A week in Komodo National Park with Mermaid Liveaboards
Who knew that there were gardens of heaven underwater Secret gardens where rainbow flowers bloom in exuberant shapes, creating forests of corals roamed by thousands of fish of equally kaleidoscopic shapes and colours. The underwater world gifts us with unparalleled discoveries and adventures and Komodo National Park surely knows how to leave you speechless!
We were privileged to discover this incredible part of Indonesia on an eight-day cruise aboard the Mermaid II Liveaboard, on a trip that we will never forget.
One of Mermaid Liveaboards most famous routes is an eight-day, seven-nights cruise leaving from Bali’s Benoa harbour, reaching the North of Komodo National Park and finally returning to Bali. The park includes the three larger islands Komodo, Padar and Rinca, and 26 smaller ones with a total area of 1,733 km2 (603 km2 of it land).
The national park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard. Later it was dedicated to protecting other species, including marine species and in 1991 the national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Along the route, the cruise stops in twenty different diving spots offering the opportunity to dive in various beautiful sites. From the calm, clear waters of Moyo Island to Satonda Island - the island that once was a collection of volcanoes which have now collapsed to hold a spectacular lake at its centre. Once in the park, the diving sites become even more spectacular while the boat reaches different areas of the South, with colder waters but incredible marine life and coral formations. In Rinca Island, we met the Komodo Dragons, the world’s heaviest and largest lizards during a scenic walk ending with a view over the bay. The best view though was without a doubt the one we had the luck to see in Padar Island, one of the three larger islands of the park. After a short walk, we reached a viewpoint, overlooking three bays, offering one of the most sensational views we have ever seen.
Back on board and after diving close to the island, we moved to Sangean Island, home to an active volcano and a village where only two families have lived for generations. After the last evening dive, we made our way back flanking Lombok, admiring a spectacular sunset and already feeling so grateful for the memories we had made.
Diving in Komodo is an experience of a lifetime. Pristine and beautiful reefs, outstanding biodiversity and very diverse diving experiences. From warm, calm and colourful shallow reefs alive with hundreds of reef fish and nudibranchs (our new personal obsessions!), to current-swept deep cool water sea mounts, walls and pinnacles patrolled by sharks, Napoleons and other big fish.
Each of the twenty dives we completed during our week with Mermaid II Liveaboard was special and unique in their own way. We discovered and learned about new corals and marine life we didn’t even know existed, and marvelled at the healthy underwater life.
During the night dives, we enjoyed scouting for small critters and creatures who only come out when it's dark, in the peaceful quiet of the starry nights.
The first thing that truly impressed us was seeing such a colourful, diverse and impressive coral. Komodo National Park is home to more than 260 species of corals, thriving thanks to strong daily tidal flows combined with nutrient-rich water upwelling from the depths of the Indian Ocean which create ideal conditions for thousands of species of corals and tropical fish to flourish.
We spotted an uncountable number of fish and smaller creatures. From manta rays to white and blacktip reef sharks, Napoleon Rasses and hawksbill turtles. Frogfish and pygmy seahorses, cattle fishes and octopus, stingrays and hundreds of Anthias, Chromis and Damsels. Not to mention an infinite collection of the cutest creatures of all, the colourful, unique and always surprising nudibranchs.
Our favourite dives have been Crystal Bay, Shotgun, Batu Bolong Secret Garden. Diving in Komodo truly elevated our passion for diving to another level. During this trip, we not only enjoyed wonderful sites but also improved our diving skills by diving often (up to four times a day) and also taking our Nitrox certification, which gave us the advantage of being able to dive for longer in deeper waters and reducing the feeling of tiredness in between dives.
The Mermaid II Liveaboard experience
Travelling on a liveaboard is an experience on its own and Mermaid II truly over-delivered. A typical day aboard Mermaid II would start with an early wake up (usually at 6.30) and coffee with small breakfast, followed by the first dive of the day. Each dive is preceded by a briefing from one of the divemasters, which gives you an in-depth look at the site, how you should dive in relation to currents and conditions and what can you expect to see.
Back on board we would be treated to a big breakfast and have some leisure time. The second dive would follow around 10.30/11.00.
Meals aboard Mermaid II never, ever disappointed and after every dive, we were treated to either a meal or some delicious snack. During the day the boat would continue navigating to reach different parts of the park and allow us to dive in different sites. In the afternoon we would dive once around 15.00 and have free time to relax and enjoy the boat life.
We left the boat to visit different islands on several occasions. Visiting Satonda island to see its lake, Padar Island to marvel at the most beautiful viewpoint above the bays, Rinca Island to see the Komodo Dragons and Sangean Island to visit its little village. In the evenings we would dive one last time at 18.30 followed by a wonderful dinner and hot chocolate.
Mermaid II is a reasonably small boat, hosting a maximum of 18 guests in shared or private cabins. Given the small numbers, it was easy to bond with other guests and crew members and enjoy each other's company whilst always having privacy and enough space around the boat. A special mention must be made for the crew. From the first to the last member, everyone contributed to make the experience onboard so incredibly fun, seamless and unforgettable. Professional, extremely organized and all in all wonderful people!
Exploring Komodo National Park was a truly memorable experience. A pristine world, above and beyond the water, of unimaginable beauty!