Stunning view from the highest point on Padar Island
When I feel the urge to get outside and connect with the natural world, I usually head into the mountains or the forest. I’ve always felt that was my place, but when the opportunity to join our Komodo Snorkeling Expedition came along, I couldn’t say no. I’m really glad I didn’t because I would have missed out on an absolutely incredible experience.
We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset on the island of Flores before boarding the Ombak Biru, our home for the next 10 nights
The Ombak Biru (or Blue Wave in Indonesian), our comfortable base of operations
To say that I had limited snorkeling experience going into the trip would be generous, but I tried to do my research. I poured over countless, stunning images of vibrant corals and reef creatures, but nothing could prepare me for the actual experience. It was absolutely mesmeric and totally unreal. I could never have imagined the way the reef positively pulses with life, the delicate, rhythmic swaying of the soft corals providing a counterpoint to the darting damselfish as the entire ecosystem breathes with the current.
A surgeonfish swims over an expanse of table coral
With all of the incredible sea life on display, it was easy to forget we were in the waters of Komodo National Park, home to the largest lizards on earth. We got our chance to see them in the wild the next morning on Rinca, one of only four islands where the dragons can be found.
A female dragon guarding her nest
This large dragon was waiting patiently next to the ranger station’s kitchen
The following day was a real highlight for me as we had our first manta ray sighting! They are truly magnificent, and watching them fly effortlessly over the seafloor was a dream come true.
Reef manta feeding off Mawan Island
We left the national park the next day and motored to Gili Banta, where we spent the afternoon in a shallow bay with a marvelous coral garden. The calm conditions and relative security made a perfect nursery for juvenile black tip reef sharks.
It may be hard to tell from the photo, but these little sharks were only about two feet long, and totally adorable
We returned to the waters of the national park and spent the next five days blissfully exploring reefs, tide pools, and islands. The days blended together in the best way possible as we drifted along, hypnotized by the riot of colors and profusion of reef creatures of all shapes and sizes.
Tomato anemonefish and a sabae, or purple tip anemone
Clown anemonefish taking refuge in a magnificent sea anemone
Fields of mushroom coral take on an otherworldly appearance
A curious snowflake moray peeks out of its lair
A Nembrotha kubaryana, my new favorite nudibranch, clings to a wall surrounded by tunicates
The rocky and rugged coast of Tatawa Kecil belies the colorful exuberance just below the surface of the waves