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10 Best Dive sites in Komodo in 2023
Probably most famous for the giant Komodo Dragons, the Island of Komodo is one of 17,508 islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia.
It is one of the Lesser Sunda chain of islands that together comprise the Komodo National Park. This vast area holds some of the most environmentally precious and ecologically diverse natural habitats in the world.
Paired with the largest lizard on our planet, the islands fame comes from the incredible marine life and stunning diving in the crystal-clear waters.
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This Diving in Komodo guide is part of our Diving in Indonesia guide that also has diving in
Scuba Diving in Komodo
Whether it is the manta rays, whale sharks, sperm whales, turtles, thriving wrecks, or some of the most colourful corals in the world, the Komodo region is a coveted destination by all scuba divers.
The best way to explore the region is to choose a Komodo liveaboard for truly exquisite diving. There are many to choose from, and a 7-day liveaboard adventure will bring you to some of the best dive sites in the world.
These dive boats are purposefully designed for diving lovers, with your days going to be spent eating, diving, exploring, or some combination of those. There are liveaboards which leave directly from Labuan Bajo which allow you to explore the island prior to setting off, or options to hop onto a boat all the way from Bali.
There are also day boats available, however the dive sites they reach are limited.
The 10 Best Dive sites in Komodo?
This tiny rock island situated in the strait between Tatawa and Komodo islands is one of the most famous dive sites in the Komodo National park, and therefore potentially the world. Divers will jump in on the side protected from the current and descent along the rocky slope covered in brightly coloured corals.
- High current dive where divers require good buoyancy and dive control
- Rated as one of the best dive spots in the world
- A Rocky island which attracts a myriad of marine life
What you will see:
Along your descent, you will be diving between clouds of small fish twirling above the soft and hard corals growing on the steep slope. The dive site is particularly famous for the enormous amount of marine life you will be able to see on every dive. Keep an eye out for white tip reef sharks, green turtles, giant trevally, various sweetlips, napoleon wrasse, and rays cruising around.
Manta Point (Karang Makassar)
If there is any dive site in the world which should be named Manta Point, it is this long gentle drift dive where up to 100 manta rays have been spotted at a time. Since it is a cleaning station, these gentle giants congregate in this area to get their parasites cleaned off. During certain times of the year, you will also be able to witness manta ray mating or even manta rays feeding on zoo plankton.
- Megafauna cleaning station meaning mantas visit here year round
- The greatest numbers of mantas are seen between December and February
- Gentle, easy drift dive for divers of all levels
What you will see:
As you descend, you will be met with a coral rubble substrate with live coral scattered on the sea floor. Amongst the coral, you will also have the chance to spot bamboo sharks, marble rays, eagle rays, unicorn fish, butterfly fish, octopus, bumphead parrot fish, and the majestic manta rays.
This small island has a beautiful fringing reef which is the home to many spectacular reef fish, and the frequent reef mantas which swim back and forth along the reef. The dive site provides protected areas which are suitable for beginners, however around the full moon, the tides cause strong currents. There is a large shallow section of the reef which snorkellers can explore.
- Can have potentially strong currents, make sure to stay close to the reef and your dive guide.
- Cleaning station for manta rays which cruise along the reef
- Brightly coloured and healthy coral all along this dive site
What you will see:
While scuba diving on this reef, you will be able to see white tip reef sharks, resting bamboo sharks under ledges, fantastically moving cuttlefish, and many hawksbill and green turtles. There is one famous three-legged hawksbill turtle in the area, so keep an eye out for it!
This dive site is situated in a protected bay, meaning the currents are close to non-existent and divers of all levels can enjoy this dive. The nature of this dive site means it’s a nursery for many species, and you can enjoy your dive surrounded by baby bumphead parrotfish, napoleon wrasse, and even reef sharks.
- Great sand diving where you can see amazing macro life
- Dugongs visit this site so keep your eyes peeled for these marine mammals
- Protected dive site ideal for beginners or snorkelers
What you will see:
This dive site is an ideal destination for macro photographers as you will be able to see many frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, nudibranchs, pipefish, along with all the usual suspects in coral reefs. There are many sweet lips, starry pufferfish, boxfish, sea stars, octopus, and butterfly fish.
The exposure of this site means Batu Tiga is one of the most current affected dive sites in Komodo. These strong currents attract big fish and allow you to dive with schools thousands strong. Your dive guide will typically have you enter on the north-western side of the three rocks which rise above the centre. The rocky reef then stretches out underwater towards Komodo islands with fantastic rocky boulders for many fish to hide around.
- Strong currents only recommended for experienced divers
- Coral growth is stunted by the strong prevailing currents
- Many schools of big game fish such as giant trevally and barracuda.
What you will see:
This current filled dive site with its many rocky outcrops and boulders is a beloved destination of massive groupers, schools of barracuda, giant trevally, and many other pelagic fish. If you keep your eyes into the deep blue, you will be able to see passing rays or even sharks silhouetted in the deep water.
This dive site is an underwater structure rising from the sea floor to just a few metres below the surface. It typically has strong currents during which time only experienced divers should attempt the dive to avoid any problems. The location of the dive site means that this dive site constantly has excellent visibility.
- Frequent strong currents mean this dive is reserved for experienced divers
- The current splits around the sea mound attracting many large species of fish
- Dive features many fish along with beautiful coral growths on the sea mound
What you will see:
Once you descend onto the sea mound, you will be surrounded by fusiliers, batfish, and many other reef fish. At a depth of 25-35m, you will encounter schooling barracuda, jacks, mackerel along with large grey reef sharks. After the deepest part of your dive, you will return closer to the surface where you will see abundant coral growths where you can practise your spotting abilities with the well camouflaged frogfish, vibrant tiny nudibranchs, and scuttling crab species.
This is another dive site which typically always has clear water for divers to enjoy. The sea mound which constitutes this dive site reaches the surface and has a spectacular range of hard and soft coral covering all sides of the structure. It is typically prone to have strong currents; therefore, it is better for experienced divers.
- Fantastic visibility and a high current dive site
- Beautiful hard and soft coral coverage on this sea mound
- Massive schools of fish will surround you throughout your dive
What you will see:
The underwater structure of this dive site means that it attracts enormous schools of fish including sweet lips, tunas, mackerels, barracuda, and fusiliers can be spotted. The shallower part of the dive at 14m is a typical spot to see reef sharks and the occasional gliding eagle rays.
Pilaarsteen (Padar Island)
The distance from the main islands in Komodo means this dive site is typically only accessible with liveaboards. Pilaarsteen is a pinnacle dive site which is on the east of a small Island just east of Padar Besat. You will be welcomed underwater with a spectacular wall, unique topography featuring caves and swim throughs able to encapsulate divers of any experience.
- Many caves and swim throughs available for curious divers
- Large chance of encountering sharks and turtles
- Is relatively protected from strong currents
What you will see:
The unique topography has become the home to many unique creatures, and you can train your eyes to spot the scorpion fish, frogfish, and other masters of camouflage amongst the rocky coral. There is also a large variety of soft, hard, and leather corals covering the rocky walls. Sharks, turtles, schools of fusiliers, rays, and pelagic fish can all be spotted.
Another dive site typically only accessible by liveaboard. Payung offers dive sites on both the southern and western side of the island both with fantastic rock formations. The best time to dive this dive spot is on slack tide to minimise any currents.
- Interesting rock formations almost resembling a wreck dive
- Greata dive spot when other dive sites have poor visibility
- Large range of depths able to accommodate every dive level
What you will see:
Take down your torch and peak into the cracks and crevices to spot crayfish, crabs, other invertebrates, or sleeping sharks. All around the island schools of surgeons, yellow snappers, fusiliers, and another reef fish swim. On the southern tip you will be able to see a rock shaped like a cannon, and proceed to enjoy your dive exploring crevices, rocks, soft corals and gorgonian fans.
This dive site has gained its name through the spectacular array of species of corals and invertebrates that cover the wall. It is a great dive site to do as a night dive to see the nocturnal creatures come out, but equally as impressive for snorkelling enthusiastic.
- Exquisite range of corals, sponges, and invertebrates
- Well suited to be done as a night dive
- The current is typically mild and can be suited for any dive level
What you will see:
This dive site is perfectly suited for slow diving so you can truly appreciate the colourful crustaceans such as cleaner shrimp, reef crabs, decorator crabs, slipper lobster, and spiny lobster. There are impressive looking poisonous sea urchins, Spanish dancers, nudibranchs, sea apples, sea stars, and creatures which are difficult to identify. Along with the unique zoo, you will also see all the typical animals including cat sharks, cardinal fish, parrot fish, and many other reef fish.
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The Komodo Dragon
Even if you head over to the area exclusively for diving, you will surely stop by the beaches to see the dragon like animal which has caused wonder to all visiting westerners. Mystery surrounded this creature form the Dutch sailors that brought back reports of a land of dragons in the 1910s. The sailors reported a large bodied creature measuring up to 7 meters with a mouth that spewed scolding flames. After additional reports that it could fly and was a fearsome man eater, a Dutch Colonial administration took it upon themselves to travel to the Island of Komodo and capture this dragon monster. The real measurements of the Komodo dragon reached a more manageable 2m and scientific inquiry showed that it was a type of Monitor lizard. Thanks to the mysterious tales and rarity of the unique creature, the Dutch government issued regulation to protect the lizards on the Island of Komodo in 1915. Since then, it has remained a much beloved destination for adventure travellers wanting to spot the king of lizards.
Traveling to Komodo
The lesser Sunda Islands are located east of Java and Bali, with direct flights available from Jakarta or Bali to Labuan Bajo on Flores. Flores is one of the bigger islands in the Komodo national park and the hub for Komodo Tours. If you prefer to travel by boat, there are possibilities to take a multi-day boat trip straight from Lombok. If you are doing a liveaboard, you can also travel directly from Bali.
Best Time to Visit Komodo
Each season in Komodo provides travellers with a unique benefits and opportunities. The only season that restricts tours is the Monsoon season which stretches from January until March. Following the torrential rains, April to June provides incredibly calm seas and luscious green landscapes. July until August is high season when majority of tourists come to visit the National Park. If this is the time you are also free, make sure to book your tours and accommodation well in advance. September until November brings in all the marine megafauna, with visitors having the best chance of spotting mantas, whale sharks, and sperm whales.
Temperature in Komodo
The tropical weather means the year-round air temperatures range from 21-35 degrees Celsius, while water temperatures stay at a comfortable 27-29 degrees Celsius. Many divers opt to not wear wetsuits while long sleeves and reef safe sunscreen is recommended for land activities.
I descended to 20 meters to admire a Barrel Sponge the size of a smart car; tiny-white Sea Cucumbers lived in every nook and cranny. A moment later a thundering explosion ripped through the water.
I looked to my dive buddy and saw in her eyes the same questions that were running through my mind “what in the world was that”? A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. Could local fishermen be dynamiting?
Getting into the water
On the count of three we all back-rolled off the tender into the water. This dive site was called Secret Garden.
The clarity of the water was amazing and the current was non-existent. This was a macro photographer’s ideal environment. Within ten minutes I saw stunningly beautiful Nudibranch’s, two Fire Gobies darting in and out of the coral, a pair of Signal Gobies and a giant clam, nearly as big as my microwave oven.
I am by no means a professional underwater photographer. In-fact I shoot with a Canon G7 which is going on ten years old. I get a bit embarrassed when a 5D Mark III or a D800 gets whipped out but I have learned to deal with it gracefully.
World class diving
I looked in the direction of my dive buddy. My wife was frantically waving for me to come and see something. She was very excited so I quickly swam to her location.
Sitting on a rocky ledge were two Giant Frog fish, each the size of a medium pizza (that is huge in the Frog fish world). They were supremely confident in their ability to blend in as rocks, so they allowed me to get quite close and take a few shots.
Night diving is a part of Liveaboard diving
As the sun set over Gili Banta I eased into the water for a night dive. My light quickly spotted something moving through the Staghorn Coral. It was the most bizarre crab I had ever seen.
It was a Decorator Crab, who (had he been human) would have had a successful career in high fashion in Paris. Each leg was adorned with really cool stuff, a piece of sponge here, a shiny shell there, Lady Gaga would have been proud.
Next up was one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen underwater. Attached to a rock was a tubular Anemone about 25 centimeters tall. Its tubular base was about 4 centimeters thick and about 20 centimeters long.
On top sat flowing white tentacles. I floated there mesmerized watching the tentacles move gracefully through the water. Some unknown sense guided the tentacle to seize a tasty morsel which was floating by. The tentacle then slowly delivered the prize back to the central cluster.
The anemone had dozens and dozens of tentacles and each appeared to move with independent thought. I watched this amazing scene for several minutes, it was hypnotic! It occurred to me that the most prolific science fiction writers in the world use their vast imaginations to depict bizarre life forms on distant planets.
Their imaginary visions pale in comparison to the reality of what divers see every day.
Rincon Island is a sister island to Komodo. I excitedly went ashore on Rincon Island to photograph the Komodo Dragons. Trained guides met us and escorted us on a 2 hour hike to see the Dragons.
My expectations were quite high but unfortunately what I saw was not very impressive. A few Komodo Dragons were hanging out by the camp kitchen asleep in the warm rays of the sun. Our hike yielded no additional Dragon sightings. Jay said not to worry, he knew a secret spot.
We boarded the tender and headed for a remote beach on Rincon Island. I had hoped to go ashore there and photograph real-wild Komodo Dragons. As we neared the shore I spotted to smaller dragons about 2 meters in length. When our tender approached closer to the shore the two dragons sprinted with amazing speed to our location. This commotion caught the attention of two much larger Dragons who were hiding in the bushes. These impressive predators were up to three meters – 9 feet long. They also bolted with alarming speed to our location. I looked directly into the eyes of one of these prehistoric creatures. There was no fear there. They were the top predator on this island and I was the prey.
Dragons close up
The Komodo dragon kills with one bite. Their saliva is highly infectious. They typically wait in ambush and inflict a fatal bite on their prey. Wild goats, feral pigs and water buffalo are all on their menu.
It can take up to two weeks for a water buffalo to succumb to the toxic bite. The dragons follow their prey, patiently waiting.
I was both surprised and delighted as a Dragon left the shore and entered the water to swim toward our tender. Jay was less delighted and directed the tender to a safer distance. Jay turned to me and said “Steve do you still want to go ashore?” I reflected for half a second and said “perhaps not”.
Wonders of Komodo
During the dive briefing the next morning I asked Jay why our current dive site was named Cannibal Rock. Apparently one Komodo dragon was seen devouring another at this location.
I have been on amazing dives in the Red Sea, Bloody Bay off Little Cayman and swam with giant Manta’s in Bora Bora, so when I say that this was an incredible dive please believe me. It is hard for me to put my finger on exactly why. I didn’t swim with a whale shark or see a new species of Coelacanth, but this dive embodied for me the reason I love to dive. The colors of the soft coral were stunningly vibrant, massive schools of fish swarmed in every direction; the reef was pristine, healthy and alive.
There were crustaceans, Nudibranch’s and my personal favorite, clown fish, who frolicked in and out of their anemones. A Reticulated Puffer and a Giant Moray Eel shared a cleaning station with dozens of Hinge-Break shrimp.
I watched a Sea Cucumber march across a coral head with their bizarre padded feet. The variety of life just blew me away.
A Manta dive spot
There is a potential problem that can be created when a dive site has a very specific name. Such was the case with Manta Alley. Like most divers I have always been fascinated by Manta Rays. Seeing these huge creatures gracefully flying through the water is always a treat. But on this day Manta Alley was absent of Manta Ray’s. It was still an exceptionally beautiful dive.
This is Drift diving
The next morning we were at a dive site called Makasar on Komodo Island. Makasar is also known as “Airstrip”. This is a drift dive with a very strong current. I back-rolled off the tender in sync with the rest of the group. The current grabbed me straight away and ripped us away.
Corine (my dive buddy) grabbed the collar of my BC and held on for dear life. I saw our dive guide and another pair of divers about 15 meters away. I signalled to Corine that we should make our way toward their location.
It was a futile attempt. The current had us in its grip and we were going wherever it was taking us. I watched as Hawe our divemaster rapidly faded from site. We descended to 18 meters so that we were hovering about 3 meters off the sea floor. Now for the first time I could see how really fast I was moving.
Man alive I was flying as fast as a man can run. In a current this swift you just have to let go, I relaxed, embraced the current and just went with the flow, it was really exhilarating!
I grabbed Corine’s arm to get her attention and pointed to a shape about 20 meters away. It was a huge Manta Ray with its mouth open feeding in the fast current. The Manta receded into the distance but two more appeared in front of us at just 10 meters away. Then Mantas number four, five and six.
This was turning out to be another great dive. I was looking off to my right were most of the Manta’s had been seen when I heard Corine scream. She squeezed my arm tightly and point straight down. Just two meters below us a gigantic Manta Ray with a wing span of at least 5 meters, effortlessly hovered in the current.
Check out this guide, to see just how great the diving in Komodo really is.
By the end of our dive I had lost count of the number of Manta’s that we had seen. We surfaced miles from our entry point. WAOW equips each diver with a dive locator. I depressed button #1 which allowed me to send a voice transmission to the boat captain and the two tenders. Button #2 would have sent out a distress signal to all boats in the area. This device gave me a great deal of peace of mind. The tender arrived at our location in less than a minute.
Our last night we enjoyed a BBQ on deck under the stars, the menu included steak and prawns, corn on the cob and salad. We listened to music until 1 AM.
If you want to turn back the clock and dive like it used to be 60 years ago, this maybe your spot. The reefs are pristine, healthy, vibrant and alive with fish. All I can say is WOW!