My recent Alor trip on Adelaar, exceeded all of my expectations! I wrote this route with memories from a previous trip to this region, and had set the bar quite high with regard to expectations.
As a dive instructor, my dry gills from lack of being underwater, were feeling peak excitement as I boarded the plane in Bali. I joined four of our return guests, who I had previously met on one of Adelaar’s Komodo cruises. We were all anxious to take off and join the other guests in Maumere for the start of our voyage. Domestic flights in Indonesia are all part of the adventure, and with Indonesia being an island nation, the scenery offered from the air is absolutely stunning.
Upon arrival in Maumere, Flores, we are picked up from the airport and transported to the harbor where the Adelaar team are waiting. We are welcomed onboard with big smiles and welcome drinks, and meet our fellow guests while our luggage is being placed into our cabins. Then the anchor is lifted and the journey begins! We see a migrating whale at our first dive stop the next morning. If this isn’t a good omen, I don’t know what is! Here is a recap of my amazing experience onboard for this Alor trip.
Diving in Alor
The diving on this Alor trip is nothing short of extraordinary! We are looking forward to exploring the diving sites around the islands of Buaya, Ternate and Pura. With each island having a very specific topography, they each offer something a bit different. Alor tends to be short on big schools of fish, but the reefs are definitely not short of life! The strong currents running through the Pantar Strait have provided the reefs a rich environment. Whip corals grow in odd shapes, and colorful sponges hide in overhangs where they are slightly more protected. Some of the many reasons why I truly love this dive destination!
Fishermen from nearby villages, use a traditional way to harvest their catch. While diving we see their bamboo fish traps resting along the reef. Fish seem to be able to easily swim in but can’t seem to figure how to get back out. Maybe they just forgot which way they came in, like Dory.
The unexpected star of the Alor reefs, is none other than the clown fish! While novice divers express sheer delight in seeing ‘Nemo’ dancing in his anemone, experienced divers only give Nemo a nod in passing. Everyone on this trip are extremely experienced, having dived around the world in incredible locations, some of which are on my own bucket list. So seeing Nemo would not have been a big deal for any of them. But, they didn’t expect what was to come!
Around the island of Pura are dive sites appropriately named: “Anemone Valley” and “Anemone City”. They were named after the anemones which cover the sites almost exclusively. Underwater, we are greeted by anemones as far as the eye can see! Hundreds of clown fish dancing and jumping from one anemone to the next. “Anemone City” is the most abundantly covered site and therefore quite impressive. “Anemone Valley” on the other hand, has another card up its sleeve!
As we descend into “Anemone Valley” on our dive, I feel cold water coming up from the deep channel. Would we be lucky today, and have an encounter with the shy creatures known to live in this valley? It wasn’t long before indeed, they did pay us a visit. Three curious thresher sharks approach cautiously, before heading off again. We were all dancing underwater, overjoyed at the sighting! Perhaps, they liked our dance moves since one came back around several times, much to our absolute delight! It was definitely hard to leave him behind, but we eventually had to move up to shallow waters. We quickly realize that we have visitors!
The children from the nearby village were free diving to down to see us in the shallows. Underwater, they posed and smiled for photos, as our photographer guests readied their cameras to capture these amazing shots. On the surface, the children approach the Adelaar with eyes full of curiosity and wonder. Who are these strange visitors who live a life so different from theirs? We had other visitors as well, from the island of Buaya: the ikat weaving ladies. They came in canoes, a floating market, each holding their ikats with hands stained blue from the natural indigo dyes, hoping to sell their unique pieces to these visitors from abroad.
Alor trip land tour
The Western part of the island of Alor is home to the largest ethnic group of the island, the Abui tribe. Feared warriors until 1984, they are now peaceful and welcome tourists to their traditional villages. The principal village is Takpala, and it is here that we decide to visit. As we enter the village, these once fierce warriors welcome us with a war dance, which was a bit unnerving. We hoped their headhunting days were only a vague and distant memory. For the ceremony, the Abui are wearing colorful ikats. Each ikat has been hand-woven, in a pattern that is specific to their tribe. The hypnotic sound of the moko drums played by the elders, starts the opening ceremony.
They dance the lego lego, and the jingling sound of their metal anklets, eerily fills the air with each step. They invite us to join in this simple but meaningful dance, which typically marks important life events. Nicole and I eagerly join the dance, but all too often our dance steps unfortunately landed on the feet of our gracious hosts. This encounter with indigenous tribes is a highlight of the Alor trip. I consider it a privilege to be allowed a peak inside such a culturally rich area of the world. It is humbling to be able to witness secret ancient traditions, within a tribe of warriors, who once in the not too distant past, would have considered us a mortal enemy.
Diving at Komba volcano
The sea is a capricious woman. When she is calm, she will let you pass to places otherwise beyond your reach. Visiting the volcano Komba, will be dependant on how our lady of the sea behaves. Our journey there, was on a glassy mirror-like sea! Until about 2 years ago, Komba erupted with a ferocious bang every 30 minutes, spewing rocks into the air, which landed into the surrounding sea with a splash. More calm in recent years, her crater slightly sunken, she emits a steady plume of smoke visible throughout the day.
Diving at the foot of an active volcano is something I have always found exciting, and it should be on every diver’s bucket list. The underwater landscape is a bit eerie, with dark sand slopes and gigantic boulders, coming together to form a reef structure for coral to bloom. The vibrant coral colors contrast starkly against the dark substrate making for a unique diving experience. Our last dive at Komba showed us how mysterious the wonders of nature can be. While Komba seemed to be sleeping quietly from the surface, underwater was a much different picture. Continuous streams of bubbles rising up from the sandy floor make their way to the surface. As we swam through, we had the feeling of being in an underwater jacuzzi!
We lunch on deck, with mighty Komba as a backdrop. Our heads are full of the spectacular images seen while diving at the base of an active volcano, when suddenly Komba offers us another treat. A whale surfaces and takes a loud breath, just meters away from the Adelaar! Laughter and smiles all around, we think this is the perfect finish for the trip. Or so we thought…
We fully expected our last dives in Maumere, to pale in comparison to what we had seen so far. We couldn’t have been more wrong! The last dive was on a wreck, and this dive literally took our breath away. Although rather small, the wreck was absolutely covered in coral and hosted an abundance of life. We pleasantly encounter a school of trevallies in the deeper waters. In the shallows, a bed of seagrass serves as a shelter to all things small and exotic. Will we be lucky enough to find them? Lucky we are – a juvenile ornate ghost pipefish, a seahorse and a mimic octopus! Upon surfacing from this final dive, we see the dinghy crew excitedly shouting and pointing. A whale shark is cruising just underneath the surface! What a way to end the trip!
I let you be the judge of which part of the Alor trip was best. It is hard to decide between the Abui tribe visit, the thresher sharks, the rhinopias, the whale shark, the mimic octopus and the volcano diving. I honestly cannot decide!
Article by Laura, lover of all things water, passionate diver and ocean advocate.