Due to a storm and strong winds that hit the Banda Sea, we missed out on some really attractive locations in the region, however, on the 12th day of our trip, the engines of the PINDITO diving boat stopped in a very unusual place. Just after I had made my morning coffee, I went out on the deck and was speechless. In front of us, in the middle of the sea, rose a mountain from the top of which smoke was billowing - it was the Komba volcano! We have been to many exotic and special dive sites around the world, but never to one which is under an active volcano.
We chose the Western Wall for our first dive. We were surprised by the transparency of the water, visibility was about 50 meters. The temperature was also almost 30°C. At first glance, it was a wall like any other. From a depth of 15 meters, it plunged steeply into the deep blue. After taking a closer look, we realized that the sand was not the usual, whitish color, but on the contrary. It was gray, and in some places even black. The current was reasonably strong, so we hid behind larger parts of the reef to take a closer look at the wall. There was an abundance of soft and hard corals, as well as large congeries. There were schools of reef fish and some very shy silver sharks. There was great visibility, warm water and a variety of underwater inhabitants. It's an understatement to say that we were eagerly awaiting the second dive there.
On the other side of the island, slightly exposed to the wind, there was a small stone beach located between the cliffs. While we were sailing nearby, we were hit by the characteristic smell of the volcano which fortunately passed quickly. Here, the visibility was significantly lower due to the wind and waves, but also due to underwater activity. Bubble Reef got its interesting name thanks to the bubbles that rise to the surface. Obviously, in that zone, there are flows of lava and volcanic gases. Some of them manage to break through the dark gray/almost black/in some places yellow sea bed, creating chains of bubbles that go to the surface.
When you stick your hands into the sandy sea bed, you immediately notice that it is extremely warm. Of course, I couldn't resist. I had to put my hands in the sand. It caused my Mares Magnetic Shaker to fall out of my pocket and hit the bottom. It was attached to my BCD, but later I noticed strange marks on it. More precisely, metal shavings were attached to the magnet, which apparently exists there due to volcanic activity. At a depth of about 20 meters, even more bubbles rise, and the sea bed itself becomes dotted with yellow. At first glance, the quantity of sea life seems quite poor, but just at first glance. There were significantly fewer corals than on the other side, but we managed to see a sea turtle, a napoleon and many schools of fish. Due to reduced visibility, it was unfortunately not possible to record them.
Before leaving, we toured the island by boat, so we had the unique opportunity to see an active crater and a slope with solidified lava. This is definitely a relatively small volcano (the highest peak is 748 meters), but it leaves a very strong impression on its observers, even if its activity is significantly reduced. The first recorded eruption was back in 1852. A series of minor eruptions were observed in 2015. The activity of this volcano is under constant surveillance by the Indonesian Volcanological Survey (PVMBG) which assesses any possible risks.
Following our dives, PINDITO set off to Leba Leba Bay, with Komba Volcano becoming a dark silhouette on the horizon behind us, disappearing into the night sky.
For more details about PINDITO, see here.
Text and photos by Janez Kranjc