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Diving in Indonesia’s famous National Park – by Ellie Barrett

What a way to start the new year! We have been traveling for four months now and have been longing for the time we could jump back into the exciting world of diving. We spent our first day in Labuan Bajo looking for the best dive site for us, as budget travelers it has been difficult trying to find dives within our price range that had promising reviews. We had heard from many people along the way saying how good diving was in Indonesia especially Komodo, they were not wrong. The center of Labuan Bajo is made up of mainly dive centers and restaurants so we had our work cut out. We turned to the Padi website to help us eliminate any sites that were under 5 stars. After visiting the 5 star centers we decided on Blue Marlin. It was the most expensive out of the three, due to the use of the speed boat rather then a slow but the atmosphere of Blue Marlins was a lot nicer then the others and the staff were very friendly. One day of diving cost 2 million IDR each excluding the 275,000 IDR national park fee. In total it cost £249.52 for three dives each, all prices include a cookie between your first and second dive, lunch between the second and third along with a fresh towel, unlimited tea, coffee and water along with impeccable service. The following morning at 7:45 we enjoyed fresh juice with a 10% discount while we waited for the boat to be prepared. Around 8:15 we boarded the boat and were welcomed by our dive guides and the crew. Our kit was already set up for us all we had to do was we sit and enjoy the ride. Police Corner Our first dive site was Police Corner, as we arrived two dolphins swam past we were lucky enough to see them from the boat however by the time we had our safety briefing they had already left. Despite missing the opportunity to dive with dolphins we were not disappointed. The dive site itself was wonderful it had a bit of everything, there was a drop off from 15 to 25 meters due to part of the coral reef collapsing which then created a scenic wall dive. It was the best coral reef I have seen yet. The mixture of hard and soft coral created such a vibrant and colorful atmosphere, with an incredible marine bio-diversity which was home to a wide range of species. We saw hundreds of different fish including, Anemonefish (clown fish), Parrot fish, butterfly fish, Paracanthurus hepatus and so many more. If you are interested in macro diving it is also great, we spotted 2 violet Pygmy seahorses and tiny little shrimp and crabs however we were more focused on the schools of fish that had such mesmerising choreographies. Our dive time was 47 minutes but felt like only 5 because all the wonderful things we got to see. It was quiet an overcast day but still had the visibility of 15-20 meters. When returning to the boat we were offered a cookie and refreshments along with a fresh towel. We had an hour to chill out on the sun deck before arriving at our next site. Batu Bolong Batu Bolong is a small hollow rock above the surface but under water it plummets to 75 meters getting wider the further down you go. Within minutes of descending we were blown away, we could already see turtles and white tip reef sharks along with lively corals, sponges and large schools of fish. Even though it is supposed to be one of the best in Indonesia we found that the coral reefs at police corner were healthier. However, we saw more species here then the first dive. We got to watch clown fish rubbing against the anomie, moorish idols dashing about, white tip reef sharks resting in the reefs. It was another spectacular dive. We would recommend only going if you are a capable diver as the currents can be very strong, causing it to be a strenuous dive. This is because of the two oceans meeting causing a down current on either side. In order to make it as easy as possible you will be asked to swim in a zig zag formation along the reef from one end of the rock to the other and to stay as close to the reef as possible. The depth ranged between 5-20 meters depending on what part of the reef you were diving. The visibility was roughly 12-20 meters. After our second we had another hours break for lunch they served sweet and sour chicken with rice, vegetables and watermelon. They also cater for vegetarians and vegans so everyone is welcome. Makaser Reef/Manta Point We were so excited approaching Manta Point. Whilst waiting to gear up we were treated to a manta breaching out of the water, our excitement levels hit a new kind of high. Too see a Manta ray has always been a dream of mine but to see multiple was just breath taking I have never seen anything so majestic. It was so peaceful watching them glide through the ocean so effortlessly like they were constantly in slow motion. The dive site it’s self was nothing special it was just loose, broken coral and rocks with a few small reefs that were pretty impressive. However it was drift dive which was so much fun, until we wanted to stop to watch the mantas, thats when the hard work kicked, in having to fight the current to stay in one place this was the made slightly easier as the dive guide had a hook he placed in between some rocks while we watched them feed. We encountered the mantas at least 10 times however only ever saw 3 in one go, so who knows how many we actually saw. During our dive we had the pleasure of seeing 3 different types of rays, Manta, Eagle and huge marble ray along with a unicorn fish. The visibility was roughly 10-12 meters but the dive guide knew where to look and would always spot them a few meters before we could even see them. The depth of this dive ranged between 7-12 meters and lasted 58 minutes but again in only felt like a few. It is an experience we will never forget. We would highly recommended diving in the Komodo islands if you get the opportunity. Along with Blue Marlin as the service was second to none. They prepare all your kit for you at the start as well as changing it between dives so you can just relax and enjoy your tome in the scenic national park with not only the diving to look forward to but the surrounding views.