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A personal adventure travel blog

Dive days and lazy evenings in Komodo National Park

Christian Anderson

My temporary home, Bayview Gardens Hotel, sits on a jungle covered hill above the port - a handful of cottages built on terraces hacked out of the hillside, linked by steep jungle paths and each fronted with an amazing wooden terrace to admire the world-beating sunsets. Adrian, the owner, is your typical Dutch ex-hippy, now married into an Indonesian family and your welcome pack tells the story of how the hotel grew from a simple home to a neat little outfit employing 40 local people and family members. For four days and three nights life settled into a perfect routine - halfway up the overgrown path to my room a whiteboard and pen hung from a tree for guests to pass on their breakfast timings and preferences. Dive days are early ones, so just after dawn two flasks of hotwater for coffee plus fresh fruit, toast and an omelette would appear magically on my terrace table. Sit down, admire the view and watch the town and port come to life.  Breakast over, I'd wander down the path to snag a passing Ojak with a simple nod and drop down to the dive boats clustered around the warped and ramshackle jetty. Away by 7.30am, it was a couple of hours each way to the dive sites - plenty of time for safety briefings and studying the fish books.

I'm a novice diver, so Komodo NP was a pretty steep learning curve. Dive sites were typically in the lee of exposed seamounts - from the metre or so of rock which emerged out of the blue, two innocuous lines of moving water on the surface extended in an inverted V away from the islet downstream to the current, between which it would be slack, in theory...  In practice, not quite so calm - underwater at Crystal Rock, kicking against the current for no more than 25m to reach the shelter of a large boulder had me working at 110% effort for the first time underwater - an experience which bordered on the scary as I struggled to get my heart rate down and breathing under control. At Tatawa Kecil we surfaced into a current running like a motorway in one direction, with another group of divers no more than a few metres away departing equally quickly in the opposite direction. It was easy to see why Komodo was famous for "misplacing" dive groups. If you're lucky they'll find you a couple of days later, trying to avoid being Komodo Dragon fast food The exception was Manta Point - we dropped into a flat, featurless undersea desert, drifting lazily through water hazy with plankton and the odd outcrop of coral to break the monotony. Every few moments a pair of huge manta rays would emerge from the gloom, mouths open as they fed, impossibly graceful and completely without menace despite their size and otherworldly appearance. They would pass by and disappear again into the murk, leaving us alone once more. A good day...

Dives over, lunch would be grilled fish, rice, salad and a cold coke as we chugged back to port - plenty of time for snoozy sunbathing and arguments as to exactly what kind of Floral Wrasse wandered by us on the reef. Back on dry land and, as the shadows lengthen, it's showtime on West Flores - sunset.  Wherever you are you're going to get a great one but, if there's a choice, then grab an ojak and get out to Paradise Bar on the edge of town. Each night was the same but different - impossibly varied and vivid colours changing minute by minute before reluctantly leaving the stage to an equally beautiful starry night - you could conjure up Avatar level CGI and still not improve on this.

Then, it's shower, dinner (Fish kebabs at Pesona restaurant highly recommended), a few more large Bintangs and back to the whiteboard on the tree - what do I fancy for breakfast tomorrow...