Sunday, May 05, 2013

Diving at Labuan Bajo

Why dive at Komodo? Because of the diversity of the underwater life!  Big fish, small fish, beautiful corals and of course Manta Rays! Why the diversity? Current baby, current! Big fish and Mantas LOVE currents, so with current means great sightings!  Of course you have gotta know what you are doing when diving with current.  It can be fun, it can be tough, it can be dangerous.  You can be superman, wonderwoman, astroboy swimming with current, or you can tumble with it.
So knowing I have a bad history with current, and I must say still a slight phobia of current, I still chose to dive in Komodo because you only live once, why not do the things you want to and like to and know will enjoy?! And I mean Manta Rays! How can I say no to that!

Also as I mentioned in an earlier post, why I chose to come to Komodo to dive was purely based on a conversation I had with a fellow diver, who happened to be a dive master in Komodo for several months, when I was diving in Philippines.  So on his word, I decided this is the place I have to go to for diving!
Researching dive shops online spawned only a few choices and I thought I had decided on Dive Komodo as my go-to dive shop but only to find out that 2 dives a day was what they were going to offer.  Lady luck has to, I chanced upon which was just beside my hotel who offers 3 dives a day!  Hey if I were going to make the 2H boat trip out, might as well squeeze in 1 more dive! Immediately I signed up for a 3D dive package (discounted to IDR2.9M for 9 dives).  Of course, you have to pay for the Marine park fee (IDR20K) and diving pass (IDR75K) valid for 3 days each time.
As luck has it, the 1st day of diving was just me, Ivana (Polish) and our dive master! Woohoo! I love small intimate dive groups.  As Indonesia has it, we were told to meet at 7am but of course, it never happens on time!  Indonesia time baby! We boat through great scenery and I was already psyched up!  Alex was on boat with us, as was Hugo who had a student with him.  On day 1, we saw 2 Manta - 1 at Batu Bolong, 1 at Manta Point!!! Good start! And I knew I was up for more great things to come!
Onboard Lintas Batas
Day 2 introduced 3 Danish guys who were kinda a nightmare for Theo (DM).  They dived with us for 2 days. We were in a group heading out, and as Advanced divers, they didn't have much experience under their belts but loved to wander around themselves and kinda didn't listen much to instructions.  Plus being bad with air consumption, it was a mess.  With current, they just froze up and almost stalled the dive.  One guy even forgot to open the valve all the way, causing it to shut halfway through the dive and he went out of air!  Of course, only to realize it was his own fault when we surfaced and checked the equipment!  Great job guys! So they kinda fucked up my dive time too... Well things happen and you just gotta suck it up and go with the flow..

During one of the dives, with wonderfully strong current that we were basically just flying across, one guy got lost cos he refused to let go of the rock while the rest of us drifted through.  Well his buddy didn't realize he was lost until we realized we lost 1 guy.  Cancelled dive and basically fought our way up a little too fast to surface.  Suffered a mild headache for a bit but ocean breeze and seawater cured me in no time!
Of cos, more drama ensured the next day.  I thought I would stop at 3 days of diving, but sorry to say, the underwater world is too alluring to me, and tends to seduce me back for more!  So went for more diving.  And not to mention it was Theo's (my dive master) birthday.  You would have thought it would be a good day.  But that day started with no fuel and me fighting against the sleeping monster to stay awake, then when we had fuel, then the boat broke down halfway to the dive site.  So we ended up changing the dive sites and waiting for our rescue boat which took forever to come!  And when it did, we finally understood why it took forever to arrive.  In the end most of the divers abandoned the 2nd dive, and only me, Melanie, Hugo and Theo went ahead with the 2nd dive with the rescue boat which was super duper SLOW..... Still we had a great time diving with a bit of current.  But all was good when we drowned ourselves in ARAK and Vodka and beer at night in celebration of the birthday boy's birth day...
Me Me Me

And of cos, I had to dive the sites I did not dive so I went back for more and glad I did!  This time, a small group again and had 3 great dives!  The 3rd dive was only me and my DM and it was soo fun!  We had an intimate session with a lazy sea turtle, playing with it, feeding it and sayanging it.  Totally cool! And did I mention that dive master Theo has a crazy obsession with sea turtles.  Yah, he goes crazy when one appears.
Me with cute sea turtle

Dive master who would love to kiss a sea turtle
And the rest of my time in Labuan was of course spent out in sea and underwater.  In total, I probably did like 20 dives there, visiting sites from Batu Bolong, Castle Rock, Crystal Rock, Golden Passage, Sebayur Kecil, Tatawa Kecil, Tatawa Besar, Siabo Kecil etc etc.  Maybe almost everything that could be done on a day trip dive boat.  Oh Well, dive like you would never come back again, so might as well hit all and miss nothing! 

The last day of diving was the highlight!  Great 2 dives, and the 2nd dive - Manta Orgy! Haha, we saw Manta after Manta after Manta!  Soooooo coool!! If I could shout underwater, you would hear my scream of joy miles away... And with 3 cameras underwater at that time, it was like National geographic in motion! Manta - Camera lights action! Manta - Camera Lights Action!

Manta Manta Manta
Didn't start out this way but I ended up spending 7 out of 8 days diving in Labuan.  I had meticulously (ok not really but it was in my mind) planned 8 days in LBJ to do the following - Visit to Sano Crater Lake, 1 day Cunca Wulang, 3 days diving, 1 day komodo adventure, maybe 2D1N on Sebaya Island.  But in the end, it was Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.  Only did Cunca Wulang and half day Komodo adventure and the rest was embracing the marine life of Komodo National Park!  I was a fish in the water!  Even my name is kinda  synonymous with the underwater world - Dictionary of Corals and Fish (well the sound of my surname)  Haha, I was diving so much with them that I almost became part of the staff of the shop.  These people were so generous, helpful and fun and easy to dive and work and talk with! Totally enjoyed my time there.  Special Thanks to you guys - Theo (my favourite DM, I've gota say that, who took me diving and showed me a great time), Hugo (who kinda just provide comic relief and tends to purposely irritates me but I guess I'm too "cute" to resist NOT to irritate me. But who is a really good instructor, knowledgeable), Alex (calm cool relaxed guy who likes to get drunk a lot haha) and all other divers who were there!

On a separate note, We kinda never left the dive shop on time, different shit happens on different day - no fuel, missing this missing that, lunch not ready, captain not ready, no boat boys etc etc.  As a diver, I never like that!  Yes, sometimes you don't leave on on time but not like 1-2H late or not having fuel for your boat.  That's not supposed to happen when you run a fucking dive shop that supposedly to be in operation for like 1 year!  Was I angry?  Yes, I didn't like it, but I like diving and I did have a great time diving because of the great companions on board.  Would I have left the shop?  Yes I definitely would have said "I've had enough with all this shit" but the great guys are really great 'guides' and friends who made the diving enjoyable and all those mess kinda tolerable.  If I had a shitty DM, I would have said Adios the next day.  I don't know about the other divers who suffered these shit, but I know I don't like it when you don't manage your boat and equipment properly to ensure that the dive will go smoothly.  You can blame anything else but I guess ultimately the shop has to take responsibility.  But in Indonesia, it seems nobody wants to bear that.  So that's that! 

Would I recommend the shop?  I would for the fact that they seem to be the only one who for sure offers 3 dives a day.  If you don't care about doing 2 or 3 dives, then maybe go with another dive shop with less trouble.  I would recommend the shop for the people I dived with - Theo, Hugo and Alex.  But they are not necessarily permanent staff.  Being half family, I know the shit that is going on behind the scene, but discounting that fact, the shop seems reasonable.  So I guess it's still up to you :)  If only more shops offer 3 dives a day, the options would be wide open!

It's never a boring day in Labuan Bajo!  8 days and I wasn't bored a single day.  It was so entertaining how different day brings about a different set of problems. And of course many laughs and fun.
A self made video of my diventure in Komodo.  Enjoy!

Not to mention, I passed my 100th dive in Komodo. Though I never did my 100th dive (in the diver's world, the 100th dive is meant to be a naked dive)  So i'll keep that 100th dive for future when the water is a lot warmer.  Yea we've got warm waters sometimes but just when I thought maybe I could do the naked dive this time (with no other divers around), we go dive in waters of 26 degrees (Yes Hugo, we are sissy divers so what!).  Damn!  But I'll keep my hopes high up for future :).  I keep to the Divers' Motto.

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