Finding the right place for your Divemaster course isn’t an easy task! Arianwen Morris, a travel blogger, discovered this when she set out to find a dive school in Asia. After months of searching in the Philippines, she was almost ready to quit when an acquaintance at the dive comparison site “TribloO” suggested trying Blue Marlin Komodo. Arianwen had put faith in its recommendation and booked a flight to Labuan Bajo this March. Today, she joins us in a guest post and tells us why it was one of the best decisions she’s made, and why anyone looking to become a dive professional should follow in her footsteps!
There are high chances Komodo will get a mention if you ask anyone who is familiar with diving to identify the top dive sites in the world. That’s because of the insane diversity of underwater creatures! Manta rays often visit the dive sites of Makassar and Mauan in groups of up to 30 or 40; Batu Bolong has rightly been given a massive thumbs up by National Geographic; Tatawa Besar boasts some of the most beautiful corals in existence; Siaba Besar is famous for its frogfish and flamboyant cuttlefish; the list goes on. Stronger currents, at the northern sites, attract countless numbers of sharks; and there have even been sightings of blue whales, whale sharks and tiger sharks in the channel between Flores and Komodo.
SMALL NUMBERS OF DIVERS
Surprisingly, despite the mesmerising abundance of marine life, the national park is still primarily known for its dragons and not so famous for what lies below the ocean’s surface. The small town of Labuan Bajo is set to boom in a near future, and new resorts have started to crop up at an alarming rate, therefore now is the right time to visit! You can still frequently dive at the most popular sites without encountering other divers, and if you venture aboard the liveaboard, you’re likely to experience the peaceful calm of complete solitude.
CALM SURFACE CONDITIONS
There must be few popular dive destinations with such unchangeably calm surface conditions. On most days, the sea looks like the face of a mirror – broken only by the occasional splash of a dolphin. If you suffer from sea sickness, find it hard to balance on an unsteady deck, or would prefer to avoid getting drenched by waves on your way to and from the dive sites, this is the place for you.
Blue Marlin has two of the fastest boats in Labuan Bajo. “Hugo” is its outrigger, which usually does two dives a day with less experienced divers. “Toby” is a super fast speedboat, which takes advanced divers to the distant sites for three dives. Both aim to be back at the port by around 3 or 4 pm. However, there’s still the option of visiting Rinca to see the Komodo dragons too. With so much to see, it makes sense to choose a company that’s more efficient with your time, especially if you’re doing your divemaster training (you’ll appreciate the extra time to study or catch up on sleep). Both boats also have a sun deck, which is a perfect place to catch some rays on the return journey.
EXPERIENCE WITH CURRENTS
It’s no secret – Komodo National Park has some seriously powerful currents. Their strengths will depend on the tides, so if you’re a little nervous, the best time to dive on these most challenging sites is during the half moon phase. If adventure diving is more your scene, you can test your limits with ripping drifts, washing machines and shotguns. Since the conditions are challenging, it’s great experience to do your Divemaster course in Komodo, and it will give you the edge over others if you’re interested in working as a dive professional afterwards. You want to try now?
“Ikan Biru” is Blue Marlin Komodo’s liveaboard dive boat. As any diver will know, liveaboards are not cheap, but they provide a fantastic opportunity to cram in lots of dives and to visit the more distant dive sites. As a divemaster trainee, time on board of the “Ikan Biru” is included in your course fees, so this is a huge benefit. The boat itself is comfortable and well equipped. Divers sleep above deck on mattresses separated by huge pillows. It’s cooler than a cabin, and it enables you to get to know your group more quickly as you enjoy an evening beer under the stars. The food is exceptional, and you couldn’t find a more entertaining host than trip director Aleksi.
When you’re spending almost every day with the same instructors, it’s important that you get on well. The best kind of dive instructor knows how to keep the skills sessions fun and entertaining, as well as informative, and they’re sympathetic when you find something challenging. Doug and Vero are an English/Uruguayan couple who currently take on the majority of courses at Blue Marlin Komodo, and they fit that description to a tee. Stefanus, Fai and Eko are local guys who make up the rest of the diving staff, and their energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Dai and Kim, who manage the centre, sadly don’t make it out on as many dives, but it’s great to have their support too! It’s rare to find such an incredible team of people to act as your support network during your course.
A GREAT SOCIAL SCENE
One of the major draws of Blue Marlin Komodo is its restaurant/bar. It’s a place where expats from most of the dive centres in town choose to hang out and, in addition to some delicious food, it serves up a beautiful sunset almost every evening. The advantage of this for a divemaster trainee is that, when you’re stuck on the night shift from 5 to 8, you have a crowd of fascinating people to keep you company.
When there’s no gear to pack or customers to be served, you can chinwag with people who have a plethora of stories to tell, and you’re bound to pick up some handy tips from a few experts. It doesn’t hurt to network either because you never know when your connections to some of the world’s most experienced divers might help you find work in the future!
Let’s not forget the region’s prime attraction – the Komodo dragon. It would be sacrilege to visit Flores and not spend an hour or so trekking with these magnificent creatures. What’s more, as a divemaster trainee you get to experience this at least once for free. Getting so close to these huge reptiles is a little unnerving, but you’re in good hands with the local guides.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick up your gear bag, hop on a flight to Labuan Bajo and sign up for an unforgettable experience!
For more information on the course, check out Arianwen’s blog Beyond Blighty, which has a great trove of information with her weekly updates from the divemaster course.