This morning we prepared all our equipment for boarding onto the liveaboard Tatawa. This boat will be our home for the next four days, as we conduct manta surveys around the ocean of Komodo National Park.
Us five interns joined the boat early this morning, together with our mentors Andy, Niomi, Lucy, Tami, Ichsan, our dive instructor Rian and the crew of Tatawa. We set sail from Labuan Bajo, and sailed about two hours to our first dive site at Sebayur Kecil.
This was not a survey dive. Instead, we are completing the deep dive part of our PADI Advanced Open Water course. Before the dive, Rian gave us a briefing and checked that we all remembered our deep dive training material. We descended to 29.5m, and experienced for ourselves the impacts of depth.
Rian showed us a coloured slate. On the surface the slate was coloured red, but at this depth it had changed to a dull brown. From our reading of the Advanced Open Water manual, we knew that this was because the red light has a short wavelength which is quickly absorbed as we descend through the water.
Next we played a game to train our concentration at depth. Rian gave us some hand signals, and we had to point to the picture on a slate that matched with his hand signal. A circle meant octopus, the triangle was a nose, and square meant mask. It wasn’t too difficult, but I felt that I had to concentrate more to complete this task at depth, compared to when we practised on the boat.
After lunch, we sat on the deck of the boat as the mentors gave us some training about manta briefings. Suddenly a manta jumped out of the water near the boat, and came back to the water with a huge splash. We were very surprised and lucky to see a manta breach!
Our second dive was at Karang Makassar, a site that is also known as Manta Point. At this site our aim was to complete the drift dive part of our Advanced Open Water course. We entered the water, and were carried along by the current.
At this site we had our first meeting with manta rays! First we encountered a large female melanistic manta, with body coloured entirely black. We took our position close to the seafloor, and the manta was so calm, approaching us closely. After one or two minutes, two more mantas approached the melanistic female, but they did not stay long and soon swam away.
At Manta Point we didn’t only meet three mantas, but also two blacktip reef sharks. After the dive returned to the boat to record our data. After dinner, our day was not over yet, as Niomi gave us training about leadership.