Sulawesi is an Indonesian island in the centre of
this waste country. Allegedly, it should host some of, if not simply the world's best
and as a part of my personal "Save the nature" campaign, I want to document it. It is my
belief, that people feel more responsibility and awareness to nature they have a
knowledge of, and at least have seen pictures of.
Finally, the calendar, economy, and monsoon stands right, and I figured I might as well have a fast glimpse of Singapore and some of the Sulawesi island it self, while I am there. I've been home for a week after Ecuador, and I'm ready to leave the cold and dark Denmark!
THE ISLAND FACTS. [Jump to
The earliest known settlement by modern humans is dated to 30,000 BC, found in the southern part of the island, but tool dating 50,000 years back have been found near Berru. At that time, the island was forming a bridge allowing colonisation of Australia.
Sulawesi was "discovered" by the Portuguese in 1525. Then the Dutch arrived in 1605 and soon after the English. After having worked together with local warlords, the Dutch made it part of the Dutch state colony of the Netherlands East Indies in 1905. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, and in 1949, after the Indonesian National Revolution, Sulawesi became part of the independent United States of Indonesia, which in 1950 became the Republic of Indonesia. The peace has recently been broken by Muslim-Christian violence, but peace should been agreed in 2001, although incidents have occurred the folowering years. Today, the population have passed 15,000,000, mainly Muslims, some Christians and fewer Buddhists and Hindus.
Plants and animals life is interesting due to Sulawesi straddles on the Wallace's Line (west of the island), meaning that it has a mix of both Asian and Australasian species, although most are from the Australian nature. Of the 127 mammalian species, 79 are endemic. These includes dwarf buffalo (100 centimetres high!), "horned" pigs, monkeys, 62 species of bats and the tiny tarsiers. Of the 328 bird species, 104 are endemic and new species have recently been described.
In the surrounding sea are some real rare and odd looking creatures like pygmy seahorse, mimic octopus and ghost pipefish. Further out, whales and manta rays can be seen. Waste areas are coral atolls with a wide warranty of both soft and hard corals. New species are found on most dives by specialists!
The plants are special as well. It is dominated by tropical rain forest, but some drier mountain sides can be found in the heights. I will especially be looking for the weird epiphytic ferns, which looks like something from an other planet. Besides from these, there are plenty of orchids, carnivorous- and weird indigenous species of the plant kingdom.
Indonesia's climate is definitely tropical. Neither autumn nor winter, but distinctive "dry" and "wet" seasons share the year. The East Monsoon, from June to September, brings dry weather while the West Monsoon, from December to March is moisture laden, bringing rain to the north where we will be diving. The temperatures range from 21C to 33C.
Our diving base is placed on Pulau Bunaken, a 808 hectare small island close to the northern "capital" Manado on the top of Sulawesi. A single road leads 11 kilometres through the island. The operator is Froggies Divers. It is right in the middle of the famous Bunaken National Marine Park, covering 75,265 hectare and with numerous dive sites.
Morten have paid some of our tickets by bank transfer, and that causes a problem: The code is the last four digits of the credit card. We can get the boarding card for the Singapore-Manado, but then the diving gear can't get transferred, and we have no time doing it our selves. End up getting the boarding card in the gate, right as the boarding starts. Just another example on perfect timing...
14. Flying with Singapore Airlines is a pleasure: Service, food, films - everything is way better than first class in most other companies. It is a short day and a short night, and then we are in Singapore. Three hours to fool around and find the next flight with Silk Air. It it raining and slightly cold (20C), and we decides to continue right away.
Three hour more, and we are in Sulawesi's "capital" Manado. Slightly cloudy but the perfect 30C. Spent some time in immigration, but everyone is smiling, and we feel welcome. One of the porters are holding a paper with our names, and we pile our gear on his trolley. Man! We got a lot of gear!
A representative from Froggies Divers greats us right outside. Soon we, our extensive gear and two nice Frenchmen are are stuffed into two cars, and we head fro the harbour. It is a little less than an hours drive through some lovely landscape and open city.
Here are a lot of fast going mopeds, and they seems to do better than the cars in the rather dense traffic. We reach the harbour and one of Froggies' large dive-ships. All-aboard, and we cruses out the teaming harbour. When we reaches open water, more engines are started on the back of the boat.
As we approaches Bunaken Island, the relaxation hits hard (along with many hours of awakennes. A short introduction meeting, and we get our rooms. Morten have been here before, and he have booked the on on the top, over viewing the entire bay. The island next to it reminds me of the "King-Kong_-Island".
We arrange a test-dive: I'm keen to test the gear I have selected and assembled my selves, my weight and my camera house. Morten joins to test his gear as well. As a bonus, I get my ears through the first dive, which always causes problems, and we see some interesting animals like lionfish.
The sun sets and it is dark when we get back to the beach in front of the cosy resort. The water is 30C and the visibility around twenty or twenty-five, but we was on the lover part of the sandy button. W just leave our gear at the compressor sheet, and the crew will careful wash it for us.
Time to take a shower, upload photos and write diary. I start to feel the lack of sleep, and my internal clock are still more central America-time than anything else. Dinner at half pass seven; nice buffet. Having a hard time feeling tied in the evening, and end up sitting talking with Morten and the manager Benny till pass midnight!
There are a lot of night geckos in the camp area. I can find ten around one light bulb at our porch. Great little creatures; the eat the tiny mosquitoes. Besides from those, I have not seen anything else, except from a rather large hermit crab on the sandy floor of the restaurant.
14. Even though we only have slept for little more than four hours, we wake up with the first light of the day a little passed five. There are a surprisingly large numbers of roosters in the bushes between the bamboo huts! We are living 20 meters from (and above) the beach, and the sound of the small waves have a calming effect. Breakfast is only served from half pass seven.
The bushes between the huts looks like a florist gone mad: Huge Cycas, Crytons, bananas, Hawaii flowers, Sansevierias, and other familiar plants grown in culture for their decorative appearance. All are sheltered by large trees, which might be the indigenous plantation.
We are trying to plan our diving: I find the prices rather steep, but it have to be taken into consideration: It should be the worlds best coral reef diving. Two dives a day cost 65€, additionally dives 25€ and a night dive 20€. After two days with two dives, we get a night-dive for free. After some days, I get 10% discount while Morten get 15% as an re-visitor. We will be here for twenty days, and both my inner botanist and bank account would like me to set several days off to explore the islands rich flora, and fauna while I'm at it.
It is a slightly cloudy morning, but the temperature at seven is 27C, and the humidity is high: Just my kind of weather! The sun comes out while we enjoy the breakfast. Hare are pancakes, fresh fruit, serials, eggs fried you way and toast with cheese and several sprays.
The first dive is a nine. We walk out to the boat and already here, we spot a school of time catfishes. We are divided into three groups: Jesper and Amira, the French couple and Morten and I. I have a hard time getting down, but then is is a smooth dive. The site is Fukui, a sandy slope and a small coral hill.
Plenty of corals and fish of which many are new to me. We use the air rather fast, and have to head back to the boat after 53 minutes. This should improve during the next few dives. The water have an average temperature of 29C, and even I don't get to freeze!
Here are some huge seaanemones with different clown fish, giant clams (130 cm!), parrotfish, tubefish, bluespottet stingray and - a lot of other creatures. When we are back in the boat, a huge mantaray jumps right in front of the boat. It is around 10 centimetres in diameter, and I hope we meet it again, while we are in the water.
We sail back to the resort, and have an hour to lunch. My ears are plopping in many different ways, but it usual stops after a few days. Don't know how, but I'm happy as long as it do stop. Lunch is too good, I better be careful. At half pass one, it is time for the second dive, this time to Likuan II, one of the vertical wall sites.
It is packed with corals and fishes! In a cave, we see a nurse shark, there are colourful lobsters, clown fishes, several species of nudibranches, toadfishes, puffer fish, hogfish and many other fishes that are new to me. Well over an hour, and just as we are at the boat - and I'm out of battery, we spot the huge green turtle. I have taken 200 photos on these two dives, and I'm real hard on the first look through.
Morten and I have booked a night dive, which starts at six. It is right out in the bay at Raymond's Point. We go down to fifteen metres, and are along a vertical wall with huge caves. My camera refuses to turn on, and I locate the problem: It is full with water.
Once again, I have succeeded to kill a camera on its third dive. I have to realise I can't afford to continue like this, and from now on, I just nick Morten's photos - which are great anyway. I might spot some creatures for him... I did bring two spare cameras, but they only last two days, at the statistic shows, and it is not worth it!
I can't recall what we saw at the dive, I was a bit low! Back at out cottage, I optimistically washes the salt water out the camera and take it apart. The dinner and chatting in the restaurant till late. And photo sorting, dive log and diary to real late!
15. Wake up half pass five, and assemble the now dried camera. As no surprise, it does not work: My days as underwater photographer is over! Real annoying: It is one of my few pleasures. No doubt it will take a lot of the fun out of diving in the future.
The day's first dive is at Sachiko's Point, on the outer side of the island. Twenty minutes sailing, round the eastern point, and we plunges at the wall. It is covered in soft- and hard corals, and the water is a fish-soup. Especially the blue triggerfish are plentiful swimming upstream.
And the current is a story of it selves: In some places, it passes the reef with five or even seven kilometres an hour - a bit too fast for exploring the reef. Other places, it is slightly downwards or calm, and then there are the upstream areas. Here, a real cold stream, like 20C, arises from the dept, and bring not only nutritious, but also sharks.
I am teamed up with the French couple, who are not only divemasters, but very experienced. Our guide; Jimmy are good at spotting everything from the tiniest shrimps to the sharks underneath us. Here are ghost pipe fish, nudibranches, morays, leaf scorpion fish and a wide array of colourful fishes and strange creatures in general.
After an hour - fighting with my mask, I'm done with air, and joins Jesper, Morten and Amira at the boat. I brought the empty camera box, and it is perfectly dry inside... Back for lunch at Froggies, where the rain starts to pour down. I get my broken flip-flop glued, and then out to Mandolin.
This site is located on the western side of Bunaken, and offers an other wall with some large stems, cowered with sand. I join the French, and Jimmy leads us down the wall to 23 metres dept. Here are still a full cover of corals, and in the small caves, large fish like puffers hide.
The current is real strong in some places. When I try to hold on to a dead coral, I really struggle, not only to find a dead spot on the reef, but also to maintain my grip. Some places, cold water arises from the deeps, others places, the current is against us.
We also see some fantastic black and blue nudibranches along with others, lionfish, whitetipped reefshark. I don't know how the French do, but I have to surface ten minutes before them and Jimmy again. The weather have improved, and back at Froggies, the pouch need company.
Out laundry are back, nicely ironed and with a blue ribbon around. I wish a had a basked like that at home... The "hummingbird" is back in our Hawaii flower, and the area oozes with calmness - and a few mosquitoes.
After dinner, we sit a chat in the restaurant, and retire to our cottage at nine. I steel several of Morten's dive photos and start making captures of the graphic logs.