Komodo, Indonesia 2011





View also Paulís Video from this trip in Vimeo



Trip dates:

20 August Ė 3 September 2011

Boat / resort:

S/Y Mandarin Siren (Siren Fleet, but booked with Worldwide Dive and Sail Ė This boat burned and sank one month after our trip, see below). One night inbound spent at Alam KulKul in Kuta, Bali, and two nights outbound spent at Bali Spirit Hotel in Ubud, Bali.

Dive centre:

Siren Fleet


Yes, since guests on board are usually keen photographers. The crew is used to cater for photographers requests, but the space on board to deal with the kit may be very limited if the boat is full (not our case, see below).

Number of dives:

27 over 9 days of diving. But we could have done 4 a day if we wanted. A few times, we passed on the night dives and just relaxed and enjoyed the evening with a drink on deck.

Diving conditions:

Clear weather throughout the 10-day cruise, no rain. Water temperature 29įC in the northern area of Komodo, 25įC around Rinca Island (good, since we expected much cooler). Windy, choppy seas in the southern part of the itinerary meant we could not cross over to Manta alley. Strong currents in the central part of the Park, especially shotgun. But the crew took great pains to organise the itinerary and time of dives according to the tides and we always had fair visibility. Yet, I would not recommend this trip to novice divers.


UPDATE A few weeks after the end of our cruise, S/Y Mandarin Siren sank after catching fire during a trip to Raja Ampat. Fortunately, nobody on board suffered any harm. I regret the loss of the lovely ship and wish the best in overcoming this sad event to the crew and managers.


We arrived in Bali from Amsterdam via Kuala Lumpur one day before the cruise, had a resting overnight in Kuta at Alam Kulkul. I liked this hotel since my stopover on my way to Wakatobi a couple of years ago. It has been slightly changed, with new reception facilities, but the rooms, restaurant, pools are pretty much the same. Good quality in good location, conveniently close to the Airport. So, it was a breeze to connect on the following day with our domestic flight with Lion Air to Labuan Bajo. They do charge excess luggage, even if you carry diving equipment. We had to pay about 20 USD for our extra 10 Kg between the two of us. This was not too much, so no complaints. Worldwide Dive and Sail warns you of this and offers dive equipment on board free of charge, but we still preferred to take our own full kit.

The flight to Labuan Bajo takes about one hour and a half. Labuan Bajo has limited capacity for resupplying ships, so many boats cruising Komodo leave from Bima in Sumbawa Island. This means a full day of cruising is spent sailing towards Komodo. While dives are offered in good sites on the way, the time spent in Komodo is reduced and that limits the time spent diving in the southern part of the Park. We did not have that constraint.

Amazingly, we found on arrival that we were the only guests on board! It felt like a private charter, with 7 crew dedicated to our every need. The crew acknowledged this was good for them, more relaxed. But we did not feel they were sparing any attention to us. We felt very privileged! They were all adorable, professional, and spoiled us rotten throughout the trip.

There were a fair number of boats in the area, most of them full. A lot of comings and goings between boats each evening made for a funny social life afloat. We had people coming over for drinks and met divemasters and crew with fun and interesting stories to tell about the diving and the life on board. It was great.

About the boat: Mandarin is meant to accommodate max 6 guests, in 4 cabins. We had all the space for ourselves. I donít quite know how it would have been with a full boat. I had all my photo kit spread in the saloon (almost never used) inside. Had there been 6 big cameras in use, the only solution would have been to deal with it in the cabin. Apart from this, diving from this boat was very comfortable and safe. We would kit up on the boat, take three little steps to the platform and board the rib for a short transfer to the dive site, and a backroll entry. The food on board was indecently good, and available at all times. Soft drinks and beer were freely available, other alcohol extra. The cabins were not luxurious, but more than OK. Those PCs in the room are a nice detail, but frankly, we did not use them.

The Siren fleet offers free nitrox, but Mandarinís equipment had broken down during the rough crossing from Raja Ampat and there was no place where to get a new membrane from. Kassandra Wu, our cruise manager, saw to it with considerable work (herself and DM Wayan) to fetch nitrox tanks from the other boats in the area. She spent many an evening doing this, poor thing. Her professionalism and kindness is commendable and I hope she reads this and know that we are still remembering her very fondly. She made our trip one of the best diving experiences ever.

About Komodo diving: WOW! It is such a ďtraditionalĒ destination that you donít read much about it, especially recently, with all the hype about Lembeh, Raja Ampat, etc. I was absolutely unprepared for the experience. It is rugged, savage, wild, and so very beautiful both above and below the surface that I cannot hope to do the place justice with words. We did not mind missing the manta dives, as we have dived with mantas many times before. We had three wonderful nights in Horseshoe Bay between Rinca and Kode Islands. At dusk, the dragons would come to the beach, along with deer, wild boar and monkeys. We would watch them from the boat, while also watching sea eagles fishing a few meters away. Surreal. We also had our visit to the Park and did a little trek around, which was nice. But seeing the animals in their own pristine wilderness in Rinca was far more exciting.

As to favourite dive sites, Cannibal Rock was a highlight and deserves its reputation as a world-class site. Same goes for Batu Bolong, even if in this case, we had one dive which was really overcrowded, and with a few rude divers as well, pushing others around and all. I did more or less 50/50 macro and wide angle. At times, I felt it difficult to shoot with the currents, but it was not much of a problem all in all. Iím very happy with the images I brought back.

We finished the trip with two nights in Ubud, in Bali, before heading home. It was good to chill out in the hills, but we found Ubud too much of a tourist trap and Iím not sure we will repeat that programme. Anytime we do Komodo again, weíll try to finish off with a couple of dives in Tulamben, I think.

The bottom line is: Komodo is an extraordinary place to dive. Donít miss it! And our thanks to the Mandarin Crew. They are the best! You can see an album of above water shots here.


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