The Komodo Chronicles – Part 1- Here We Be

So when I last blogged, we had just finished up a few days of diving in Bali, in the Tulamben area. The afternoon of the day before our flight out to Komodo, we were shuttled down to Sanur, a resort town that is about a 20 minute drive from Denpasar Airport. It is not advisable to plan for long transfers (like the 3+ hour drive from Tulamben to Denpasar) on the day of a flight, unless the flight is late afternoon or evening. The traffic snarls on Bali are legendary, and as we experienced on arrival, road closures for festivals (and horrific traffic accidents) seem to happen frequently.

On previous (near to) Bali airport stays, we had booked in at The Parigata Resort & Spa, and it made sense to stay there again – the prices are quite attractive (and include a nice breakfast buffet), the hotel is quiet, with a nice pool area, and spa, and comfortable rooms, and it is a very short walk to the beach or into town – both areas have many restaurants and quite a few shopping options. Be aware that this 3 storey Parigata property does not have elevators, so having some smallish bills to tip porters to schlep your dive bags to your room is a good idea.

There is a nice promenade along the beach in Sanur, paved and well maintained. It crosses in front of all the waterfront hotels there, so I am not sure there is any huge value in staying right on the water, and it for sure will be quite a bit spendier than the Parigata. There is quite a large market with many stalls full of clothing, bags, Indonesian housewares, luggage etc. From the Parigata, it is about a 10-15 minute walk (head down the lane from the hotel, towards the water, then turn left), along the waterfront promenade. We’ve had fun buying knicknacks and stuff there – bargaining is totally expected in these kinds of markets. For more info on bargaining in Indo (and other Indonesian travel advice), you can follow this link.

So after Scuba Seraya’s driver kindly ferried us all over Sanur and Denpasar while our group foraged for essential bits that had fubar’d in Tulamben (a new reg for one diver, a replacement 100mm macro lens for a flooded camera for another, amongst other less essential purchases), we were dropped at the hotel, where we quaffed the fruit welcome drink, and checked in. Mr G and I partook of a great spa package deal at the hotel – let’s just say that the massage was awesome, and the fresh mashed papaya body scrub, was, er, an experience ;^)  We had a nice group dinner out at an Italian restaurant close to the hotel, and then all sacked out in anticipation of the early start the next morning.

Komodo Dancer arranged drivers to pick us up at the hotel and transfer us to the airport. When we arrived, we encountered almost all the rest of our buds who had stayed at various locations near Denpasar, but no one was near enough to us to hook up for dinner the previous evening.

It had been two and a half years since we all dove and spent time together, and it was a sweet reunion. It is amazing how you can not see folks for that long, and immediately pick up where you left off.

We flew out to Komodo (about a one hour non-stop flight) on some obscure Indonesian airline’s turboprop jobbie. It all went smoothly, and we were relieved that: a) we were charged very modest overweight luggage fees, b) that no one weighed our carry on rolling bags (which far exceeded the 7 kg allowance advertised ;^), and c) that there were adequate sized overhead bins to accommodate those bags. It does not always go so smoothly, believe me. On our return flight on Merpati Airlines ten days later, we were forced to relinquish our carry on rollers at boarding (with no luggage tags issued, natch ;^) as the bins were too small in the cabin, and we watched in horror as our bags were off-loaded on arrival back in Denpasar by a total baggage goon – I saw my little black rolling bag, carrying all my precious underwater camera equipment, being launched from about 6 feet off the ground and lobbed into a baggage trolley. Then more bags were chunked on top of it. Ouch. Fortunately, I had packed stuff very carefully, ie with bubble wrap and each piece rolled up in my clothing to insulate, and everything was unscathed. But just so you know…

Woohoo! We’re here! Val in front of the turbo prop jobbie…

Labuan Bajo (two room) Airport – on the island of Flores

We were met at Arrivals by a company representative, and all deposited into small SUVs with our bags to be transported to the waterfront, where the Dancer’s tenders collected us and transported us out to da boat. The drive from airport to waterfront was short, at about 10 minutes. Labuan Bajo is a sleepy sort of town – the antithesis of places like Denpasar on Bali. I would love to spend a bit more time there, and there is some epic diving that is available by day boats, as was experienced by two of our gang who chose to arrive a few days earlier and bag some pre-live aboard dives there.

Labuan Bajo Harbour

The gang’s all here. And everyone’s dive bag made it too!

Once boarded, we were quickly assigned to our rooms, and then we all gathered in the main salon for the boat briefing. The inimitable Michael Ishak was our Cruise Director for this trip, and from the get go we knew he was going to make it great. The boat and safety briefing was very thorough and professional, aided by a multimedia presentation.

Michael Ishak, Cruise Director Extraordinaire

We then had a quick, tasty lunch (more on the boat and food & beverage later), while they moved the boat a short distance from the harbour to our check out dive site.

Sometimes, on these live aboards, the check out dive is not so much. They are always a good opportunity to check out your gear (but really, better to have done any required maintenance tweaks and tests before you left on such a big trip). I suspect what they really are all about is a chance for the crew to check out the experience level of divers in the group, and to determine early on who is going to be a major pain in the arse ;^)  I think they figured out quickly that keeping our group wrangled was going to be pretty much like herding kittens…

Quite a few of us had already been diving in Tulamben, so this was just picking up where we left off a few days before. I put on a macro lens to continue looking for little things, and wished I had gone wider, as it was a pretty site. Although it was not a super productive dive for me, here are a few shots to share:

Somebody stop me! I am a bit obsessed with taking pictures of anemone fish.  Actually not an easy shot (especially in manual focus ;^), but yet I keep torturing myself.  Why, I ask, why? ;^)

A coral hermit crab. These things are really teensy. I am not thrilled with this shot (I don’t love the lighting effects), but it ends up that this is the only one of these guys I saw on the whole trip. There are probably everywhere, but so hard to see. They use those long feathery frond thingies to sweep the water for plankton, and then they filter the frond through their mouth to peel off the catch. Very similar feeding function to a barnacle, and as we were to witness later in this trip, the ever-so-sexy sea apple.

Clark’s Anemonefish. This one was quite belligerent and kept whacking my hand or my housing. Why I oughta…

This is the mouth of a giant clam. I played quite a bit on this trip with abstracts like this. I will share a few more in future instalments.

Next up: More about the Komodo Dancer boat and its crew. And buckets more bodacious dives…

 Chapters of the Komodo Chronicles:

Chapter 1 – Here We Be
Chapter 2 – Time to Rock and Roll
Chapter 3 – Champagne Diving and Nudibranch Dreams
Chapter 4 – Things That Go Bump in the Night
Chapter 5 – Getting Bombed in Bima
Chapter 6 – The Muck, And Nothing But The Muck
Chapter 7 – Rinse & Repeat
Chapter 8 – Back In The Blue

About Judy G Diver

Born and raised on the west coast of Canada, I have always felt a strong connection to the sea. But for many years, I stayed on the surface, afraid of what lurked down deep. When I was in my early 30's, with three young children (aka the P's), my husband (aka Mr G) signed us up for a SCUBA certification course, as a surprise. Although I had my fears, my stubbornness prevailed, and somehow I made it through four murky, frigid, cold water dives in Vancouver to successfully pass the course. Soon after we went diving off the west coast of Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez, where my eyes were opened to the beauty and other-worldliness of the life down under. And the rest, as they say, is history. I currently have well over 2000 dives under the belt, and I have been fortunate to travel extensively in Asia, Australia, Fiji, Galapagos, Costa Rica, California, the Caribbean, Mexico and here in British Columbia. After shooting hefty DSLRs for many years, I just switched over to a groovy Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, in a Nauticam housing, with dual Sea & Sea strobes and a bag full of lenses. In addition to this blog and my personal website (Awoosh.com/Directory), which is linked at the top of the blog, my stuff has been widely published in a variety of magazines and websites, including an ongoing regular monthly feature on Scubadiving.com. All links to this work can be found in this blog.
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2 Responses to The Komodo Chronicles – Part 1- Here We Be

  1. Cindy says:

    You do have a way with the words Lady J!! and the camera..An entertaining read as always with a beautiful visual display..
    thanks for sharing!
    Hugs
    Cindy

    PS Next time, please share the fact of just how cold that ” mashed papaya body scrub” was..:))

    • Judy G says:

      Cindy, thanks so much for the kind words. Did we forget to warn you how cold that papaya scrub was? Sorry about that :^) Looking forward to seeing your pix. I know you got some awesome ones… Hugs backatcha.

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