The Komodo Park is one of the healthiest marine environments hosting more than 1000 fish species. Komodo National Park was established in 1980 in an effort to conserve the world’s largest lizard – the unique Komodo dragon. Later conservation goals were expanded to protecting both terrestrial and marine environments.
The National Park covers a vast area with three larger islands, including Komodo Island, and many small islands with numerous bays and coves. The surrounding waters are home to diverse marine life. Divers have a chance to swim with hundreds of thousands of reef fish. Big pelagic fish can also be seen in large numbers.
Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986. The park was initially established to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), first discovered by the scientific world in 1911 by J.K.H. Van Steyn. Since then conservation goals have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial.
The marine area constitutes 67% of the Park. The open waters in the Park are between 100 and 200 m deep. The straits between Rinca and Flores and between Padar and Rinca, are relatively shallow (30 to 70 m deep), with strong tidal currents. The combination of strong currents, coral reefs and islets make navigation around the islands in Komodo National Park difficult and dangerous. Sheltered deep anchorage is available at the bay of Loh Liang on Komodo’s east coast, the South East coast of Padar, and the bays of Loh Kima and Loh Dasami on Rinca.
In the North of the Park water temperature ranges between 25 – 29°C. In the middle, the temperature ranges between 24 and 28°C. The temperatures are lowest in the South, ranging from 22 – 28°C. Water salinity is about 34 ppt and the water is quite clear, although the waters closer to the islands are relatively more turbid.
The majority of the people in and around the Park are fishermen originally from Bima (Sumbawa), Manggarai, South Flores, and South Sulawesi. Those from South Sulawesi are from the Suku Bajau or Bugis ethnic groups. The Suku Bajau were originally nomadic and moved from location to location in the region of Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Maluku, to make their livelihoods. Descendents of the original people of Komodo, the Ata Modo, still live in Komodo, but there are no pure blood people left and their culture and language is slowly being integrated with the recent migrants.
Little is known of the early history of the Komodo islanders. They were subjects of the Sultanate of Bima, although the island’s remoteness from Bima meant its affairs were probably little troubled by the Sultanate other than by occasional demand for tribute.
The channels between the islands of the Komodo Park are famous for their strong currents as this is the area where Pacific and Indian oceans meet. This makes the diving at Komodo Park challenging and will only suit experienced divers.
The surrounding waters of Komodo National Park are incredibly rich in marine life. Divers will be amazed with the variety and quantity of fish, starting from the tiniest reef fish species to impressively big pelagics.
Pelagic fish species spotted in waters of Komodo Park include giant trevallies, barracudas, manta rays, dogtooth tuna and sharks, such as blacktip, whitetip sharks and hammerheads. Between the dives it is worth to see the Komodo dragon- the world largest lizard that made Komodo National Park so famous.
Komodo National Park is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Established in 1980, initially the main purpose of the Park was to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat.
However, over the years, the goals for the Park have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, both indications of the Park’s biological importance.
Komodo National Park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller islands creating a total surface area (marine and land) of 1817km (proposed extensions would bring the total surface area up to 2,321km2).
As well as being home to the Komodo dragon, the Park provides refuge for many other notable terrestrial species such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, an endemic rat, and the Timor deer. Moreover, the Park includes one of the richest marine environments including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, seamounts, and semi-enclosed bays.
These habitats harbor more than 1,000 species of fish, some 260 species of reef-building coral, and 70 species of sponges. Dugong, sharks, manta rays, at least 14 species of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles also make Komodo National Park their home.
Diving in Komodo National Park is possible all year round. The annual water temperature varies from 23C/73F to 28C/82F. Access is from Shore or Boat. Diver level is experienced. Depth average is 5 m to maximum 75 m with a current of moderate to strong. The visibility is average of 10 m to maximum 30 m.
Threats to terrestrial biodiversity include the increasing pressure on forest cover and water resources as the local human population has increased 800% over the past 60 years. In addition, the Timor deer population, the preferred prey source for the endangered Komodo dragon, is still being poached.
Image courtesy: Komodo LiveAboard at http://komodoliveaboard.com/