The small town of Labuan Bajo is the main departure port for the dive companies. Maybe not the prettiest town in terms of cleanliness and tranquility, it does offer beautiful westerly sunset views and has more and more western amenities every season.
Our boats leave Labuan Bajo daily and venture to all the sites in the centre and north of Komodo National Park. We also frequently visit Rinca (to the south between Komodo and Flores) to go trekking with the famous Komodo Dragons.
The main season runs from April through to October. However, it is still diveable through to Christmas. Shops tend to close in January and February and open again in March. Weather varies every year but generally the rain season is from January to March. The busiest time is in July and August (there are many liveaboards that arrive from Raja Ampat, Alor and Bali). From July to September there can be high winds usually from the south which can make for wavy conditions but still perfectly diveable. October can be a very nice time with less crowds and nice conditions. May and June are also usually calm and clear.
It is debatable when the best time of year to see Mantas consistently is. Some believe there are more sightings in the low season. Mantas can be seen throughout the year but can usually be seen in greater numbers when the currents are stronger, hence around full moon and new moon.
Komodo is famous for its strong currents which can be not for the faint-hearted. However, not all the dive sites have strong currents and a lot of the time the currents can be avoided if necessary. On the other hand they can be fully enjoyed and dived to their full potential for the more experienced divers. A lot of this has to do with timing of the dives and with the cycle of the moon. The strongest currents are around full moon and new moon. The weakest being around half moon. Therefore with planning you can decide when would suit you best before booking.
The main reason we get strong currents here though is to do with the topography. Central Indonesia is a set of islands going pretty much West to East from Java to Timor. These create a barrier between the Indian Ocean in the south and the Pacific Ocean in the north. These vast bodies of water are pushed through small shallow gaps in order to reach the other side every day. Just after low tide we have rising tide which runs from south to north. This brings colder nutrient-rich water (around 26 degrees C but can be as low as 23 degrees) from the south (keeping the reefs healthy and attracting all the marine life to feed on the plankton). Just after high tide we have falling tide which runs from north to south. This brings warmer water (around 28 degrees) from the Pacific Ocean but tends to have stronger current as the water has less space to flow (at certain times rising can be stronger). Around slack tide, the currents tend to be less and so we can sometimes experience very little current. But the tides can change very quickly here in Komodo and slack tide can be little more than 5 minutes. Some dive sites are really 2 separate ones because we dive them purely on one side (north or south) at a time.
Between Komodo and Padar island is the main flow of water north and south. This is known as the Linteh straits. This is where the currents can be at their strongest. Dive sites such as Batu Bolong and Batu Tiga are directly in the middle of these straits and therefore have the strongest currents.
In the north of Komodo, the main island is blocking the current. Therefore when it is falling, the current flows from west to east. When it is rising it flows from east to west. Dive sites here are famous for the numbers of Sharks to be found plus the sheer quantities of fish in general. But they are usually only for experienced divers.
Komodo is famous for the currents but it also has some of the most pristine reefs on the planet. It seems the more remote an area, the better the condition of the coral. The colder nutrient rich water flowing through the region daily means the reefs are in very good condition and are a haven for marine creatures right through the food chain from plankton to small fish through to large pelagics. Raja Ampat (in Eastern Indonesia) has long been known as having the most pristine reefs on the planet. However, many guests who have dived both agree that certain dive sites in Komodo are on an even par or are indeed better than in Raja Ampat. Without question Komodo offers a great diversity of marine life from rare small critters to Mantas, Sharks and other large pelagics and as such is truly one of the best dive spots in the world.
Floresians are possibly the happiest, smiliest bunch you could wish to meet and are usually very excited to chat to tourists or anyone offering a smile. If you are looking for more than just scuba diving, the mainland has a lot to offer. There are beautiful waterfalls accessible on day trips from Labuan Bajo. For the more adventurous there are various ways to explore the less touristy treats in the more remote areas of Flores. The traditional villages around Bajawa, the rice fields just outside Ruteng, the mighty Kelimutu (Crater Lakes) are breath-taking, the beaches in Eastern Flores such as Koka Beach are stunning and the scenery in general is truly epic weaving through mountainous canyons on fairly well-kept roads through to Maumere.