Komodo is famous for a lot of things—most notably it’s giant carnivorous lizards—which rule the uninhabited islands. As tourism started to grow in Indonesia people quickly learned that the Komodo Dragons were not the only thing unique to the area—and that it in fact had some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world. Diving and snorkeling became even more popular than the large terrestrial reptiles and now people are coming from all over the world to witness Komodo’ underwater splendor. After spending years diving and snorkeling Komodo, we’ve put together a quick list of what we believe to be Komodo’s best snorkeling sites. 

#5 Turtle CityTwo green sea turtles with black background

As you may have guessed, the site known as Turtle City is riddled with sea-turtles. The shallow protected hard coral reef has become a natural sanctuary for the large green sea-turtles and as snorkelers we can casually float above them as they go about their naps and enjoy the many cleaning stations where small cleaner fish peck off any parasites and algae from their shells. 

#4 Batu Bolongcolorful reef and reef fish

Batu Bolong is a small rock island in the middle of Komodo National Park where all sort of marine life congregate. It hosts one of the most immaculate and diverse reefs in the park and come just a few centimeters from the surface. Living within the reef is a massive colony of orange anthias who explode from the reef in a brilliant flurry. Larger marine life like tunas, giant trevallies, and the occasional pod of dolphin are all things that can be seen on this magical site. 

#3 Tatawa Besar

If you like drifting over reef and just watching everything go by—you’ll love Tatawa Besar. This elongated island is the perfect drift for snorkelers as it’s fringed by another bustling shallow reef home to all sorts of fish like sweet lips, crocodile fish and cuttle fish while mantas and eagle rays are not uncommon encounters either. 

#2 Manta Pointmany mantas feeding on the surface

Manta point is probably one of the most famous sites in Komodo thanks to it’s resident fleet of mantas who use the dozens of cleaning stations on a daily basis. In the mornings when the water is flat, and with a decent current, (don’t worry you just drift with it) the mantas come to the surface to feed on the plankton which is trapped in the shallow water all around the drifting snorkelers. 

#1 China Shophard coral reef with manta swimming through blue water

China shop is sort of a hidden secret, but in our opinion one of the best spots for snorkelers. The shallow reef is in pristine conditions and extends for hundreds of meters in either direction, and it can offer everything Komodo is famous for in one snorkel session. Mantas frequently feed in the channel at the edge of the site while many turtles live in it’s outstanding reef along with any other reef creature you could wish for. Oh, it also happens to be the same site where one lucky diver had one of the most unusual underwater encounters in recent history when a mega-mouth shark swam right over their head a few years back! 

 

VIDEO: See how amazing these sites are in this short video.

You defiantly don’t have to be scuba diving to take photos underwater. In fact, a lot of the most widely used photography techniques take place in very shallow water where a mask and snorkel are the preferred respiratory gear by most professional underwater photographers. Check out this list of the five most widely used photo techniques that are probably easier than you thought. 

 1. Wide Angle

Pristine coral reef in Alor

When we’re snorkeling we should be thinking about ‘big picture’ sort of photos; reefscapes and larger marine life should be our main priority. You may want to capture the beautiful reef fish below, but the reality is that by the time you have managed to duck dive down to where they are, there is a very good chance they have gone into hiding. So, the best thing to do, include them in the overall shot. As snorkelers, we have a similar perspective as someone in an airplane looking down, and if you’ve ever tried to take a photo of a deer from an airplane—if you can spot one—it just doesn’t turn out very well. The larger landscape photos always turn out the best, which is why we typically use a wide angle lens for snorkeling photography. 

 2. Natural Light

snorkeler swimming and filming mola mola on the surface

As snorkelers, we have the benefit of being able to ditch cumbersome external flashes as we can harness the power of the sun to be our source of light. Divers need to use external flashes because the light from the sun drops off significantly as we go deeper, but lucky for us, all of our subjects are bathed in beautiful sunlight. That being said, we still need to use the custom white balance on our camera. We do this by calibrating it on our hand or a white slate at the depth of our subject and creating a sort of digital red filter which will bring out the beautiful colors of the reef. Or we can use the Fish Mode preset white balance that most cameras come with, this will do the very same thing. At least for me, the biggest benefit of using the sun as our light source in combination with a custom white balance, we can be much further away from our subjects and still get great colors. 

3. Reflections

Reef reflection in Komodo National Park

Taking advantage water’s natural reflective quality is a brilliant way to spice up any photo, even if you’re just taking a quick photo of your buddy. The best reflections will be found in still water with your subject being either on the surface or just below it, a meter at most. To capture the reflection, just make sure your camera has a slight upward angle. Easy as that!

4. Downward AnglesSnorkeler taking photos of coral reef in Alor

With the exception of reflections and anytime your subject is on the surface with you, most of your photos will be from an ‘aerial’ perspective. That being said, it’s always a good idea to keep horizon lines in your photo, and keep them straight. Physiologically we are programmed to look for horizon lines wherever we go as a point of reference, and when we can’t find one, in in photography,  it creates a feeling of unease. 

5. Half-Halfs

split shot of hard coral reef and raja ampat islands

Photos where half of the frame is above the water with the other half underwater is the easiest way to wow the viewer, and come show off your photography skills. While these are by no means difficult photos to take, we do need to have a couple things in mind. First, a larger dome port is best as this creates a larger surface area for us to balance the two worlds. Second, very shallow water—several centimeters to a meter—works best. Third, take a life jacket with you. This isn’t for personal flotation, but to help you balance yourself and camera. You’ll find pretty quick that when you lift your camera up to get that split shot your whole body will submerge making things very difficult. This is when resting on a life jacket comes in handy. And finally, to keep those pesky drops of water off your port, a little spit smeared around the glass or acrylic lens will do wonders!

A lot of people wonder what type of wetsuit they need for a snorkeling trip, if any at all. My recommendation would be yes, no matter where you go snorkeling and how warm the water, purely for protection from the sun. But that’s just me being hyper-aware of anything that involves being in the sun, as I happen to be ‘blessed’ with a skin type that turns a really awesome shade of reddish pink after several minute of sun, then right back to that shade of white that can only be described as pale after the peeling process is over. So yes, this blog is going to be all about what type of wetsuit you need for several different locations. 

 

Skin Suits and Rash Guard

snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef

  • Best for warmer waters of if you just naturally run hot. 

These types of exposure suits are great for warmer waters as they really just protect you from the sun and the little stingers in the water, without letting you get too warm. The skin suits are great options as they are basically just a thin lycra material that will either be full body design or a long sleeve t-shirt you can wear with your swimming shorts. If you want to do a bit of freediving, this option is great as you won’t need to pack along any extra weights to help you dive down since the lycra suit is neutrally buoyant. 

1 mm Wetsuits

Snorkeler diving down to photograph marine life

  • Good for warmer waters or if you have a tenancy to get a bit chilly.

The 1mm option will give you a bit of added protection if you happen to get a bit cold even in warmer waters, or if you plan to do a long snorkel session. If you intend to do0 some freediving I would recommend taking a smaller weight with you as the added neoprene will keep you more buoyant. 

3-5mm Wetsuits

Happy couple snorkeling a reef in Komodo

  • Best for colder waters or for people that really get cold no matter how warm the water. 

A 3mm wetsuit is a great in-between option if you’re planning a trip to a place like Komodo or Alor where temperatures changes can be quite dramatic. Whereas the 5mm option will keep you warm—quite possibly too warm—depending on the water temperatures. If you’re planning to do a lot of snorkeling in cold water—say 18 degrees Celcius or 64 degrees Fahrenheit—this is not a bad choice. However, if you plan a bit of duck-diving or freedving you’ll need to pack along some extra lead as this amount of neoprene can be very buoyant. 

Just because you’re next snorkel trip is planned for the tropics doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be paddling about in bathwater. For example, in places like Komodo, Alor, Bali, and Tonga I know that you may do one dive in water that is eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit only to jump in on the next snorkel site to find that it’s sixty-four! So, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research before hand into what the water temperature is like in the area you’ll be snorkeling and then dress yourself accordingly. 

Indonesia is a huge archipelago made up of over 17, 000 islands and sits in the heart of the Coral Triangle with some of the healthiest and richest reef systems found anywhere on the planet, not to mention the world’s most biodiverse! One reef in Raja Ampat for example, could contain more species of reef fish than the entire Caribbean Ocean. 

Picking the right time to visit Indonesia plays an important part – it is one of the largest countries in the world by accrued land mass – and with that, the weather can vary greatly depending on where you plan to visit.

In general, Indonesia can be visited at most times throughout the year. The countries position close to the equator means that the climate is always warm and humid, with daily temperatures sitting on an average of  26 – 28 degrees C (79-82F).

Indonesia has a clearly defined wet and dry season, and it varies depending on where you want to go. Here’s a break down of some of the countries top snorkeling destinations with respect to each areas seasons. 

Bali and Komodo

Wet Season: December-March

Dry Season: April-November

We recommend planning a snorkel trip to either of these areas for August-September as this is the most predictable time of year for weather and marine life. Even though it’s the so called dry season in Bali, a quick afternoon shower is not out of the question. Komodo however, will go months without a drop of rain in the dry season. 

With all of this in mind, Bali and Komodo are still great year round, it just becomes a bit less predictable where weather and visibility are concerned. Marine life-including mantas-are prolific in the area and can still be seen year round with relative certainty. 

Raja Ampat 

aerial view of raja ampat

Wet Season: June-October

Dry Season: November-May

Raja Ampat is a very tropical location, more so than Bali even, and despite it being the dry season it is not uncommon for it to rain in the afternoons for an hour or so.  The wet season here can be quite wet with rain and tropical storms coming though with quite a bit of force so it’s really best to plan a trip here for the dry season.

Bunaken

Wet Season: December-March

Dry Season: April-November

Bunaken enjoys a much more mild climate with less extremes in weather patterns and can really be snorkeled year round. However, if you do plan a trip to Bunaken in the wet season, the visibility can be anywhere from 10-15 meters in the worst case, which isn’t much a problem as the reef are only a meter deep!