There are giants

Meeting Giants…

I stepped onboard the liveaboard with a little bit of trepidation… having never spent a week on a boat with complete strangers the experience was a little intimidating.  Although I’m friendly and generally outgoing I do enjoy my personal space and the accommodation was quite confined, but for the most part I was sharing a room with one or two other people.  Thankfully they were very pleasant people and some, just lovely peaceful souls… As I stayed for seven days we had one change of people after the third day.  All in all they ranged from a radiologist from Quebec, a nurse from British Colombia, financiers from Singapore (a Brit and American), Spanish journalist living in Beijing, a teacher from Australia, a former Danish pro soccer player, and many others…

For the diving there was so much to get to grips with… I’ve never been the speediest of people to get ready and with so much to think about I wasn’t exactly the first ready for each dive.  My first dive was a bit of a disaster in fact, and with 6kgs of extra weight (what would have been fine normally) I bobbed on the surface like an orange buoy waiting for an anchor line to be attached… as it turns out having a brand new 5mm wetsuit and booties was the culprit, and an extra 2kgs sorted out that little problem.  A couple of things that I wish I’d brought was a pointer, and a couple of double end clips… and given the current, a reef anchor would have been handy…

It took me about 4 dives to really get to grips with my new gear and the currents (that turn out to be something the Komodo National Park is renowned for).  Wait, what?  Currents?!  Well, perhaps I should have researched that a little better before I came… having said that I would have kicked myself now knowing what I would have missed if I’d let this put me off.

Let’s just say that the Komodo Marine National Park is simply spectacular.  There was so much to see… from the beautifully coloured and shaped Nudibranchs (a fascinatingly diverse set of Gastropods… or as some divers think of them, “no more than colourful slugs”) to White tipped Reef Sharks and many, many things in between.  Porcelain crabs, Orang-utan crabs (with underwater sign for which is hilarious), all manner of shrimp, vast arrays of fish (from the poisonous Lion, Scorpion, and Stone fish, to the vividly red Soldier fish, Parrot fish, Sweetlips (yes, you heard me right), Trigger fish, to name only a minute number)… not to mention the partially concealed morays, shy peacock mantis shrimp that have strikes so fast that they create sonoluminescence sparks as the bubble of their strikes collapse…

Not only did I see my first decent sized (White Tipped Reef) sharks by we were privileged to meet some other giants of the deep.  On the second to last dive we came across two beautiful Manta Rays…. one male, one female.  We watched them dance in front of us… we watched as they circled several times.  These inquisitive creatures really want to know what’s going on around them and as they swooped in as close as three meters from my face I almost forgot to breathe… although I have no regrets I wasn’t even of right mind to remember to get my camera up and take some decent photos.  These huge fish have one of the largest brain-to-body ratios in their zoological classification (at least fish in general, and similar to that of sharks).  As they pass the intense black eyes staring blankly at you make you shudder as you can just tell they are wondering what to make of you.  It’s hard to describe but you can feel the weight of their innocent gaze on you.

The buzz of excitement after the dive was apparent… we had all experienced something beautiful and moving… even the instructors were moved by the experience.  Sadly these magnificent creatures are still being fished, despite changes in the law and protection being assigned to them by the government.  However, there are many organisations, along with the government that are actively doing more to help local communities see the value of tourism above that of fishing.  Not that, I believe, tourism has all the answers.

In an attempt to make this short I will refrain from over elaborating on the details… as I’ve seen written “70% of the world is covered in water. Non-Diver? Enjoy your 30%… learn to dive!” 🙂

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