A Paradise of Biodiversity – Cruising from Bali to Komodo and beyond
October 2015

Apart from sunshine and beaches, Indonesia is a place of great biodiversity. While the main purpose of this trip was to look for whales and dolphins on the way from Bali to Komodo, the abundance of sea birds, the stunning beauty of coral reefs, the colourful marine lives, as well as the up-close encounter with the famous Komodo Dragons had made this trip an awe-inspiring experience. Snorkelling with Manta Rays and the jumping False Killer Whale were major highlights of this trip.

Whales and Dolphins encountered

According to the tour leader, marine biologist Dr. Chas Anderson, the whales and dolphins seen on this trip were not as abundant as last year. This is probably due to the start of the El Nino Year, which will impact on the oceanic currents and the distribution of planktons. Nevertheless, after days of nail-biting searches, we still managed to have some good encounters. We encountered 9 different species:

Melon-headed Whale - on top of my wish list

False Killer Whale - on top of my wish list

Common Bottlenose Dolphin

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin - rarely so playful!

Blue Whale - mother and calf

Spinner Dolphin - they don't want to spin this time

Sperm Whale

Risso's Dolphin - mother and calf

and Dwarf Sperm Whale. Among these, Melon-headed Whale and False Killer Whale were on top of my wish list!

The Underwater Garden - swim with mantas, sharks, turtles, etc.

The wingspan of Manta ray can measure up to 3 metres. While they were busy feeding on planktons with their basket-like mouths, these gentle giants glided gracefully around us. There were times that I thought the Mantas would have bumped into me but they just dived underneath me when they got closer. After swimming with them, I started to develop a fondness for them. The day we swam with Mantas, I started dreaming about them when I fell asleep. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

During the trip, I also encountered many other different animals in the beautiful underwater world.

White-tip Shark

Hawksbill Turtle


Butterfly Fish

Blue-spotted Stingray


Vibrant Coral Reef

Meeting the Komodo Dragons

The Komodo Dragons are famous for their venomous saliva which contains 60 types of bacteria. One bite by the dragon can be fatal, not to mention their powerful jaws which can tear their prey apart and swallow whole. Even park rangers who are experienced in dealing with the dragons get killed in the National Park every year. Although I am not fond of reptiles, I did find the Komodo Dragons rather cute. Maybe because most of the time they were lying there relaxing or moving slowly and we were accompanied by rangers of the National Park, observing them from a safe distance was not scary at all. Watching them moving around dribbling with saliva on the beach from our inflatable boats was quite an interesting experience. In our visit to the Komodo National Park, we even had the privilege to watch two dragons making baby dragons! Having said these, I still won’t fancy swimming with any of them, which my friends who joined the tour last year had the chance to while snorkelling. :P

One of the preys of the Dragons

Birds – seabirds and woodland birds
While searching at sea, we encountered many seabirds. The White-tailed Tropicbird is my favourite. It’s very pretty.

Brown Boobies

Lesser Frigatebird

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Brahminy Kite

At the Komodo National Park, we encountered many pretty birds.
Black-naped Oriole

Wallacean Drongo

Yellow-spectacled White-eye

Flame-breasted Sunbird

Yellow-crested Cockatoo

A sky of Bats!
We were lucky to watch this natural wonder – tens of thousands of fruit bats leaving their roosts at sunset to look for food. Although there were so many of them, they were really quiet.

The Tuna Industry
Fishery bycatch of the tuna industry is very serious and whales, dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, etc. often fall victim to this practice. Purse seining is a non-discriminative practice by which all types of animals whether targetted or non-targetted are caught. While gillneting is in a much smaller scale, it involves a large number of fishermen and a single gillnet can extend up to 2-3 km at sea. The damages done by these practices are equally disastrous. According to the report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2011, in Ecuador alone, 2,500-5,000 dolphins were accidentally caught by gillnets, whereas in Peru, the number goes up to 15,000 – 20,000. These are issues that we can’t turn a blind eye to. During our trip, we saw a gillnet fishing boat in operation. The white buoyant is the end of the gillnet which is extended for a long distance from the boat itself:

Although the tuna industry had launched the dolphin-friendly label to indicate that a certain percentage of dolphins were not killed while the tunas were being caught, the main problem is, not all the dolphin-friendly labels are trustworthy. Out of commercial reasons, many traders will include the label in their canned tuna to increase their sales. Besides, the authorities in some areas deny the association of the yellowfin tuna with dolphins.

According to the Marine Biologist, these labels are found to be more credible.

  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accredited
  • Earth Island Institute
  • Green Peace
  • Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer have company policy that support sustainable operation

These are not trustworthy

  • John West
  • products of Thailand

As it is quite difficult to confirm whether dolphins were harmed while the tunas were caught and quite a number of species (spinner dolphin, common dolphin, spotted dolphin, etc.) were observed assoicating with yellowfin tunas, it may be a better idea to skip tunas from the menu.

Rubbish in the sea
Although we went to remote places, we still see some domestic waste floating at sea.

Embark: Bali, Indonesia

Disembark: Maumere, Indonesia