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
Diving into the World’s Fastest Tidal Rapids
In the mystical waters just north of Vancouver, Canada lies a narrow channel called the Skookumchuck Narrows, or simply “The Skook.” It’s a hidden gem in the Salish Sea that boasts a unique spectacle – a tumultuous dance of tides and currents that draws adventurers and spectators from far and wide.
Imagine this: a channel so narrow and shallow that a single tide can unleash an astonishing 200 billion gallons of water, creating a tumultuous display of standing waves, whirlpools, and currents surging at 16 knots (18 mph or 30 kph). Such speeds may seem mild when driving a car, but the erratic water is a different ballgame. Skookumchuck Narrows is a contender for the title of the world’s fastest tidal rapids, rivaled only by Nakwakto Rapids further up the British Columbia coast.
But there’s a twist – this aquatic battleground isn’t just for adrenaline seekers; The Skook is an oasis for life beneath the waves. April 2023 marked a rare convergence of perfect conditions: a celestial alignment allowing divers to witness The Skook in all its glory. And who better to guide this daring expedition than Porpoise Bay Charters, a family-run venture led by the seasoned Kal Helyar and Ann Beardsell?
Raging currents = an abundance of life
The allure lies not in the danger but in the vibrant marine ecosystem fueled by the relentless currents. Ocean currents act as nature’s turbochargers, transporting nutrients that transform places like Skookumchuck Narrows into underwater havens with colorful life thriving amidst the rocky terrain.
It’s important to debunk the myth that this is a reckless plunge into chaos. Diving The Skook is not about courting danger but choosing the right moment: at slack when the tide turns, the water experiences minimal movement, and the currents are a mere 4-5 knots. Picture this – a scuba diver slipping gracefully between tidal changes, maneuvering with precision as the water changes its course and gradually picks up speed. Timing is everything, and finding the rare dates when daylight piercing through the emerald-green water coincides with navigable water conditions is critical. April 2023 granted us a mere handful of these golden days of nature’s alignment for the first time in four years.
Entering the abyss
As our vessel, under the watchful eye of Captain Kal, approached the infamous Skookumchuck rapids, a tangible excitement filled the air. These cold-water adrenaline-filled dives are the scuba diving equivalent to scaling Everest. The unpredictability of The Skook, where currents can whisk you in any direction, demanded respectful caution from our experienced salty crew.
With a reassuring smile, Captain Kal dismissed the notion of a toilet bowl experience, where divers are pulled in a circular direction by the currents as if flushed down a toilet. He emphasized that they only dived during an easy drift in the current, which was hard to fathom possible in such treacherous waters. Approaching the narrowest section of the channel, where the current was fastest, Kal’s experienced eyes scanned for the telltale signs of slack tide. Tidal ripples slowed, and we entered the water in the few precious minutes within the next year when it was possible to witness Skookumchuck in all its sunny glory.
As we descended into the underwater world, a mysterious algal bloom cast a dark green haze, unveiling a breathtaking palette of colors below. Bright red and pink anemones, neon orange encrusting sponges, and deep purple ochre sea stars adorned the rocky canvas, showcasing nature’s artistic prowess.
Surrendering to the sea
Descending further, we felt the force of the tide, like a river yet to subside. Gripping onto rock holds and kicking into the current, we felt like underwater rock climbers. Adjusting our underwater camera settings and getting comfortable with the flow of the water, we marveled at the transformation of the underwater landscape. Slabs of rock, once pounded by the current, now hosted a vibrant community of marine life.
After a mesmerizing twenty minutes of relatively gentle water, the current intensified, signaling the roller coaster drop ahead. We surrendered to neutrality, letting the current guide us along the wall. Boulders and back eddies added a touch of unpredictability; with trust in our abilities and Captain Kal’s promise of a safe pickup, the thrill was exhilarating rather than menacing.
As the current ebbed, we found ourselves in a tranquil cove adorned with green sea urchins, marking the end of our underwater odyssey. The Skook had shown us its splendor: a delicate balance of chaos and life beneath the surface – leaving us with memories as vivid as the colors we witnessed.
About the Author
Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles, he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. After working as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific, Nirupam became the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo – the world’s top underwater photo & video retailer. Check out more of his photography at www.photosfromthesea.com!
US-based divers: explore more close-by dive destinations with Bluewater Dive Travel here.
All photos: Nirupam Nigam
Unveiling Indonesia’s Dive Gem: Welcome to Bunaken Oasis, Where Adventure Meets Luxury
Embark on a journey to a sanctuary meticulously crafted with a single vision: to redefine luxury diving in North Sulawesi. Born from a culmination of global experiences, our resort stands as a beacon, promising an impeccable fusion of opulence and ecological mindfulness.
Nestled in the Bunaken Marine National Park, our commitment to an eco-conscious existence is at our core. With 12 exquisite cottages designed for comfort and splendour, every desire finds fulfilment within our haven.
At Bunaken Oasis, sustainability isn’t a buzzword; it’s our ethos. Our water, purified through innovative means, erases the need for plastic bottles, ensuring every sip aligns with our eco-friendly stance. With pathways weaving through the hillside, nature’s beauty is at your doorstep.
As your boat docks at our private jetty, the journey begins through the elegant Long House, leading to an ethereal infinity pool overlooking the horizon. Beyond lies our haven: a cocktail bar, a panoramic restaurant serving culinary excellence, and a serene spa to soothe your soul after underwater escapades in the awe-inspiring depths of Bunaken Marine Park.
Luxury here isn’t just a notion; it’s a standard etched into every facet of our 70sqm villas. From thoughtfully curated amenities to breathtaking vistas, your stay resonates with indulgence and comfort.
Bunaken Oasis stands as a beacon of ethical tourism, securing recognition for our commitment to nature. With an extensive infrastructure ensuring minimal environmental impact, we’re pioneers in nurturing and enhancing the marine park’s wonders.
Our dedication extends to our garden, where organic produce flourishes, enriching both our cuisine and local community ties. Beyond the confines of our resort, we encourage exploration, offering curated excursions to delve deeper into the vibrant local culture and landscapes, inviting you to discover the mesmerizing depths of Bunaken Marine Park through expert-led diving adventures.
Explore an aquatic wonderland at Bunaken Oasis, offering access to 80 diverse and stunning dive sites. Encounter majestic sea turtles, some so colossal they seem prehistoric, gracefully navigating vibrant reefs.
Discover hidden treasures like pygmy seahorses and intriguing frogfish among the kaleidoscope of healthy coral formations housing over 2,000 fish species.
Join us at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa, where luxury meets responsibility, and every moment resonates with the harmony of nature.
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