Trip Report from Indonesia, Komodo aboard Arenui

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Our trip started with the volcano in east Java closing Bali airport the day we all were flying in! This was not fun, people stuck in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore!! It was very stressful to say the least when I am stuck in Singapore and all the flurry of emails from 16 people stuck around the world, and Debbie from Arenui working round the clock to try to rebook and re-advise on flights to take as alternate routes. Needless to say it cost some people a lot of extra money to purchase new tickets as the flights kept getting canceled! It was ugly! Some delayed by 2 days, one of our hopefuls sadly never made it. The stars were not in alignment for her I am sad to say.

Then when our guests all finally got to Jakarta,,, the flights canceled again to Bali! Incredible, and then the flights to Labuanbajo all delayed to get to the boat, thank goodness as it helped to stall time to get them running to the plane, me on the tarmac not letting the plane take off until my peeps on the plane with Luggage!!!! Holy Moly, what a crazy start!

After finally boarding the gorgeous Arenui and meeting our cruise directors Lisa and G,,, we all slowly began to ‘Let go of the Ropes’ as I call it……… we got our dive gear ready to finally begin our Komodo Dive holiday!

Our first dive was just what the doctor ordered! A nice check out dive that was not horrid . 2nd dive was a 5 star in my log book at Tatawa Basar, and really even though the water temps in the north were cooler than anticipated, we had outstanding diving in the whole of Komodo!! We were lucky charms, even though August is peak season for dive boats in the area, we only had a couple sites where we had other divers in the water, and that was only at the very end or only the very beginning! Yeah!

We started in the middle area, excellent diving throughout there. Loving Batu Balong with a hawksbill turtle casually munching away, this reef is loaded with life, millions of colorful anthias, loads of sergeant majors in the top water column, loads of surgeon fish all over and a very close and friendly Maori wrasse. Huge barracuda and plenty of different varieties of eels!

The outstanding muck dive at Wainilo showed us those 2 crazy green colored rhinopias which are always soooo exciting to see! Heaps of wild macro, snake eel, blue ribbon eels, baby scorpion fish, zebra crab in fire urchin, I could not remember all we saw on this dive!

We went on the Komodo Dragon walk on north side of Rinca island. We saw some big ones and little ones and nests the females made to lay eggs, walked to the top to see the lovely harbor.

Diving down thru the middle area of Padar island, on our way to Nusa Koda, otherwise known as my favorite area called HORSESHOE BAY!

It is bittersweet for me to visit this area, when I remember my dear friend Larry Smith was here with Burt Jones and Maureen back when they found all the dive sites here. Favorite here is Cannibal Rock and it did not disappoint! Yellow wall of Texas still as beautiful as ever with all the bright yellow small cucumber sea squirts which gave it, it’s name.

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia

We had great fun with many many Dragons on the beach! I kayaked with Ronald our DM, walked on the beach and here they come, one, three, five, eight and ten! A whopping 10 dragons on the beach with me! Whooo hoooo! They are amazing creatures especially when they drool, gross! Everyone amazed at all the dragons coming out of the wood work! Off to south Komodo after 2 wonderful days in Horseshoe bay, we head too Manta Alley!

2 outstanding dives at Manta alley with dive 2 rocking hot with very close mantas getting cleaned! We had 4 mantas stay with us, all very close and personal. Stunning to see, we also swam back to the Alley to see one gorgeous manta swim into the U, he just barely fit, lifted his wings, the butterfly fish cleaning his belly for a while, then he turned down the alley which is pretty narrow and he barely fit there also, amazing they love this area!!! The vis was quite good so we could traverse the area and get a real feel for what the mantas were doing, going first to the cleaning station, then over to the alley, then stopping in the very shallow area against the wall of the island! Awesome!

Making our way back north, pink beach was a disappointment, too many day boats there now and something happened to the dive site. I did not understand it, as it used to be a huge favorite of mine. They think a storm may have caused some damage, I was very confused and unclear .

However we had 4 of the BEST dives I have ever had at Crystal and Castle rock in the north of Komodo!!!

Our first dive was at Crystal rock, started at the north end with an explosion of colorful soft coral, wow! It was absolutely stunning, we instantly saw 2 nice size gray reef sharks & 3 pregnant white tip sharks patrolling in front of the reef! As we continued to the south side of the sight we were engulfed with hundreds of bright yellow ribbon sweetlips, along with other species of big yellow tailed sweetlips! They were sooooo beautiful! What a gorgeous dive site! Our second dive on Crystal was also exquisite, the current came up a bit (yeah) which opened up all the stunning soft coral bushes, loads of surgeon fish now balled up and enjoying the current! Then whoooo hooo a wonderful visit from an Eagle Ray came in swam in the current with us and got very close to us! What fun!

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia

Even Lisa and G, had worked for 2 years at a resort near Laubuanbajo, dived these sites 200 times and they have NEVER seen what we saw on 2 dives at Castle Rock!! ZERO current (which normally as you know, we need to get the fish balled up to get the real fishy-ness) we dropped in on the back side and slowly made our way through the lovely site. Guess what, NO current, and all the fish that LIVE on the sight were all at the other side as we approached. Thousands of fish hanging out! This is surreal beyond words. I love these different species of fusiliers, some have a blue strip down the middle, some are all blue with yellow tails and dorsal fins, some are all blue with 2 black dots on the tail fin. There were so many of these that at times you would be in the middle, they just came so very close and engulfed you.

At one point I had my GoPro on and I was motionless in the water, I was in the middle of this crazy diagonal storm of fish, flowing down crossing me at opposite diagonals,, they got thicker and thicker in this pattern , I was blown away. I could not see another diver only thousands of fish before my eyes moving faster and faster! Then all of a sudden in came the jacks, in hunting mode and after they came in, came the giant G.T.’s; Giant Travallies! Whoosh the action never stopping for a moment! Soon as these big bullies come in, huge school masses swarm in different directions trying to no get eaten. They never cared we were they, they just carried on with their life in the sea! Now among all this dazzle of fish were several species of hundreds of surgeon fish, they also in that hypnotic trance. Just all hanging there and moving ever so slowly. Thick as thieves! In all my years of diving in Indonesia and this being my 8th trip to Komodo, I have never seen it like this! This is real life in the sea, you just never know what you are going to get!! We had such long dives here as we hardly had to move, and just simply enjoy this highly unusual phenomenon! It was like something from the twilight zone!! It was very ZEN, this would be the closest I could come to MEDITATION!

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia

The next day we had planned dives at Crystal Rock and Castle Rock agan. I had to warn everyone this was a very special day and really, you just cannot expect to see this again. It was very very unique to those of us that have dived this many times before…. Guess what? IT WAS THE SAME! No current and thousands of all the same fish, every fish that lives on that site was in attendance again and all at the same spot! Truly remarkable!!! The fish Gods with us again . WOW, WOW WOW!

Well that was something, we sadly had to leave this special place and make our way further north on our way to Bima. We dived Sangean volcano, Hot Rocks, I love this site! All the bubbles coming up from the sand, we had great vis for the first dive with all the Giant black coral bushes. Something I never noticed in the past were these Leopard anemones, just stunning clumps of anemones on a line, some open and some part way open, really gorgeous. Heaps of colorful crinoids, all colors, a plethora of architectural design. A great place to get artsy fartsy with taking pics of colorful crinoids!

We finally enter Bima Harbor and really it is a most AMAZING muck dive spot! The area they dive is unique as the topography changes along the beach along with all the wild creatures! This is always a 5 star dive even though the vis is very low. There is SO much crazy LIFE here! You cannot possibly remember what you see on a 90 min dive when every moment is filled with a new subject! I will just start to list here: leafy file fish, small baby painted frog fish with with red sides, small orange frog fish, hairy spider crab, hairy stone fish. Heaps of razor fish in the soft coral area, all different sizes. Adorable rabbit nudies, white and black and orange and black. Many many fire urchins loaded up with 2 coleman shrimp in some and some with coleman shrimp and zebra crabs!

One area had so many critters in about 2 square meters; 3 totally different seahorses and one male was pregnant!! Crazy HUGE bionic nudis, very colorful orangy, pink, purple and blue trimmed in white with an imperial shrimp on him!! OMG!! That was something you had to see to believe! A stunning big white nudi with salmon colored polka dots, eggs nearby. I was having good luck finding many crazy wild nudi’s, all so different and as beautiful as you can imagine. What makes them all so big in this harbor living in poor vis and muck? I wonder!

Our outstanding dive trip to Komodo after a rough start, was our reward!! The diving was 5 star on every level.

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaia

The Arenui boat matched our diving! I have been waiting 3 years since I chartered it to finally have the privilege to be with my guests and enjoy this gorgeous boat! The Arenui did not disappoint! They have mastered the art of Liveaboard diving. Truly a 5 star enterprise. The cabins are all artistically appointed. The boat is 70% reclaimed wood from all over Indonesia, artfully assembled (took 2 yrs) with lovely art from the many far flung provinces of Indonesia incorporating all the cultures. All the rooms have different art. The cabins are very comfortable, with king beds and day beds or 2 twin beds. The upper deck Master cabins have big windows so the views are amazing with King bed and day bed, also a small balcony. The lower deck cabins only have portholes so can be a big dark with all the wood. Still very beautiful!

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaiaThe dive deck is adequete, the crew do almost everything for you. Your gear is looked after and waiting for you on the tenders. The tenders are wonderful, well thought out for divers, stable and comfortable. The crew take all your bits and bobs to the boat and ask what you need, they put it all in a bin. You take nothing to the boat. It was odd at first, seems like you are forgetting something, however after a couple days, all very normal!

The boat crew are very hard working, most helpful, happy, kind and gracious! They are all happy with fun smiles for all, they are truly a gift to have as part of this wonderful experience! This was one of the best crew teams I have had!

Our cruise directors Lisa and G, are FABULOUS!! A young couple, who really love what they are doing! A lot of energy, knowledge and FUN!!! They offer excellent dive briefings, they are very approachable, and only aim to please in any way! They are also very good listeners! They are smart to advice at the very beginning to PLEASE let them know if you are unhappy with anything, they can fix, or help and take care of it then. Not after you leave the boat and complain to your dive travel agent!!!   I asked for more hooks in our cabin and G put them in for me! Same with others, whatever you needed they would do whatever they could to help the situation and make it good! What more could you ask for?

The dive masters and crew were outstanding! Most of them were from Manado, started diving in Lembeh Strait, so they have those great ‘eye’s for all the little stuff! They can find a needle in a hay stack! Truly amazing to me! They found us everything!

The Food and the Chef simply incredible! Five star food and presentation! Very creative, wonderful flavorful food every day. Early morning you can have small breakfast, then after the morning first dive is Big Breakfast cooked to order from a menu. They have an espresso machine, and lovely Bali Coffee and a rich assortment of excellent teas. Lunch a buffet that always had 4 main dishes to choose from; fish, seafood, meat and veg, plus all the different salad, fried rice or noodles. All excellent!

Komodo Trip Report - Cindi LaRaiaDinner served upstairs on the top deck under the stars (unless traveling or bad weather), I love this, a wonderful way to end the day, being outside! At lunch you choose what you want for dinner, a fish dish or meat, or whatever needs you would have they can accommodate! Always presented with artistic beauty, color and flair! Always fantastic and never disappointed!

Even the meat dishes if you ask for med rare, came to you med rare!! That always impresses me .

They have a wine list that is quite nice, not cheap since this is a Muslim country, and duty is 60%! You are welcome to bring your own spirits and they will have the mixer for you.

Massage is done on the top deck lounges under the Bedouin canopy. Very professional as they dress in Balinese outfit with real massage type layout. They were trained at a lovely spa in Labuanbajo, I was very impressed as I need a deep tissue massage and they could offer that easily! Wonderful!!

I am looking forward to making a 2nd trip on Arenui next September 2016 when we head to The Forgotten Islands!

We all had the most enjoyable 11nts on the beautiful Arenui with her outstanding crew!

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Cindi LaRaia owner of Dive Discovery has traveled extensively around the world diving and adventuring; seeking out only the finest, most prolific marine environments on earth. Learn more at: http://www.thescubanews.com/contributors/cindi-laraia/

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