My logged dives #1225-1227
Besides the manta hangouts, there were only two good dive sites in Komodo Park that we really wanted to see that the liveaboard wouldn't go to, and these were Castle Rock and Crystal Rock (and the nearby Cauldron, all three well worth a day out from Labuan Bajo). Both are near each other and we managed to arrange the trip with Moritz who manages Komodo Dive Center <http://divingkomodo.net>. So on the appointed day we pitched up at his shop in the morning and got on his decent boat and headed across the channel to the dive sites in the northeast corner of Komodo Island, a boat trip of around 2 hours.
We dived Crystal Rock first. Crystal Rock juts a little above water which must make it a shoal that's invited shipwreck, though we saw no evidence of that. We were hoping to see big creatures here but didn't really, since we hit between rising and falling tides. Crystal Rock has a saddle with another submerged hump and we spent the dive going between the two. We descended in a school of purple surgeon fish and swam around jacks and the usual reef fish while circumnavigating the rock, until near the bump past the saddle we came on a resting reef shark. He posed for pictures but then decided we were too near and wandered off, but then decided he wanted his picture made after all so meandered back and took to rest again. After that I don't recall what we saw because I'm still thinking about the next dive, but our maximum depth was 26.5 and dive time around 55 min.
After a snack and coffee, we dropped in on Castle Rock which met expectations as far as beefy white-tips are concerned. Bobbi and I had been joined by a Spaniard with just 30 dives on the first dive. He was ok but he decided to join his friends on the second dive, so it was just Bobbi and I and our guide Alex on the remaining two, and being a small and most experienced group, we were first in as well. This turns out to be a good thing on Castle Rock, since the sharks were plentiful and all around up when we first arrived on the reef. We descended to about 22 meters and hooked into rocks to hold ourselves into the current, but it wasn't so strong that I couldn't swim over to where the sharks were if I wanted. A group of them and some big jacks were gravitating toward a certain bommie, but when the others joined us they moved away from where we were and we hooked in to the balcony and watched the sharks move to and fro over the lip just in front of us in the blue. Alex said he counted 12 but I told him when I was in Palau I could only count up to 13 before they had moved around so much that I lost track. But there were at least that many. We hung on for 25 min or so till I got within 5 min of deco and then we moved off and let ourselves go with the current to the far side of the rock where we basically hung out in the lee of the current and burned off air, coming up after 50 min, maybe 24 meters max depth.
The last dive was in a channel between two islands called the Caldron. This dive started in a coral rubble valley that looked like it might see a manta occasionally but we saw only sharks and turtles here. Not that there is anything wrong with sharks and turtles, and the occasional big green moray eel. We got some nice videos of these creatures as we moved from the rubble valley up the coral and into the caldron, which is a hole with a white sand bottom of 22 meters from its rim at 12 meters. We found turtles and one of our sharks swimming here. The current nudged us constantly to complete our dive, and near the safety stop we were entertained by a wayward whitetip and another small turtle that led my GoPro on a merry chase through a school of colorful reef fish. This dive was shallower than the others, less than 20 meters, and again lasted over 50 minutes, with air consumption compromised a little with the constant wrestling with the fairly mild current.
This might be our last day of Komodo diving. We had thought to go on a dive on sites near Rinca Island where we might put ashore and see the famous dragons, but we're also thinking of doing a 3 day cruise that stops at both Rinca and Komodo on its way to Lombok, which appeals to me, and if we do that then we don't need to make any special trips to see dragons. Alternative ways to get to Lombok are to fly to Denpasar and then come on a cross channel ferry maybe straignt to Gili Trawangan, or take the local bus to the ferry to Sambawa, transfer to minibus to Bima and then cross Sambawa on a day bus to where we get the ferry to Lombok, a journey of 24 hours by the time we reach the other side.