After nearly a year absence from Komodo I returned to my favorite diving destination and like last year on the Palau Siren, I got to enjoy the brand new Siren Fleet liveaboard the S/Y P. Siren. Frank put a lot of effort into the boat building, together with his father Jan and mother Annie – they really nailed it! The yacht is simply stunning.
Our first guests arrived in Bima, having spent a few days relaxing in Bali they were ready to explore Komodo’s underwater realm. After our briefings and the safety drill the dinghies took us out to our first dive site “The Unusual Suspects”. Much to be expected from the last seasons diving here we encountered thorny seahorse, ornate ghost pipefish and many other critters. Captain Daeng had an early start the following day, weighing anchor at 3 am, to get us to Sangeang Island in time for our next day of diving.
I always look forward to see how dive sites change over time; however when we visited “Techno Reef”, “The Estuary” and “Hot Rocks” all the amazing life was still there including pygmy seahorses, a variety of nudibranchs, xeno crabs and octopus as well as the luminous anemones and bubbling sea bed. The weather was as fantastic as the diving and during our crossing to Gilli Banta everybody enjoyed a relaxing siesta. As a change from the dark sand, we spent our night dive at “The Circus”. With its white sandy slope this site is always superb at night with stargazers, octopus, sting rays and hunting lion fish.
The next morning, our first “Komodo Diving Day”, got underway with a dive at “Coral Garden” where we encountered our first white tip shark, Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish and a beautiful pair of white leaf fish. By now we were up for some more big fish action and Gili Lawa Laut delivered! At “Castle Rock” the current was just right bringing big fish to the eastern point. Alex and I directed the dinghies to the correct spot and after the 3-2-1 everybody went back rolled making a negative descent and hooked-in in 25m (85ft) to enjoy the fish parade. In the afternoon we visited “Shotgun”, the outgoing tide meant that the current was pushing us through the gap between Gilli Lawa Laut and Gilli Lawa Derat, so a speedy drift was expected – Great Fun and we were rewarded with sightings of two mobula rays and numerous turtles. The day finished up with a thunderstorm but we were cosy and dry inside and actually enjoyed the cool breeze the rain brought.
Sunday morning was time for “Crystal Rock”. The best time to visit this site is with slack tide and we managed this just right. White tip and grey reef sharks cruised around the pinnacle and some large Napoleon wrasse and giant trevallies provided some great photo opportunities. Next up was “Makassar Reef” and as always we had a look if some of the “big birds” that come in to get cleaned at this site. Well what a start of the season….. we saw at least 12 beautiful manta rays during our drift dive. It is always amazing to see how gentle the mantas are and how effortlessly they swim. Back on board it was smiling faces all around. Instead of the afternoon dive we opted to visit Rinca Island for theDragon Walk, which was a real adventure after all the rain from the night before. Muddy is an understatement. Then in the evening our dive guides Ungke, Alex and Timo showed off their spotting skills at “Dragon Besar” finding Mandarin fish, frogfish and pygmy cuttlefish.
After a day with large fish action we headed south towards “Nusa Kode”, with a stop at Padar Bay to dive “Tiga Dara” and to really get a feeling of what the diving in the south is like. Its truly amazing to arrive in Nusa Kode and be the only boat there and even better the water was surprisingly still 27C (81F) warm! First up was “Cannibal Rock” and later in the afternoon “Torpedo Alley” and of course we visited the dragons on the beach. We stayed for two days here in Nusa Kode to give enough time to explore the magnificent macro life this area has to offer. Ladybugs, ghost pipefish and frogfish could be ticked off the list. After our seventh dive we crossed back to Komodo for the evening dive at “Phinisi” Wreck. The next day was “Big Bird Day” as the P Siren moved to “Manta Alley”. Nine mantas stayed with us for 45 min, cruising all round our groups so once again the happy divers returned to the yacht with big smiles. As the dive was so great our group decided to stay the whole day at this one spot and bask in the glory of manta rays – each dive they swam around us we couldn’t get enough! For our night dive we headed back north and eagle eyed Ungke spotted bobtail squid, frogfish and a variety of crabs and shrimps plus yes a flamboyant cuttlefish!!!
A morning dive at “Pink Beach” then we headed back into Current City with its colorful reefs to dive “Batu Bolong and “Tatawa Besar” before returning to Gili Lawa Laut and some more shark action. Strong current supported an amazing drift at the “Shotgun” and plenty of fish life was seen at Castle & Crystal Rocks. As we cruised back to Gili Banta the 7 sails were hoisted and the P Siren was shown in her full pride giving our guests the opportunity to get some great photos. Our last dive of the trip at “K2” gave another manta sighting – a fond farewell to this awesome group from Australia. As always on the last evening our chefs Agus and Suprioni created a delicious spread with BBQ meats & king prawns and plenty of side dishes, full from not only this meal but 10 days of eating heartily, we all retreated into the salon to watch the best pictures of the trip and start planning the next adventure.
To find out more about Worldwide Dive & Sail and their itineraries, click here
Where History and Diver Meet: Wreck Diving in Narvik
Guest article by Petra Pruden
Cool, clear waters provide exceptional conditions for preserving shipwrecks, and a one-of-a-kind opportunity for divers seeking to explore them. There is one particular location in Norway, near the city and fjord of Ofotfjord, Narvik, that, due to its ideal conditions and historical significance, make it remarkable for diving. Not only are the landscapes spectacular, but during WW2, three significant navy engagements took place there resulting in 16 wrecks accessible to divers today. It’s no surprise that divers such as Australian diver and wreck enthusiast, Edd Stockdale, have been drawn to this location to discover and learn about the wrecks left behind.
Diving with a Story
Located just north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, the coastal city of Narvik offers ice-free access to the North Atlantic. Narvik was a particularly important location in years past as iron ore from Sweden could be shipped there by train, loaded onto ships, and distributed. The city’s strategic foothold caused tension between the British and Norwegian navies and German forces, and they eventually fought to control the transport of iron. From April to June in 1940, three major battles were waged in this fjord resulting in many lives lost and numerous sunken ships. Today, the Narvik fjord is a popular wreck diving site, as the pristine, yet chilly, waters of this protected harbor offer divers and tourists alike an unforgettable, historical experience.
Edd Stockdale and His Trip to Narvik
One such diver who found himself drawn to the history and wonder of Narvik is Edd Stockdale. Edd first picked up diving as a boy, and his passion for the sport quickly turned into a lifelong career. Originally from Australia, Edd followed his love for cold dives and made Sweden his new home. With over 5,500 dives in his logbook, 20 years-worth of diving experience, and his name gracing the cover of several prominent training course manuals (RAID instruction manuals), Edd is the kind of guy to take you on a true adventure. Given that his home in Sweden is (relatively) close to Narvik, this last year he made the drive to the famous location to discover some of the wrecks for himself.
Once Edd reached the harbor, he was joined by a group of Swedish and Finnish wreck divers, explorers, and historians aboard an old Swedish minesweeper, the Galten. “Our days generally consisted of getting up at a reasonable time, having breakfast, and getting our rebreathers ready for the day’s diving,” described Edd, then further adding, “We dropped a shot-line at each wreck we visited, then staggered the entry teams to allow time for decompression. Each dive took between 2-3 hours, and after we were finished and the shot-lines recovered, we got to enjoy a relaxing evening on the ship, which, in true Norwegian form, even included a sauna.”
The Erich Giese
With as many as 16 wrecks in the vicinity of Narvik, it’s difficult for divers, Edd included, to choose a favorite dive. “On past dives, I enjoyed visiting the Erich Giese, a German Z class destroyer that sits in about 65 meters of water,” recalled Edd. Back in the late 1930s, the Erich Giese was part of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, or, in other words, the German navy. During the early stages of the Norwegian Campaign, this ship engaged in naval combat with two British destroyers as it tried to make its way out of Narvik Harbor. Although it was temporarily successful in defending its escape, narrowly dodging five torpedoes fired by the British, it was eventually reduced to a burning wreck after enduring as many as 20 turret shots.
Apart from diving the Erich Giese for the first time, Edd was also able to explore the D/S Landego, which he described as “stunning to see up close, with many of its details remaining intact, if not for the Arctic marine life that has taken to living onboard.” The Landego also shares a rather intriguing war story. According to Norwegian reports, the ship was requisitioned by the Germans and used to lay cable for military communication purposes. However, as it turned out, the exact spot chosen by the Germans for laying the cable was an active minefield. The Landego struck a mine, exploded on impact, and cost the lives of 9 men onboard. Today it sits approximately 300 meters offshore and provides divers with an extraordinary diving experience.
If Wrecks Could Speak
It seems the more you look into the history of each wreck in this area, the closer you come to understanding the difficult circumstances many of these men were forced to endure. For Edd, learning the stories of the wrecks he dives has become standard practice. “As with every dive we go on, we are briefed beforehand on the history of the site, which we can then use to compare with the photos and videos we later capture on our dive. This provides our trip with extra meaning, especially in a place like Narvik, where such a large naval conflict was carried out in a relatively small body of water.” It’s interesting, yet also harrowing, to think that a German invasion from 1940 ultimately turned into what is today seen as one of Europe’s top wreck diving destinations.
After learning about the ships’ backstories, Edd and his team are eager to get in the water and start exploring. Edd dons his Liberty sidemount rebreather which allows him to better pass through some of the smaller doorways and access points of the wrecks. Once in the water, Edd and his team take their time searching the sunken ships, combing over details such as torpedoes and bullet holes, and comparing what they found under the water with what they had learned during the briefing. They also take care to document everything they see with their underwater cameras, and even go so far to share videos of their experience on YouTube. This is the perfect way for Edd to relive some of the moments of these dives, while also providing newcomers with some insight on what to expect before getting in the water.
Plans for the Future
When asked if he would recommend Narvik to fellow divers, Edd replied with enthusiasm, “Basically, if you like brilliant wreck diving, clear water, stunning scenery, and impressive, historically-relevant dive sites, Narvik is the place for you.” He then went on to add, speaking as a professional diver, that one of Narvik’s greatest advantages is that many of the wrecks sit in 10-30 meters of water, meaning even shallow range divers can discover these remarkable WW2 shipwrecks.
Plus, with so many wrecks located in one fjord, Narvik is the ideal location for divers to make return visits. Edd is already planning his next trip to the area, adding, “Narvik is one of the greatest places to go and teach wreck penetration courses. And, given that wreck photography is a hobby of mine, there’s no better place for me to keep visiting and get all my amazing shots in one place.”
A Destination to Dive
For most divers, just the fact that 16 accessible shipwrecks can be found within such close proximity of one another is reason enough to visit this unique spot. Plus, with the striking landscapes of the Norwegian fjords, the rich history to be discovered, and need we mention the saunas, it’s easy to see why Narvik could command the top slot on divers’ bucket lists. If you’re ready to see for yourself what Edd Stockdale and his team have been so enchanted by, pack your gear and head north to this unforgettable place. Perhaps you could even join Edd there!
Edd Stockdale is an Ambassador for Divesoft. Find out more about the CCR Liberty at www.divesoft.com/en/products/ccr-liberty
The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Christine Dennison
Next in a new series of podcasts shared by our friends Gemma and Ian aka The BiG Scuba Podcast…
Ian and Gemma chat to Christine Dennison. She aims to empower women through exploration, adventure and role models. “Quest for knowledge, Thirst for Adventure” is a great motto. Christine is the Co-founder and President of Mad Dog Expeditions, an internationally-recognized technical scuba diving and exploration company based in New York City. For more than 20 years Christine has been diving and exploring in remote regions of the world. Among her accomplishments, Christine is the first woman to dive and explore beneath the Arctic Sea ice and ice caves of the Canadian High Arctic.
To date Christine has logged over 80 dives in this harsh polar environment. She is also the first woman to dive the dangerous piranha-saturated waters of the Amazon’s Rio Negro and its tributaries. Her additional diving expertise includes technical mixed gas wreck diving of historic shipwrecks around the world including the scuttled WW1 German Fleet of Scapa Flow in the Scottish Isles, and the Bianca C, a luxury liner and the deepest wreck in the Caribbean.
Christine is an experienced technical Divemaster and mixed gas diver with cave, wreck and ice certifications. Her expertise in operations and logistics of remote regions has been invaluable in consulting, organizing and leading expeditions for numerous film crews and scientific teams throughout the world. Her experience extends into working with advanced underwater ROV technology as a pilot and camera operator with over three years of ongoing exploration and documentary expeditions to the WW2 US R12 submarine in the Gulf of Mexico.
Christine is very active in oceanographic and wildlife conservation issues surrounding indigenous peoples. She is a role model for young women everywhere and passes on her expertise by mentoring, lecturing and presenting to student groups throughout the country. She is an ardent traveler and explorer spanning more than 30 countries. An International Baccalaureate graduate of New York’s Anglo-American School and University student in English Literature and Art History, Christine is Spanish and bi-lingual as well as conversational French. She was inducted as a Fellow of both the prestigious Explorers Club in New York and the Royal Geographical Society in London. She serves on the Board of several nonprofit organizations that promote education, exploration, Ocean Outreach and animal rescue and takes her adopted Husky Ava on expeditions with her whenever she can.
Find out more about Christine at:
Find more podcast episodes and information at www.thebigscuba.com and on most social platforms @thebigscuba
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This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.
Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.
Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!
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