The Komodo Chronicles – Part 2 – Rock ‘n Roll

Sunrise in Komodo National Park

After an overnight navigation (never my favourite part of live aboard dive trips, more about that mild, but fairly founded phobia, in a future instalment ;^), we woke up to the beautiful sunrise featured above, and found ourselves at Gili Lawa Laut (island), in the northern part of Komodo National Park. The plan was for two dives in the area, before moving the boat during the lunch break.

Gili Lawa has a distinctive ridge with a few lone trees growing on it. Even though the colour of the vegetation was vastly different (it was sere and quite brown as we were visiting in the dry season, versus emerald green when we last visited in the wet season of late 2008 on a trip with our kids), I recognized it immediately. Being the idjit I am, I neglected to take a then/now picture ;^)

Then – Gili Lawa in Greener Days – (December 2008)
If you’d like to check out a photo gallery from that trip, you can find it here.

We didn’t see much mankind on these northern islands in the Komodo National Park. Except for a few small settlements here and there, the islands look pretty much uninhabited. They are lovely.

The first dive on the menu was Crystal Rock – a beautiful, although currenty kind of signature Komodo dive. I remembered this site from our last visit – and recall that we also dove it in a hefty breeze. The reason to dive it in current is the hope to see some reef sharks gathering off the point (windward natch ;^) And when we did manage to huff and puff our way up there we did see a few – unfortunately not close enough to get any decent pictures.

Michael also told us that there were some very pretty soft corals on the site, and in the current they would be open and feeding (they are plankton sweepers). I did my best to capture their outrageous colours in some hard fought for images ;^)  After the benign check out dive of the afternoon previous, this was the real Komodo deal – colourful, fishy, and mucho hard work in the current…

I’d like some soft coral gardens with whip corals on top, please ;^)

Lotsa fish…

Captain Nemo in his purple anemone

Okay, a true confession – our second dip of the day was recorded at a site at Batu Moncho (Moncho Rock), and I know I did the dive. But I have zero recollection of the site. Usually, looking at the images I took will tweak my memory of a dive, even a few years later, but this time? Not so much. I don’t know whether this is due to the fatigue of the previous worky dive at Crystal Rock or because I did not find anything particularly noteworthy to take pictures of, but really, I can’t remember anything definitive about this dive at all. Very strange, and a wee bit unsettling ;^)

Wendy (aka thefishhead) over crinoids and coral

Mushroom Coral in the Blue

After chowing on a tasty lunch of Indonesian yummies while the boat was moved nearby to Gili Banta Island, we geared up again for an afternoon dive. The new site’s name? Roller Coaster.

As an aside, our group nervously joked a bit in e.mails prior to the trip about current dives, and dive site names.  Komodo is a bit notorious for some gnarly currents – due to large tidal exchanges through relatively shallow passages.  Current City is an infamous site, and the thought of diving it instilled some trepidation in some of us (and with good cause – more than a few divers have been lost in that area, and let’s face it – none of us are getting any younger ;^)  So when Roller Coaster (which could also easily be named Rock ‘n Roll, or Washing Machine ;^) was introduced as the next site of the day, there was some raising of eyebrows.

And what a roller coaster it was.  We were dropped in our dive groups (5 – 6 divers per group) off a beautiful wall, with staggered entries so we wouldn’t all be clustered too closely. Many of our gang shoot stills and/or video, and it is not much fun being in a long line up for an interesting subject, waiting one’s turn to have a go.  And it is even less fun being in a long line up, trying to hold your place in current, and whacking, or getting whacked, in the process.  But whether the groups went left, or went right, or went up, or went down, there was no escaping the strange, unsettling water movements.

From almost the get go, our group felt like we were in a washing machine – up drafts, down drafts, current pulling us off the wall, current pushing us into the wall – it was relentless. I’ve been on a couple of dives where we called it when the current was really unmanageable – this wasn’t that bad – just more annoying than anything else.

I had set up for macro (and wide angle would have been a good choice as well, as the wall was totally paved with gorgeous colours), and it took some time to get comfortable enough with the bizarre current to try to set up some shots. Fortunately, I have some serious experience in heavy, swirling currents, having dove extensively in Discovery Passage in British Columbia, as well as Galapagos and the previous trip to Komodo (amongst others), so moving water generally doesn’t freak me out too much (although I will admit that an elevator ride Mr G and I took at Current City on the previous trip rocked my boat a bit ;^).

A muck stick comes in very handy on these kinds of dives. In fact, I don’t think I could have got any of the following pix without it, short of grappling on to the reef and crushing any life perched there.  A muck stick carefully placed on a bare patch or in a crack in the rock on a wall (after having a really good look to make no critters are there), with fins extended away from the reef, is such a better option than a fin whack job.

Anyhoo, it ended up being a pretty, productive dive, with a large cast of nudibranchs. Once I got used to the buffeting, here is some of the stuff I focussed on:

Spotted Porcelain Crab – Neopetrolisthes maculatus
This critter (like the coral hermit crab I shared in my last blog entry), use those feathery, frondy things at the end of its arms to sweep the water and collect plankton, which they then scrape off into their mouths.

I think this is some sort of tube dwelling anemone, but can’t find a correct ID for it.

Redline Flabellina Nubibranch – Flabellina rubrolineolata
Chowing on some hydroids – about half an inch long

Siboga Glossodoris Nudibranchs – Glossodoris Sibogae
This is mating behaviour – note the translucent “apparatus” in the center between them.  Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites, so they can pitch *and* receive ;^)  There was a whole lotta nudi nookie going on during our trip – they are some sexy beasts. These are not small nudis – a couple of inches long.

Skeleton Shrimp – Caaprella spp.
We were all highly entertained by the antics of these tiny shrimp (they’re not even an inch high, and super spindly). They are pretty much everywhere I think, but not easy to see at first glance. On closer observation, you can see colonies of them, often on the feathery hydroids. They really look like aliens – and watching them interacting – bopping each other with their long appendages (amongst other flamboyant behaviour), was a great source of amusement. They are really difficult to photograph well, because they are so small, and because they seem to be in constant motion. I made several attempts, and this was the best I got.  But hey, I found it myself.  A small miracle :^) 

Threadfin Hawkfish – Cirrhitichthys aprinus 
 Another one of those skittish little b*stards that are frustrating to photograph.  This little fish is about 3 inches long.

Sky Blue Phyllidia Nudibranch – Phyllidia coelestis

Blue Dragon Nudibranch – Pteraeolidia ianthina
This is probably the most common species of nudibranch that I saw on this trip to Indonesia. They are quite large – up to about 5 inches in length – so are not so difficult to spot, but this was the only one I saw with the groovy curly margins.

Believe it or not, this one is the same species:

Eurobranchus sp 1 Nudibranch on a hydroid. In comparison to the Blue Dragon nudibranch pictured above, this was very tiny – about half an inch long, all bunched up in the current. 

A night dive was promised this day, and delivered.  After the Roller Coaster’s wild ride, we were all a bit concerned that the night dive (to be done in a nearby bay – at a site called Circus) might be a little hairy too – but not so much – it was a calm, easy dive over gently sloping muck, highlighted by the biggest collection of stargazers (fish) that any of us had ever seen.  I had to have seen at least a half dozen, all on this dive:

Whitemargin Stargazer – Uranoscsopus sulphureus
These guys and gals (whose faces only a mother could love ;^) are ambush predators. They bury themselves in the sand, with only their spooky eyes and mouths visible, and then they patiently wait for something tempting to fly over. Then *bam*, they leap up, and the tasty tidbit is a goner. It is quite a big fish, and it is amazing that within just a couple of seconds, it can rebury itself in the sand.

Whitemargin Stargazer – Uranoscsopus sulphureus
This one has been, er, encouraged to show more of its body.  It is a chunky fish, about a foot long max.

A One Armed Bandit ;^)
This Harlequin Swimming Crab [Lissocarcinus laevis] has lost a front claw, likely in a battle.  This is a wee little crab – about an inch across.

Some strange sole ;^) – seriously a flounder of some sort, from my identification book I was not able to make a positive identification.

Crocodile Flathead – Cymbacephalus beauforti
Quite a small one, so possibly a juvenile

Black Finned Snake Eel – Ophichtus melanochir
This one was out hunting at night. The most usual view is of these critters is buried up to the top of its neck in the sand (I have a picture of one from a later dive that I’ll share when we get to it). This guy scared the beejeezus out of Mr G and me on this night dive, when it bolted from out of the dark, straight at us.

Striped Gymnodoris Nudibranch – Gymnodoris striata – about an inch long

Next up – some champagne diving and nudibranch dreams at the (actively volcanic) Sanyeang Island…

And hey, just wanted to take a moment to thank those who have left comments and/or ‘liked’ the blog. I really appreciate your positive feedback. For anyone worried about having to register to chime in here – I think WordPress is pretty discreet. I am moderating the comments as a big stinking pile of spam gets dumped on this blog with fetid frequency. Only I can see your e.mail address – it is not shared publicly. And you can register under whatever name you like ;^)  If you’re not comfortable with that, and you’d like to communicate with me, you can ping me at judygATawoosh.com – You know what to do with that AT…

 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 2 – Rock ‘n Roll

  1. Ann says:

    as always well done…..love love love the pic of the Capt’n Nemo fish…just can’t get enough of them…but this shot was my favorite….love all your pix….well done!!
    Ann

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