I wake up on New Year’s Day in a foul mood. “Please explain to me why Andrew and Leslie - who live on a boat - want to pay perfectly good money to get off of the boat they live on and move onto another boat to go on a ‘liveaboard’ trip. It makes no sense.”
Sonrisa sighs. “We’ve been over this, Grin. It makes perfect sense, you are just sore because you want to go scuba diving.”
“Awwwoohh, don’t remind me! They are going scuba diving without me!” I know I’m pouting and Saltie (my girlfriend) says I’m less attractive when I pout, but I can’t help it. Saltie isn’t around to see right now, anyway. “I still don’t think it makes sense.” I mutter.
“Tatawa and her Captain Bouch know the currents better than we do. Everyone will be safer with knowledgable dive guides a skiff with two motors - what happens if Kitty has a problem? - and a giant live aboard boat, also with two motors. If they want to really dive the South Komodo area, the live aboard is the best choice.”
Sonrisa explains, but I know she is trying to convince herself of the wisdom as much as me. They have never left her alone in the water on this trip, and despite her protests, I can tell she feels a little uneasy. The mooring field is nice, though. Everyone looks out for everyone else; they even rescued Kitty and me the other day when someone….(Andrew) forgot to tie me up and I drifted away.
The morning of January 2nd, Tatawa untied from our shared mooring and the whole Sonrisa crew + one additional fuzzy visitor (more on that in future posts) waved goodbye.
Now, given that I was not invited to go with them on the live-a-board, I can hardly tell you what happened, but should l trust Leslie to write her own (not boring) blog post? No. She said something today about writing an expose on diesel fuel procurement. So, I went through their pictures, and it seems like they had a good time.
They did two dives the first day - Siaba Basar and Pink Beach. Here, the trinket salesmen were back, and when Leslie emerged from changing into dry clothes, she found Andrew holding a giant Komodo dragon. “Should we get it? 1,200,000 Rupia (about $105US)” Andrew asks. Whenever this happens, the trinket salesmen break out into smiles. They know they can break Leslie down. She’s the easy target if Andrew wants a dragon, right?
“Mmm, no. Where would we put it.” At this, the trinket salesmen frown. They can’t understand her English exactly, but they know the tone of her voice is “no”. They look around in a panic for something to sweeten the pot.
They reach out with armloads of pearls. “300,000 Rupia.” They tell her, for one strand. Andrew holds up the dragon and says “1 million.” And the trinket salesman shakes his head no. Stretches out the pearls to Leslie: “300,000 Rupia, and Dragon for 1,000,000 Rupia.”
Leslie scowls and shakes her head: “no, no.” She takes the purple set of pearls and drapes them around the neck of the dragon, then, pointing to both pearls and dragon says: “750,000 Rupia for both.” Trinket salesmen say no, and return upward to their 1.3Million offer. Leslie says, “Mmmm…tidak, terima kasieh” She takes the dragon from Andrew’s hands (pearls and all) then hands it back to the salesmen in the boat.
The trinket salesmen respond with pure looks of shock. What just happened here? A wave of new offers are placed upon the table. Three sets of pearls, a smaller dragon. Layers of boat guys are placing more bowls and such on Tatawa’s rails. The frenzy isn’t quite what it was when we were there - Sonrisa and I - as they have at least 8 potential customers on the live aboard boat to target, but they could still smell how close they were to a sale of the big dragon to Andrew.
Big dragon man offers the dragon alone for 900,000 Rupia. Leslie tells him no again as he tries to shove the dragon back into Andrew’s hands. “No, dragon and the pearls, 750,000Rupia.”
“950,000” says the man.
“850,000” Leslie responds.
The man shakes his head, looking disappointed and says, “okay.”
“Okay!” Leslie responds, tells Andrew to hand over the money.
No one can tell if anyone is happy about any of this, but Leslie and Andrew now own a rather large dragon wearing a purple pearl necklace for the cost of approximately $75US. Her name is Louise, and she enjoys long walks on a beach, nice views, large meals, and a Bintang.
This makes up for the last string of pearls Leslie negotiated:
1st offer from salesman: 200,000 rupia.
Counteroffer from Leslie: one million rupia!
Insert confused look from salesman.
Andrew: “What? NO!”
Leslie: “Wait, what was the original offer?”
From here, Tatawa upped anchor and moved to an anchorage with a beautiful sunset and giant flying foxes.
The second day, they motored to South Komodo Island and for two dives that were supposed to have mantas. The currents were ripping, and this proved challenging for the group. Mantas were nowhere to be seen and once the Open Water team got blown away and had to be towed back to safety by the dive guides, Tatawa decided to up anchor again and move to Sonrisa’s favorite anchorage: South Rinca. Even in the malai, though, they got to see a nudibranch who looked like a Mexican Lucadores.
And a rare White-Eyed Eel.
In South Rinca, they dove Cannibal Rock which is the dive I took Leslie and Andrew on when we were visiting the dragons. Then, they did a night dive near the shore where Leslie found a bright purple sea pen, an octopus, a boxer crab, and a myriad of very colorful and interesting anemones that aren’t out during the day. Coffee enjoyed her first night dive, ever, and now I thin she likes diving at night better than diving during the day!
The third day, they did another four dives. Cannibal Rock again and the Yellow Wall in South Rinca, then they picked up anchor and moved to Padar Island (the place with the beaches of three colors) where they dove a dive called Pinnacles. After their surface interval, they hiked up the Padar hills (at a relaxed pace and not very high altitude, of course) to show Coffee and Brian this most unusually beautiful spot. Oddly enough, the hills have become lush and green with grass since we were last there a little over a week ago! (Rainy season has begun.)
Then, they did another epic night dive where they saw a bunch of sea creatures Andrew and Leslie have never seen before: a spotted reef shark, a bamboo shark, an ocotpus hunting, a shrimp trying to sneak up on a lion fish, disco urchins with spotty crabs, sleeping nudibranchs, beautifully patterned sea worms, the whole works.
Andrew has a hard time keeping track of Leslie because she is easily enthralled watching coral, which usually looks like an inanimate plant, transform into an active sea creature reaching its fronds out, grabbing its food from the sea, and then curling inward to bring the food into its “mouth”.
But, then Andrew finds a decorator crab. This is a crab that takes little sea urchins and other sea life and attaches it to his shell for camouflage. Andrew has been waiting since he was a little boy to see a decorator crab.
The next morning — you guessed it — more diving. The first dive was on Padar Island’s, the Three Sisters, and once again involved the Open Water Divers being fetched like helium filled balloons going on a walk about. If you want to dive Komodo, be prepared to manage strong currents and choose a knowledgable dive company with good guides to help.
It’s the last day, and Coffee still hadn’t gotten to see any mantas. So, Tatawa and her crew decide to head back toward Central Komodo to dive Mawan. There, luck provided many, many mantas (also known to Brian as the “Flying King Sized Mattresses”). After that dive, everyone was afraid the last of the trip (Siaba Kuciel) would be a let down, but it provided sharks, a bump-head parrot fish, barracudas, and a number of friendly turtles who were not very shy.
It was a great live-a-board trip, and Captain Andrew had a great time relinquishing responsibility - of boat, gear, people, scuba safety, planning and food. The Captain had a nice vacation.
To be continued...with the whole crew, and Louise....but not the random guy we met from Las Vegas. What are the chances?