At last May's Long Beach scuba show, Richard expressed interest in a dive trip for this summer. Planning was delayed until after his daughter's wedding July 7. We first considered Truk, subject to United's exorbitant airfares to Micronesia, and Fiji, where I had dived with Andrew in 2006.
Lizardqueen has often suggested Indonesia as a dive destination, so Richard and I finally settled on the 9-day liveaboard dive boat Mermaid I to Komodo National Park, roundtrip from Bali. http://www.mermaid-liveaboards.com/komodo.htm
We were lucky to get on this boat with just one month's notice. We had some flexibility because Bali is a popular destination with good connections through several Asian hubs. We chose a 3-hour layover in Taiwan for a competitive roundtrip airfare from LAX of $1321. We spent 8 nights in Bali before the dive trip and one more at the end.
Liveaboards are to scuba diving at a resort somewhat like cat skiing is to resort skiing. Compared to a land based resort you're doing more dives per day, paying ~twice as much and usually gaining access to more remote and pristine locations. Consequently liveaboards attract the most experienced divers. Our group of 4 was the least experienced the lead divemaster P.J. Widestrand could recall on the Mermaid I. Richard had 167 dives before this trip and I had 82. Joining us were Adam Klein, a lawyer from New York and his 16 year old son Mitchell, who both had about 35 dives. As in Palau in January 2011 I a requested larger tank so I could stay underwater closer to the time that more efficient divers like Lizardqueen can. I ended up with a 14-liter steel tank and Richard 16-liter steel vs. the standard 12-liter aluminum. Adam and Mitchell used 15-liter aluminum tanks like I did in Palau.
Most divers on a trip like this have several hundred dives. For this reason I've resisted buying dive photography equipment, which is very expensive and requires lots of experience to get good results. P.J. Widestrand made a nice 37-minute video, so I've extracted some pictures from that.
Richard and I thought Indonesia had the most healthy and diverse coral we have seen.
This trip did not have quite as many of the big pelagic fish as Fiji, French Polynesia or Palau. We saw a few whitetip sharks,
and bamboo sharks, which like to stay on the bottom.
The "Manta Alley" dive in south Komodo came up empty, but earlier in the week we got one good view here.
On one of the dives an eagle ray circulated and several of us were able to swim close to it.
Early on the trip were some unique sights. "Hot Rocks" has volcanic vents bubbling underwater.
This is just offshore of the 6,000 foot Sangeang volcano, which last erupted in 1996. We also passed by Tambora, hidden in the clouds at 8,000 feet. Tambora was over 14,000 before it exploded in 1815 in earth's largest eruption of the past 3,000 years.
The end of one of our first dives was over sand with hundreds of garden eels poking up.
They would retract into the sand if you swam over them.
We saw a few turtles.
There are more in Hawaii and Australia but these were often interesting to watch as they chomped on the coral.
A sample of interesting sealife. Dense school here.
Not sure what this is, but I may have seen a few in Palau also.
Pixar fans know this one well.
There were others with different color patterns residing in other kinds of sea anemones.
I saw a couple of these in big crevasses but PJ managed to catch this one in the open.
I saw one of these come nose to nose with a moray eel on my last dive. The eel disapppeared quickly.
I was surprisingly the first to find this giant clam on our 6th day.
We saw a couple more on later dives.
Night dives were offered on 7 of the evenings shortly after sunset. It gets dark fast at 8 degrees latitude. As the week wore on fewer people were doing these. I skipped just one when I had a sore ear. This can be an issue diving this frequently. Eardrops didn't work for me but fortunately ibuprofen did. Nocturnal activity in the Pacific is typically about 1/4 as much as during the day, but many of the species are not active in daytime so night dives can still be very interesting. Gazer Beach and Torpedo Alley were particularly good.
We saw some lionfish on day dives but these 2 varieties were at night.
Electric ray, 25,000 volts
Indonesia has lots of species of tiny nudibranchs, one example I saw here.
These can be very difficult for inexperienced divers to spot, especially in daytime disguised among coral. Some of them are in the sand at night.
The Spanish Dancer is much bigger, ~6 inches long.
At 8 degrees south this part of Indonesia is far enough south to have a distinct summer wet/winter dry weather pattern but close enough to the equator that there are no hurricanes. Islands with big mountains (Bali's highest is 10,000 feet) are quite lush while smaller islands like Komodo can be quite dry. We had almost no rain in nearly 3 weeks, though it's still humid and midday sun can be intense.