Komodo National Park is famous for its dragons, but it also attracts divers from all over the world for its marine life. When I heard I could see oceanic manta rays, I didn’t think and just signed up.
Because of the strong currents, we did drift dives which means we jump out of the boat at one spot, drift along with the current, and then have the boat come pick us back up.
During the first dive, I saw a sea turtle, giant stingray, a couple sharks and a manta ray, but it was too far to get a clear view.
Fortunately, in the second dive at Manta Point, I saw THREE enormous manta rays that were at least 15 feet wide! Though this was not by accident. This location is where oceanic mantas come to scratch their bodies on the coral.
Thanks Elena for the pictures!
Lots Of Fishes
First Oceanic Manta Ray!
Huge Clam And Small Diver
Sweet Lips Fishes
Mouth Of Oceanic Manta Ray
Huge Sting Ray
Oceanic Manta Ray
Colorful Fishes And Coral
Oceanic Manta Ray
White Sea Star
Boris & The Ladies Back From Diving
What We Paid:
– Two dives with Dive Komodo Diving Company
– Komodo National Park entrance fee
[required one-time fee to enter the park]
“Guess who’s back, back again?” To celebrate New Years, we head out to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Our friend, Zhi, who we visited while in Sydney, joins us.
There is not much charm to downtown Cairns with a few bars and restaurants. After setting our resolutions for 2011 over dinner, we join the crowd in the Esplanade for fireworks. At the stroke of midnight, we cheer with our Champagne-filled McDonald’s paper cups and end the night with a group hug.
Happy New Year 2011
Fireworks On The Esplanade
Early next morning, we board The Encounter for a 2-day/1-night trip to explore the Outer GBR. We are told that the deadly jellyfishes are mating so it is best to wear a wetsuit. Zhi tries diving for the first time and loves it. MuiMui sticks to snorkeling and I decide to do an advanced diving course.
Onboard The Encounter
Boris Snorkeling In The GBR
Millions Of Small Fishes
Live Coral & Fishes Everywhere
On the first day, we visit Norman Fingers and Norman Playground. Snorkeling is pretty awesome as we are right above the colorful coral reef. But diving is even better. During my deep dive, I see a family of 7 lionfishes and a sting ray over 3 meters wide.
Feels Like Swimming Through A Colorful Screensaver
Beautiful Lionfish But Dangerous
Clownfish AKA Nemo
On the second day, while diving at Saxon Turtle Bombie, I observe a baby shark, sea turtles, and barracudas. MuiMui has a blast chasing a turtle and it doesn’t mind as she touches its shell. Zhi accidently touches a poisonous soft coral and as he comes out of the water, it looks like a sea monster attacked his knee.
Giant Sea Anemone
Zhi's Coral Attack
At nightfall, the divers onboard start getting excited for their next dive while someone outside on the boat screams “Shark!” A few black-tipped sharks are hanging around the boat because the light helps them hunt easier. I start to feel a chill in my body, but it is quickly overpowered by the excitement. We are given flashlights and a short briefing: Large Trevally fishes are going to follow you because your light makes it easy for them to spot small fishes. We know it is fun to see them hunt, but please try not to get more than two fishes killed.
I am the first one to jump in the water and there are about 10 or more sharks less than one meter away from me. The fear gets to me again so I shine the flashlight on me to make sure the sharks don’t mistake me for a turtle or a big tuna fish. When I reach the bottom of the ocean and look back up, I can see all the sharks circling the boat.
While back on the boat and telling the non-divers about my night dive, we suddenly see a flying fish jumping out of the water and then 50 sharks rushing in its direction. If one shark had mistaken me for a fish, it would have been the end for me.
After a total of 6 dives, I am exhausted and join MuiMui for one last snorkel. While trying to get a good picture of a Nemo (Anemone fish), MuiMui points between my legs. A leopard shark swims right by us and it looks mean.
Snorkeling Right Above The Coral
While our boat trip was pretty pricey, it was totally worth it. We learn there is an option where you can work onboard (cleaning, etc) in trade for free diving, lodging, and food. This is a great option for backpackers or anyone on a tight budget but eager to see the GBR.
For our last day, we rent a car to visit Port Douglas. It is a small little beach town, but we can only swim in one area with nets because of the deadly jellyfishes and the salt caimans. During our drive back, we spot a few Wallabies in an open grass field so we pull over to take photos. There are hundreds of them hanging out, eating grass, or boxing each other.
Boxing Each Other
Thanks again Zhi for joining us; we had a memorable start for the New Year. You will now be known for surviving a sea monster attack.
Beware Of Deadly Jellyfishes
Little Holes On The Beach
Coral Arch In The GBR
Don't Bother Me
Blue Lined Surgeonfish
Blue Green Damselfish
Yellow Mask Angelfish
White-Tipped Reef Shark
Down Under With Divemaster
Boris Going Down
Nudibranch Sea Slug
Spotted Sweetlips Fish
Prickly Red Sea Cucumber
Our Buddy, Zhi
What We Paid:
– Virgin Blue Flight From Brisbane To Cairns
– 2 day/1 night onboard the Encounter for a trip out to the Outer GBR
301 / 411
222 / 304
– Private room with own bath at the Best Western in Cairns [AC, clean, up to 3 ppl per room, pool, 10-15 min walk to Esplanade, book online for better rate and when they say they’re full]
– Private double with shared bath at NJoy Hostel in Cairns [fan, basic, pool, 10-15 min walk to Esplanade, free early morning transfer to airport, recommend only if on tight budget or if everything else is sold out]