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oneyellowtang

Is Komodo "done?"

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Just returned from an 8 day live aboard trip (private charter) to Komodo. The diving was good, but not near the level we expected. I was wondering if Komodo is becoming one of those places that has passed the point of no return w/regards to the number of boats, divers, etc. 

To be clear...
- Crystal Rock was excellent - we dived it 3 times and it was outstanding (although very few sharks). Definitely a world-class dive.
- Manta Alley was very good - we didn't see a huge number of mantas, but did get a few. Rating this as (still) a great dive mainly because the current makes it both interesting, and let's you get close to mantas (and other animals - had a great time getting very close to an eagle ray getting cleaned for about 5 minutes). 
Note: I say "still" because some of the day boats are now dropping divers in right before the cleaning stations after they spot the mantas from the surface. Net effect of dropping 10+ divers in the water that close is the mantas tend to swim off rather quickly. 
- A couple of other dives were also very good...

What wasn't great:
- Batu Bolong: coral is still in great shape, but the number of divers being dropped (early morning) from liveaboards is absurd (easily 40+ divers on the lee side while we were in the water). Later in the morning it got worse with the day boats having permission to dive it between 9AM-3PM. 

- Castle Rock: dived it once at slack tide, and once when the current was ripping. Both dives were okay. Ironically there were more fish around at slack tide. As an u/w photographer, being hooked in limits your ability to shoot in current this strong. Don't get me wrong, this is a good dive, but I was expecting more (Uepi Point and Devil's Highway in the Solomons) are both better dives than this).

"Shotgun" (the Cauldron): this was also a good dive, but again dive boats are starting to drop divers right in near the cleaning stations once mantas are spotted from the surface. Chased away all  mantas we saw. 

Overall - the number of boats diving Komodo is at the point where it's almost absurd. About half way through the trip we did get a little further away (ended up at the same sites as the Arenui, Damai I, and then later, the Pindito) - this was a little better - fewer divers, more fish, better coral. 

The other thing I noticed is that a large number of live-aboards are using inflatables as their tenders. We only had 6 divers spread across 2 tenders, but with 6 camera rigs it was still a bit crowded. There is a strong need for some of the better boats to invest in some better tenders (Undersea Hunter group in Cocos is the gold standard for me). 

Overall - Komodo was good, but wasn't in my top 5. I had the feeling most of the week that it's one of those places that was likely outstanding 15 years ago and is now potentially in decline. Might have been the week we were there, the boat, etc. Anyone else been recently?

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I first went there in 2001 on a liveaboard and saw one other boat all week, the diving was fantastic but funnily enough many of the most popular sites that are dived now had not been discovered at that time such as Manta Alley.

I went back a couple of years ago and could not believe the number of liveaboards and day boats operating there now. You could literally walk across the harbour at Labuanbajo going from one to another.

Every dive site we went to there was multiple other boats there or close by. The diving was still very good and we dived lots of sites we had not dived previously but it certainly was no longer off the beaten track.

I did read that the national park was talking about limiting the number of visitors dramatically and introducing very high fee's to keep the visitor numbers down.

 

 

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