Having always dreamed of diving in Indonesia, I booked a trip to Komodo over a year ago. I decided to go with the Arenui because it was sponsoring a Ray of Hope Expedition (Marine Megafauna Foundation) and Dr Andrea Marshall, aka Queen of Mantas, was on board as the resident expert. As many of my readers know, I have been on several trips with Ray of Hope, doing Citizen Science Volunteer work, and I love the Foundation’s mission to save marine megafauna from extinction.
Andrea and I shared a room… and what a room! The Arenui is absolutely luxurious. The stateroom was large and roomy and so Indonesian! We stayed in Garuda, the stateroom named for the Hindu deity Garuda, a large humanlike bird who served as Vishnu’s mount. The carvings in the room were beautiful, as you can see! The Arenui is definitely the most luxurious boat I have been on, and I am now absolutely spoiled.
The mission of the trip was to identify as many Reef Mantas as possible. Of course, along the way we would dive several other dive sites too. The diving was out of this world and eclipsed my imagination. The trip map below shows our journey from Bali, past Lombok and Sumbawa to Moyo Island and the Sangeang Volcano, to Komodo and Rinca Islands in the Flores Sea. It was an incredibly beautiful journey, both above and below the surface.
Why do I travel with Ray of Hope Expeditions? Because I admire their work, passion, and dedication. Andrea Marshall was the first person to do a PhD on Manta Rays. Until her research, very little was known about them. She discovered two species, and a large population off the coast of Mozambique, where she makes her home. She has advocated for protection for Mantas everywhere in the world. Indonesia, once the main fishery for Manta Rays for Chinese medicine, is now protecting Manta Rays as they have realized they are worth more for their economy alive than dead. Sadly, the once flourishing colony of Reef Mantas off Mozambique has declined by 95% due to Mozambique’s refusal to protect the animals. Manta encounters drew many to Mozambique’s dive centers, and the disappearance of the mantas will have a negative effect on Mozambique’s economy. Andrea has witnessed the decline of mantas in Mozambique over the last 12 years, and it has been heartbreaking. The species is very vulnerable to extinction because of the slow reproduction of the animals. Females give birth every 2 or 3 years to only one pup; rarely there are twins.
Fishing Mantas can destroy entire populations because they are taken faster than they can reproduce. These gentle, intelligent ocean giants must be protected in order to save the species from extinction. Andrea devotes her life to advocating for Manta Rays and other pelagics such as Whale Sharks, Mola Mola, and turtles.
Our first stop was Moyo Island and Angel Reef. I have to say that Angel Reef was heavenly, indeed! My first Komodo dive…and how gorgeous it was!
Diving Indonesia was an unbelievable experience for me. The sheer amount of life in the seas is almost mind blowing. Stay tuned for photos and reports on this fabulous journey. I will be posting frequently to show you the wonders of Komodo (yes, there will be dragons!).
For more from Tam, visit www.travelswithtam.com.