One of our most popular snorkel trip routes is the Alor and Komodo trip in Indonesia.

Following on from the previous post, about the first part of the tour in Alor, this post will deal with the second part of the tour in Komodo.

Komodo Resort Island

After a superb week in Alor, we travel by plane via Kupang to Labuan Bajo, a small town on the western tip on Flores, a large island further west, and the jumping off point to the famous Komodo National Park. Here we will be met by our drivers and taken via the main resort office to the port where we embark on a 1h30min private boat trip to the island of Seyabur, and location of our next stop.

Arriving mid afternoon, we will settle into our amazing beachfront bungalows. These gorgeous bungalows have four-poster beds, mosquito nets, desks and bar fridges. (Soft drinks and snacks in the fridge are free of charge for in-room consumption). The ensuite bathrooms come complete with towels, shampoo and body wash. Each bungalow has a private balcony with bean bag and chairs, as well as a little deck with deck chairs and umbrellas for relaxing and sunbathing by the waters edge. Each bungalow also has extra towels for guests to take and use on the boats during the day.

Here we enjoy our meals in the dining area, where the menu includes Indonesian, Italian and other western style choices, and is served al la carte. Drinks can be enjoyed at the beach bar watching spectacular sunsets.

Komodo Resort Food

The long jetty runs over the stunning house reef. Here the corals are pristine and alive with schooling fish in huge numbers, passing eagle rays, moray eels and critters, and can be snorkeled at any time with surface boat support.

Our time here will be spent exploring some of the reefs that make Komodo one of the most well known marine parks in the world. Famed for it’s biodiversity, this area more than lives up to it’s reputation as home to the most species of coral and fish in the world.

Happy couple snorkeling a reef in Komodo

We will have private use of a large wooden double story boat. The roof deck has a sun shade and several bean bags for relaxing on, while the bottom bed has benches for sitting on and preparing for water entry from the back lowered deck. A large sturdy ladder makes for easy re-entry onto the boat. The boats have tea, coffee and drinking water and a small marine toilet. Boats are equipped with flotation devices as well as long ropes to help tired snorkelers back to the boat. Our expert snorkel guides are always available to help or just point out fantastic marine life, and the experienced captain and boat crew help to make our time on the boat comfortable and enjoyable.

manta rays feeding on the surface

When not snorkeling we will visit Rinca island, one of the last few islands in the world where Komodo dragons can be seen in the wild. Other species living here include deer, monkeys, buffalo and more and our walk is guided by a park ranger who can tell us lots of information about the island and wildlife living there,  Another day-trip takes us to Pandar Island, known for its stunning beaches and magnificent hill-top view point. Here, weather permitting we have a BBQ on the beach between hiking and snorkeling sessions.

Large school of fish in Komodo

The water temperature in this area is generally a little warmer than Alor, mostly around the 84F mark and above. Here we often snorkel in rash vests and leggings (for sun protection) but some people prefer wet suits as after several days of snorkeling we sometimes feel a little colder than expected.

The final morning of the tour involves a very early start, with a light breakfast on board the boat as we head back to Labuan Bajo to catch a 9.30 flight to Bali where the tour comes to an end.

So I have decided to give you a small overview of the trip, what you can expect, what a day in the life of the tour looks like… This post deals with the first part of the tour, in Alor. You can read about the second part of the tour in Komodo here.

The tour start with a night in Bali to allow everyone some time to arrive from international flights, freshen up and get a good nights rest.

Uluwatu temple and ocean cliff

The following morning, the group of 12 plus the guide travels together to Alor. This involves a short flight to Kupang, and after a wait, another short flight to Alor. This is a small island in the eastern part of Indonesia, where we are met by waiting cars and embark on an hours journey to the magnificent resort nestled into the tree-lined rocky shore. Here we settle in, enjoy lunch and a resort and snorkel briefing before getting our feet wet. the water temperature ranges from 74 – 84F, although closer to the resort it’s usually closer to 84F.

This resort has a beautiful house reef, accessible from the wooden jetty, which stretches a good distance along the shore. Here we can see stunning corals ranging from the surface down to 18m along a slope. Alive with tropical fish, baby reef sharks, eels, Mandarin fish, nudibranchs and more, this is a magnificent place to spend some time exploring.

Diamond spadefish below jetty in Alor

The resort’s three speed boats and excellent staff members will provide transport and surface support for the following days outings to snorkel sites further from the resort. We will fill our days here exploring some of the healthiest and most colorful reefs in the world. The boats have experienced captains, and are equipped with water, snacks, towels and flotation devices.

While snorkeling around this part of Indonesia we recommend wearing 3mm wetsuits, and possibly bringing a vest along too as water temperatures sometimes drop a little in the Southern sites. Full foot fins are perfect as we will be doing boat entries so no need to have booties necessarily. The resort has a camera set up room, complete

Alami Alor Resort

A couple of afternoons will be spent on land exploring some of the sites and learning about the local culture of the area.

We will spend 7 nights in our luxurious sea front bungalows, each with an open air ensuite bathroom, complete with towels shampoo and body wash and mosquito repellent. The bungalows have spacious bedrooms with closets, bedside tables, desk with access to plug points, wash baskets (where one can leave dirty clothes for the free laundry service), drinking water, as well as large private outdoor decks. Here we can enjoy private sun lounges, and magnificent sunsets.

Snorkeler floating over reef in Komodo National Park

While here our meals will be taken in the lounge/dinning area, where we will all sit at a long table and enjoy a variety of dishes prepared with fresh local ingredients, mostly showcasing the best of traditional Indonesian cuisine.  Breakfasts are made to order, lunches and dinners are served family style and completed with freshly baked treats for dessert.

Alami Alor Resort Bungalows

It’s a common misconception that you don’t see as much when you snorkel when compared to scuba diving. This idea is generally put forward by divers who have spent little to no time snorkeling, or maybe have just been snorkeling in the wrong areas. Yes, it’s true there are certain species that prefer the deeper portion of the reef, however, you can also argue that there are certain creatures who are typically more present in the dappled light of the shallows. Living in Asia and working as an underwater photographer I’ve spent my fair share of time in both the deep and shallow, and I can say without a doubt, the shallows rock.

snorkeler swimming through overhang in reef

In Bali, Komodo and Raja Ampat, fleets of mantas feed directly on the surface while other species like turtles regularly emerge from their reef buffet for a breath of fresh air. Then, of course, there are the surprise visitors you often find wandering around the shallows like whale sharks, dolphins, and in one very exciting snorkel session—a giant sunfish. While these pelagic experience will no doubt get your blood pumping and leave you with some lasting memories, one of most amazing experiences you will continuously have is just drifting over the vast fields of immaculate shallow coral reefs.

Bunaken

There is no better place to enjoy pristine reefs than in Indonesia. With over seventeen thousand islands in the heart of the coral triangle, the snorkeling possibilities seem endless. To help narrow things down though, I’de just like to take this time to focus on a few regions within Indonesia where the snorkeling is truly epic, starting with Bunaken National Park in northern Sulawesi. This marine park is home to some excellence snorkeling, and a lot of it is accessible by just walking out from your resort. The underwater topography is characterized by fringing shallow coral reef plateaus which begin as shallow as a meter and gradually drops to about five meters, before abruptly turning into a vertical wall. The reefs in Bunaken are covered in an array of hard corals and sponges with no shortage of green sea-turtles, thanks to the turtle conservation projects from resorts like Siladen.

One of my favorite things to do while snorkeling in Bunaken is to let myself drift over the fields of coral until I reach the point where the reef just plunges into the blue abyss, and then just let myself float over the several hundred meters of blue nothingness. My fear of heights and sound logic have never allowed me to go hang-gliding, but I imagine that feeling of running down a grassy slope and off a vertical cliff into nothing is the probably most relatable experience you could have on land, only a billion times scarier. I’ll stick to the reefs thank you very much.

Komodo

You have no doubt heard about Komodo, if not for its world-class diving than for its infamous giant lizards. Komodo also has some absolutely amazing snorkeling with a huge variety of styles. Peaceful drifts over immaculate reefs, placid mangroves, vast seagrass beds, and bays where mantas are known to feed in large numbers. One of my favorite sites for a really amazing snorkel experience, which could easily last hours should you choose, is in the north of Komodo and goes by a couple names. It’s most commonly known as Shotgun or the Cauldron thanks to the current that propels you through a narrow channel between two small islands and essentially shoots you out onto the other side. After the exhilarating drift over the giant trevallies, snappers, and white-tip reef sharks who hang in the current and you cruise pass, you’ll find the that current suddenly slacks off and you are left floating over arguably one of Komodo’s most pristine reef. Coral bommies brimming with hard and soft coral nearly reach the surface while schools of reef fish, cuttlefish, and turtles indulge in the life-giving forces the reef provides.

lion fish with sun behind

You can literally see anything at Shotgun. In my own experiences snorkeling here, I’ve encountered large schools of a hundred or more mobula rays and the less common cow-nose ray, and even glimpsed a dugong from the surface, not to mention the frequent manta encounters. A couple of years ago you may have seen a viral video of a diver who had managed to film the super rare megamouth shark, that video was actually filmed at Shotgun! As I said, you can literally see anything there.

Megamouths and fleets of mobula rays aside, one of the most interesting things about Shotgun or the Cauldron is the type of unusual manta behavior it encourages. From the current that pumps between the two islands and the surface counter currents created by the underwater topography, mantas have actually figured out how to use these opposing currents to their advantage. Mantas, usually juveniles, will ride the countercurrent up the reef until it changes in the stronger main current further up the channel. They will then join the main current, facing into it with their mouth wide open, siphoning up their planktonic supper while using only the smallest amounts of energy. As the main current pushes them back down the channel, they do a quick dip below the surface which then puts them back into the opposing counter current and takes them back to the top of the channel where they will repeat this cyclical feeding routine for hours. The best part is, as snorkelers, we get to sit and watch the whole process from a sheltered area with no main currents or counter currents to worry about, just peacefully bobbing along as the mantas go round and round.

hard coral reef with manta swimming through blue water

Raja Ampat

over under perspective with reef below and tropical island above

Raja Ampat is famous for a lot of reasons. Its iconic landscape is absolutely breathtaking while it tops the charts in terms of marine biodiversity. The reefs in Raja literally come to the surface, making it a magical place for snorkelers. One of the most unique types of shallow water experiences which makes Raja so special doesn’t actually take place on a reef, but around any one of the wood jetties in front of the local villages.

School of fish swirling around pier pilings

Sawanderek, a quintessential island village in the north of Raja Ampat has one of the most amazing jetties in the area. It’s wood pilings are encrusted in lush soft coral, sea fans, and even a large table coral has magically sprouted out of the vertical beams as if it was a branch on a tree. It may seem unusual to paddle beneath the wooden structure but it’s completely safe, and you’ll be amazed at the fish life that now calls the area home. Giant clams sit motionless on the bottom as large formations of sweetlips and batfish congregate close the structure’s supports. If you’re really lucky, you may even find a dense shoal of silversides and scads using the jetty for protection. If you decide the jetty is not for you, just turn around and you’ll be floating above that iconic terracing reef-scape Raja is known for.

schooling fish around soft coral colony

Everyone has a different experience in mind when they immerse themselves in the ocean. Some may love the idea of putting on thick wetsuits and decorating their BCD’s with knick-knacks they same way one would decorate a Christmas Tree. Others may find peace or freedom of the idea of amicably floating along with nothing more than a plastic tube to breath through. There is no right or wrong in choosing snorkeling over diving or vice-versa, there is just your own personal preference. Diving a bit deeper has its obvious benefits just as spending time in the shallows do. However, if it’s pristine tropical reefs beautifully illuminated by the power of the sun with a solid chance at encountering some of the ocean’s famous residents, there is no better place to spend your time than the shallow reefs of Indonesia.

We have been lucky enough to spend more than a decade exploring the reefs of South East Asia and have come to love the Philippines, for its people, top side natural beauty and beautiful reefs and marine life.

Here are a few of our best places to snorkel in the Philippines:

Cabilao:

We love to snorkel around this island. A small island in the Visays, near Bohol, Cabilao has some of the healthiest reefs in the country with an abundance of hard and soft coral gardens alive with schooling reef fish, turtles, and small critters. Cabilao itself has some wonderful seaside resorts and picturesque beaches to relax on between snorkel sessions.

Anda- Bohol

Tucked in the far quite corner of Bohol island is a beautiful bay called Anda. Here there is a long (14km) fringing reef which is home to all manner of marine creature ranging from the occasional whaleshark, to small seahorses, frog fish, eels, turtles and giant clams, to name but a few. This part of Bohol is reletively quiet and hosts fewer tourists than some other parts of the island and we think it makes a great snorkel vacation destination.

Moalboal- Cebu

Coral Reef Scene with beautiful light in pescador island

This coastal town offers amazing snorkeling opportunities. Our favorite is the chance to snorkel in a huge school of sardines. Watching these beauties move in their synchronized schoals is somethign truly special. Also a good chance to see jacks and trevally hunting the sardines. In the area there are also beautiful reefs, a good chance of seeing whitetip reef sharks and a host of tropical reef fish.

Coron- North Palawan

wwii airplane on reef

The fringing reefs are exceptionally healthy and colourful and offer the opportunity to snorkel over shallow boat and plane wrecks form WWII. Also some beaches here are spectacular. There is also a rare and beautiful lake, known as Barracuda Lake, which offers a sensory experience found almost no where else. The water in the lake is crystal clear, and whole there is little fish life int he lake, we love it because it has a thermicaline about 8m deep. Above the 8m mark the water in a cool 28C and below this it suddenly rises to over 38C. Such a wonderful thing to experience on a quick duck-dive.

At Snorkel Venture we have been exceptionally lucky to have travelled to a vast number of places across the planet. On our travels, we have snorkeled some of the world’s best destinations; anything from pristine coral reefs to extraordinary untouched reef systems forgotten from time.

As a result, we have decided to share with you our Top 5 Snorkel Spots to visit before you die:

1. Bunaken Island, Indonesia

Not everyone has heard of Bunaken, if you have stumbled across this article, then lucky you as you are in for a treat.

The Bunaken National Marine Park is submerged and made up of a collection of small islands of the northern coast of Sulawesi. The marine park was founded as recently as 1991, which means you have pristine reef systems loaded with fish, colours and virtually no other visitors.

Things to look out for – Bunaken is a magical place with thousands of fish and rainbow coloured coral forests. You can see everything from butterflyfish, parrotfish, boxfish, clownfish…. the list goes on.

2. Belize

Belize has recently emerged as one of the leading snorkeling destinations. The barrier reef system that runs off the Caribbean coastline is one of the largest in the world, unsurprisingly with that accolade comes an astonishing array of places to snorkel.

Top destination – it is hard not to mention the famous ‘Blue Hole’, but visiting the Turneffe Atoll and Glover’s reef is an absolute must which is a paradise for snorkeling.

Things to look out for – Everything from sharks, stingrays, turtles and barracudas, not forgetting a vast array of exotic fish found in every crook and cranny.

3. Jardine de la Reina, Cuba

Cuba is a destination that has reared its head in recent times, it’s known for its rich cultural delights with few people seeming to realize the wonders of the marine world that can be found in the Jardine de la Reina national park.

The waters here are blissfully warm with fantastic visibility where you can see right up to 40m.

Things to look out for: fringing corals reefs to seagrass beds which play host to a diverse range of marine life from large pelagic to small colorful reef fish and critters. The vibrant reefs are characterized by fields of soft corals and Gorgonian fans. Look out for the huge Goliath Grouper too.

4. Raja Ampat (West Papua, Indonesia)

school of batfish in coral reef

How on earth do you not name Raja Ampat in a list of top places to snorkel before you die? If you haven’t heard of it, google its name and look at the images which will have you packing your bags before you can say the word ‘snorkel’.

It’s hard to find anywhere else as good as Raja Ampat, the marine systems found around the thousands of islets are incredibly rich with the region holding the greatest concentration of marine life in the world.

Warm water temperatures, sterling visibility and the range of snorkel spots on offer add to Raja Ampat’s wonder.

Things to look out for – You will not struggle to find extraordinary marine life here, in each direction you turn something different and wonderful. Masses of schooling fish, rich coral gardens, bommies and slopes.

5. The Philippines

Green sea turtle swimming over coral reef

Some people seem surprised when we say The Philippines is up there as one of our favorite places to snorkel.

The reason why?

The wealth and range of reef sites that you can discover are exceptional. Consider the fact the Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands, many of which are uninhabited. These islands are surrounded by fringing reefs and a dizzying variety of marine life ready to encounter.

Things to look out for – It’s not only the marine life that is good, topside you have breath-taking countryside, lovely curries and white sand beaches to relax on.