CORALREPUBLIC

 

Komodo and Bali, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Trip dates:

29 August 18 September 2014

Boat / resort:

SMY Ondina - Komodo. Tauch Terminal Tulamben - Bali.

Dive centre:

See Above

Photo-friendly?:

Yes, in both locations.

Number of dives:

29 over 12 days of diving in total (could have been 41 but I missed a lot of dives due to a bad cold, see below)

Diving conditions:

Clear skies in Komodo, a bit of wind but flat seas making all crossings very calm and relaxed. Full moon period, hence strong currents in various sites, but manageable. Clear and hot but very windy in Bali. Good visibility in Komodo North, average in South Komodo and Tulamben. 27C water temp in Northern Komodo; 24-25C in Southern Komodo; 28C in Tulamben.

Comments:

We wanted to come back to Komodo since we loved it so when we came in 2010. We took a back-to-back offer on SMY Ondina that was by far the best price offered for this kind of cruise. The Boat departs from Bima, in West Tenggara and sails via Sangeang and Banta islands to the northern part of Komodo, ending the six-day cruise at Labuhan Bajo, where you can disembark for your return flight. We stayed on and did the 5-day cruise from Labuan Bajo to Bima, diving Rinca, Manta Alley and a final day around the northern spots (Gili Lawa Laut, notably), after which the boat steams straight back to Bima.

The flight from Denpasar to Bima can be booked with Lion Air/Wings Air, or with Garuda Indonesia. We had Wings Air and had only a 10 Kg luggage allowande per person, so had to pay about 40 dollars extra each way for our excess baggage. Other divers on the cruise had come with Garuda and had no such issues (20 Kg allowance), so my advice would be to try and book with them instead of the regional airlines.

We found the boat comfort and dive organisation quite decent. 4 dives a day were offered except on embarkation and disembarkation days. Cabins are OK, but the aircon made me get a bad cold on the third day and this really spoilt things for me big time (I had to stay out on many dives for fear of hurting my ears, including one full day of diving lost). This is however, my fault and not the boats! On the north Komodo leg, we had a full boat (16 guests) but we did not feel that cramped (although the camera space at the stern of the boat was barely enough for the seven of us who had big cameras. How they manage when everybody has a big camera, I wouldnt be able to say). The food was only so-so during this leg. Then for the southern cruise, we were only 6 divers on board, it felt very calm! The food was surprisingly much better. As in most Liveaboards, you get first breakfast at 6.30, proper Breakfast at 8 after the first dive, lunch after the second dive, cakes or fritters after the third dive and dinner after the night dive!

We knew there was no hot water in the cabin showers, but this was not a problem, hot showers on the dive deck were more than enough. The dive stations are indoors and therefore protected from the winds and this is an advantage, big for night dives when its windy. The boat runs two ribs, theoretically good for 6 divers each plus dive master, but I would imagine that many people will be cramped, since you have to get your tank on while on the rib, helped by the rib driver and dive master. We had a maximum of 4 divers in each rib, which means that in the Northern leg of the cruise, we had two groups of 4 divers going out, and once they were in the water, the ribs would come back to fetch the remaining two groups of 4, this made the diving operations somewhat lengthy, but nothing that caused annoyance or problems, and the crew demonstrated clearly their strict attachment to safety at all times. Ricard Bux, the designer and co-owner of the ship was with us for the Northern Leg of the trip, and since he is a long-time veteran of diving and the dive business in this part of the world, I was pleased to meet him and be able to have a few chats with him. Clearly, few people know the area including all the islands eastwards as far a Raja Ampat and further afield in West Papua better than him. He has written various dive guides and mapped the most important sites. A nice man, very approachable and knowledgeable. Moltes gracies, Ricard!

The diving was outstanding, as good as Komodo can offer. I do not feel we took advantage of Sangeang and Banta, which we did not dive in our previous trip. We did dive Bubble Reef, but apparently, the best sites were off bounds due to humongous currents. Once in Komodo, Castle Rock, Crystal Rock, Batu Bolong and others were really the world-class dive sites they are reputed to be.

On the southern leg, we had the chance this time to dive Manta Alley, which we missed last time due to rough seas making the crossing from Rinca not a good idea. The dives there this time were really magical. As many as 18 mantas parading once and again in front of us. Beautiful. The macro dives in Rinca were absolutely fantastic as well, and of course, we were treated to topside wildlife as well, with dragons, monkeys and wild boar on the beach!

We then flew back to Denpasar and were driven (3 and hours) to Tulamben. This was my second time there (see 2009 trip to Bali), and I really wanted Paul to dive the USAT Liberty Wreck, which we did for 2 days. The Tauch Terminal Resort is basically in front of it, so really convenient for day and night dives on the Wreck. Unfortunately, there are too many divers on it, even early in the morning, and I feel that this is devaluating the dive. The locals should take care or people will stop coming! Definitely, night diving on the wreck is a chaos of light beams and fins hitting your head. Be warned. I nevertheless loved it and had the chance at last to capture a harlequin shrimp on camera!

The TTT Resort is nice and well-appointed and its restaurant serves good food for reasonable prices, otherwise we found it to be a bit dead silent, muted, dont know. It did seem to be well-occupied, but it felt as if we and a couple people more were the only guests Not a lively place, but that might be precisely what you are looking for.

Finally, we flew back home via Hong Kong, where we did a 2-night stopover. We landed from Bali in the evening, just ahead of Typhoon Kalmaegi, and were lucky to get a taxi to our hotel just before the authorities shot down public transport! The morning after, most everything was closed and we could only visit the street markets in the afternoon. It was horribly hot and humid after the storm, and these HK people like their air conditioning maddeningly freezing. It is not nice to be drenched in sweat from walking the streets and then go inside a shop, a restaurant or even the metro and have to put on a pullover or risk pneumonia, especially in my case, since I was still coughing hard, trying to recover from a very bad cold! I hated Hong Kong for that reason, but Im sort of ready to give it another chance. Note however, that Cathay Pacific cannot compare, in my view, with Singapore Airlines!

Finally, a word of warning about Bali: The new and grandiose Denpasar airport is up and running, but there is something quite off in their scheduling. When we arrived, we had to queue for 2 HOURS before clearing immigration. This is simply not acceptable. It would seem that a good bunch of international flights arrived within minutes of each other, so in a matter of minutes, a couple thousand people were queueing for passport control. After 2 flights of, respectively, 12 and 5 hours to get there, and a sleepless night, the queuing was a true nightmare. What is the sense of spending so many millions on a snazzy terminal if you are going to make incoming tourists suffer so??? Seriously, the experience has been such that Bali is off our planning for future trips, till we hear things work better.

Not to finish on such a negative note, I really loved diving Indonesia again. It is so beautiful, and the people there are adorable. I still feel so privileged and thankful. I hope you enjoy the pictures. We have also produced a really nice video of this trip. You can watch it here (redirects to Vimeo). We think its our best so far, so do go check it out!

 

 

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