With only 2,000 inhabitants The people of the island are descendants of former convicts who were exiled here. In addition, the island is a popular destination for scuba diving which is the primary motivation for my visit.
Komodo Island is also most notably home to the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon which reaches lengths of up to 9 feet. An overpriced liveaboard trip was thankfully canceled and I saw everything that was planned anyway at greater convenience and a fraction of the cost.
I finally made it here after a canceled flight out of Bali. My hotel was understanding and didn’t charge me for the night I missed. The people of Indonesia were warm and inviting.
LABUAN BAJO AIRPORT – KOMODO DRAGONS ADORN THE ARRIVAL BUILDING
KOMODO LODGE – This nicely appointed air-conditioned room is only $39 per night. It’s large, has a safe, and a nice sized desk for blogging. Believe me, you’re going to want AC if you’re staying in Labuan Bajo. Out on the dive boat it’s not an issue, but back on land it can be quite sweltering. You’re going to want to take refuge in your cool room after a balmy night on the town.
AS IN MOST PARTS OF SE ASIA FLOWERS GROW LIKE MAD HERE
DIVERS PARADISE KOMODO – Upon arrival, I hit the ground running and went in search of dive operations. I was drawn to the aesthetics of this place and took a gamble which thankfully paid off. They were very nice and ran a tight ship which I embarked upon at 7:30 the next morning.
TIS – MANAGER
LE PIRATE BAR
YON – This is my dive guide, Yon who was excellent at finding turtles, mantas, and a cornucopia of other marine life that I might have otherwise missed. The crew handled everything including setting up our gear and changing our tanks between dives. The all-day dive trip which included equipment, breakfast, lunch, and three dives was a mere $106.00.
THE SKIPPER GUIDES US OUT OF THE HARBOR PAST SMALL ISLANDS
It’s a two hour trip to our first dive site, so there’s a place up top with mattresses to catch up on sleep.
THE TRAVEL ZEALOT IS READY FOR SOME EPIC DIVING
DIVE DAY #1
Green Hard Coral
I left my camera behind on the first dive. The abundance of corals and the pristine nature of the reef system was astounding. It was nice a joyous experience to wash the bad taste left in my mouth from last year’s diving debacle. I’ll be returning to that incredible ecosystem again with camera in hand to show you that there are still places on earth that still harbor vast quantities of healthy coral with marine life galore.
A COUPLE OF SIX BANDED ANGELFISH LEAVE A CLEANING STATION
NEMO ON THE LEFT – SPECKLED HIND ON THE RIGHT
FAB RED SPONGE
WHITE SPOTTED PUFFERFISH
TURTLE TUCKED UNDER A LEDGE – A HUGE SWEET LIPS SHARES THE SPACE
GREEN MORAY EEL
EMPEROR ANGELFISH – I can’t get enough of these stylish fish.
Two large fish stop for a gill cleaning. You can see a small fish doing the job. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship.
All of a sudden the current really started raging, and I hung onto the divemaster’s fin until he secured a line onto a piece of dead coral so we wouldn’t be swept away. It was a super day of diving starting out with vast coral gardens where we encountered seven or eight turtles.
Then we moved on to Manta Point where we saw at least eight mantas and the cutest baby eagle ray you ever did see. It was the first juvenile that the divemaster or I had ever seen. Yon brought us in contact with double the number of mantas and turtles encountered by the other divers.
We went to dinner at the fish market and had lobster and a five-pound grouper to celebrate our success as well as the unique encounter with the baby eagle ray. Yon had never tasted lobster so it turned out to be a special day of firsts. Although a little intimidated by the crustacean and the dangers of cholesterol, he succumbed to my encouragement. He ended up liking it after all. I mean who doesn’t like lobster. It’s just the price that people hate.
Our one-pound lobster was only seven dollars! Our grouper and lobster dinner came to a grand total of $17.00. There was so much grouper that we had to share the last few bites with a hungry cat who was happy to help us out. It would have been shameful to waste any of that mouth-watering fish. I fully plan on returning for more tomorrow night. It will be my third night in a row, and it fits right in with my high protein diet.
I am proud to announce that I have dropped twenty pounds over a two month period and I have managed to keep it off. I’m no longer a F.O.B. (Fat Old Bastard). I could do with losing another ten, but I’m happy with where I’m at. The good news is that I know a proven method for how to take it off if need be.
FISH MARKET – Carts like these line the water’s edge, and you pick a fish, haggle the price, and end up with a hell of a meal. The big grouper we chose is already on the grill.
OUR GROUPER DURING GRILLING – DAMN TASTY I CAN TELL YOU
NEXT DAY – In search of something different for lunch.
THE PIRATE – I found this cheerful looking place and took a chance on the chicken quesadillas.
CHICKEN QUESADILLAS – They were as good as any I’ve had back in San Diego so I got a second order.
MY NEMESIS – There is a mosque near to my hotel and I have to contend with being woken up by their goddamned call to prayer at 5 AM. Seriously, I don’t go to their houses with a sack full of cats and beat on them in the middle of the night so why do they have to disturb me with their insufferable caterwauling five times a day. Can’t they just get a special call to prayer alarm clock and leave me out of it? There are even cheap wristwatches on which you can set multiple alarms. It’s like having a bad neighbor who plays their shitty music too loud all day and all hours of the night.
At least the Mormons wait until sunup to come knocking at your door, then you have a choice as to whether you want to hear the good news or not.
There aren’t too many interesting buildings in this rather shabby little town, but this is an exception with that fishtail element protruding from the roof. There’s a restaurant on the second floor which usually has very few customers which is probably due to the fact that the fish market is fifty meters away.
CHRISTIANITY – Another religion I’m not particularly fond of, but at least they aren’t going out of their way to wake me up in the middle of the night. At any rate, even without these backward and often seriously counterproductive philosophies, I’m sure that people would still find a way to ruin the planet. Our endemic selfishness, greed, and stupidity continue to propel humanity towards a sixth major extinction event. The difference is that this one will be man-made. What an admirable accomplishment.
BUT HEY, LET’S GO DIVING!
Here’s that reef where I left my camera behind before, but I brought it along this time so here are some images to enjoy. The commentary will be coming shortly.
DIVE DAY #2
BLUE-SPOTTED STINGRAY – Check out the two semi-invisible flounders looking for a little protection.
One of the flounders exposes himself when he climbs up on one the stingray’s fins.
ARRIVING AT THE REEFS
AND THE COPIOUS CORAL BEGINS…
A COUPLE OF BUTTERFLYFISH SWIM PAST A SEA OF HARD CORALS
HEALTHY ABUNDANT HARD CORALS
MIXTURE OF HARD CORAL INTERMINGLED WITH LIGHT COLORED SOFT CORAL
THERE ARE TURTLES ALL OVER THIS REEF SYSTEM
I SAW TEN TURTLES ON THIS PARTICULAR DIVE
Okay, so I’m getting a little carried away with the coral shots, but you have to understand that I saw so much dead and dying coral last year. I needed to record this to lift my spirits and remind myself that there are still good places to dive out there in the world. I already plan to return to Bali and Komodo next year.
I was having serious problems with my GoPro on this dive due to unfamiliarity with all the nuances of its operation. I had somehow put it in a mode where it was taking time-lapse photos, and I ended up with about 650 unintended shots to discard. This image was a result of that and was taken as I was checking the readout on the front of the camera. Somehow, I managed to put things right so I didn’t miss any good shots. The next day, I gave my instruction manual a good read to prevent another panic, and I made the same mistake again the next day, but this time was able to remedy the problem tout de suite.
A bigeye fish stops by for his selfie.
HEALTHY STAG HORN CORAL – HAVING SEEN SO MUCH DEAD SPECIMENS ELSEWHERE, THIS WAS A JOY
CLOWNFISH & CHILD
DIAGONAL BANDED SWEETLIPS
I WAS SO FOCUSED ON THE THE TURTLE ATOP THE CORAL THAT I MISSED HIS BIG FRIEND ON THE RIGHT
TURTLES JUST SEEM TO LITTER THIS REEF SYSTEM
A TRULY HANDSOME FELLOW
CLOWNFISH IN ANEMONE
RED BRAIN CORAL
A FASCINATING COMBINATION OF HARD AND SOFT CORAL
IT JUST GOES ON
A PHOTOGRAPHER GETS THE LAST SHOT OF THE DAY
AFTER SURFACING FROM OUR LAST DIVE WE ARE TREATED TO ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SIGHT
Afterward, we hit the upper deck for a nap on the way back to port while dreaming of turtles and mantas. I love the design of the Indonesian dive boats. After being woken up by my local mosque at five, this compartment comes in very handy on the 2-hour ride to and from the reef.
For those of you who would like to experience the overwhelming beauty of a healthy coral reef teeming with marine life, I recommend hurrying up and getting a dive certification. After last year’s exposure to worldwide degradation, it is clear that many of our reef systems are on the verge of collapse.
There are plenty of tropical paradises to choose from, but fewer and fewer present a happy picture once you get underwater. If you have children within diving age take them along for the ride because they might not get another opportunity. I can’t state this more emphatically. Time is running out, people. The Great Barrier Reef is half dead due to two major bleaching events in three years. The foremost expert on the area gives it ten years before that whole ecosystem is wiped out.
The late, great Arthur C. Clarke who penned “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a serious dive enthusiast. He spent the last 30 years of his life on the south coast of Sri Lanka and opened the first dive shop/school in his home town of Hikkaduwa. He is known to have said that diving was the closest he was going to get to space travel. This is something I have been saying for years. In the deep blue you are weightless in an alien world and relying upon a breathing apparatus for your survival. Finally, you are surrounded with astonishing creatures many of whom would be right at home in a Sci-Fi movie.
Finally, there is an element that he didn’t mention which is the spiritual component. When you dive, you regulate your breathing to save your air and this essentially simulates many meditation practices. The main difference is that it is not tedious and there is plenty to focus your mind upon save the banal darkness of traditional meditation. Add in the fact that you are physically connected to your environment and all its inhabitants by a liquid matrix which makes you a participant as well as an observer. This completes the package and often renders its practice quite transformational.
I’m a bit of a dive heretic wherein about 150 of my dives have been by myself which is a taboo. I am a certified divemaster and I always carried a Spare-Air in case of equipment failure. Of course, Navy Seals are trained in solo diving and frankly, a shitty buddy can drown you as quickly as assist you. My solo dives have often comprised the most magical minutes I have spent upon this Earth regardless of the stigma surrounding its practice.
There is clearly no recreational sport that has so much to offer. You have two lives to live. Don’t miss the one under the sea. It’s where life began on Earth. Two-thirds of the world’s surface is covered by water. If you missed what’s happening in the oceans, you’ve missed out on much of what the world has to offer. What are you waiting for?
DIVE DAY #3
CHOCOLATE CHIP SEA STAR
BLUE SPOTTED RIBBON TAILED RAY
GIANT MANTA RAY
A GIANT MANTA STOPS BY FOR A CLEANING
MORE GIANT MANTA RAYS
YELLOW TUBE SPONGE
GREEN TUBE SPONGE AND ORANGE BRAIN CORAL
GREEN MORAY EEL
DIVE DAY #4
BATA BULONG DIVE SITE – The visibility is much better than on my first visit here when I left my camera behind.
NAPOLEON WRASSE – AKA Maori Wrasse – This is a juvenile male.
GREEN MORAY EEL – A moray eel pokes his head out of the rocks.
PAIR OF BUTTERFLYFISH
SIX BANDED ANGELFISH
GIANT MANTA RAY
GIANT MANTA RAY
CLOWNFISH & ANEMONE
HERE COME THE ORANGE SOFT CORALS
HERE COME THE ORANGE SOFT CORALS
HERE COME THE ORANGE SOFT CORALS
IT’S ALL RIGHT
SWEET LIPS IN A SPONGE