The Komodo Islands offer liveaboard travellers world class diving. The area is famous for its thrilling drift dives and teeming fish life. Pelagics are abundant at sites near the open ocean, and macro species find their niche here in cracks and crannies in the thriving coral. We’ve covered several excellent Komodo dive sites in a previous article: Batu Bolong, Pillarsteen, Cannibal Rock, and Manta Alley. In this article we’ll take a detailed look at three more of the best Komodo dive sites: Crystal Rock, Castle Rock, and The Cauldron. All three are drift dives with currents ranging from mild to very strong.
Komodo Dive Sites: Crystal Rock
Crystal Rock is named for the crystal clear water and excellent visibility at this site near two small islets off Komodo. The main topographical feature is a bommie or pinnacle that rises all the way from the sea floor, breaking the surface at low tide. There is also a large mound that rises to within 14 metres of the surface. Fish school near the mound. The maximum depth at the site is around 35 metres. Currents can be strong here but are milder during slack tide.
The coral at the site is spectacular. You’ll see both hard and soft species in hues of red, blue, orange and yellow. The healthy reef attracts a lot of fish. A school of fusiliers usually hangs around this site, and there are literally thousands of other fish here. Anthias, sweet lips, damselfish, trevally, and surgeonfish are particularly abundant. Eagle Rays sometimes school here too. Tuna and mackerel stop by from the open ocean looking for a snack. Divers frequently spot a couple whitetip reef sharks here.
Table coral and cracks in walls provide habitat for smaller more reclusive species. Common sights include frogfish, scorpionfish, stonefish, crocodile fish, moray eels, big cuttlefish, red octopus, nudibranches, and flatworms. There are some magnificent sea cucumbers as well.
Komodo Dive Sites: Castle Rock
The black spire of Castle Rock reaches from a depth of 30 metres to within 4 metres of the surface. Like nearby Crystal Rock, the site has excellent visibility. The area around the seamount has strong current, especially near the surface. The current flows to the east, so get in on the west and descend. You can find shelter from the current on the lee side of the seamount. Sharks, rays, and schooling pelagic species from the open ocean congregate, avoiding the current. This is one of the best spots in the Komodos to spot bigger stuff. If you are really lucky, you might even witness a pod of bottlenose dolphins hunting in these fecund grounds.
You’ll see overwhelming numbers of schooling fish. Trevally, jack, grouper, emporers, sweetlips, snapper, surgeonfish, fusiliers, jack, barracuda and mackerel form dense clouds of marine life. The macro life here is great as well. The lion-maned “blue dragon” nudibranch always impresses, and you can spot a variety of shrimp, crabs morays and sea snakes too. Look out for pygmy seahorses among the soft coral and fans around 20 metres below the surface.
Komodo Dive Sites: The Cauldron
At the east end, the site drops into a 20 meter deep cauldron-shaped bowl, hence the name. This site is also called “Shotgun” because the current blasts between Gili Lawa Laut and Darat here at up to 10 knots. You can take shelter with the smaller fish in the lee of the cauldron walls. If you look up you’ll see big tuna, grouper, and sometimes mantas silhouetted above you, fighting the current. Schools of anchovy and trevally dart around the canyons in the reef. The sandy bottom is swarming with garden eels.
You’ll spot a pinnacle here. Make sure to aim yourself to drift by and see the magnificently weird semi-translucent glassfish lurking on the lee side avoiding the current. Pipefish hide in the fan corals here, so be sure to take a close look. Don’t miss the hydra corals, turtles, and macro life in the lush coral on the northeast side of the site. Sweetlips, batfish, bumphead parrotfish and sharks round out the list of commonly seen species. The current is slacker in this shallow area, offering an opportunity to relax a little and look around.
Regional Dive Vocabulary: Bommie
A note on vocabulary. Australians all know what a “bommie” is, but if you are from UK or the US, you might be unfamiliar with the term. Australians, as is their habit, shortened the aboriginal Australian word “bombora” and added an “ie”. A bombora or bommie is an offshore underwater feature, usually reef, that protrudes close enough to the surface to potentially cause waves to break.
More Info on Diving in the Komodos
We have several more articles on diving in the Komodos. Our article on Komodo liveaboard diving includes descriptions of three more great Komodo dive sites. You can get some ideas on how to get to the Komodos here. We offer private charter liveaboard dive trips in the Komodos as well as cabin bookings on dive intensive Komodo liveaboard trips, and our detailed information on these trips can help you get a sense of the underwater wonders that await you in the centre of the Coral Triangle. There are lots of great photos in the detailed day by day itineraries on these pages too.