Go 'critter-hunting' for the nudibranchs of Indonesia on our 8 night

Special NUDIBRANCH Cruise with Vanessa Knutson

2016 Komodo 8N Cruise: Embark LABUANBAJO, 27 May 2016 - Disembark LABUANBAJO, 4 June 2016

Vanessa Knutson biography

Vanessa Knutson recently completed her master's degree working on one of the most challenging and fascinating groups of nudibranchs, the genus Gymnodoris (who have the unusual habit of eating other nudibranchs while they're still alive). Her master's advisor was Terry Gosliner, the world's foremost sea slug expert and one of the authors of the spectacular Indo Pacific Nudibranchs and Sea Slugs field guide.

During the last couple of years, Vanessa has done fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Philippines, including participating in two major multidisciplinary biodiversity expeditions.

Through her work, she has uncovered about 50 new species of Gymnodoris! She is currently working on naming and describing many of these unknown species and figuring out their diets, which consist of other sea slug species.

Her knowledge extends to other Indo-Pacific nudibranchs, having recently served as one of the three sea slug experts on a 6 week expedition to Papua New Guinea where they collected and identified over 300 species of slugs, including many new species!

Vanessa has been diving for 10 years for recreation and research and enjoys underwater photography. She's also likely to be the only person baking NUDI COOKIES (as the photo on the left shows)!

  • See a sample of some of Vanessa's research at WWW.CalAcademy.ORG
  • Or if you're curious about Gymnodoris' ghoulish appetite take a look at this NUDI VIDEO
  • Keep up to date with this specific trip at our FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE

  • Dive KOMODO with Vanessa Knutson

    27 May ~ 4 June 2016


    On this trip, explore the remote and mythical dive sites of Komodo National Park and appreciate the magnificence of our underwater world by learning from an expert.

    Set sail from the port of Labuanbajo on the west of Flores Island, on a 9-day/8-night cruise, to explore all the famous dive sites of Komodo (ending back in Labuanbajo). Nudibranch expert Vanessa Knutson will be offering regular talks for guests on the cruise, sharing her experience of studying and photographing nudibranchs, as well as hoping for some exciting new discoveries in the incredible waters of central Nusa Tengara.

    This is a great itinerary for all kinds of muck diving, as the dive sites here are packed full of unbelievable critters such as ornate ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses, rare clown frogfish, blue-ringed octopus, pipefish, scorpion leaf fish, coleman shrimp, boxer crabs, zebra crabs and of course the weird and wonderful nudibranchs (if lucky, the ridiculously cute Pikachu nudi)!

    Divers keen on coral reefs will also be amazed at the range of corals that Komodo has to offer - from soft to hard and in warm to temperate waters - while those seeking out schooling fish need look no further than the thrilling current dives of Gili Lawa Laut. If you're also hoping for some pelagics and ocean giants then bring your wide-angle lens along too for the resident mantas and sharks, but keep a watch for passing dolphins, whales and the elusive mola mola (sun fish).

    Read more about this destination at our page on DIVING KOMODO. Or get more information on nudibranchs at WWW.NudiPixel.NET and WWW.SeaSlug.COM.



    Set sail from the port of Labuanbajo on the west of Flores Island, on a 9-day/8-night cruise, to explore all the famous dive sites of Komodo (ending back in Labuanbajo). The Komodo National Park offers excellent muck diving, but also outstanding pelagic action. Whether its nudibranchs and rhinopias you're after, or manta rays and schooling fish, this cruise really has it all.

    This famous dive destination is located within the Coral Triangle, an area that boasts the world's highest marine biodiversity. Situated 200 nautical miles east of Bali, in the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Komodo National Park has a total land area of 75,000 hectares and encompasses a number of islands, the largest of which is Komodo (34,000 hectares). A total of 112,500 hectares of the surrounding waters is also under the jurisdiction of the park rangers, allowing for the protection of over 1,000 species of fish and hundreds of different corals.

    Komodo's dive sites stretch from the warm waters of the Flores Sea in the north to the chillier waters down south in the Indian Ocean and vary from gentle coral slopes to heart-pounding adrenaline thrill rides. The underwater terrain presents many contrasts as well, with sheer cliff walls, pinnacles, sandy flat bottoms, underwater plateaus, slopes, caves, swim - throughs, channels, all with differing colours, sizes and types of both hard and soft corals.

    Along the way, dive around Moyo island, Satonda and Bima. Relax as we cruise through the Komodo-Flores channel. Two popular sites at Gili Lawa Laut, called Crystal Rock and Castle Rock, will offer opportunities for critter spotting as well as big fish action. In fact, the dive site of Castle Rock is a nice opportunity to try out a ‘reef-hook' dive as you secure yourself to the rock and float in the current, watching the schooling fish and predator/prey action! Next, dive around Rinca island and head on land to meet the Komodo dragons.

    Currents in this area can be quite strong and we have to dive according to the tides, but with so many great sites to choose from we can always adapt the schedule for the best diving. Try something unusual at Sangeang island as we dive in the shadow of an active volcano...feeling the hot springs bubbling up under the sand.

    In Komodo, it's all about diversity: exhilarating drift diving, interesting muck diving, encounters with pelagics (mantas, sharks, whale sharks, sunfish), macro attractions (pygmy seahorses, blue-ringed octopus, frogfish, ghost pipefish), shallow reefs, walls, pinnacles, seamounts, pristine hard/soft corals.

    In general the water temperature in the Komodo area is around 26-28+ (78-82F+) so usually a 3-5mm wetsuit is fine, but the southern dive sites in Komodo can drop down to 24-26C (75-78F) so some guests prefer a 5mm with hood. For repetitive diving days you may start to notice the cooler thermoclines more than usual, so prefer to wear a slightly thicker wetsuit and/or a hood, but usually 5mm is sufficient. We don't recommend gloves as this can encourage divers to touch corals or delicate reef areas, but for night dives, where you could be more likely to bump into fire coral etc (or the 2 days of diving in south Komodo), many divers do prefer earning a full length suit and hood/gloves.

    SAMPLE CRUISE ITINERARY "Komodo (Nudibranch)"

    9 Day/8 Night Labuanbajo-Labuanbajo Cruise

    Day 1 Embarkation in Labuanbajo

    Day 2 Komodo-Flores Channel (4 dives)

    Currents in this area can be quite strong and we have to dive according to the tides. There are many dive sites and the sites chosen will be dependent on the currents. Finish the day with a great night dive at Wainilo. Komodo is an excellent place for spotting macro critters and the reefs and corals are spectacular too. See some photos HERE.

    Takat Makassar

    This is an exhilarating drift dive along the shallow flat bottom interspersed with patches of coral reef teeming with life. There are chances to see manta rays, turtles, eagle rays and white tip and black tip reef sharks.

    Batu Bolong

    Underwater this rock is covered in a huge amount of soft and hard corals and full of fish life. In the shallows watch anemone fish and look out for turtles munching on the corals. Giant trevally, white tip reef sharks, snappers and emperor fish tend to congregate here. This site presents particularly good opportunities for both macro and wide-angle photography.

    Tatawa Besar

    This is a thrilling drift dive that starts off from the northwestern tip of Tatawa and continues down the western side towards 15 to 20 meters of depth. The surrounding fish life is profuse and you will see an endless field of stunning orange soft corals as you glide along. Swim past coral heads inhabited by schools of sweetlips and batfish and look out for turtles feeding on the reef. Mantas have been encountered here as well.

    Tatawa Kecil

    The West side of this small rocky outcrop presents a fantastic underwater terrain with enormous slabs of rock that have been worn down to form channels, canyons, caves and swim-throughs. On the north plateau crocodile fish lie on the scenic reef among a whole host of reef fish and schooling fusiliers.

    Batu Tengah

    This dive site is located in the middle of the Komodo National Park, 12 nautical miles to the north and 12 nautical miles to the south. The translation of Batu = Rock, Tengah = Middle. With a slope to the east of the site and a coral garden to the west Batu Tangah is a beautiful site where we often get to see turtles, cuttlefish and juvenile white tip reef sharks that hide under the table corals among the hard coral garden. Napoleon wrasse and big groups of snapper swimming on the slope with all the colourful decoration of the soft coral make Batu Tengah a high quality dive site.


    This night dive is situated off the north of Rinca Island. In the shallows, the hard coral reef is home to many different critters, including juvenile harlequin sweetlips and batfish. Away from the reef, the sandy slope is scattered with pulsing soft corals that hide demon stingers and starry night octopus, plus a moray eel that has not yet been classified by scientists and is only found here in Wainilo.