Seven Days on Alor - Part One: The Diving

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gee13

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Andy if you remember correctly when you dived komodo you would have paid a marine park fee. In sipadan you do so as well. I dont also recall locals in mabul having a higher per capita income they are as poor as most islanders in remote indonesia, its where the funding goes from dive tourism and as far as sipadan goes the military presence at the island and their patrols perhaps act as a deterrent to trawlers. Perhaps thats not so much the case in indonesian waters where who knows where most of our marine park fees go to. From last accounts its a vast area to cover yes and almost impossible to police and where corruption runs. Fact is rebreather or not you may get to see up to 30 sharks and more pelagics on just one dive in sipadan where in komodo i only saw a handful in a weeks diving.
 

silent running

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Andy if you remember correctly when you dived komodo you would have paid a marine park fee. In sipadan you do so as well. I dont also recall locals in mabul having a higher per capita income they are as poor as most islanders in remote indonesia, its where the funding goes from dive tourism and as far as sipadan goes the military presence at the island and their patrols perhaps act as a deterrent to trawlers. Perhaps thats not so much the case in indonesian waters where who knows where most of our marine park fees go to. From last accounts its a vast area to cover yes and almost impossible to police and where corruption runs. Fact is rebreather or not you may get to see up to 30 sharks and more pelagics on just one dive in sipadan where in komodo i only saw a handful in a weeks diving.

Hi g13, yes there's a park fee in Komodo, but that doesn't mean it will add up to enough to pay for the level of policing necessary 24/7/365. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing any government boats on either of my 2 trips to Komodo.

When I refer to per capita income, I'm referring to national per capita, not the people on the outer islands who probably don't pay any taxes in either country.

Also, Sipadan is an island surrounded by deep water, which would tend to concentrate wildlife. Komodo is pretty big and often has some pretty drastic differences in temperatures and conditions from north to south. I'm glad you had such a good experience in Sipadan, good to know for future planning. I don't know if the shark situation in Komodo is worse now than when I was there last which was 7-8 years ago. Probably is, but it's hard to believe it would be drastically worse if there are no large scale commercial operations in the park. Komodo is very popular, there were at least 4 big liveaboards that I saw each time I was there, not to mention the land based operators I saw. If I remember right, Sipadan has strict limits on the number of divers allowed at one time and it's not very many, which would also explain why the sharks may be easier to find than in a place like Komodo that has literally hundreds of divers in the water every day.

To give an example of a Komodo shark encounter on rebreather, I was diving late afternoon with another rebreather diver on Crystal Bommie at about 10-15m. We settled behind a coral head out of the current and watched 5+ good sized grey reefs striking and feeding on the schools of fish who were also feeding in the current. This went on for about an hour, till it started to get dark. They were literally inches above our heads, waiting and scanning the fish for opportunities. They appeared to have completely forgotten we were there. This is a popular site, there was a liveaboard there the day before, and we had also dived it previously in the morning and we only saw 1 shark that morning. It was one of the best dives I've ever had, truly amazing to see the sharks rocketing out to strike, occasionally even colliding when 2 would go for the same fish. No way it would have happened if we were on regular scuba... -Andy
 

gee13

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Well if you are comparing to 7-8 years ago im sure there is a difference. Im sure shark finning boats have been through the area since. Though I didnt see any fishing boats at time apart from near the main area near where we saw the dragons (possibility that they know the area is barren of shark populations?) I was there only few months ago in May hardly off peak and on all 20+ dives that week didnt see any other group of divers on any of the sites even at popular sites as Batu Bolong / Shotgun/ Crystal rock.. There are a lot of sites through north and south I gather, and we only saw Mona lisa and Mermaid passing through. Yes Sipadan may have a 120 per day restriction but if you compare the vast area of komodo and many sites vs a tiny island perhaps its a moot point. Id be keen to hear of others reports as well including Alor region and surrounds.
 
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frogfish

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Hello ff, great to hear you saw a thresher at Kal's. Our dive operator had seen them south of Kal's during a drift dive in the blue in the middle of the channel at around 40m. Which liveaboard were you on? -Andy

I was on Black Manta. We also saw a thresher and schooling hammerheads later in the trip (at Dusborgh/ Desperandum atolls) :)
 

Bali Diver

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Wheres dusborgh/desperandum??

Situated in the Banda sea in the deepest area.Banda sea has to be one of my favourite area's in Indo.Long liners been through there,saw evidence of that with long lines wrapped around coral.

Did lots of diving around Alor 2005,quite a few sharks around.But not lots like mentioned few years before that.

@highdesert the story of The day all the sharks died was a good find and good story and sums up the situation we face in our oceans and the serious affect it is going have in the future
 

frogfish

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Way cool, thanks. Did you like the boat?

Yes the boat is very good, I have done many trips with them (Raja Ampat, Komodo but also Similans and lots of week-ends out of Singapore when they were based there). It is not luxurious, but very comfortable; crew are hard working, guides very good spotters and the cruise director coordinates everything seemlessly. Highly recommended.
 

NatashaS

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highdesert thanks for the interesting and detailed report.

I wonder how these sites compare to the experience on the Komodo Dancer, when it does Alor.

After some serious research here, I chose the Komodo Dancer for a 10 day, 30 dive Alor trip in July 2012. Deciding factors: Gede M. is one of the top DMs I have dove with anywhere in the world; Nitrox + extended bottom times; ability to do lots of diving, including many leisurely night dives; overall relaxation; ability to dive several areas which cannot be accessed except from a liveaboard. 19 of my dives were 68 min or longer.

Have not had time to write a trip report or process photos, so just a fast summary:

While we found many reports prior to our trip touting Alor's excellent visibility, we found it to be similar to other areas of Indonesia.... As to the mix of swimming marine life, we saw a bazillion small reef fish, relatively few "eating fish" (10-14"), a couple dogtooth tunas, couple of Napoleons, one grouper, one turtle, and a handful of morays. A couple of sites featured schools of surgeonfish/unicornfish and fusiliers, but we were expecting to see more sweetlips, jacks, snappers, etc, and didn't.


Most of us saw no pelagics (no tuna, sharks, manta, etc) and no significant schools of medium sized fish (there were a couple smaller schools of red toothed triggers near the reef but not huge) in Alor. There was a distant eagle ray and turtle in Maumere Bay (different island) and one DM saw a dogtooth tuna and a shark, but I can't recall speaking to any guests who saw the last two. Several of the guests were disappointed with the lack of pelagics given the Dancer website's description of Alor. Like highdesert, I found Alor's vis about the same as Komodo, Raja, Nusa Lembongan etc. We made 1 attempt at Kal's Dream but the currents were deemed unmanageable so we moved on. On the whole I found the diving much less fishy than Komodo. I love macro but did miss seeing pelagics and Komodo's masses of fish. There were a couple sites with good anthias (e.g. Red Wall), but not the gazillions of Batu Bolong etc. We had warmer water and very few dives with real current. Very healthy hard coral on reef dives. We never saw another dive group in 10 days.

The muck diving in Alor itself (Kalabahe Bay) was good. We did multiple dives at Mucky Mosque and Mini Wall different times of day and night; when I inquired about other sites I was told they were not as good. Surprisingly Alor is not a great area for nudis (far fewer species than Komodo, Raja, Lembeh, Tulamben etc). But some of our best muck dives were far from where land-based ops could go - Biangabang Bay (fabulous black sand) and West Kahula Island (far from Alor - many rhinopia at Sizzler). Biangabang Bay was amazing -- I would rank it with Komodo's Torpedo Alley based on our experience and other reports -- but it has a sandy bottom and is quite exposed making it difficult for liveaboards to stay there if there is any sort of breeze. We made one dive then the captain said we had to pull anchor. Two Alor trips that summer made zero dives, one trip made two dives in Biangabang. Several of us proposed we be left on the beach with a whack of tanks and picked up the next day. :)

Loved Clown Valley - beautiful and very unique site. We dove it twice and I would have dove it again. Other trip highlights include dragon shrimp and gorgeous flasher wrasse (Alor sites) and flaming red snake eels (B Bay). Also outstanding was the evening we spent far from Alor watching the very active Mt. Komba spew molten rocks and sparks and billow smoke. I was lucky to see Arenal spewing a few rocks in Costa Rica but Mt. Komba was exponentially more impressive with its constant thundering, explosions and fireworks. Seeing the Alorese fish traps and fisherman underwater was neat. I found topside Alor and the culture interesting - different from Komodo, Raja and Lembeh. One dive the DM and I surfaced to discover locals had stopped their mopeds on the side of the road to photograph us with their mobile phones. This area does not see as many tourists as Komodo, Raja, etc. The music-culture-ikat trip on Flores at the end of the trip was wonderful. This trip involves a fair amount of steaming from Maumere to Alor and back, which means some lost dive time but also a chance to dive sites only occasionally dove as there are no land ops nearby.

In a stroke of brilliant luck, the inimitable Michael Ishak was cruise directing our trip. He is an astonishing cruise director and videographer with deep knowledge of Indonesia's dive scene and wildlife. I cannot say enough good things about him and his work.

Like the OP, I am glad to have seen Alor but would likely not return. I have made multiple Komodo trips and will continue to return for the magical mix of schooling fish, macro, muck and pelagics. Unless something could be worked out to guarantee several days at Biangabang - then I might reconsider. :wink:

The Komodo Dancer remains a lovely boat to dive from, with unusually fast and comfortable tenders, and a massive dive deck and eating area. The bathrooms are also terrific. But it's the dive crew that made this trip as good as it was. N
 
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