A major dive mecca of Southeast Asia, Komodo in Indonesia is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site where dragons (of the lizard kind, that is) roam the land and large pelagics, particularly manta rays, rule the seas. But you know what they say: with big fish you often have to deal with strong currents, which is why Komodo is so alluring yet challenging at the same time.
Brand new divers from the world over are often eager to strike this dive destination off their list, but what many fail to do is proper research before making plans. As a result, dive accidents sometimes occur here, and at times they end up being quite tragic.
If you’re thinking about diving Komodo and aren’t very sure where to begin with your search queries on Google, fret not. We got two dive operators – luxury liveaboard Siren Fleet and Blue Marlin Komodo, a land-based PADI 5 Star resort – to answer some frequently asked questions so you can make informed decisions and ultimately, dive safe.
Q: Which Komodo dive sites are infamous for their strong currents?
A: Shotgun (aka The Cauldron), Batu Bolong, Tatawa Besar, Castle Rock, Crystal Bommie, Siaba Kecil, Tatawa Kecil, Batu Tiga, and Current City. The last three – Tatawa Kecil, Batu Tiga, and Current City – are for the real adrenaline junkies.
“[These three sites] are regularly prone to such strong currents that most of the time, they aren’t even diveable. These sites attract phenomenal currents and have to be timed perfectly. It is almost impossible to do these sites on day trips (as the window for diving needs) and those who can access them on liveaboards must be very experienced divers who have proven their ability in currents before,” says Anna Kloth, Director of Business Development of Blue Marlin International.
Q: As a guest on a liveaboard or at a dive resort, is there anything I can do to make sure I’m being taken care of, especially if I’m a new diver?
A: Yes, there are some things you can do:
- Do not skip that checkout dive and always carry (or consider renting/asking for) a surface marker buoy (SMB) and/or a Nautilus Lifeline. “The way our itineraries operate in Komodo is we begin diving in Bima Bay and Sangeang, where there are either none or very gentle currents. This gives our guests a chance to get a few check dives done and at the same time, our staff get the opportunity to evaluate them so that we can advise them accordingly when we get to the challenging sites later on during the trip. We also provide guests both SMBs and a Nautilus Lifeline so that they can make themselves visible and, if required, contact the boat directly should they find themselves caught in a current and separated from the group or the dive site,” says Indo Siren Cruise Director Kathy Rothe of Siren Fleet.
- Choose your dive operator wisely. Other than making sure you do basic things like check if your dive operator of choice is actually legit (read reviews, ask questions, make sure land-based resorts are part of something called DOCK (Dive Operators Community Komodo) – which means these resorts have agreed to a certain level of safety standards), you also need to find out how they operate (either as a liveaboard or a land-based resort) and if it’s suitable for your level of experience. For example, Blue Marlin Komodo uses a two-dayboat approach so everyone can enjoy their dives. “We never want to push a newer diver into a site they may not have the experience to manage properly (for their sake as well as the benefit of the reef!), and we also don’t want to slow down our more advanced divers who perhaps don’t require that many check dives on a daily basis compared to the newcomers. That’s where our two-dayboat system comes in… Our traditional outrigger boat is geared towards courses, beginners, and those who are returning to the water after some time away. We only take up to eight guests for two dives on this boat, which allows for a more relaxed atmosphere and a bit more time to work out any nerves. On the flip side of this, we also have a fibreglass speedboat. This speedboat is geared towards more serious divers and divers must at least have an Advanced Open Water Diver certification to be on this boat,” says Kloth.
Q: Are there any dive sites in Komodo that are great for beginners or intermediate divers?
A: Aside from aforementioned areas like Bima Bay and Sangeang, where Rothe explained waters can be quite calm, there are also dive sites like Sabolan Besar, Sabolan Kecil, Sabayor, Mini Wall, and Siaba Besar.
“As a former dive instructor, my favourite site, Siaba Besar, is actually one that is ideal for Discover Scuba Diving experiences. It’s also great because you can’t dive it without finding a turtle. Cuttlefish, sweetlips, whitetip sharks, frogfish, and bluespotted stingrays are also frequently sighted,” says Kloth.
Q: What are some tips to keep in mind if I’m diving Komodo and dealing with the unpredictable currents for the first time?
A: When it comes to diving Komodo, the key thing to remember is: if you’re not comfortable, don’t go down.
“If you are a novice, it’s good to judge yourself and keep within your own limits. If you’re not sure, then don’t dive,” says Rothe.
The other two tips come from Kloth, who prefers to the take scientific approach when it comes to planning scuba trips and wants to remind you of that age-old piece of advice:
Also read: How to plan a scuba diving trip
“I strongly suggest you plan your trip according to the lunar cycle depending on whether you are anticipating an adrenaline-filled trip or prefer lesser currents. If you are looking to experience strong currents, choose dates that fall around new or full moons. Aside from that, make sure you listen to your guide’s briefing. If you are unclear, uncomfortable, or nervous about anything, communicate this to your dive leader. Most guides will be happy to help!” says Kloth.