Manta Point Komodo – A Sanctuary For Manta Ray

Speak with anyone about diving in Indonesia and you’ll see their eyes light up as they reminisce about interacting with the majestic Manta Ray of the Komodo Islands. The Komodo National Park offers sanctuary to more of these beautiful creatures than most other places in the world and is truly unmissable for the intrepid traveller.

Manta Point Komodo

In 2014 Indonesia outlawed the fishing and export of manta ray to protect the species and since then Komodo dive sites like Manta Alley in the South and the famed Manta Point Komodo have found a place high on the wish lists of travellers wishing to experience close contact with these curious, intelligent underwater giants.

 A Channel Between Two Oceans

 Manta Point Komodo is a divesite rich with bottom based plankton making it an alluring spot – attracting dozens of Manta Ray for feeding and cleaning. Accessible by chartered liveaboard, the dive site sits between the islands of Komodo and Rinca within the Komodo National Park.

Geographically the site is directly on the channel connecting the Indian and the South West Pacific oceans, each hosting distinct underwater climates that come together to create an ideal environment for Manta Ray.

You can expect to drop down just ten metres or so to find a sandy bottom not heavy with coral but blessed with excellent visibility for most of the year and a reasonable current to nourish the nutrient rich arena for the Manta Ray.

Gentle Giants Of The Underworld

In Indonesia you can hope to find both reef and oceanic Manta Ray, but Manta Point Komodo is usually home to the more dominant species, the Reef Manta. They’re a long living species, with a life expectancy of up to fifty years, but they’re slow to breed, giving birth to as few as ten Manta Ray pups in their lives.

This is why they’ve been included on the red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The organisation classifies the Manta’s conservation status as vulnerable. While safe in Indonesia, in other parts of Asia they are hunted for their plankton filtering gills, which are used to produce medicinal concoctions.

They’re incredibly smart marine animals with large brain capacities and no barbs. This makes them harmless to humans. Divers who get lucky at Manta Point Komodo can expect interactions of as long as 30 minutes in the right conditions and will be thrilled by their gentle curiosity

Diving Manta Point in the Komodos

At Manta Point Komodo you’re likely to find small groups of Manta, often traveling in packs of two or three. Some groups base themselves in the tropical water of the Flores and Komodo area, while others are mid migration. Each manta has distinguishable spots on its belly and while these beautiful marine animals are capable of travelling up to 1000 Kilometres, many hang around and have become known by dive masters in Komodo for their distinct personalities.

Manta Point Komodo

The South end of Manta Point Komodo is marked by a little green island. Dive groups access the site by dropping in about 400 metres away, then take advantage of the current to drift dive into the shoal area which ranges from just 5 metres to 15 metres deep. The current in the area is rated as mild to strong but your divemaster is most likely to carry reef hooks with which to secure each team of divers.

In Indonesia, Manta Point Komodo is known as Karang Makassar and while the focus for most divers is the manta, there have been sitings of turtles, reef sharks, hump back rays, sweetlips, giant trevallies, huge clams, cuttle fish, sponges and many other types of micro marine life.

Intimate Manta Ray Encounters

Diving with the Manta Ray is truly a life-changing experience. Upon entering Manta Point keep an eye out above you for the tell tale shadows of Manta as they cruise past to check you out. They’re already aware that you’re in their territory but don’t feel threatened, these creatures are notoriously friendly and curious.

Upon siting it’s likely your divemaster will find a suitable spot on the flat sandy bottom and signal you to join them. This means it’s time to relax, adjust your buoyancy and sink down in preparation. By basing yourself on the bottom and not displaying any aggressive behaviour or sudden movements you’ll signal to the Manta that you’re safe and invite them in to your space.

After a couple of passes the Manta get more confident and begin circling above you, flapping their giant wings and even dropping down to greet you. Their huge bodies seem unaffected by the current and when relaxed they don’t hesitate to come so close you could touch them.

Looking directly in to the eyes of a friendly Manta Ray is a photographer’s dream but be discreet. Let them control the interaction and you’ll find yourself buzzing with excitement in a one on one intimate encounter with a giant marine animal unlike any other.

 More Info on Diving the Komodos

Divers who wish to visit the Komodos should plan to fly in to Labuan Bajo. Flights leave regularly from Denpasar or Jakarta. We offer private liveaboard charters to the area should you be travelling as a group. There’s also the option of taking a cabin on one of the exciting pre-planned Dive Intensive liveaboard trips that we run. Find itineraries, photographs here and take the time to read our other articles on diving in the Komodos.

 

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Komodo Liveaboard Diving Guide

The Komodo Islands have some of the best diving in the world. They also have slightly better transportation infrastructure than the North or South Pole. To say it is not especially easy to get around the Komodos using ferries and roads is somewhat of an understatement.

While that might seem discouraging initially, it is actually a great thing for divers, if you can scrape together the budget for a liveaboard trip. So what is the upside? Because it is difficult to access, those who dig deep and cough up the cash for Komodo liveaboard diving are richly rewarded for their efforts. The difficult and stressful problem of transportation vanishes when you choose the relaxed comfort of a luxury yacht. It is an investment you will not regret. Ultimately our experiences, not our objects, are what we truly cherish most, and diving the Komodos is a priceless experience.

Traveling on one of the few liveaboard dive boats serving the Komodos, you can go where almost no one else can. Consequently, you will not encounter crowds at the pristine  and unspoiled dive sites. There are over 50 “popular” yet uncrowded sites in the area and exploration routinely yields new surprises and delights. Macro life and strong currents are notable highlights. The logistics ensure relatively few tourists will be there, and the sprawling marine sanctuary protects the area from the ravages of commercial fishing.

Komodo liveaboard diving boat
The Mantra Komodo Liveaboard Diving Yacht

Species You Can See Diving In Komodo

The robust protected marine ecosystem of the Komodo Islands supports incredible bio-diversity – literally thousands of species. Some of the more common yet exciting sights in these waters include: spanish mackerel, tuna, mantas, napoleons, dugongs, bumphead parrotfish, fusiliers, surgeon fish, turtles, and many varieties of sharks and cetaceans. Smaller species include coleman shrimps, crinoid shrimps and other shrimps, ghost pipefish, zebra crabs, decorator crabs and many other crab species, moray eels, cuttlefish, feather stars, scorpion fish, frogfish, various species of octopus, flatworms, sea snakes, nudibranches, seahorses, frogfish, cephalopods, ghostpipefish, waspfish, indian walkman, and more. There are also around 250 species of coral to be found in the Komodos.

Komodo Liveaboard Diving Sites

There are 50 named sites known to liveaboard captains here in the Komodo Islands, and every captain has a few secret spots too. We’ll save the secrets for our guests and just discuss a few of the more famous Komodo dive sites here.

Batu Bolong

Batu Bolong means “hollow rock” in Indonesian. The massive pinnacle rises from a depth of around 75 meters, covered in hard corals and sponges. Fed by currents carrying plankton rich waters from deeper seas, the fish life at this famous Komodo dive site is amazing in both diversity and sheer numbers. In the shallows you’ll find fish of assorted reef-dwelling species numbering in the thousands. The deeper water reveals big napoleons and whitetip reef sharks. Hawksbill turtles feed here on the ample buffet of tunicates and sponges. The action is concentrated in the relatively small area around the pinnacle, so whereas on some sites, the conveyor belt of current provides a welcome tour, we aim to dive this site at slack tide when the current is minimal.

Pillarsteen

Pillarsteen’s topography is an interesting mix of walls, pinnacles, chimneys and caves. Massive soft brown leather corals contrast with bright yellow sea cucumbers. Soft corals in hues of green, yellow and orange, sea fans, squirts and sponges round out the underwater flora. Strong currents run across the long sloping reef. The depth varies from 5 to 40 meters. Reef fish such as angelfish, butterfly fish, and snapper mingle with schools of fusiliers and surgeonfish while scorpionfish, lionfish, and moray eels hide in the reef.

Manta Alley

Giant trevally, schools of fusiliers, turtles, whitetip sharks, and really big jack feed here. But as you might guess, the concentration of manta rays here is the main attraction. Sometimes you can see as many as 20 on a single dive. We frequently see juveniles in the shallows, as little as five meters deep. Three deeper underwater channels attract schools of bumphead parrotfish and put the “Alley” in the name. Currents carry colder water here and it can get a little chilly in the deepest parts of the site, around 30 meters. This is one of the most popular dives in the Komodos, so you will likely spot some humans here too, but there is plenty of the “Alley” to go around.

Cannibal Rock

Divers who venture to Cannibal Rock discover a world class assortment of macro life. Bizarre nudibranches, whimsical frogfish and undeniably cute pygmy seahorses delight underwater adventurers here. Blue and green anemones wave among the enormous 2 meter tall gorgonian fans and vibrant maroon sea apples extending their tentacles to filter plankton. Feather stars of just about every color and bright blue tunicates join colorful soft corals to complete the underwater rainbow of marine flora.

coral reef

Komodo Liveaboard Diving Season

Conditions for Komodo diving are best in May through October. During this time you can expect visibility of 25 to 35 meters. Water temperatures are around 27 C (80 F).

How to Get to Komodo

Komodo is, as noted, a bit remote. Our Komodo liveaboard diving trips sail out of the port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. You can get there by ferry, but we recommend flying to Labuan Bajo from Bali. You can see more details on how to get to Komodo at the link. We’ll cover some more Komdo dive sites in a future article in our Mantra Chronicles series.

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