Satonda, Indonesia, volcanic lake, adelaar, diving satonda

Satonda – Diving Between Bali and Komodo | Part I

One of the things that can make any holiday special is seeing something new, something you’ve never seen before. Remember the first time you saw the sun set over the ocean, were you dazzled by the changing colors of the sky as you watched a huge orange flaming ball drop into the sea? Maybe you were amazed when you saw snow for the first time? How about the first time you saw a majestic manta or a teensy tiny pygmy seahorse? Well, seeing cool things for the first time happens a lot on Adelaar Cruises’ Komodo National Park itinerary, as there is no shortage of weird, wonderful and unique things that await.

What is even cooler is seeing something and knowing that it exists nowhere else on earth. This brings us to the island of Satonda, our first stop diving between Bali and Komodo. This calm bay and fringing reef is the perfect spot to get your feet wet doing a check out dive, the island itself is unique, and the excursion offered is a fun easy way to view the lake hidden in the crater. A special show at sunset rounds out the visit to this one of a kind island.

Pulau Satonda, located just north of the island of Sumbawa, is Adelaar’s first stop on the cruise and has much to offer both above and below the surface. The diving is a mix of wall, patch reef and sand hosting a wide variety of marine creatures. Satonda’s warm clear waters usually have many species of reef fish, and some pelagic can be seen passing by. On a recent trip, divers spotted an eagle ray, multiple large cuttlefish, juvenile white tips and schooling snapper. Among the other fauna sighted, were plenty of nudibranchs, shrimp, crabs and other invertebrates to bring a smile to your face. It is a great way to be introduced, or welcomed back, to the treasures beneath the sea of Nusa Tenggara.

Nusa Tenggara, beginning in Lombok and continuing to the eastern shore of Alor, is an almost unbroken string of volcanos of all shapes and sizes. What makes Satonda so special is that it is the only volcano in the world that has a crater lake filled with seawater.

Ariel of Satonda and Fringing Reef

While it is almost certain that the lake’s existence was known to locals for a long time before, the credit for discovering it was given to the Snellius II expedition, a joint Indonesian-Dutch expedition, of 1984.

There are a couple theories as to how the seawater got into the crater. The one supported by science says the water percolated through the porous lava rock that makes up the crater wall. Boring. The popular and more widely believed theory is that a tsunami wave caused by the eruption, in 1815, of nearby Mt. Tambora inundated Satonda and flooded the lake with seawater. While the percolation theory is likely correct the Tambora eruption theory is much cooler.

Either way, the lake makes for an enjoyable land excursion. The walk up to the 69.5m (228’) deep, .77km2 lake is not hard as the southern wall of the crater is rather low and concrete steps allow easy access. The locals believe the trees of the lake are “wishing trees” and it is tradition to tie a piece of coral onto the trees branches to make a wish. If your wish comes true, you are bound to return to the island to offer thanks (and since you probably wished for a great dive trip, that means you return to Komodo too!). Before returning to the liveaboard; if you prefer a more challenging trek, you can take the path up to and along the crater rim for spectacular views of the crater, the volcano of Mt. Tambora on the island of Sumbawa and Adelaar resting at anchor in Satonda’s picturesque bay. For those diehard divers a third dive is optional if you choose not to do the excursion.

As if this isn’t enough for one day, Satonda has another treat to serve up. At around 17:30 the captain will fire up the engine and take Adelaar to the southeast point of Satonda where, as the sun sets, the boat will float lazily on the sea as you watch thousands upon thousands of indigenous population of flying foxes, fruit bats, fly across the strait between Satonda and Sumbawa for their nightly foraging. Fruit bats are an important part of natural pollination. In fact, many people are unaware that over 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers, including species of mango, banana, cocoa, durian, guava and agave (used to make tequila). So, if you love any of these delectable’s give these little guys some respect and a little thank you! The nightly bat migration in a rare event and it puts an exclamation point on an awesome day aboard ship!!

Check out this short guest video by Dan Devenny for a glimpse of what might be waiting for you under the sea in Satonda.

Stay tuned for more blogs on excursions and diving between Bali and Komodo National Park.