What an amazing five days it has been. We’ve were floating around in the Komodo islands archipelago on a very nice boat. We had warm fresh water to shower in, which does not seem like a big deal, but it was. Our cabin had very comfortable beds and air conditioning. Air conditioning! Can you believe it!? The only footwear we wore were swimming booties and fins.
The diving was superb. We doubled our experience and got to dive in some of the best places in the world. This is where the Indian Ocean and the Pacific meet, exchanging warm and cool water, mixing in eddies of current as nutrient rich water flows through with the tides. We saw countless swarming fish of countless species, a rainbow assortment of technicolor corals which stretch the definition of your basic hues and glow in the sun’s shimmering rays. We saw a multitude of sharks, a gigantic cuttlefish, sea cucumbers the size of human thighs, shrimp, crab, and vibrantly colored elaborate little slugs called nudibranches. We got to dive stretches of coral-studded sandy bottoms, endless walls, coral gardens, around fantastic islands and sea mounts. We dove in swift current, flying through the alien landscapes like superman. We also got to dive at night, examining the close-up underwater life with the aid of a flashlight. When the lights turned off and the eyes adjusted to the darkness, the sea sparkled with phosphorescent plankton. Altogether, the only words that can sum up the experience are surreal and magical.
My personal highlight was swimming with manta rays. These immense fish grow up to seven meters across, from wingtip to wingtip. They soar gracefully through the water and seeing them was an almost religious experience. At one point, I had the indescribable experience of having one slowly swim directly over me, just a few feet above. It felt like an alien spaceship was silently coming in for a landing on top of my head. This was such an unbelievable sight that I’ve already had dreams about it, and undoubtedly will have more in the future. It was truly unforgettable.
As if the underwater life was not enough, we took a brief excursion to see bona fide dragons. These were the komodo dragons which inhabit some of the islands around here. We admired them as they lounged around and lazily strolled the park headquarters. Although generally unattractive, they have a nice subtle tint of red, yellow, and green which, like makeup, gives them a certain charm. On another side trip, we went to an island where at dusk we saw thousands of winged Chihuahua-like flying foxes fly in every direction.
The only unfortunate accident happened to our trusty little Cannon S90 camera, which took all of the underwater pictures and most of the terrestrial ones as well. Due to a “sealing error”, the waterproof case found itself in the inconvenient condition of not being waterproof, as it happens when salty water and microelectronics meet at close proximity, the salty water won. We hope that we will be able to replace it soon. RIP little rainbow, you will be missed.
Our time on board was one of the most relaxing and quiet experiences we’ve had in a long time. The food was fantastic, and it was difficult to put a dent in the heaping piles of fresh fish, meat, fruit, potatoes, pancakes, and rice which were presented to us at various times of the day. Even though I’ve always regarded diving as a low-intensity sport, four dives a day do have a way of draining the energy out of the body. The boat offered plenty of lounging places and while not diving, eating, and sleeping, we read books.
We are now heading back to Labuan Bajo, where we commence our journey eastward. We want to spend the following week exploring the island of Flores. Lakes and mountains and volcanoes and local tribes await. Internet access is unlikely, but since we will be land-bound for the foreseeable future, our phone should work just fine.