Komodo and Rinca diving
Komodo and Rinca Islands offer a great diversity of diving options. There are colourful hard and soft coral reefs, home to thousands of reef fish that can be enjoyed by all levels of diver. There are also high adrenaline dive sites with extremely strong currents where sharks, manta rays and other pelagics can be seen.
Located to the east of Sumbawa Island and to the west of Flores Island in the Nusa Tenggara, most divers visit the Komodo area by liveaboard, usually sailing from Bali or Flores. In a week long Komodo diving cruise you can see the smallest pigmy seahorse, the largest whale shark and everything in between. You’ll run out of space in your logbook to record all the species that can be see in Komodo which has one of the most diverse marine environments anywhere on the planet.
The seas are fed with nutrients from the deep upwellings which also bring cool waters, sometimes as low as 20°C. Of course the nutrients provide the food that pelagics come looking for. Mola Mola (Oceanic Sunfish) also love those cool waters. Between the islands the sea changes from deep to shallow and when the tides change, water is forced though the channels at speeds often too fast for boats to make way against. Reef hooks are often needed to stay on a dive site, an experienced captain and divemaster are essential and some liveaboards even provide personal location beacons just incase divers are swept away in the current.
The volcanic island scenery provides a dramatic backdrop above the water. A visit onto Komodo Island is part of most people’s itinerary to see the famous Komodo Dragons, the world’s largest lizards. These potential man eaters can also be seen scavenging on the beach at Rinca Island.
The area is now protected above and below the water with national park status. Dynamite fishing, once a problem in the northern parts of Komodo, is now a thing of the past and damaged reefs are recovering. Southern dive sites were less bombed and are in excellent condition. In 1996 the Komodo National Park was declared a World Heritage site.
Although more liveaboards visit Komodo each year it is still relatively remote with far fewer divers than other dive destinations and you will probably be the only divers at a dive site.
Liveaboards run all year round. Dive sites will vary depending on the time of year that you visit. Seas can be rough to the north of Komodo from January to March and to the south and Rinca from July to August. November to January provides the best visibility for Komodo diving which is often around 30m. The southern dive sites tend to have cooler water than the sites in north Komodo.
Overall Komodo will suit experienced divers who want a variety of large and small marine life away from the diving crowds.
Komodo dive sites
Banta Island lies about 6 nautical miles off the northwest coast of Komodo Island and has one of Komodo’s most famous dive sites.
GPS Point is named because you need GPS to find it. It’s a submerged pinnacle to the north of Gili Banta that starts at 5m below the surface and drops down to below 40m. Currents can be very strong here and care is needed to time the dive when currents are less fierce. It is usually necessary to do a negative entry and descend quickly before being blown away from the dive site. At depth, with the protection of the rock to shelter from the current, divers can relax and enjoy the scenery. Deep water upwellings also bring cool water.
The strong currents and cool water are of course what attracts some of the larger species that divers love to see. Large schools of dog tooth tuna, trevally, spanish mackeral and barracuda can normally be seen in shallow water. Deeper down it’s possible to see white tip reef sharks, black tips, grey reef sharks, nurse sharks and occasionally even hammerhead sharks. Napolean wrasse can also be seen by lucky divers but the sharks and wrasse are nowhere near as common as they once were thanks to overfishing.
Other schooling fish includes snapper, fusilier and surgeonfish. Moray eels, lionfish, scorpionfish are also prolific. Soft coral coverage is excellent. Damage to hard coral from dynamite fishing is in evidence. Visibility can be 30m but can drop below 10m when plankton fills the water.
Off the northwest coast of Gili Banta is White Angels dive site. This is another dive with strong currents that can often run vertically up or down as well as horizontally. The dive site is a mixture of wall diving and sloping reef. Divers drift along the wall looking for grey reef sharks, tuna, barracuda and other pelagics until reach the healthy reef where they can enjoy the wide variety of reef fish and crustaceans.
Soft and hard corals, seafans and sponges are prolific and colourful. Schools of fish include sweetlips, butterflyfish and red snapper.
This is a great dive site for spotting numerous different nudibranch species. Maximum depth is 40m and the visibility is from 10m to 30m.
To the south of Gili Banta is Galley Rock which is another strong current dive site where sharks can be seen as well as pelagics such as barracuda and dogtooth tuna.
Gili Lawu Laut is a pinnacle rock to the north of Komodo Island. Strong currents and choppy surface conditions often make this dive site undiveable and it’s certainly not a dive for beginners. The pinnacle starts at the surface and drops below 40m. Visibility averages 20m and is often 30m plus.
Sponges and soft corals carpet the rock along with seafans, seawhips, featherstars and sea apples. Octopus and cuttlefish are often seen. Schools of black snapper, including juveniles are common, as are schools of batfish.
Other reef fish include angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, filefish, sweetlips and fuseliers. Moray eels are also numerous. Barracuda, tuna, mackeral and trevally are often seen in the blue water away from the pinnacle.
Nearby Castle Rock is home to reef sharks and large rays. The Lighthouse dive site gets manta ray visits.
Darat Passage is located between the north coast of Komodo Island and Gili Lawa Laut. Currents can be strong through the passages but when conditions allow there are some nice dive sites here. Damage to coral from dynamite fishing is evident in some areas.
The south passage is home to some larger species such as tuna, trevally, potato grouper and malabar grouper. Schools of snapper and fusilier are alwys present. Sweetlips, lionfish, butterflyfish and angelfish can also be seen.
White tip reef sharks can be seen in the sand at around 30m. Patches of garden eels can also be seen in the sand. Coral includes staghorn, plate, star, lettuce and honeycomb.
The north face of the passage is a nice drift dive. The reef slopes down to around 15m before dropping away to 35m and below. Shallow areas have better fish life and turtles may be seen on the sloping reef. White tip reef sharks are occasionally seen. Like most of this bio diverse area it is worth looking closely in the sand and rubble for unusual critters. Fire gobies can be found, as can numerous shrimps and nudibranchs.
Tatawa Besar (large) and Tatawa Kecil (small) Islands offer more high adrenaline diving north east of Komodo Island. These can be a fast drift dives that requires experience as currents often run upwards and downwards.
While you are being whipped along in the currents look out for grey reef and blacktip reef sharks as well as trevally, barracuda and the occasional manta ray.
There are places to shelter from the currents and the fringing reefs are impressive. You can see turtles feeding on the soft corals as well as all the usual reef fish. The reefs descends to below 40m.
South east of Tatawa Kecil Island is a rocky Islet called Batu Besar (big stone) which is also exposed to strong currents. On the east side is a dive site called “Current City.” When the currents are too strong to dive here the west face provides shelter around the steep drop offs with soft corals and sea fans home to large schools of fish. Stingrays, turtles and reef sharks are all common here.
Just south of Komodo Island and separated by a shallow channel, the tiny Tatah Island (sometimes spelt Tata Island) has several excellent dive sites.
The End Of The World, probably named because it’s the furthest south that any liveaboards venture in this area, is a wall dive that drops sharply down to 40m before leveling off and then sloping deeper to 100m. Visibility is usually good, up to 30m. Currents can be strong. Reef sharks, grouper and large stingrays can be seen in the deeper areas. Moray eels are numerous in the rock wall crevices. Large schools of fish carpet the wall including snapper, surgeonfish and fusilier. Bright yellow cup corals contrast vividly with the black rock.
German Flag is a great dive site to spot manta rays. They are normally seen from September to January when plankton blooms attract the mantas to feed. Currents can be strong here so this dive is normally a drift dive. Napoleon Wrasse can also be spotted here.
Just along from German Flag is Manta Alley, in the shallow channel that seperates Tala Island from Komodo Island. This is another great spot to see manta rays. Currents can be strong here too. Mantas are normally seen close to the surface and it is also possible to see them while snorkelling. They may be seen jumping clear of the water from the boat.
Langkoi Rock off the southwest coast of Komodo Island is a submerged pinnacle. It’s a deep dive with strong currents for experienced divers only. Those who can cope with the currents will be rewarded with big sharks. Grey reef sharks breed here in April and from July to September grey reefs, white tip reefs, hammerheads and bronze whalers can be seen. Maximum depth is 45m. Visibility is usually 20-30m.
There are several excellent dive sites down the east coast of Komodo Island where the sea transitions from the tropical northern water to the cooler southern water. Batu Tiga (Three Rocks) is located in the Lintah Strait and is exposed to extreme currents. These currents attract pelagics such as barracuda, trevally, mackeral and occasionally manta rays. Large grouper are also see. The rocks start at 5m underwater and drop down to 35m. Visibility averages 20m.
Pantai Merah is also called Pink Beach because of it’s nearby beach with pink sand. This is a small critter dive around large coral outcrops and is a nice afternoon dive and a break from the strong currents of other sites. Large shoals of glass fish carpet the reef. Brush them aside to see nudibranchs, bearded scorpionfish, frogfish and seahorse. Ribbon eels can be seen poking out of the sand and rubble. Visibility is variable. It can be as good as 25m but can drop to 10m. Maximum depth is 30m.
Loh Namu peninsular on the east coast of Komodo Island is a good dive site for spotting large grouper and wrasse. Napoleon Wrasse have been almost completely fished out of Indonesian waters for the benefit of wealthy Asian restaurant diners but it is still possible to see them here. Coral trout, snapper, fusilier and butterflyfish can also be seen around boulders and small caves.
Tajung Loh Sera off the south east coast is subject to the cooler south Komodo waters. This is a great dive site to see big fish such as tuna, giant trevally, barracuda, bumphead parrotfish and grouper. Turtles can also be seen here as can moray eels, lionfish and scorpionfish. Currents can be strong but shelter can be found around the rocks. Maximum depth is 30m.
Stretching out southwards from the Letuhoh peninsular on the west coast of Komodo Island is the Letuhoh Reef. Large pinnacles are covered with hard corals including staghorn coral, plate coral, star coral and fire coral. The reef and large boulders is home to an abundance of reef fish including sweetlips, butterflyfish, cornet fish and lionfish. Schools of snapper and fusilier swarm over the reef.
White tip reef sharks and grey reefs are seen as can eagle rays. Giant trevally and dog tooth tuna are seen in the blue. Napoleon wrasse are occasionally seen.
Maximum depth is 35m. Visibility ranges from 10-30m. Currents can be strong.
Further offshore is Nisaleme Island, an exposed site subject to strong currents that can push divers down. This deep drop off is another good site for pelagics including tuna, barracuda, trevally and rainbow runners.
There are several other dive sites off the northwest coast of Komodo Island that are occasionally dived on liveaboard safaris. They include Batu Saloka, Tukoh Serikaya, Lohwenci, Toroletuhoh. Healthy coral coverage at these sites are home to some impressive fish life especially macro critters. Divers will be able to find nudibranches that they’ve never seen else where as well as frogfish, seahorse, leaf scorpionfish and ribbon eels.