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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sept 7 - 12, 2012 - Onward to Komodo Island and Gili Lawa (Great Diving)

Our intention upon leaving Uwada Dasami was to head to the famed Pink Beach at Komodo Island which, is among the top anchorages. Because it is a National Park area where anchoring is prohibited public moorings are available. As we approached, however, we noticed the anchorage was jam-packed and were waved away by locals in small long boats. Instead we were directed several miles away, deep into a remote bay named Pantai Merah that is surrounded by mangroves. There will be no going to shore here. As soon as we were settled in the merchants appeared out of nowhere hawking their shells, pearls, carvings and so on. We smiled and firmly replied that we had no interest in more pearls, carvings or shells. Eventually a little man came by holding up a large lobster. Now this we can get our heads around. He wanted 500,000 IDR ($50!). I told him I would pay 100,000. We haggled and he came down to 200,000, but I held firm at 150,000. He left and went over to Sea Mist to try his luck. John bought a shell and managed to pick up the lobster for the price I had negotiated. He called over to us to say that he got the lobster for us if we still wanted it for 150,000 and that he would bring it over because Cheryl doesn't do lobster. What a nice guy! Frank BBQ'd it on the grill and we gave John a morsel. So this was the highlight of this place. We departed early the next morning for the island of Gili Lawa at the top end of Komodo. On our way out we caught Northfork on the radio and talked them into coming along with us since it had been a while since we'd seen them.

Approaching Gili Lawa, Imagine reported to us that the anchorage was filled to capacity with private yachts and dive boats. They were motoring around seeking an alternative spot. We opted to drop the hook at Gili Lawa Darat, the south side of the island in a small cove large enough for us, Northfork and Sea Mist. Although we were eager to get together with Mark, Dana and baby Walker (Northfork), our freezer had once again failed and was sending us into a tizzy trying to keep our food from defrosting. Borrowing a DYI refrigeration book from Mark, we stayed on board fiddling around with the freezer. It was such a pleasant night out that after dinner we took a stargazing break out on the back porch. The wind kicked up wavelets around Destiny causing brilliant sparkles to alight from beneath the surface of the water. As the sky continued to darken, the sea life beneath the water came alive with fluorescent blobs and streaks, sparkles and flashes. It was the most incredible underwater show we have ever seen. We stayed out there for hours watching the subaqueous organisms cavort about beneath us.

Early the next morning we received word that several boats were departing the northern anchorage of Gili Lawa and if we wanted to move over then we should head out before it filled up again. We reluctantly weighed anchor after breakfast to head over. It's not that we didn't want to stay here in this magical spot; however, current and winds can be fierce on this side. We didn't want to run the risk of dragging into one of the surrounding reefs by staying longer than one night. I really wanted to snorkel here and by the time we had left the area we did just that and were rewarded with amazing corals and sea life.

Once settled into the anchorage at the top of Gili Lawa we were immediately immersed in the hustle bustle of a dozen or so dive boats in sizes ranging from large live-aboards to small day craft, conveying great numbers of divers and snorkelers out to the nearby dive spots. This is THE place to come if you wish to dive Indonesia. Several of the best dives are but a short dinghy ride away. We enjoyed every minute of our time here. The water was so crystal clear we could stand on the bow and trace the anchor chain all the way to the hook. Shore offered a lovely sandy beach where we gathered for sundowners in the evenings. During the day we dived and snorkeled literally all over the 4 sides of the little island and at the famed Castle Rock. We swam with massive Napoleons, Grouper, Angel Fish, Mantas, turtles, sharks and many, many fish I've yet to identify. The colors were brilliant, and the corals very much alive and healthy. In fact again, we sighted corals we have never before seen. We could have spent a month here just exploring the underwater habitats that flourish here. Frank and I both found ourselves self-talking while underwater saying, "Wow! Look at That! How amazing! Oh My Gosh!" We just couldn't get enough of this place. Finally I had no choice but to stop because on my dive of Castle Rock with Evelyn and Peter I had great difficulty clearing my ears. As a result I developed a serious ear infection that worked its way into my throat causing me to seek medical attention and antibiotics, forcing me to stay high and dry for the next several weeks. It was well worth it to have experienced this incredible place. Frank and I are seriously considering coming back to dive with one of the Siren Fleet's live-aboards for an extended diving trip next year. It really is a diver's mecca.

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