Under the sea in Sumba
While we’ve been busy exploring the best of Sumba’s landscapes above ground, there was one big mystery still waiting to be solved right here on our doorstep: what was hiding under the teal Karoso waters. What was the ecosystem like? What did it have to offer snorkelers and divers? Without a diving centre in Sumba, it was hard to find the answers.
But at the beginning of 2020, Thierry Glière, a young French oceanographer and passionate diver, arrived in Sumba to explore the seascape and set-up his own diving centre – Sumba Diving. In July, we invited Thierry to Karoso to take a look at our lagoon and the surrounding waters, so that we could learn more about our marine neighbours.
Diving EXPERIENCE in Sumba
How did you end up in West Sumba?
My first visit to Sumba was to see my brother who works in East Sumba. And with its wildness and unique culture, I was immediately attracted to the island. I am passionate about diving, and I wanted to explore the possibility of establishing a diving school here.
But while the east of Sumba had some amazing diving spots, they came with very strong tides, making diving impossible without taking a boat. I dreamed of finding a place where I could start the descent directly from the beach – so I started exploring the island’s other shores.
It was when I got to the north-west coast that I found what I’d been looking for – breathtakingly steep drop-offs where I could dive down to 30 metres, effortlessly accessible directly from the beach.
What are your impressions of the diving in Sumba?
There’s so much to see here. On my explorations so far, I have crossed turtles, manta rays, reef sharks, copious different fish – sometimes I don’t even know their names –, and, my personal favourite, numerous small sea creatures, such as the orangutan crab, the porcelain crab, and colourful nudibranchs. I’m also an underwater photographer, and the slow pace and flamboyant colours of the nudibranchs make them the perfect subjects.
But my ultimate highlight of diving in Sumba this year has to be my meeting with a very curious dugong (a kind of manatee or “sea cow”). In order to protect this guy from excessive attention and keep him safe, I’ll never reveal the spot where I met him though!
And what is the ecosystem in the Karoso lagoon like?
The Karoso lagoon has a wonderful “host” – a sea herb from the Posidonia Oceanica family – which provides shelter for turtles, seahorses, nudibranchs, and fish, all seeking a safe place to lay their eggs. It’s a beautiful ecosystem. There are also coral reefs in front of Karoso, where I saw clown fish and blue spotted stingrays. I have to come back to see more!
I’ve found a few other great spots for snorkelling just a short distance from Karoso too, but a couple of days are definitely not enough to see it all.
What would your advice be for preserving the beauty of Sumba’s marine ecosystems?
Of course, plastic waste is one of the most important issues to be addressed. We must make sure that with the development of tourism in the area also comes a sustainable solution to the problem – a ban on single-use plastic for hotels and tourists, and collection and recycling of waste generated by locals.
Also, while I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that tourists and locals sometimes collect triton, to sell. But tritons are a really important part of the marine ecosystem. They are the only predators of the crown-of-thorns starfish that feeds on coral and threatens the health of the reefs. If the tritons are eliminated, these starfish will proliferate and destroy the reef. So, to protect the coral reefs in Sumba, we must make sure that triton shells don’t leave the island.