The Underwater World of the Komodo National Park | Wildlife Part 1

We already know that Komodo island and its national park are probably most famous for their dragons. Did you know that it is also a diver’s dream? For those fish fanatics out there, you have probably heard of how amazing the sea life is in this island paradise.

With over 4000 different species, you will always find something new on each dive — and check some must-see creatures off your bucket list. Here’s a list of some of the awesome marine life you could possibly spot on your next dive in the Flores Sea.

Stenella longirostrisSpinner Dolphins

Meet the Earth’s acrobats. Spinner dolphins get their name from the incredible spins and twists they achieve while jumping. Watch in awe as they leap up to 3 meters in the air, completing seven rotations before swiftly landing back in the water.

Researchers have yet to understand the complete reason why these fun mammals do their spins — be it for removing parasites, courtship, communication, or just for plain old fun. Nevertheless, you might get to see these animals perform their dance routine — making it an unforgettable experience. In the Flores sea, cross your fingers that you will be lucky enough to spot the Dwarf spinner dolphins and their massive pods.

Tursiops truncatusBottlenose Dolphins

One of the most common dolphins but still truly magical. This particular species has a short, stubby beak and is the type we usually think of when we imagine dolphins. You can watch them in the Komodo national park swimming in pods of up to 25, each with its own highly complex hierarchy and social system. This is due to their outstanding communication — an orchestra of chirps, whistles, and clicks. Spot these dolphins close to Tatawa Besar.

Though they lack a sense of smell, these dolphins make up for it in other ways. Did you know that they have a 360-degree field of vision? They also have an excellent sense of hearing and each dolphin has its own signature whistle, a particularly useful trick when trying to find their pod when lost.

Mobula birostrisManta Rays

When visiting the Komodo national park, you will want to visit these particularly famous dive spots on the coasts of Komodo Island: Manta Point and Manta Alley. It is located on the east side of the island and harbors a copious amount of the ocean’s very own flying carpet, the Manta Ray.

Watch them as they glide through the Flores sea with grace and they are curious enough creatures to approach you as you dive. Their lack of barbs makes them harmless to humans so you don’t need to worry about them touching you. They are smart creatures with enormous brains compared to their size and are particularly sociable — Manta rays love to be cleaned by their fellow smaller fish and often return to cleaning stations for their touch-ups.

Physeter macrocephalusSperm Whales

Up to 20m long and as heavy as 4 fire engines, the majestic Sperm Whale is a sight to behold in the Flores waters. Its huge brain and specialized sonar make it an incredibly noisy creature, sounds reaching up to 250 decibels! So be careful of your ears when swimming up close to them.

However, only raising up to the surface for 15 to 20 minutes at a time before diving back, you may find it difficult to spot them. Don’t be too defeated though — cruisers have and continue to see these huge creatures swim not too far from their yachts. Keep an eye out for groups of mothers with their calves, taking turns babysitting before diving back in the depths for food.

Balaenoptera musculusBlue Whales

The true gentle giant — the blue whale is the largest mammal on Earth and has been spotted at the northern tip of the Komodo island. As they do their yearly migration between the polar waters, you may get to experience the grandest animal while they hunt for krill in the ocean.

These whales can hold up to 1000 kg of tiny crustaceans at a time but do not worry, they are not interested in divers and will just swim on by as you snorkel through the waters.

Dugong DugonDugong

Commonly known as the “sea cows”, Dugongs graze peacefully along the grass in the shallow parts of the Flores sea. When you are searching for these odd creatures, check for large patches of seagrass as they can eat up to 30kg of it in a day! They leave trails of sand behind them due to their upper lip being powerful enough to uproot the grass.

Many years ago, Dugongs were mistaken for mermaids. Sailors would therefore nickname these animals sirens or mermaids when they would come up for air.

What is even more surprising, is that these marine mammals are related to elephants!

Carcharhinus melanopterusBlacktip Reef Sharks

Now I know what you’re thinking — you are either really scared or incredibly excited by the idea of being up close to sharks. Well, do not worry! Reef sharks are notably known for being a non-aggressive species unless provoked and just calmly mind their own business in the depths. Visit them as they chill close to the sides of Gili Lawa Laut, a smaller island on the coast of Komodo Island.

These particular types, the Blacktip Reef sharks, are commonly seen towards coral-abundant dive sites and you may experience an up-close and personal dive with these incredible creatures. Due to their fidelity to certain areas, divemasters and experts could even potentially point out dive spots where you could see them!

Triaenodon obesusWhitetip Reef Sharks

As opposed to their many shark counterparts, this big fish is often spotted in caves or lying on the sea bed. With their unique gills that don’t make them rely on ram ventilation, these whitetip reef sharks can spend all of their time resting. They do not swim quite far and even develop homes in shelters, which they tend to revisit once in a while. They move in large groups and are nocturnal.

You are more likely to spot these sharks lazying around the seafloor, piled up like logs, than doing any serious hunting nearby. Check these sharks out at Batu Bolong, a dive site close to Tatawa island.

Chiloscyllium punctatumBrown Banded Reef Sharks

Also nicknamed a bamboo shark, these smaller and whiskered creatures are naturally docile and sedentary by nature. While only 1m long on average, the lesser shark fans may like their “cuter” appearance and will find this to be an easier encounter than their fellow, bigger friends.

Being on the smaller side lets them hunt in shallow tide pools, and if they get unlucky during low tide, they can even survive out of the water for up to 12 hours! How strange is that?

Ginglymostoma cirratumNurse Sharks

These are some seriously lazy fishes — the Nurse sharks are known as being the couch potatoes of the marine world as they spend much of their time lying on the ocean floor like the Whitetip Reef Shark.

Nurse sharks have an incredibly distinct ‘face’, with two barbels that they drag across the sand in search of their prey. For those new divers who are fearing these wonderful creatures, do not fret. These particular sharks are nocturnal and are perfect “big” beginner sharks to encounter in the Flores sea.

Rhincodon typusWhale Sharks

Whale sharks are a sight to behold! As the biggest fish in the ocean, you will not be disappointed to see these huge 10-ton beasts blissfully gliding in the deep.

With 4 foot mouths that only filter through fish eggs, watch as these incredibly slow movers swim at a little less than 3 miles per hour — perfect for those who just want to relax and watch these magnificent creatures as they pass through the dive site.

Sometimes noted as the pinnacle of the underwater experience, the Flores sea can offer you the possibility of a lifetime.

Mola MolaOcean Sunfish / Moonfish

The BBC once called this fish “really elegant, despite the fact it looks like a dinner plate with two fins on either side” and no description could describe this Mola Mola more.

Gaining up to 1kg a day, this fish is incredibly bizarre but so impressive to dive next to. Watch as it curiously sunbathes on the surface of the water, the behaviour that gave it the name in the first place. Or — If you are diving deep enough in the Komodo waters in August — you will be blessed by the gliding view of this exotic beast.

VariousTropical Fish

Ok, so apart from all these huge fish, is there anything out there that can appeal more to those who want to just enjoy being on the seafloor with all the smaller underwater creatures?

The Komodo National Park and Flores sea also have an abundance of smaller tropical fish to be in awe of. Swim in a bank of barracudas (Esox sphyraena) or watch Finding Nemo take place in real-time with hidden clownfish (Amphiprioninae) — there are so many types of colourful species to watch as they go about their daily lives in the undersea world. Diving close to the Yellow Wall of Rinca Island is a good spot to watch all these fish.

For the marine enthusiasts out there, you will love to watch how each member of this entire ecosystem contributes to bigger pictures. From the smallest angelfish (Pterophyllum) to the biggest blue whale, every living being has a role in making the ocean the way it is. This is why it’s so essential in protecting every species and taking care of our oceans.

Hippocampus satomiaePygmy Seahorses

A fan of macro underwater photography? Look no further. Pygmy seahorses are among the smallest types of seahorses in the world and are none less gorgeous. They are especially abundant at the Secret Island dive spot near Padar Island.

Keep a close eye on bright corals as these 2cm creatures are often masters of camouflage. These techniques are critical to their survival and are how they hide from predators. Did you know that these seahorses are more like chameleons, changing colours depending on the sea fan they choose to hide in?

Once you find these beautiful creatures you will not even notice the huge shark swimming above your head!

NudibranchiaNudibranch

What is so interesting about a sea slug? Many things actually. With over 3000 types of Nudibranchs, these little underwater worms are colourful and unique. Want a pink slug with a porcupine back or a graceful white one with a poncho-like covering? Well — think of anything and there is probably a Nudibranch out there that will fit your imagination.

You’re probably thinking that these little sea creatures are probably as tasty as they are beautiful but we would advise against eating them. Their main way of defending themselves if through sending out toxins that make them un-eadable. We can still enjoy watching them from afar, though.

VariousSea Corals

There are over 250 species of hard and soft corals to find in the depths of the Flores sea. Due to heightened conservation efforts, the Komodo National Park has been well preserved over the years. As a protected area it has maintained a truly beautiful seafloor, with Fire corals (Millepora) and Gorgonian Sea Whips (Alcyonacea) you can watch dance peacefully with the flowing water current.

The coral reefs of the Komodo National Park certainly make it one of the best diving spots. For those who don’t wish to do their PADI certification, the Flores Sea is truly wonderful for free divers and snorkelers alike. We personally suggest you visit the coral reefs of Sebayur Island!

How can I go diving with these incredible sea creatures?

diving flores sea

There are over 250 species of hard and soft corals to find in the depths of the Flores sea. Due to heightened conservation efforts, the Komodo National Park has been well preserved over the years. As a protected area it has maintained a truly beautiful seafloor, with Fire corals (Millepora) and Gorgonian Sea Whips (Alcyonacea) you can watch dance peacefully with the flowing water current.

The coral reefs of the Komodo National Park certainly make it one of the best diving spots. For those who don’t wish to do their PADI certification, the Flores Sea is truly wonderful for free divers and snorkelers alike. We personally suggest you visit the coral reefs of Sebayur Island!

seafloor flores sea komodo national park
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4 Comments
  1. Hélène Van Schoote 2021-07-30 at 2:40 AM Reply

    Very interesting article! Learned a lot from it.
    I can’t wait for my next trip to Flores, and hopefully have more luck seeing the spinner dolphins at the Komodo national park!
    I definitely recommend for others to visit the real Kong island !

    xx Hélène

  2. What a great read! Really enjoyed this 🙂 This author truly knows what she’s talking about and I’m excited to see what else you guys have to offer! When’s part 2 ??

  3. Bonjour,
    I have read your article with a lot of attention… we thank you for it.
    I was wandering :
    Does the pygmy seahorses change color with the coral they live with are they different speces of pygmy ?

  4. Bonjour,
    I have read your article with a lot of attention… we thank you for it.
    I was wandering :
    Does the pygmy seahorses change color with the coral they live with are they different speces of pygmy ?

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