How Scuba Diving In Komodo Island, Indonesia Helped Me Face My Fears

Komodo Island
Komodo dragons (photo courtesy of CruiseMiss.com

The next port on our world cruise itinerary on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Black Watch is Komodo Island, Indonesia. If you’re unfamiliar with this Island, it’s a popular destination for diving and home to the world famous Komodo dragons that roam wild. Apparently, they’re not fond of the color red and will attack so that left me wondering what I might do when I visited.



My Original Plans for Komodo Island

Danielle and I originally booked a tour through the ship for the National Park and Pink Beach. It would be a relaxing day seeing Komodo dragons and lounging on the beach. But then one of our fellow passengers and new cruise friend, Debbie, suggested diving with her.

The Background on Diving with Debbie

Now let’s get this part of the story straight. Debbie is a crazy diver with a laser focus passion for diving. She likes to share diving stories, pics, and video to anyone interested and even those not interested.

Prior to this trip, scuba diving was never on my radar nor was it anything I was even remotely interested in. But the more Debbie talked about it, it did kind of start to get under my skin a little. Then she showed me one video she took while diving in the Maldives and I was so surprised. It looked quiet, calm, and relaxing, not at all the way I envisioned.

Keep in mind that this girl doesn’t ever go in the water. Well, I do, but never higher than my neck. One reason is that my hair color “bleeds,” so to speak, and so it doesn’t benefit me or anyone else to be in the water. The other reason and probably the bigger of the two is that I’m terrified of going underwater. Not sure when this happened because as a kid I was a fish, but then that changed and I’ve never really enjoyed swimming.

When you consider that scuba diving is having an individual completely submerged underwater at a considerable depth, why would someone afraid of the water even ponder it for a moment?

Not Letting Fear Rule Me

Should I let my fear dictate what I can and can’t do? I don’t think so.Click To Tweet

I could easily just say, “Forget it, it was a nice gesture to invite me,” but I am trying not to let fear rule me. Yes, just the thought of being underwater makes me panic, but what if I could get over that? What if I discovered that scuba diving is pretty extraordinary and that I like it? Should I let my fear dictate what I can and can’t do? I don’t think so.

Having said that, I decided to move forward with our plan to dive. I asked Debbie if they would take someone who had never gone diving before and she said she didn’t see why not. Then, like most things I impulsively jump into, I stopped thinking about it altogether. If it was going to happen, it would happen and I wouldn’t worry about it until it did. Once I committed, I only needed to cancel my beach trip with Danielle. That in itself made me sad that I wasn’t spending the day with my friend, but she wanted me to go and experience this if it made me happy. See how good of a person she is?

Debbie the Diver Goes Into Full Panic Mode Pre-Dive

This was a puzzle I was determined to figure out and nothing was going to stop me from doing so.Click To Tweet

Debbie spent some time arranging the dive with the company in Komodo Island. But coordinating enough people, getting to the port, payment, etc. was starting to stress her out completely. She proclaimed the trip off and was looking forlorn and depressed about it. It was at this point, only a  few days before the trip, that I offered to take over the planning. This was a puzzle I was determined to figure out and nothing was going to stop me from doing so.

Here are just a few of the issues I encountered: What was the name of the port we would arrive at? Considering I was told it was “the jetty,” this was problem number one. How would we get from the jetty to the dive site, especially as we weren’t sure where Black Watch would be anchored? There are two possible sites for ships at Komodo Island and I wasn’t sure which one it would be. Finally, things started coming together.

The day before our trip, I had to present to the ship’s shore excursions manager a copy of our confirmation email from the dive company so he could present it to the authorities from Indonesia. We also arranged to be on one of the earliest tenders from the ship to the jetty at 8:15 am. All that was left for me to do was to pack and get some rest for a big day ahead.

Our Arrival Into Komodo Island

Komodo Island
Komodo Island

Black Watch anchored off Komodo Island around 6:30 am and by 7:30 am the ship was cleared by immigration.

Komodo Island
Jetty at Komodo Island

Our dive included pick up from the jetty by speedboat at 8:30 am, two dives and lunch on board, with a return at 2 pm. We arrived before 8:30 am, but waited until after 9 am for the speedboat. Yes – Debbie was in panic mode again, while I felt that maybe they were on Indonesian time so we shouldn’t worry too much. 

Komodo Island
Speedboat ride
Komodo Island
The view from the speedboat

The speedboat sped off in the direction of the dive site going at the speed of sound. I was so glad that I had my hair in pigtails as it would have been one giant knot if I had kept it down.

Dive Site

Komodo Island
The view from the dive boat

Finally, after about 20 minutes we arrived at the dive site. There were several boats dotting the water with divers suiting up and taking the plunge into the warm waters of Indonesia.

Komodo Island
Nearby diving boat

The water temperature that day was a nice 83°F. Considering Boston is in the middle of winter and covered in snow, this was looking pretty good to me.  

Komodo Island
The view from the dive boat
Komodo Island
The view from the dive boat

As for us, we had to wait for our boat to arrive so that meant more waiting. But the sun was shining, the water was perfectly clear, and we had zero to complain about whatsoever.

Time to Go Diving

Komodo Island
Everyone prepares for their dive

The boat arrived and we quickly maneuvered our way onboard. We had completed all of our paperwork on the speedboat so it was a quick turnover of paperwork and money before people were changing out of their clothes and into their dive gear. Since I wasn’t certified, I stayed back to take some pics and soak up the sun.

Time to Snorkel and Sunbathe

One of the crew members asked if I wanted to go snorkeling and I thought, “Why not?” He asked if I had ever gone before and said yes, which wasn’t true, but didn’t want to say I hadn’t. I quickly discovered I’m not a fan of snorkeling as I spent the majority of the time inhaling water more than anything else.

Komodo Island
Sunning with Australian Gold

We returned to the boat where I grabbed a towel and my Australian Gold sunscreen and decided to lay out in the sun.

Komodo Island
The view from the dive boat
Komodo Island
The view from the dive boat
Komodo Island
Komodo Island
Komodo Island
Komodo Island selfie
Komodo Island
Sea turtle alert

I then spotted a massive sea turtle break the surface of the water and was in awe of its beauty. Then I spotted two divers approach the boat and started chatting with them. When they boarded the boat, we had our introductions. One was Frankie and he was the dive guide for the second person, Joe who just happens to be from Marlborough, Massachusetts. Small world! Frankie asked if I was going diving, I explained wasn’t certified and basically within the next few minutes we had discussed and arranged for me to go in the water for my first dive.

Preparing for My First Dive

Komodo Island
Komodo Island

Now to be completely fair here, this wasn’t a scheduled dive or anything that could prepare me for my PADI certification. We quickly covered the basics along with sign language that would be used underwater since you can’t talk.

Next up was getting into my gear. I had pre-ordered equipment based on my size of clothing and shoe size for fins and boots, which was all there ready and waiting for me to use. However, as I hadn’t done this before, I was clueless as to how to get all of the equipment on and in what order. Thank God Ayas was there to help me every step of the way. Just getting the wetsuit on was a job and a half as I could get it on about halfway and the crotch was down by my knees. I felt like Randy in A Christmas Story as I needed Ayas’ help to get it on. He showed me how to put it on, but then really helped get me all inside the suit. Let’s just say it was an effort that made putting Spanx on seem effortless.

Then I needed to put on my boots, fins, and vest. Lastly, they had me stand up with the tanks on to move toward the edge of the boat. I was completely unprepared for the weight of the tanks and ended up in a seated position once again on the bench. Let’s try this again and so I was able to stand up and move toward the edge.

Jumping In For My First Dive

As I stood on the edge of the boat, I had almost the same feeling I had when I was about to bungee jump in Auckland. Basically, what the hell am I doing? Click To Tweet

Ayas had prepared me with the regulator and mask and now the moment of truth was here. I wasn’t going to jump in so much as take a step into the water. One hand would be on my mask and regulator and the other on my weight belt. Yes, weight belt as buoyancy is not your friend when diving. They were having some issues with my weight belt before I got in the water and it proved to be an issue while underwater.

As I stood on the edge of the boat, I had almost the same feeling I had when I was about to bungee jump in Auckland. Basically, what the hell am I doing? After all, I’m terrified of going under water and I don’t want to drown so really, WTF? But I fought the urge to scream and run for cover and took a leap of faith that I would enjoy this experience in the end. I held my breath as well as my mask, regulator, and belt and took a step into the water.

Once in, we only had to wait for two other divers that would join us. Then a few moments later, I was adjusting the BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and like that, I was now underwater.

OMG OMG OMG – I’m Breathing Underwater

Let’s just say your brain is a miraculous organ and it wants to do one thing above all else. Keep you alive. So when you do something like dive for the first time, your brain is freaking out and telling you to get out of there ASAP. I was breathing fast and hard and although logically I knew I was breathing through the regulator, my brain was sending me numerous text messages informing me that I was underwater and couldn’t breathe. I had to get that brain under control and fast.

As we descended downward into the water, we also had to deal with our ears adjusting to the water depth. As I only have one functional ear, I thought maybe I could get around this, but that wasn’t happening. I actually had ear pain and thought I might have to stop. But I kept using the equalizing techniques Ayas showed me and eventually I was good.

It’s A Whole New World

Komodo Island
The view while diving

Now I don’t want to sound crazy melodramatic or anything, but once I settled down and started taking in what was around me, I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve seen videos and pictures of divers in the ocean, but seeing it with my own eyes, well it was beyond words. I saw colors I’ve never actually seen before, like a shade of blue coral that I can’t say I’ve ever seen before.

Komodo Island
The view while diving

There was a dark blue starfish just kind of hanging out down on the bottom. I saw schools of fish just minding their own business and little fish hanging out on their own. Toward the end I even got to see a shark swim near us. Total depth for this dive was 12 meters, which I think isn’t too shabby for a first time diver.

There's no way to express exactly how I felt during this dive. I pushed past my fear of the water and ventured off into a brand new world that I didn’t even know existed. Click To Tweet

There’s no way to express exactly how I felt during this dive. I pushed past my fear of the water and ventured off into a brand new world that I didn’t even know existed. When I tried to explain my experience to Danielle, I actually became a little emotional by it all. I’m so proud of myself for trying something new even though I was scared to death. In the end, I discovered I actually like it and will definitely try diving again.

After The Dive

Komodo Island
Look who went diving

I returned to the boat, but I admit that I refused to take my suit off. Why? Because I wanted to show the people I came with that I had actually gone in the water. So there I stood with my Blue Lagoon swim cap on, which by the way did not keep the water out, and my wetsuit and boots on. Ayas thought I cut myself when I got out of the water because my lovely red hair was now running all down the side of my head. Poor guy – scared him to death I’m sure.

Komodo Island
Debbie, G, and Luke still out diving in the distance
Komodo Island
Debbie, G, and Luke with their dive guide in Komodo Island

After searching the horizon for my friends, I spotted them off in the distance and decided to take some pics of them in the water.

Komodo Island
Debbie, G, and Luke after their dive
Komodo Island
Debbie, G, and Luke
Komodo Island
Debbie, G, and Luke after their dive

I also snapped a few when they returned to the boat. Everyone was ecstatic about great their experience was. Komodo Island definitely didn’t disappoint at all. I asked these experienced divers how Komodo Island rated on a scale of 1-10 with their other dives and I got 8’s and 9’s, which I thik is pretty damn good. 

Lunch

Getting out of my wetsuit was easier, but still not a flattering experience. Sorry, but there’s no way anyone looks good when they’re stuck inside one of those and trying to escape. But once free, I realized I was famished. Was it the adrenaline and excitement of my first dive? Was it the massive cramps in my calves. Apparently all the time I spend in the gym didn’t prepare me in the slightest for using fins in the water and my calves were one giant knot.

Komodo Island
My delicious lunch on board the dive boat

Luckily, the men on the boat prepared a huge lunch and we all found seats around a large communal table. They cooked a large plate of noodles, some meat, vegetables, and yes — even tempeh. I couldn’t believe that I was going to have some of my all time favorite food, tempeh, since I hadn’t had any since leaving the US. And I can honestly say it was so delicious, even Luke, a meat eater, enjoyed it.

Time to Head Back to Black Watch

Komodo Island
View from the boat

Although we all could’ve easily stayed the entire day in the serene and beautiful waters of Komodo Island, we knew we had to return to our home on the seas, Black Watch. That meant another speedboat ride back to the jetty at lightning speed, which we all enjoyed, of course.

Turns out Debbie was stuck in the toilet because a large Komodo dragon was outside and she couldn’t get out. Click To Tweet

When we arrived at the jetty, the tender back to the ship was already there so we quickly climbed on board. But this is where it gets complicated. One person decided to do a little shopping for little komodo dragons and pearl necklaces that were for sale. Another person decided to go use the toilet. Me? I stayed seated on the tender and didn’t move. All of a sudden, the tender started moving and we were ready to return to Black Watch. That is until we realized Debbie had never returned from the toilet. So yeah – we kind of left her there. Not on purpose. Really.

Turns out Debbie was stuck in the toilet because a large Komodo dragon was outside and she couldn’t get out. She had to wait until two men with sticks came to move it. You can’t make up crazy stories like that, can you?

Komodo Island
Boats circling Black Watch trying to sell goods

There were several small rowboats circling around the very large Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch upon our arrival to the ship. I’ve never seen locals selling straight from boats to the ship, but that was what was happening here. It turned out to be a good thing because most crew members never got off the ship and so they were able to buy some local goods right from the gangway.

Final Thoughts on Komodo Island

Komodo Island
Komodo Island dive team

While I didn’t end up having some horrific encounter with a Komodo dragon because of my red hair, I had one of the best days ever. I love trying new things and having experiences that change your life and Komodo Island did that for me. It ignited a fire in me to learn more about scuba diving and I will definitely pursue my PADI certification now. Think of all of the places I can go diving in now in the world. Overall, Komodo Island was one of the prettiest places I’ve seen with beautiful water and views and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone or to return again in the future.

Have you visited Komodo Island? Can you suggest other destinations in Indonesia that you found equally exciting? Leave your comments below. Discover some other great destinations and travel ideas here on the Travel Shop Girl website.

On my new SPONTANEOUS TRAVEL SCALE of 1-5, with 1 being super easy and spontaneous and 5 being you better plan far in advance, Komodo Island scores a 4 for spontaneous travel as it may not be the easiest to get to, but I’m pretty sure you can spend all of your time diving while there.

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