannibal rock and the Great Yellow Wall. The bay is protected from most bad weather, bathed with nutrient rich currents, and has extremely varied underwater terrain, supporting an amazing variety and density of marine life.
Komodo dragons are found on Rinca Island at Horseshow bay, and divers will often go on land for a little while in-between dives to see the dragons. You can actually see them either from land, or from the dinghy boat. Divers have even seen them swimming to the dinghies.
While South Komodo is mostly about the critters, there is a notable big animal dive site called Manta Alley, which you may have guessed, has Mantas.
Typical Komodo Dive
You are typically dropped off by a tender over the dive site, and may need to do a negative entry if over a submerged pinnacle. The tender will do a live pickup when you surface, and a SMB (safety sausage) is absolutely mandatory. Some divers will use reef hooks, on the pinnacle dives so you can stay put and enjoy the view. Downcurrents are possible, especially on steep drop-offs, but they can usually be avoided with proper planning.
Komodo has a well-deserved reputation for strong currents, but there are many sites where the flow is minimal and diving is easy. Some reefs are also suitable for drift dives, allowing you to sail along with the current rather than fighting it. Even at places that are notorious for strong currents, problems can usually be avoided by diving at slack tide—an excellent reason to go with a reputable, experienced dive operator with plenty of local knowledge.
Komodo Marine Life & Photography Subjects
Most trips will include manta ray sightings at one or more sites. Pelagics such as dogtooth tuna, giant trevally, barracudas are often seen. Napolean wrasse and bumphead parrotfish sightings are also possible. You may see a few reef sharks, but they are not especially common. Turtles are encountered at many sites.
Frogfish, stargazers, spiny devilfish, leaf scorpionfish, ghost pipefish, cuttlefish, bobtail squid, garden eels, bobbit worms, and pygmy seahorses are all commonly seen. Unique critters like the "Ladybugs" are also found in Komodo.
Komodo Underwater Video
Best Time To Dive Komodo, Water Temps And Visibility
Best time to visit Komodo
For best access to all sites in the park, we would visit Komodo from March to May, and again from September to November. From mid May to early September, southeast winds make some southern sites inaccessible, but this is the best time for the northern sites. The converse is also true; from mid November through January most northern sites are exposed, but conditions in the south are optimal.
This varies widely depending on location, so best to come prepared for both tropical and temperate conditions. Water temperatures are usually moderate, but can range from 66f / 19C to 86f / 30C on the same trip. The temperature changes more based on location, than on time of year. The north side is always warm, but the south side is often colder. South Komodo tends to be warmest and clearest from Nov- Jan.
Most trips depart from Bali or Bima. If you need to fly to Bima, you will generally transfer planes in Bali.
Options for Combination Trips
We highly suggest combining a trip to Komodo with a Bali trip. Also, instead of doing only Komodo, you can do a "transition trip" where you start in Komodo and end in Flores (Maumere), or vice-versa.
Land tours of the Komodo Islands are definitely a highlight. Komodo dragons are found on Komodo and Rinca Islands, and most trips provide opportunities to see them between dives. You can view them either from land or from the dinghy—occasionally they’ll even swim out to greet you! A word of caution is in order when around the dragons, however, as they can be aggressive, and even a minor bite may cause a life-threatening infection. Follow your guide’s instructions and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Komodo essential facts
- Money - Indonesian Rupiah. A dollar or Euro will get you a lot of them.
- Electricity - generally is 220 volts, with 2 round pin plugs (European Standard)
- Vaccines - Please check the CDC website for updated information on vaccines, health concerns, etc. It is recommended that you are up to date with Typhoid, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis and Polio for any trip to the tropics.
- Visa - Visitors from most countries can receive a 30-day visa ($25) upon arrival to Indonesia. Make sure your passport has a blank page, and is valid for 6 months.
- Language - Bahasa is the language of Indonesia. It is very easy to learn, and we suggest you learn hello, thank you, how are you, and what is your name before your trip.
- Domestic Flights - As with all domestic Indonesian flights, be prepared for changes or delays.
- Safety - A surface marker buoy is essential for diving Komodo, and as with all dive travel, evacuation insurance is highly recommended.
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