By Alex del Olmo.
This October I was leading a two weeks snorkeling trip all around Komodo and including a quick visit to Sumbawa. As many of our trips are dive trips or mixed trips (snorkeling-diving), this pure snorkeling trip was a new experience: I loved it.
As a consequence of being a passionate uw filmmaker, I more than often try to keep my dives shallow mainly because nothing can beat natural light when you are filming. And so it turned out that my extended experience in shallow water was a real asset for this snorkeling trip.
Sadly, it so often happens, in my opinion, that divers underestimate the beauty of shallow dives. I’ve seen it many times in many places. It seems shallow dives (from surface up to 5 m) are not “real” dives. Such a mistake… Many of my best dives are in shallow water and Komodo has a lot to offer in that sense.
So we went exploring Komodo and had a fantastic experience in Siaba, watching turtles breathing on the surface and going back down to get some food. In Fishbowl (aka Shotgun) we hanged out with a manta, sharks, snappers, giant trevallies and fusiliers… and because the wildlife was so abundant and we had so much fun drifting amongst all these marvelous creatures, we snorkeled the channel 4 times in a raw during that session! Can you imagine that while diving? Impossible.
We spent a whole day in Batu Monco, North Komodo, and its incredible coral garden and generously decorated bommies. Personnaly, I spent an hour on one particular that I loved since the first time I dove there. But this time I had all the time I wanted to study it, to focus my attention on the different sea fans attached to it, the fish life thriving in the corals, the reflections of the sun playing with the water on the hardcorals, just to mention scarcely a few details. We enjoyed as well the incredible colorful walls filled with multi-color crinoids and the delicate and intricate soft and hard corals surrounding Horse Shoe Bay and the shallow soft coral gardens in Sumbawa and its black tip shark nursery: no deeper than 1 meter, specially during a falling tide, with a dozen of baby and juvenile blacktip sharks in it! A ellusive spectacle that you would miss on a regular dive.
And of course, our special and beloved super stars: the mantas! Plenty, more than you can handle… in manta Alley and Karang Makassar. It was just a blast, specially in the last spot. I went to check current and it was so strong… but when I was drifting through the surface I started to see them, one after another, and another, and another, dancing and feeding on the surface. We waited 30 mins to get the current to slow down a bit and we jumped in. It was even better than when I first checked. You know that a dive or snorkel is good when you cannot count how many mantas are in front of you. We were with this majestic creatures by ourselves, not any other daily boat nor liveaboard. After one hour or so, the tide reaching a slack, the mantas left us, our hearts filled with with joy for this almost intimate moment with them, feeling even more in love for our oceans.
It turned out that October is an incredible month for several reasons. First, it is low season in Komodo and there is almost no liveaboards in the Park, so we had most of all sites for ourselves most of the time. Visibility and water temperature is very comfortable in the South at this time of the year (25-26 degrees, compared to the 19-20 degrees I had only a couple of trips before, it was a very welcomed treat!). Temperature in the South will keep increasing until December. Visibility was also very good.
When we went to see the Komodo dragons, we had the whole park for ourselves. Even the rangers who usually are busy and wait for you inside, they were waiting and greeting us at the main entrance… We had twice as much rangers as usual to lead the excursions . So, our guests took that chance and asked them tons of questions, which they were happy to answer. And the best thing is that we had many expert eyes to spot many things. It was the first time for me, for example, to see a baby Komodo dragon or 2 owls resting there in a tree. Of course our adventure wouldn’t have been complete without our traditional barbecue on an isolated beach and our breaks with drinks and snacks on inhabited islands.
What I enjoyed there, is that snorkeling presents many advantages in comparison to diving. First of all, you are not messing with heavy equipment so you travel lighter, you just need to arrive on the spot, fins on, mask on, jump in: that’s it. No leakings, no play with your bcd, no NDL, your air supply is unlimited… No equalizing and pressure issues, and so this activity is accessible to people that may not be able to dive for medical reasons. Other senses are stimulated, you can hear the environment (birds, hawks, wind, waves, etc.), can smell the fragrance of the trees and vegetation carried by the wind from the island nearby, you can enjoy the exceptional coastal landscape above the water besides the one under it, and doing so connect more with the region that you are visiting. You can share your precious finds and talk with your snorkelers buddies, though I noticed, that often the water enthusiasts, divers alike, will choose to stay quiet, immersed in their own meditative exploration.
It is possible to stay at the same spot for a longer time, observing that cute anemone shrimp for ages if you wish, the pace is slower. Not being constricted be the regular looks at your pressure gauge, you can stay in the water for nearly 2 hours if you feel like it, with complete freedom, and enjoy the Sea in your very own way, more relaxed and focused in the surroundings.
And last but not least, conducted in a respectful way, snorkeling is by nature less intrusive in the animal life than what we can often observe in diving but all our guests already know that, many of them were divers at some point, and they converted to snorkeling. To stop diving doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop enjoying the Beauty of the Ocean…
See you on the next trip!
Alex del Olmo
Cruise Director The Seven Seas