Saturday, 3 August 2013

A Pirate's Life for Me

Chrissie and I are living on a boat, sleeping outside, swimming with sharks, walking with Dragons, and watching flocks of giant bats take flight.  Blue Marlin's Live-aboard boat, the Ikan Biru (Indonesian for Blue Fish) has room for 7 divers, 4 crew, and 1 dive Instructor.  All of us divers sleep on the upper deck in the open air with an awning over us so we need to simply roll over in the morning to see the sunrise, and to roll over and open our eyes at night to see the stars and moon...just awesome.  We started the trip from the town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores we then cruised/sailed through Komodo National Park stopping to dive where we please.  The boat has a chef who is a great cook and the food is amazing and ever-present, the coffee table on the upper deck opens up and delicious food is passed up through it on what seems like an hourly basis... I think this is a magic boat.  There are two toilets (heads?) on the boat and both have hot showers which is a luxury compared to my accommodations on Gili Trawangan which only have a cold shower.

Chrissie and I enjoyed ourselves so much that we walked away from the "return" portion of our flight to Bali to spend another 3 days on board the Ikan Biru... we didn't want to leave!  We will now return to Gili Trawangan via Bali on August 8th rather than August 3rd.  Our extra 3 days meant that the next flight we could catch back wouldn't be until August 7th so we plan to hang out with Darryn (the Scuba Instructor/Dive Guide), maybe do some odd jobs for Blue Marlin or do some sight-seeing around Labuan Bajo.

The Ikan Biru

Map of Komodo and Rinca Islands.  Our departure point, Labuan Bajo is in the upper right of the map

Sleeping Arrangements

Some of the crew; Benz, Joss (chef), Astral (Dinghy driver)

Darryn, our fearless leader, and Bo with his giant camera right before a passing bat pooped in his eye

Prep for a dive; Rafael, Bo, Sarah, Chrissie, Darryn and Lynne in the background
Crowded onto the dinghy for transport to the dive site per-dive.  (Top) Sarah, Chrissie, Bo; (bottom) Piers, Lynne, Rafael

Airport at Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

Side trip to Rica Island to see the Komodo Dragons, I 
had to high five the dragon

Komodo Dragon on Rinca Island with scared tourists for scale

Ships in the harbour at Labuan Bajo

Tens of thousands of giant bats taking flight from a mangrove area in Komodo National Park

Here's what I've been up to and why I haven't blogged in the past weeks, also...

Day 1 (July 26): board the boat, travel to dive site 1, dive, snack, dive 2, snack, dinner, bed
Day 2: breakfast 1, dive 1, breakfast 2, nap, lunch, Rinca island to see the Komodo Dragons, dive 3, snack, shower, dinner, bed
Day 3: early dive 1 (in the water by 7:15am!), breakfast, nap, dive 2, snack, dive 3, lunch, dive 4, snack, to nearby island Lawa Luat for a short hike up the mountain to watch the sunset.
Day 4: light breakfast, dive 1, breakfast 2, dive 2, lunch, dive 3, play in the bay on some paddle boards, snack of fresh-baked donuts, night dive, dinner, bed
Day 5: light breakfast, dive 1, breakfast 2, dive 2, lunch, dive 3, reading/napping, night dive, dinner, bed
Day 6: light breakfast, dive 1, 2nd Breakfast, dive 2, lunch, into harbour to trade 3 divers who had completed their trip for for 3 new divers, go to a mangrove island to watch a huge fruit bat flight, night dive.
Day 7: light breakfast, dive 1, breakfast 2, Chrissie and I rest and study for our next dive course ( Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Theory) while the others do a trip to Komodo Island to see the dragons, dive 2

The diving is amazing, I have seen many "personal firsts" underwater; 3 Manta Rays on one dive, 5 Dolphins on another, 4 Eagle Rays, a handful of Hairy Squat Lobsters (weird little things!), an Orangutan Crab, and Spanish Dancers (amazing pink frilly slugs that grow up to 2 feet long, and who can crawl on the seafloor or swim by undulating their frilly mantles).   We have also seen Giant Trevally, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Bluefin Trevally, huge schools of Fusiliers, colorful coral gardens, the biggest Barracuda I've ever seen (7' long I'm sure!) and so much more.   I feel so lucky to be able to see these beautiful, graceful creatures underwater; particularly the Manta and Eagle Rays (they look like they are flying in slow motion) the Sharks, and the Dolphins (what a treat!).  I have also learned to rock climb underwater.  The currents in some places are so strong that after a hurried descent we have to carefully crawl over the bottom using a hand over hand method into the current.  The goal of this is to "crawl" to an area with high current, where sharks, Giant Trevally, and schooling Fusiliers like to be so that we can hang on and watch them all swim around.  The group we are diving with are all quite experienced so everyone's air consumption is similar (no one uses up their air too quickly) which means we can dive longer than usual.  Typical dives have maximum depths of 20-25m and we are able to get up to, and sometimes exceed an hour of bottom time on each dive which means we have ample time to soak up the sights.

Bear with me while I "Nerd Out" and showcase some of my dive photos of the weird and wonderfull creatures who inhabit the oceans... ARRRR THAR BE MONSTERS!

Spanish Dancer; this one was nearly 2 feet long!

Manta Rays

Hanging out with Nemo

Huge School of Fusiliers

Giant Trevally

Napoleon Wrasse (AKA Bumphead Wrasse, Maori Wrasse)

A new and wonderfull Nudibranch: "Chaberlain's Nembrotha"

"Blue Dragon" Nudibranch

Another Nudibranch; "Magnificent Chromodoris

My all-time favorite Nudibranch "Dusky Nembrotha" AKA "Kubaryana's Nembrotha"

Whitetip Reef Shark
Aptly named Garden Eels

Orangutan Crab - the hairy red guy who looks like the Muppet "Animal" - so cute!

Cowfish - WIERD!

Frogfish - very well camouflaged and hard to tell but his mouth is near the upper left his eye looks blueish, and you can see his paddle shaped feet near the bottom.

The scenery above the water in Komodo National Park is beautiful but stark with white sand beaches nestled into rocky coastlines of hilly and sometimes jaggedly rocky islands covered in scrubby grasslands with the a few shrubs and sometimes sparse palm trees and occasionally a mangrove lined bay.  The sunsets are incredible with deep orange, red, pink, purple and blue blending into the dark ocean with volcanoes, islands, and rocky outcrops creating silhouettes in the foreground.

Miss Chrissie, a not-so-swarthy Pirate

Rugged landscapes

Beautiful sunrises
...and sunsets

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