While the giant, predatory lizards put Komodo on the map, Komodo was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2011 for its lack of human alterations, beauty and ecological significance. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some say visiting here is like visiting Bali 20 years ago.
Komodo is part of the Indonesian archipelago, located about 250 miles east of Bali.
Komodo and its neighbor islands Rinca, Gili, Mota, Nusa Kode and Padar are part of Komodo National Park, which includes much of the surrounding waters. Diving has only begun to gain popularity here, so you won’t see crowds and stressed reefs.
What makes Komodo a top dive destination is the diversity of marine life, things you won’t see anywhere else in the world. It is home to 260+ coral species, 1,000 fish species and 70 sponge species.
While Komodo above ground offers a great look at its legendary lizards, much of what divers love best about the underwater Komodo region is tiny. Pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, blue ringed octopus, and ornate tunicates, sponges, corals and more. Macro lovers and photographers will find this to be a vibrant multicolored dream world, and full of new tiny surprises with every turn. Of course, large fish viewing is also available, with great looks at giant sunfish or Mola, manta rays, and large pelagic hunters like barracuda.
This area is a great combination of reefs and limestone formations. However, this is not a spot for beginner divers. Currents are usually pretty strong, so if you do decide to dive here, be certain to be up front about your skill level. This gives dive operators the option to choose sites that match your abilities, and to time areas with strong currents to dive during slack tides.
While a few resorts have begun to spring up along the park perimeters, liveaboard trips are really the best way to see the many dive sites in and near the park.
This site is hard to find by boat if you use surface features, and is really only known by its namesake, a GPS point. Beneath, it is one of the most popular dive sites in the area. This seamount offers scorpionfish, cuttlefish, morays and more. Larger pelagic barracuda, surgeonfish, white tip reef sharks, nurse sharks and hammerheads can all be found by looking up. The one caution here is that there are some currents around the 10’ depth, so inexperienced divers should take caution doing their safety stop.
This shallow wall is great for beginners and photographers, and best photographed in afternoon light when it is facing the sun. The shallows have plentiful fish, including bright and interesting fairy basslets and clown triggerfish. Slightly deeper you can find green turtles and white tipped reef sharks.
This hollow rock is one of the most featured and popular dives in Northern Komodo. This plateau is constantly teeming with fish, but the currents are too strong to make it a good fishing location, so it is virtually unspoiled. Slack tides are often necessary here, as the currents are a little too fast for a safe drift dive for all but the most advanced divers. Sponges, coral and tunicates bloom like a garden, and wildlife abounds. Hawksbill turtles and various fish species number in the thousands, and offer up-close views of every part of their amazing life cycles.
This is Komodo’s main location for finding mantas, though it requires a tolerance for slightly chillier waters. The site offers a number of interesting features, from seamounts to underwater channels. Parrotfish, sweetlips, turtles and mantas can all be found near the regions where currents flow.
International flights usually come in through Bali, and smaller flights will arrive in Komodo through the airport at Labuan Bajo on nearby Flores Island. Depending on the liveaboard, they can meet you at either airport.
When to Go: Year-round diving is available for liveaboards. The most popular season is from April to November because it offers dry skies and better visibility. December to March has rains and muddier waters, but the temps are similar and many people find it just as rewarding. April is a favorite dive month for Komodo due to the fact that it is the clearest then.
This is a tropical place so expect warm, humid weather and temps about 71° – 91°F.
Average Surface Water Temps: Year Round, 68° – 79°F
Visibility: 15’ – 120’+
Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rachdian/