In early Feb 2007 I received word of a marine conservation project planned for mid-Feb in Indonesia, involving installation of boat moorings throughout Komodo National Park. I contacted the project leader (marine biologist Helen Newman) who indicated they were looking for a few volunteer divers to do the mooring work. A dream destination for anyone interested in marine life, parrots and reptiles, I jumped at the opportunity to go to Indonesia. About two weeks later, I was on my way. Komodo National Park is rather remote, but the diving in the region is fantastic, and a few operators run live-aboard boats there, carrying divers across some of the assorted dive sites day and night. The project’s purpose was to install moorings for boats (dive boats, fishing boats, etc) to tie up to on the water surface. By doing so, the boats do not need to drop anchor, potentially devastating the coral reef below. The process of installing the moorings was slightly involved, but basically consisted of planting three “Manta Ray” anchors in a triangle ~10ft below the ocean bottom. Several pieces of hydraulic equipment (underwater jackhammer and load-locker) are used, and the anchors are linked together with heavy chain. The chains are shackled together at the center of the triangle, secured to a thick buoyant rope line which is attached to a buoy at the surface. Boats then tie up to the surface buoy. Most of the work was carried out at 85-95 foot depths, in 30-35 minute shifts (maximum air and/or no-decompression limit) of two-person dive teams. During my portion of the project, there were only 5-8 divers, and a typical mooring would take 0.5 – 1 day, depending on water conditions. Rick Goodman, 2007
Indonesia is comprised of over 17,000 diverse islands … some 6,000 of which have human inhabitants, and many of which are volcanically active. With 235 million people, it is the world’s 4 th most populous nation, and the most populous Muslim-majority (86%) nation. My stay in Indonesia began and ended in Bali, south of Indonesia’s center. In contrast to the rest of Indonesia, Bali is predominantly Hindu (>90%). Several hundred miles east of Bali, across the scientifically historical “Wallace Line,” is the Komodo region, where I spent 9 days.
Mt Agung, Bali’s largest and most famous volcano, on a hazy morning. Agung’s most recent major eruption took place in 1963.
Ulu Watu, temple on the southern coast of Bali
Macaques are considered holy at this Hindu temple, and are found throughout the grounds
Along one of the walkways, I stumbled into a fascinating encounter between a macaque and a scorpion. The macaque cleverly used a leaf to hold down the scorpion and keep its deadly tail flat, and ultimately wound up pulling the tail off before eating the now-defenseless scorpion.
Famous sunset dance at the temple, recreating an old Hindu story about Rama
“ The model walk” – traditional manner by which Balinese women carry around items, particularly if they are heavy or bulky!
The sculpture at left, about 12 feet tall, was hand-carved from a solid trunk of rare Mahogany. Deforestation (both legal and illegal) of old growth forests, fueled by huge demand from China and Japan, is a huge issue facing Indonesia.
Komodo National Park is outlined above, encompassing Komodo and Rinca islands (the only two places in the world Komodo dragons inhabit) along with a large number of small peripheral islands. Diving in this region is world-renowned, but not easily accessible. Visitors must fly to the island of Flores, just east of the Komodo region, and from there take boats out of the tiny port of Labuanbajo (‘Labuhanbajo’ on map above).
Tiny airport at Labuanbajo (island of Flores), entry port to Komodo region
My little cabin on the Ombak Putih (sorry for the blur)
Left: “manta ray” anchors (to be planted ~10ft below the ocean floor) Right: pile of assorted equipment, including the heavy chain and shackles that get attached to the manta ray anchors, and the hydraulic fluid hose lines (black), which connect the jackhammer and load-locker to the compressor on the tender boat
Pygmy seahorses come in a few color variations, depending on their local habitat. Note that the picture on the right contains two individuals…!
Heavy metal frame (to support load-locker) The cylinders are oxygen tanks, for filling the dive tanks with nitrox (31-32% oxygen). This didn’t seem to stop the boat crew of Indonesian kids from smoking next to them.
Again with the energy conservation… Komodo Dragons are the world’s largest lizard, typically 7-10 ft in length. They have an extremely toxic bite, as their saliva contains a large number of highly active bacteria. I recommend checking out Wikipedia for more interesting information on these reptiles.
The tremendous volcanic black sand coast of north Sumbawa. The diving off this coast is phenomenal. Small volcanic gas bubbles percolate out of the dark sand ocean floor, and the marine life is awesome.