Komodo National Park, Indonesia.
To divers, the name rings out like a mystical bell. Sometimes it’s enough to silence a room and turn heads. You do know what we’re talking about, right? Of course. It’s legendary.
You don’t? Maybe you’ve forgotten the stories? Let’s refresh your memory.
We’re talking mating trains of dozens of manta rays flying overhead, like a swarm of underwater eagles blotting out the sun.
We speak of green and hawksbill turtles, who come to the reefs to feed and be cleaned, so calm that you can sit a few feet away without them so much as looking at you.
We talk of white-tip and black-tip sharks patrolling the drifts, and grey reef sharks sleeping on the sandy sea floor below.
Remember now? Ahh, yes. But you would be foolish to forget these stories without heeding the seafarers’ warnings.
WHY KOMODO IS NO GAME FOR DIVERS
Every search for the ocean’s treasures must come with its risks, and Komodo’s wild islands and savage seas are no exception.
[ Photo by Andrei Voinigescu of Fridge Magnet Films. ]
You’ve heard tell of great tides that surge back and forth through the straights at the peak and trough of the moon’s cycle.
Divers warn of powerful currents driving through the channels at the ebb and flow of the tides.
Is Komodo truly an underwater paradise, or a trap for all but the most seasoned divers, like the mermaid singing sweetly to lure the sailor to his demise?
RESTRICTIONS FOR NOVICE DIVERS
Enough tall tales. Let’s talk facts.
First off, all the stories are true.
But where does that leave inexperienced divers who’ve just come out of their open water? What about divers who’ve missed a few seasons, and are a little rusty on their training? What if you’ve never dived before – is Komodo even possible or wise for you?
Don’t worry – whatever your level, you can still dive in Komodo.
But there are some important guidelines and restrictions that apply to those diving in the National Park. They are agreed upon by the Dive Operators’ Community Komodo (DOCK), of which Manta Rhei is an active member. The rules require participating dive shops to adhere to the highest standards of safety and preparation, and are designed to protect both divers and the natural treasure of the world-renowned UNESCO heritage site.
Let’s briefly run through the rules that concern visiting divers.
The most important thing you need to know is that you cannot dive in Komodo without a qualified guide or instructor who knows the dive sites here. Knowing what you do about Komodo’s tides and currents, this should be pretty obvious common sense – but in many other areas, certified divers can dive without a Divemaster.
[ Batu Bolong is an isolated rock known for its incredibly rich marine life, but also its exposure to strong tidal currents. ]
The second point is that certain dive sites such as the famous Batu Bolong are restricted to only certified divers. This is in part due to the risk from the strong currents either side of the renowned rock. However, it’s also because certain more challenging environments, like the coral wall of Batu Bolong, require adequate control of movement and buoyancy to prevent damage to fragile corals. Some dive centers will go even further with their restrictions, limiting Batu Bolong to only Advanced certified divers, or lengthening the list of sites that can’t be explored unless you have at least your Open Water licence.
HOW CAN I DIVE IN KOMODO IF I’M RUSTY, OR INEXPERIENCED?
The National Park is not off-limits to novice divers, or even to those who have never dived before.
Don’t let these restrictions make you feel your skills and training aren’t adequate to dive in Komodo. We still teach Discover Scuba Diving and Open Water courses all the time, just like any other dive destination – so you don’t have to worry about getting certified before you come.
[ Scuba instructor Jules escorts a Discover Scuba Diving guest on her first open water dive. ]
Equally, it’s common for people who haven’t dived in a while to be tempted back to scuba by Indonesia’s beautiful blue waters.
For those who haven’t dived in a year or more, we recommend a scuba tuneup to refresh your skills. This won’t take long or take away from your diving experience. Just a short practice session at the start of your dives should get you back up to speed, ready to surf Komodo’s flow like a pro.
However, it’s important to tell your dive center, instructor or divemaster what your level of experience or certification is before you hop on a boat.
We use this to tailor our dives and plan according to our guests, to make sure they have as safe and fun an experience as possible. In Komodo, it’s important to carefully adapt the schedule and order of dive sites according to diver experience, the tides and current changes.
A reputable dive center will never simply chuck an inexperienced or rusty diver into difficult situations or rough currents. From curious non-divers looking to test the water, up to dive professionals with hundreds of dives under their belt, Manta Rhei is used to catering for all levels. Our guides and instructors are seasoned professionals who know Komodo’s dive sites and shifting currents like the back of their hands. They know the safest routes and the best practices for divers of all levels, and make sure not to push divers beyond their ability.
[ Our guests frequently tell us how appreciative they are of their guides’ skills underwater. ]
ADVANCING YOUR TRAINING IN KOMODO
A place to go further
Although there’s nothing wrong with coming to Komodo with little or no experience diving, you may find yourself wishing you were more prepared. Perhaps you’re impressed by the calm, collected way your instructor demonstrates skills to you. Perhaps you’re a little jealous of the way our guides effortlessly glide through the water. The picture of perfect buoyancy. Maybe you’re worried about accidentally bumping up against fellow divers, or worse, breaking fragile corals.
If so, you’re not alone. Many people come to Komodo not just because of its beauty, but because of its challenging environments. The strong currents are regarded by many as exactly what makes the diving here so exciting in comparison to most other places in Indonesia.
[ Divemaster Rikar secures himself with a reef hook and enjoys the thrill of ‘flying’ through the current.]
As a result, Komodo is the perfect training ground to form many a skilled diver. It’s an ideal place to advance your diving qualifications. Not only this, but taking on further training courses is quite possibly the best way to enjoy Komodo comfortably and safely – for you and the reefs.
Advanced Open Water in Komodo
Taking an Advanced Open Water course can greatly expand on existing skills and develop new ones. Possibly the greatest advantage the course can give you is improving your control of buoyancy. This is vital to good underwater control, especially in Komodo where currents and changing dive profiles make this challenging – not to mention the importance of making sure you don’t crash into the National Park’s pristine and fragile reefs. It’s also an opportunity to learn new things like fish identification, and exploring new feelings like deep diving. All in all, an Advanced certification is a great way to build confidence and skill underwater that you don’t get from simply fun diving.
[ Advanced Open Water training such as Peak Performance Buoyancy can greatly help your control underwater. ]
Rescue Diver in Komodo
For those looking to take things a step further, any diver will tell you how reassuring it is to have a qualified Rescue Diver on board with them. This is especially true in Komodo’s challenging environments. Although you’ll hopefully never have to use your training to help other divers, the skills and knowledge Rescue Divers provide in hazardous situations and emergencies are invaluable. Being trained as a Rescue Diver can be the difference between a great day out and a miserable one. As a dive center whose top priority is safety, Manta Rhei is an obvious choice if you are thinking of taking a course to prepare yourself for the worst. Not only is the course a useful addition to your skill set, it’s also (perhaps surprisingly) a great deal of fun!
[Scuba instructor Michelle originally took her Rescue course because she wanted to be able to save her family, all passionate diving enthusiasts. She since continued her training and now works as a cruise director, managing our diving liveaboards in Komodo.]
Divemaster in Komodo
Finally, if you’re thinking of taking your skills to the next level and joining the ranks of the professional dive community, this is the place. Undertaking a course to become a Divemaster simply isn’t complete without a challenge – one that Komodo can provide. Komodo is a place full of seasoned diving enthusiasts, each with a wealth of wisdom to learn from. Ask anyone who knows where in the world it’s best to do your Divemaster training, and they’ll tell you: “Go to Komodo.”
And in reality, whatever your level is – from never having dived before, to having just passed your Open Water, to a seasoned instructor – your conclusion after reading this should be the same thing. You can and must experience the magic of Komodo.
Raphaël Coleman is a British/French wildlife biologist who undertook his Rescue and Divemaster courses with Manta Rhei in Komodo.