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Alor Indonesia, October 2022 Trip Report

It sure felt wonderful to be back in Indonesian waters again and snorkeling through some of the world’s finest marine habitats. After a fish-filled trip through Komodo National Park, CTA embarked on a beautiful voyage through the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands with the destination of Alor as our goal.

Aerial view of Lesser Sunda Islands taken on Alor snorkeling tourBoarding our amazing, first-class vessel, the Gaia Love, in Labuan Bajo, we sailed due east along the north coast of Flores and began our underwater adventures at Pulau Dambila, just north of Maumere. This calm area has an interesting mini-barrier reef which offers excellent, hard coral gardens and, as always, shallow sightings of Blue Ribbon eels in various color morphs. These easily approached, photogenic eels turn from black to blue to yellow as they mature and change sex.

Further east along the southern coast of Solor, we guided the Gaia Love to one of our special critter snorkel sites where amid black, volcanic sands, barrel sponges, and hard corals we spotted Robust ghost pipefish, Winged pipefish, juvenile Longfish spadefish, juvenile Many-spotted Sweetlips, Barramundi cod, and many other small, camouflaged, and colorful beasts. The afternoon was spent exploring a nearby, more traditional coral reef but the day wasn’t over. As the sun began its descent we took a short ride in the Gaia Love’s support boats to watch as thousands upon thousands of fruit bats took flight from their isolated daytime roosts, flying into the sunset towards feeding grounds on Solor. With the colorful sunset as a backdrop, it was certainly a dramatic migration.Octopus photographed while snorkeling in Alor Indonesia

The following day brought our group of excited snorkelers to Pulau Lembata and the smoking stratovolcano of Lewotolo. Explorations of coral gardens, seagrass meadows, mangroves, and a critter-filled night snorkel ensued. We spotted the nocturnal Bobtail squid, Twinspot lionfish, Robust ghost pipefish, Spiny devilfish, sleeping puffers, and much more as darkness enveloped the reef.

Underwater reef scene photographed in Alor IndonesiaAfter a short sail towards the huge island of Pantar, we then came to one of our favorite places on Earth to drift snorkel. An extraordinary fringing reef, with healthy hard and soft corals that grow right up to a sparkling, white-sand beach, slopes into the depths here for what seems like miles. Fluttering over the corals are what must be millions of vibrant anthias, all swimming up and down catching the invisible planktonic organisms that couldn’t be seen in the clear, warm water.

Another quick transit along the southern coast of Pantar brought us to the quaint and aesthetic Beangabang Bay. This unique, volcanically-formed bay provides shelter for a huge variety of interesting creatures including large basket stars, cuttlefish, octopus, nudibranchs, pleurobranchs, decorator crabs, scorpionfish, sea moths, and snake eels. The Gaia Love then circled north along the rugged shores of Alor. Here, in the Pantar Strait separating Alor and Pantar, we were entertained with gorgeous, diverse reefs populated by every major family of tropical reef fish. Surrounded by dramatic volcanos this area also serves as a migration route for a number of whale species, including Blue whales.

Blue Ribbon Eel photographed in Lesser Sunda IslandsAfter several days of exploring different habitats within the Pantar Strait, the Gaia Love began our journey back towards Maumere on Flores. Our snorkeling was not finished though! During the sail westward from Alor we enjoyed snorkels along the edge of vertical walls, drifts along sandy, coral bommie-filled channels, and shallow coral gardens that were so beautiful they seemed cultivated. We spotted hordes of anemonefish, Meyer’s butterflyfish, White-eyed moray eels, Leaf scorpionfish, juvenile Rockmover wrasse, Ornate ghost pipefish, Ribbon eels, Blue-spotted rays, and even a sleepy Brown-banded Bamboo shark.

Taken as a whole, or day by day, this snorkeling expedition from Flores to Alor, Indonesia 2022 was an exceptional success. Each time we visit this region it seems we find new, robust snorkel sites that provide endless biodiversity to view up close. The area gives the impression that snorkelers could spend a lifetime observing a plethora of common and rare marine life. We certainly cannot wait to return to Alor as well as the many nearby islands in September, 2023.