Woke at 7, and strolled down to the rickety pier, which is surely not far from collapsing. Joined the Komodo Dive boat. A sunny morning, thankfully. Other people on the boat were amiable – an English girl, a group of 4 Swedish girls, an Irish girl, a guy from Botswana, and me. The funny thing about all of them, apart from the Irish girl, was that they all had one painful looking red left eye – conjunctivitis. They had all ridden the same boat from Gili Trawangan to Labuanbajo, and got infected, one after another. I found it hilarious. Ben, the English divemaster, was there too, along with the local crew. It was a good set-up on board. Tea, coffee, biscuits. I had a cup of tea and a banana, and we all got on really well. The Swedish girls had only done 6 dives, so were a little nervous. The guy from Botswana was the most experienced, with almost 200 dives. He lived in London, worked in Finance – on contract work, so got to travel a lot. The Irish girl was about to start an MA in Marine Biology at Edinburgh University, then she wanted to travel and work in various exotic locations.
The first dive site, after a 2 hour ride out, was an easy reef dive, and I equalized properly this time as I went down, so I had no problems like I did before in Gili Trawangan. The reef was beautiful. Lovely coral, plenty of fish. Amazing. Back on the boat, we sailed for an hour before reaching Manta Point. This was what I’d joined the dive for. This was one of the most exhilarating dives I’ve ever done. Within 2 minutes, we’d come across our first manta ray. It loomed ahead, flapping its ‘wings’, mouth open. The current was strong, and the manta ray was swimming effortlessly against it, as we had no choice but to go with it. We all had to lie on the ground on our bellies and hold onto anything we could grab for dear life to prevent being swept away. It seemed as though the manta ray was trying to suck us into its mouth. It was huge, 6 metres across. Incredible. It hung around for a while, then turned and shot off quickly like a futuristic stealth fighter entering warp speed. We drifted along in the strong current, and came across more manta rays. This time, as I clung onto the rock, it swam right over me, and I could see its gills and mouth right above me. I was ecstatic. The rest of the dive we saw more, and they crowded us. A group of 7 or more, before gracefully shooting away in unison. The current was so strong, and we were having to fight against it to get closer to some of the rays. My breath was heavy, and I sucked too much air too quickly. I had to go up a bit before the others, which is worrying, as it may mean I’ve got asthma or sinus problems, which I’ve long suspected anyway. Still, it was a beautiful dive. Everyone was made up about it. The rest of the trip consisted of a delicious lunch, and sunning ourselves on the front of the boat, chatting away.
Back on shore, we all met up again at Paradise Bar, and watched a delicious sunset. Here, we met Troy, a university of Loughborough lecturer, who reminded me of a certain colleague at the British Council, with his brash approach and uncanny ability to say the wrong thing. He managed to control the conversation all night, proving to be an excellent conversationalist, though I know how to deal with this type of conversation controller – cut them off, which I did regularly. At one stage, he was discussing camera tripods. “This is a nice one, love it.” He started, and then, in a lower tone of voice seemed aimed at the Irish girl next to him: “you should see my other tripod”, and he sniggered like a schoolboy when he said it. Though he spoke the Queen’s English, I was relieved to find out later that he was, in fact, Welsh. Thank God. He’d be an embarrassment to (most) English people.
We went to Pasedon restaurant for a lovely fish dinner, and another bintang, then it was time to go. A great day.