A manta ray evolves peacefully in the current, indifferent to our bubbles. (Gili Banta, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
A manta ray evolves peacefully in the current, indifferent to our bubbles. (Gili Banta, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)

Diving at The Foot of the Volcanoes in Sumbawa

#Indonesia

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

  Indonesia : Alor + Halmahera + Sumbawa – July 2018

Near Bali, Indonesia, Sumbawa Island and its volcanoes offer a fantastic variety of dives. From manta rays to nudibranchs, the underwater world is full of wonders...

Where is that, Sumbawa?

Sumbawa is the last stop on my Indonesian journey of July 2018. Another island a little away from the traditional tourist routes for now. Located in the region known as the Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara), Sumbawa is very close to the well-known Bali and Lombok (in the West) and to the famous Komodo National Park (in the East).

Of course, it was the prospect of exploring the beautiful underwater world that attracted me there... 😉 And I wasn't disappointed.

The Buffalo Rock Reef, off Komodo and Gili Banta, is sumptuous. (Indonesia, July 2018)
The Buffalo Rock Reef, off Sumbawa, between Komodo and Gili Banta, is sumptuous. (Indonesia, July 2018)

I had spotted for a while the Kalimaya Dive Resort, a new diving resort opened in 2016 (and for now the only one in the area), which seemed to have everything to please me, according to the first reports found on the internet... I decided to go there and check it out myself!

From the airport located in Bima to the Kalimaya Resort, it takes about two hours by car. The resort is just next to a fishing village called Poja, north of the port of Sape, the "big" local town... It is right there:

A brief overview of Sumbawa

The few tourists who stay in Sumbawa are mainly surfers. They go to the west coast, in front of Lombok. To the northwest, some seaside tourism has also developed around the Moyo and Medang Islands Marine Reserve, in front of the Tambora volcano (the area has just been recognized "Biosphere Reserve" by Unesco).

I went the opposite way, to the east coast. And since I dived every day, I didn't really visit the island, which is very huge. I did manage to make a small land incursion on the Sape side, to buy some beautiful traditional fabrics, which allowed me to see several fishing villages and the surrounding countryside as I passed.

How to get to Sumbawa? Sumbawa is easy to reach by boat or by plane, there are flights from the airports of Bali, Lombok or Makassar. You then land at the airport of Bima. There are also crossings by ferry not too long from Lombok and Flores, as well as various "speed-boats" and cruises that stopover.

I also took advantage of the surface intervals, between two dives, to enjoy the coast. I have a dazzled memory of the magnificent Pink Beach, an immaculate, deserted, white-pink sand cove with intense turquoise blue waters...

Like its neighbor Lombok, the majority of Sumbawa's population is Muslim and most people still live in fairly traditional ways in small villages. The main resources of the island are agriculture and livestock, fishing, mining...

In this season, the relief has yellowish vegetation that contrasts with the soft green of the rice fields. As in Komodo and Alor, the climate here is much drier than in Bali.

Landscape of rice fields, in the east of Sumbawa, not far from Sape. (Indonesia, July 2018)
Landscape of rice fields, in the east of Sumbawa, not far from Sape. (Indonesia, July 2018)
The crowd at Bima airport. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
The crowd at Bima airport. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the beach of this fishing village, we see unfortunately accumulate waste. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the beach of this fishing village, we see unfortunately accumulate waste. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
In the southwest, at the end of the Lambu Peninsula, we make our surface interval at the beautiful Pink Beach, with pristine white-pink sand ... (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
In the southwest, at the end of the Lambu Peninsula, we make our surface interval at the beautiful Pink Beach, with pristine white-pink sand ... (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the road between Sape and Kalimaya Resort, a football game attracted everyone in the area. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the road between Sape and Kalimaya Resort, a football game attracted everyone in the area. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
In his workshop near Sape, a weaver settled down to his job to demonstrate this traditional know-how. A work of patience ... (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
In his workshop near Sape, a weaver settled down to his job to demonstrate this traditional know-how. A work of patience ... (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
In front of the weavers' shop where we bought pieces of cloth near Sape, the whole family comes to pose for the photo-souvenir when we leave. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
In front of the weavers' shop where we bought pieces of cloth near Sape, the whole family comes to pose for the photo-souvenir when we leave. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
This young woman from the neighboring village, with a bright smile, works for the resort. We entrusted her with pieces of traditional cloth that we bought near Sape, which she sewed into sarong. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
This young woman from the neighboring village, with a bright smile, works for the resort. We entrusted her with pieces of traditional fabric that we bought near Sape, which she sewed into sarongs. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)

To discover a little better Sumbawa, I imagine that a stay of two weeks to a month is a minimum. As far as I could tell, the roads are far from all in good condition and, apart from the surf spots on the west coast, there are not many hotel accommodations or tourist services. So you have to stay with the locals and manage to talk a little bit about Bahasa Indonesia

If I believe the few stories and testimonies I have been able to find on the Internet, most of the rare travellers who take the time to explore the island are delighted with their stay, praising the hospitality and kindness of the people, the authenticity of the encounters and the magnificent landscapes, including the spectacular and formidable Tambora volcano.

Tambora, the volcano that disrupted the climate. Unknown to tourists, Sumbawa is nevertheless famous for its stratovolcano, the mount Tambora, which today stands at 2,850 meters. Its eruption of 1815 projected huge quantities of ash and sulfur particles into the stratosphere, which had catastrophic repercussions not only in Asia, but globally, causing global climatic cooling, which also in the year 1816 to be nicknamed "The year without summer". For three years, the harvests were everywhere disastrous, whether it was because of frost, drought or heavy rains, leading to famines and migrations in Europe and North America that marked the history of the nineteenth century…

Located on the famous Pacific Ring of FireThe Indonesian archipelago is actually a huge rosary of volcanoes! In this summer of 2018, it's the Mount Agung, the Bali volcano, which is under surveillance and preoccupying tourists because his recent eruptions have repeatedly disrupted air traffic and grounded aircraft ... Luckily, he stands still the day we take our flight to Bima.

I say "we" because that week I did not travel solo for once: my buddy during the Tubbataha liveaboard in the Philippines in May 2018 came to be with me. We decided to make again bubbles together in Indonesia! 👌

Through the porthole of the plane, we can see the summit of Mount Agung, which surpasses clouds. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2018)
Through the porthole of the plane, we can see the summit of Mount Agung, which surpasses clouds. (Bali, Indonesia, July 2018)
A few moments later, we fly over Lombok and we see another volcano, the Rinjani. (Lombok, Indonesia, July 2018)
A few moments later, we fly over Lombok and we see the summit of another volcano, the Rinjani. (Lombok, Indonesia, July 2018)

Diving at the foot of volcanoes

As Alor Divers and the Sali Bay Resort where I was just before, the Kalimaya Dive Resort is also in a rather isolated place, far from crowds... For divers, its location is particularly strategic.

The resort is indeed close to three very interesting areas, which are otherwise only accessible by diving cruise:

  • the east coast of Sumbawa ;
  • Sangeang (or Sangean), a spectacular island-volcano (active) further north;
  • and the western part of Komodo National Park, including the caldera island of Gili Banta (a former semi-engulfed volcano, just outside the park) and the island of Komodo herself (where live the famous Komodo dragons, these big lizards unique in the world, which can also be observed on the neighboring island of Rinca).
Dive map, Kalimaya Resort (Source: kalimayadiveresort.com)
Dive sites accessible from Kalimaya. (Source: kalimayadiveresort.com)

My buddy and I are settled like princesses in Kalimaya, in one of the rooms located in the long wooden buildings that are a continuation of the restaurant and the bungalows. Below, there are also comfortable gazebos, small beach huts above the sand, to rest or read sheltered from the wind and sun... Terrific. And then I discover with delight, in the building of the diving center, a gigantic Camera Room for my photographic clutter... 😍 👌

Everything is really well thought out and tastefully arranged in this resort. Meals are taken together around large tables which allows you to quickly become friends with other divers. We hasten to try out the lovely swimming pool, in front of the restaurant facing the sea. This will be our favorite spot for desalting after the dives. We get into the habit of watching from the corner of our eyes for the plumes of smoke that sometimes escape from the Sangeang, the top of which is clearly visible.

I made some inquiries afterwards about this volcano island. The last major eruption of the Sangeang was in 2014, according to Wikipedia, and it even disrupted air traffic in Australia! 🌋 😱

View of Kalimaya Beach from the end of the long pontoon. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
View of Kalimaya Beach from the end of the long pontoon. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
A beautiful little garden leads to the entrance of the restaurant. (Kalimaya Dive Resort, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
A beautiful little garden leads to the entrance of the restaurant. (Kalimaya Dive Resort, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Our "house" in Kalimaya. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Our "house" in Kalimaya. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
A nice little room awaits us. (Kalimaya Dive Resort, Sumbawa, July 2018)
A nice little room awaits us. (Kalimaya Dive Resort, Sumbawa, July 2018)
The pool, our favorite viewing spot ... (Kalimay Dive Resort, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
The pool, our favorite viewing spot ... (Kalimay Dive Resort, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
This photo taken at the iPhone does not do justice to the vast Camera Room available to photographers in Kalimaya. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
This picture taken at the iPhone does not do justice to the vast Camera Room made available to photographers in Kalimaya. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Looking east, Kalimaya Beach offers sumptuous sunrises every morning at around 6:20 am. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Looking east, Kalimaya Beach offers sumptuous sunrises every morning at around 6:20 am. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the beach, the black sand mingles with the blond sand. (Kalimaya Dive Resort, Sumbawa, July 2018)
On the beach, the black sand mingles with the blond sand. (Kalimaya Dive Resort, Sumbawa, July 2018)
No wifi and an intermittent 3G connection ... The only place we have the reception with smartphones, it's about the first third of the pontoon. Of course, in the evening, everyone, staff and guests, comes here to take his dose of internet. (Kalimaya, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
No wifi and an intermittent 3G connection ... The only place we have the reception with smartphones, it's about the first third of the pontoon. Of course, in the evening, everyone, staff and guests, comes here to take his dose of internet. (Kalimaya, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)

Gili Banta and Komodo West: manta rays and current

Our first dives are awesome. We go straight to Gili Banta, this island which is, in fact, an ancient volcano, a semi-sunken caldera, on the western edge of Komodo National Park.

We start with the Tanduk Rusa site, where we stay on a shallow underwater promontory, a dozen meters below the surface, protected from the furious currents around. This spot is a "cleaning station" where the beautiful and harmless manta rays come to hover over the coral potatoes, in order to get rid of their parasites and dead skin by small fish, the cleaner wrasses.

I'm thrilled for my friend: the graceful giants are coming soon, as promised (or almost) at the briefing!!! 😲 For her first dives in Indonesia, this sets the tone...

I let you discover this in the video:

Moment of grace to Gili Banta, accompanied by manta rays. (West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)

As the days go by, we discover magnificent sites in the waters of Gili Banta and West Komodo. But often the day's schedule is adjusted along the way, depending on changing conditions and currents. Here too, the overpowered Indonesian Throughflow or ITF (this gigantic marine flow between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean that I was talking about in the previous post) makes the law.

When the site initially chosen is impassable, we then fall back on a neighboring spot that is more protected. Our guides are extremely careful to ensure our safety. We're here to have fun, not to be scared!

I have already done two dive cruises in Komodo (in 2016 and in 2011), I am excited to explore new sites, starting to dive from Sumbawa. This western zone of the maritime park does not always appear on the classic cruises routes, which, for the most part, crisscross the waters east side, between Komodo and Rinca, where are concentrated many famous spots.

Incredible: among our dive guides, I meet Arif, whom I had met eight years earlier, in 2010, at the other end of Indonesia, at the Lumba Lumba center in Pulau Weh (Sumatra)! He briefs us here for the Tanduk Rusa site in Gili Banta, and even drew manta rays ... which will be there! (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Incredible: among our dive guides, I meet Arif, whom I had met eight years earlier, in 2010, at the other end of Indonesia, at the Lumba Lumba center in Pulau Weh (Sumatra)! He briefs us here for the Tanduk Rusa site in Gili Banta, and even drew manta rays ... which will be there! (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Drifting ride along the High Voltage Reef. (Gili Banta, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
Drifting ride along the High Voltage Reef. (Gili Banta, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
A big toadfish watches our whereabouts at the Lula's Hat site. (Gili Banta, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
A big toadfish watches our whereabouts at the Lula's Hat site. (Gili Banta, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
A big cuttlefish comes to observe us with curiosity at the end of the dive, while we are preparing to make the security stop. (Gili Banta, Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
A big cuttlefish comes to observe us with curiosity at the end of the dive, while we are preparing to make the security stop. (Gili Banta, Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
End of dive! (Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
End of dive! (Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
The pontoon of Komodo Island, Loh Wenci. That day, we are the only visitors. (Indonesia, July 2018)
The pontoon of Komodo Island, Loh Wenci. That day, we are the only visitors. (Indonesia, July 2018)
In Komodo, we will only see a few dragons, apparently accustomed to lapping near the ranger barracks. (Indonesia, July 2018)
In Komodo, we will only see a few dragons, apparently accustomed to lapping near the ranger barracks. (Indonesia, July 2018)

Besides Gili Banta, where we saw the mantas, and which offers many other sites, one of those who impressed me the most is Buffalo Wall (Dinding Kerbau)at the foot of an isolated rocky island in the middle of the waves off Komodo, south of Gili Banta.

Underwater, magnificent walls covered with brightly colored corals, with a mixture of ascending and descending currents a little surprising. It is only once on the spot that one can evaluate if it is possible to dive there or not, even to postpone the immersion to later or another day, according to the conditions ...

The spectacular volcanic "pebble" of Buffalo Wall, between Gili Banta and Komodo. (Indonesia, July 2018)
The spectacular volcanic "pebble" of Buffalo Wall, between Gili Banta and Komodo. (Indonesia, July 2018)
The top of Buffalo Rock Reef, against the light. (Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
The top of Buffalo Wall Reef, against the light. (Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
Dizzying drop-offs covered with colorful corals ... (Buffalo Wall, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
Dizzying drop-offs covered with colorful corals ... (Buffalo Wall, West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
Pretty acropora tables are set up at the foot of the Buffalo Wall Reef. (Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
Beautiful Acropora tables are set at the foot of the Buffalo Wall Reef. (Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
The fall of Buffalo Wall forms a spectacular underwater landscape. (West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)
The fall of Buffalo Wall forms a spectacular underwater landscape. (West Komodo, Indonesia, July 2018)

Sangeang: small treasures on volcanic black sand

Who says volcano, says black sand. Like a Bali or Lembeh, most sites around Sangeang are a paradise for underwater photographers "Muck-dive" (observation dive of the small fauna, flush with the substrate) and "macro" subjects. This dark background offers a perfect jewel to live jewelry that are the nudibranchs (sea slugs) and other fascinating creatures, such as the marvelous little photogenic octopus.

You have to have the eye, to spot them. It is advisable to slow down and take your time, with the complicity of a guide accustomed to hunt down the small animals that populate these volcanic bottoms. Perfect buoyancy required, not to lift sand with a stroke of palm and ruin the scene ...

Like a Alor or Pulau Weh, we can also see in places strings of bubbles out of the sand. Underwater "fumaroles", gas emissions that remind us that we are diving at the foot of a volcano ... 😲

There are actually two volcanoes, two craters, in Sangeang. On the surface, during the boat trip between two sites, we even see a spit clearly smoke plumes regular. But we can not decide if the cloud that hangs on the other summit is just a cloud or if it also comes from the volcano ...

While skirting the island, one sees a small plume of smoke gushing from the crater, on the right ... (Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
While skirting the island, one sees a small plume of smoke gushing from the crater, on the right ... (Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
The summit of the craters is best seen from this angle. (Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
The summit of the craters is best seen from this angle. (Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
It's time for the pre-dive briefing at the foot of the Sangeang Volcano Island. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
It's time for the pre-dive briefing at the foot of the Sangeang Volcano Island. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
This volcanic spot has logically received the name of "Bubble Reef" ... (5angeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
This volcanic spot has logically received the name of "Bubble Reef" ... (5angeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the black volcanic sand, a "Wunderpus photogenicus", literally the "wonderful photogenic octopus" ... (Sangeang, Samubawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
On the volcanic black sand, a "Wunderpus photogenicus", literally the "wonderful photogenic octopus" ... (Sangeang, Samubawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
A strange little crab, gifted with camouflage. (Bontoh, Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
A strange little crab, gifted with camouflage. (Bontoh, Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
This tiny spider crab, like other crabs called "decorators" skillfully dresses to deceive the enemy. (Bontoh, Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
This tiny spider crab, like other crabs called "decorators", skillfully dresses to deceive the enemy. (Bontoh, Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
An adorable Pygmy Seahorse Bargibanti. (Bubble Reef, Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
An adorable Pygmy Seahorse Bargibanti. (Bubble Reef, Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
On this side of the island, the black mark of an old lava flow. (Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
On this side of the island, the black mark of an old lava flow. (Sangeang, Indonesia, July 2018)
Snorkeling for the surface interval, in a sheltered Sangeang Cove. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Snorkeling for the surface interval, in a sheltered Sangeang Cove. (Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)

Sumbawa: nudibranchs and frogfish

Along the east coast of Sumbawa, from north to south, there is plenty to do too, with many coves, beaches and islets, offering particularly rich dive sites, where you can find all the small usual fauna of the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific.

Most of the time, I will be in macro mode, "safari" of nudibranchs ...

Nudibranch. (Tanjung Air, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)
Nudibranch. (Tanjung Air, Sumbawa, Indonesia, July 2018)

Finally, on the house-reef of Kalimaya, stretches an immense field of yellow elephant ears, these sponges similar to large fleshy leaves.

Big toad fish or frogs (antennal) of the same color have taken up residence there. An absolutely fascinating animal to watch. His fins are almost legs, he is able to open his huge mouth without warning to swallow a single shot, in a split second, a poor fish who saw nothing coming ...

My macro lens is not suited to the size of this huge yellow frogfish, perched on an elephant ear sponge ... I have to take a lot of hindsight to have it all in the lens . (Kalimaya House Reef, Sumbawa, July 2018)
My macro objective is not adapted to the size of this huge yellow frogfish, perched on an elephant ear sponge ... I have to take a lot of hindsight to have it all in the lens. (Kalimaya House Reef, Sumbawa, July 2018)
Really a patibular mouth ... (Kalimaya House Reef, Sumbawa, July 2018)
Really a patibular mouth ... (Kalimaya House Reef, Sumbawa, July 2018)

Can not get enough of Indonesian waters, really. I left Sumbawa and its volcanoes with regret. But I intend to come back ... 😎

  Indonesia : Alor + Halmahera + Sumbawa – July 2018

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