Journal archives for April 2013

April 30, 2013

Scuba Diving in North Sulawesi, Indonesia

I'm back from another two week trip to Indonesia. This time I went to northern Sulawesi, splitting my time between two different land-based resorts. This trip was organized by Steve Webster who I met through the Fiji trips, and everyone but me was from California. There were 22 of us, though a few only snorkeled.

We started with a weeks' diving in Lembeh Strait, staying at Kungkungan Bay Resort. Lembeh is known as one of the best places in the world for seeing odd critters while muck diving. The sandy and silty areas don't look nice like the pristine reefs we see elsewhere, but the wealth of strange creatures living there makes up for that. Unfortunately there was also a lot of trash in the water as well. But we did see the promised critters: four species of octopus, three kinds of cuttlefish, scorpionfish, waspfish, sea moths, and a myriad of shrimp, crabs and nudibranchs. There were some corals as well, and the reef areas were teaming with colorful fish. Banggai cardinalfish were common--very flashy black and white fishes. At twilight we saw the mating dance of mandarinfish: blue and purple paisley fish who hovered above coral thickets. There were bright red urchins, and sea horses in four colors. There were no large fish at all--the locals have fished out anything over a foot long.

KBR was a nice place to stay. It's on a remote part of the coast, a two hour bus ride from the airport at Manado. Our group was split into three boats for diving and most dive sites were just a few minutes away. We were spread out in bungalows along the beach. All meals were ordered off the menu from their restaurant. The selection of food and presentation was great, though the quality of the cooking was only so-so. The staff were very good. The people in the restaurant learned our names and what we liked, and the friendly dive guides were all excellent critter spotters. They had good support for photographers as well, enabling me to take 2500 pictures during the week.

This resort had wireless internet. In keeping in touch with friends, I learned about the Marathon bombing back home. It was frustratingly difficult to learn what was actually going on, as news coverage each day assumed you knew what had happened the previous day. We were 12 hours off Boston time, so municipal emergency phone messages kept waking me up in the middle of the night until I learned to just turn off my phone.

After a week of diving in muck, we transferred by 4 hour bus ride to Tasik Ria Resort on the other side of Sulawesi. This is a larger resort on the outskirts of Manado. From here we were an hour boat ride away from the walls and reefs of Bunaken National Park. the reefs were in good shape, with lots of coral and many colorful fish. But the long boat ride meant that we went out once for all three dives of the day, all of us on one crowded boat without any camera facilities. It felt a bit like being on the cattle boats in Cozumel again. As a photographer it was very difficult--I couldn't charge my strobes or change lenses between dives. And while they divided us up into several small groups each with a dive guide, the groups always entered the water close enough together that the sites felt crowded.

The resort suffered from management and communications issues. On arrival, we were promised an afternoon shore dive, but then they changed the schedule and made the dive almost impossible until I complained about it. All meals, both breakfast and dinner at the resort and lunch on the boat, were served buffet style. Again the food was adequate, but not great. And my dive buddy who is a vegetarian had problems getting something to eat, in spite of having confirmed with them months ago that they could handle her requirements. The diving was run as a separate business from the hotel/restaurant and they really could have benefited from closer integration. And just another aspect of their communications problems their internet connection was down for most of the time we were there.

Some people in our group skipped some dives to go on various excursions. I was there to dive and took nearly every opportunity. I did a little bit of birding around the resort grounds at both places, but didn't have enough time to get out and really see anything. The day trip to a nature preserve to see monkeys and hornbills sounded tempting, but would have required missing a full day of diving.

On the way home we spent a night and most of a day in Singapore. This was my first time to leave the airport there. It's a modern, glitzy city with beautiful architecture. Here Heidi and I took the time to visit the botanical gardens and get in a few hours of birding, even though it rained. And we were rewarded with some great sightings. Singapore looks to be worth more time, as we could barely see anything in the 18 hours we had. The flights themselves were uneventful, though long. About 28 hours in four segments between Boston and Manado, via San Francisco, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Overall the trip was very enjoyable. I will return to Lembeh at some point, and possibly stay at KBR again. I would not go back to Tasik Ria. I did get some good photos on the trip. Some highlights are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/14233971@N04/sets/72157633374237100/

I'll be posting a few hundred sightings to iNat over the next few weeks, as I catch up on sorting and identifying the photos I took on the trip.

Posted on April 30, 2013 03:25 by maractwin maractwin | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Gracias al apoyo de:

¿Quiere apoyarnos? Pregúntenos cómo escribiendo a snib.guatemala@gmail.com