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AMAZING ALOR

Scuba Dive Alor

Shy Clownfish – Jacqui Williams

Flying into Alor, I looked down in to the clear blue water of the Savu Sea and could hardly hold my excitement in. The 2016 Bali-Alor trip included a number of culturally enriching and fun activities, but being a diver, I was counting down the days till I could get underwater!  Alor is the largest island in the Alor archipelago, located in South-Eastern Indonesia and is known for its stunning reefs and ripping currents. Getting to Alor isn’t the quickest journey you’ll make but it is well worth the effort.

We landed in Alor at around 2 PM and were greeted by a magnificent local dance and traditional welcome organised by the local travel operators in Alor. A large gathering of locals made it quite clear that Alor isn’t a heavily visited area! We later found out that our group was the largest they had seen in quite some time! From here we made the 30 minute journey to the Pulo Alor Hotel, located in Alor’s largest town, Kalabahi. On the way to the hotel we learned that Alor is of volcanic origin which explained its harsh and rugged landscapes surrounding us throughout our drive.

Scuba Dive Alor

Featherstar – Jacqui Williams

The Pulo Alor Hotel is Alor’s largest and newest establishment, opening its doors to the public in early 2016. This 3 Star hotel has 30 rooms with 3 different categories to choose from. With free Wi-fi access, a swimming pool and free airport shuttles it’s a great place to stay if you’re looking for somewhere comfortable and easy to get to. After a quick refreshment at the hotel, we were whisked away to visit Takpala Village, one of the local villages in Alor. Located about 1 hour from Kalabahi Town, the village is one of the oldest traditional villages of the Abui Tribe in Alor. We were greeted by the traditional warrior dance and then treated a number of cultural dances and local food. Sitting there and watching the amazing performances really felt like we were had been taken back in time. The weapons, clothes and jewellery donned by all the locals were made from various types of wood and other accessible material, and all crafted by hand. We were treated to the Lego-Lego dance which symbolises the power on unity and brotherhood to the Abui Tribe, thus welcoming us in to their homes. The humility and graciousness with which we treated was something unique and extremely touching to experience.

“The humility and graciousness with which we treated was something unique and extremely touching to experience.”

After eating a scrumptious meal of crabs, prawns and a beautiful grilled fish, the dive group met up with Tomas of Alor Dive to plan the next two days of diving. A man of few words, Tomas has been running Alor Dive for the past 10 years, exploring the 60 or so dive sites that the Pantar Strait has to offer. We decided to do 3 dives the following day and 2 dives the day after. Being the responsible diver that I am, it was straight to bed after dinner despite hearing the cries of ‘Bintang’ being yelled out from the bar area of the hotel. They were going to be my first dives in nearly 7 months and I wanted to make the most of them.

Our group of 6 divers were picked up bright and early the following morning and transferred a short distance to a small jetty where we to board Tomas’ dive boat. Named after his son, the ‘Kevin’ is an 18m long wooden boat specifically catering to the needs of divers. It has a large deck area with ample space for gear and passengers to get ready and can hold up to 14 divers. Equipped with a fully functioning western toilet and sun deck, it’s an ideal boat for divers and snorkelers alike.

Scuba Dive Alor

As we chugged along the clear, flat waters of the Pantar Strait, we passed a huge Oyster Farm along the banks of Alor Island. Tomas told us that the oysters harvested here are famous world over for their beauty. He also mentioned that there is next to no commercial fishing that occurs around the area and all the local fisherman practice very sustainable methods. Hearing this made me get even more excited as images of huge schools of fish and untouched reefs soon filled my mind. A large pod of dolphins was soon spotted just off the starboard side of the boat. These playful creatures were soon showing off by breaching clear out of the water!

Our first dive site was named ‘Coral Garden’, a relatively sheltered site with large bommies and a maximum depth of 30m. I was told that the water was going to be around 26 degrees centigrade which meant I could just wear a rashie and board shorts- my ideal dive gear. Descending in to the clear blue water for the first dive I was immediately struck by the array of different colours that littered the sea floor. The coral was some of the best I’ve ever seen! As this site was sheltered from the current, we had a very easy, gentle dive exploring the bommies and shallow reefs. Small schools of reef fish were seen throughout the dive, with a green sea turtle and some moray’s also making an appearance.

CLICK PLAY BELOW FOR A SAMPLE OF THE DIVING!

“Descending in to the clear blue water for the first dive I was immediately struck by the array of different colours that littered the sea floor. The coral was some of the best I’ve ever seen!”

The second dive of the day was just off Pura Island, right in the middle of the Pantar Strait. The dive site was named ‘Bubu’ after the wooden baskets that divers can see at this site. These baskets are used by the local fisherman to trap small reef fish and crustaceans. Tomas mentioned that there might be a slight current at this site which would enable us to drift along the wall and keep a look out for pelagics making an appearance in the blue. We descended to about 30m and then started shallowing up towards the reef. The coral once again was absolutely stunning but the site was lacking in big schools of fish! I was very surprised not to see larger schools of snappers, jacks etc that once would normally encounter on walls such as these. About halfway through the dive the current picked up to one of the strongest I have ever experienced. It was almost as if someone had pressed the fast-forward button! Maintaining your composure and buoyancy is essential in a site such as this can very easily make an inexperienced diver panic. Various species of Triggers, Angelfish and even a couple of banded sea-kraits added to the already stunning colours present on this dive. After an hour of being swept along this wonderful reef, we surfaced to find the boat had been following our bubbles and was close at hand.

Scuba Dive Alor

Frogfish – Jacqui Williams

The final dive of the day was a muck dive at a site famous for its Frogfish, Pipefish and other interesting little critters. We managed to find a couple of frogfish, a bearded scorpionfish and some gorgeous little cleaner and banded shrimps nestled away in the coral. A successful diving day was made even better with the addition of banana pancakes and fritters in between dives and a wonderful rice and fish curry which we all promptly ravaged. The hour ride back to the jetty was spent napping and soaking up some sun on the bow of the boat.

Our second day of diving included two gorgeous wall dives at ‘Babi Wall’ and ‘Mini Wall’ respectively. The clear blue water and gentle (compared to the previous day) current made for excellent drift dive conditions as we spotted a pair of Eagle rays, a napoleon wrasse along with what looked like a thousand Red Toothed Triggerfish. The reef held up to its nature with some truly magnificent soft and hard coral alike.

In terms of coral life, I have seen very little that compares with the colour and vast variety that is seen in Alor. The currents do make some of the dives challenging and I would say that Alor isn’t very suitable for inexperienced divers as a lot of the better sites are fairly deep and have strong currents all year round. Alor Dive was an extremely professional outfit with quality dive equipment and a great boat. Tomas is a good guide, pointing out various fish and interesting critters but don’t expect to be hand-held through the dives. He has a very relaxed attitude and likes to trust and give divers the room to do their dive.

All in all, a great trip to Alor with some wonderful diving!

– Prashun Thipaiah, ADE Staff Member

Scuba Dive Alor

The Dive Team – Jacqui Williams