Living on the boat and hanging out with giant Komodo Dragons was sweet and all, but the diving was life-changing. It was my first liveaboard and i can see why they are popular. If we were to dive from the port town of Labuanbajo, we would get on a speed boat at 9am, ride for 2 hours to the best spots, dive once, maybe twice, and be back on land around 6pm... an exhausting day spent entirely in the sun or on a wave-crushing speedboat. Our lives were much more comfortable than that.
We wake up at 7 and have coffee or tea and a few bananas while Willy briefs us on our morning dive. Willy was a great divemaster and a pleasant guy. He drew us diagrams of every dive site, telling where to expect strong currents and where to look for awesome sea creatures. This is Willy.
I must admit to getting along swimmingly with Willy, and we had a bit of a bromance. Handsome devil, eh? Sorry ladies, he's taken, due to marry in 2015.
We are already at the site, having either travelled at night, or the previous evening. At 7:30 we suit up and prepare to board the speedboat, and after a 5-10 minute ride, we are diving at world class sites known for big currents, big fish, amazing coral, and awesome schools.
And have i mentioned the diving is incredible? I was fortunate enough to rent a really nice underwater camera for two days. I took lots of pictures and a few videos (!!!), here's some stuff we saw-
White Tip Reef Sharks and Lion Fish - Reef sharks are pretty docile, but they will sometimes let you get really close if you catch them sleeping, like this guy.
Nudibranches - awesome psychedelic colored slugs, like a snail with no shell. These guys are small and you have to have a keen eye to find them so it's rewarding when you do. (Second photo courtesy of Jeremy Axworthy)
Huge Schools of Awesome Fish
Blue Spotted Sting Ray and weird Giant Clams
Big 'ol Squids - this guy was fun. Check out his blowhole in the second picture, that's how his propels himself. Awesome!
Dozens of Green and Hawksbill Turtles - This guys was one notable find. It was during a night dive, which is already pretty interesting. You have a flashlight, but there's no other ambient light, so you can really only see what you shine it at. I was coming up over a little patch of coral and found this guy sleeping with two Remoras cleaning his shell (first photo). He swam away after i woke him up (second photo), but i managed to get around in front of him to get that near perfect head-on shot. Win!
Here's another notable turtle that i caught on video (!!!).
Many dives were totally mind-blowing... too many to recap. But two in particular stand out, maybe because they were our last two dives, but they were also quite unique. My favorite dive was The Cauldron.
We entered at the top of that picture, and hung out at 18-25m for about 15 minutes, and we found a shark and the above sting-ray. There was a mild current, and it pulled us slowly uphill to about 12m. After cruising along for a few minutes, we enter The Cauldron, a stadium sized depression that drops to 22m, with glorious walls and a strong current (maybe 5-8 mph) pulling you through it. We swam with six sharks in there, most of them White Tip, one Black Tip. This is also where i took the above turtle video. It was inspiring to watch the sharks patrol the reef for a meal, and they paid us no attention at all. It was this dive that i worked on controlling my breathing, to see how long i could make my tank last. I stayed down for 75 minutes and came up with 60 bars left. I had never stayed down longer than 60 minutes before.
Our last dive was also really interesting, not because of what we saw, but the terrain. After a dozen dives of beautiful coral and plentiful fish, this was a stark contrast - an extremely fast current and nothing to see. We were cruising along effortlessly at maybe 15-20mph with perfect visibility, and the only thing to look at was each other and the occasional small coral outcropping. The awesome thing about it was it truly felt like flying, like we were a team of underwater superheroes. Some people were doing the superman, arms outstretched. Others were on their backs, in a reclined position. My personal favorite was crossing my legs Indian style and floating along like i was on a magic carpet. Later, i made friends with a squid.
So yeah, i think i want to do my divemaster certification in Komodo someday. It was paradise.