From Diary 2
22. November. We are still on the good ship Sanny, a five year old liveraboard, cruising the Lembeh Strait; northern Sulawesi Indonesia. The purpose with the tour: See and document as much as possible of the awesome underwater world.
After a death-like sleep, we are ready for an early morning dive at Nudi Retreat. It is just next to a small island, and we follow the wall down to the sandy bottom. It slopes down to 50 metres, but we stop at 30. Here, the large Sea Fans offers home to the tiny Pygmy Seahorse. We see several, but my favourite is defiantly the small Dragon Sea Moth. They reminds me of mice, climbing around on the bottom with long noses.
I might spent a little too much time with them below 30 meters, and I have to do a decompression stop. On the way up, I find a 30 centimetre large Triton Trumpet conch. Somehow, I misses the new nudibranch just next to it... Besides from these new creatures, there are not much else new, but just a vide variety of the usual stuff. The last part of the dive is again along the wall, which are covered in corals.
At ten, we set of to the bay in front of a settlement; the Teluk Kembahu. The surface is slightly covered in debris and trash, but there are way less below, on the sandy bottom. We find some morays; one little thin and black one, a blue and yellow one and a fat yellow and black one. While we watch a new nudibranch, a banded sea snake joins in.
Some huge and rough sea anemones host clown fish while the lion fish prefers the sponges. Tiny, but so much more colourful anemones give shelter to colourful shrimps. The puffer fish may hide, but don't bother too much. Four black and yellow snapper passes bye n a tight formation; they get known as the Dalton Brothers.
During lunch, I try to talk my selves into the afternoon dive. Even though the water is 28C, I freezes! I should have brought a 5 mm long suit. My guide Jimmy agrees: The 28C water here are colder than the 28C water at Bunaken. Well, only two dives left in the Lembeh Strait; better do it.
The two o'clock dive is at Batu Sandar next to Lembeh. The 50 meter vertical forest transfers into a almost flat sandy bottom with very few characteristics. Despite of that, here are two new nudibranches, one is very lovely with pink "fingers", the other look like a branch of moss.
Jimmy delivers, and show me a big seahorse. It lay on the barren sandy bottom, trying to grab the tiny brown algae. Several cuttlefish imitates the sandy bottom, and are so sure of their abilities they won't flee. A single leaf fish sits in the open as well, but the mimic octopus alludes us. In a big hole, I see the front of a giant mantis shrimp, while, on a sea cucumber, a emperor shrimp have found a home. A frogfish have hidden it selves on an old anchor rope - but not good enough
I have been swimming a lot to keep warm, and are out of air faster than the others. Either that, or I have to leave before because I'm cold... Back at Sanny, the captain tells me; we will now sail out to Pulisang, where we will have the night dive. This is north of the Lembeh Strait, and might offer something completely different. Benny mentioned it was a bad day-dive, but real good at night.
It is a cold decent down to the flat sandy bottom, but here are a lot to look at. Different crabs, from big, red ones to decorated crabs, covered in all kind of objects. Other grab a big sponge and hide underneath it. Morays, some rather big, hide under the few scattered corals while batfish swims around them. A big, black nudibranch are found on a white coral.
I spot a real colourful shrimp, but I misses it sits on a giant manta, which jumps out its hole. I'm more lucky with a giant cuttlefish, more than 50 centimetres and real fat: It stay put until the cameras arrivals. The hermit crabs are numerous, in their recycled housings. Large sea stars try to run from the light, some are greyish, other are striped. All are around 30-40 centimetres in diameter.
I keep freezing until I have used my air, but I take a special interest in the engine when I'm back on board. A good and spicy spaghetti and meat-sauce do the trick. Only problem is: Now I'm getting tired! The boat rocks quite a lot, but it seems like I'm getting hardened. One of the crew and our divemaster Jimmy are not well.
23. I seems to have gone through the night way better than one of the crewmembers. Pour fellow, not only seasick, but teased. It is a beautiful morning, and we set out for a dive at Batu Mandi at seven. Here are both a wall and a sandy bottom.
Jimmy find two real big frogfish, the size of an head. One is black, the other one is light brown as the sponge it sits on. Then a pinkish-red fan coral reveals it inhabitants of equal coloured and structured pigmy seahorses. A large moray is hiding under a coral, blue triggerfish fills the open spaces, a new and very pink nudibranch are found along with a new, but dull brownish one.
I have spent quite a long time deeper than the others, and have to get closer to the surface. Up here, the corals are amassing! So many forms, so many colours. Other areas are dominated be pink sea anemones, and suddenly, I spot a banded sea snake right underneath me. I follow it for some time, and beside from some obvious curiosity, it ignores me.
Back at the mother ship, I admires the cost. We are anchored real close to the wild northern coast of Sulawesi, and the steep volcanic slopes are covered in dense forest, while the beach consists of white sand., which continues out is the water, giving it a bluish flair.
At ten, it is mostly about the mimic octopus. This illusive beast roams the flat sandy bottom out of Efrata. It is easily scared, and the one I get a split second glimpse while it vanishes into a hole in the sand is probably a Wonder Pus. The two black ghost pipe fish offers a better show. The stay put in a black feather star, and with the light sandy background, they make S a great motive - for those with a camera.
The cook have outdone him selves with deep-fried calamari, chicken in soya-sauce, grilles whole tuna and fried aubergines in sweet sauce. Right after lunch, the anchor is pulled, and we head for "home". It is believed the open stretch might be a bit rough, but I'm confident with my new sea abilities - so fare...
Rather smooth tour back to Bunaken - only my dive guide and one of the boatmen are seasick. We reach the island at dusk, and after unpacking, we meet up with Jesper and Amira at dinner. They have been diving intensely here, and have seen a lot too.
Froggies' manager Benny have succeeded to find me some Gnetum gnemon seeds at the local marked in Manado. I've been searching for these for several years, and did joke with colleagues at the botanical garden: I go to Indonesia to get them, if I have to. Well, I did, and I done!
24. It apparently take more than one good night's sleep to restore. It is, after all, a tough life being on a diving vacation, but someone have to do it. At least, I can get away with only two dives today. The first is on the eastern side of Bunaken; Bunaken Timur. I'm with Alan and Hence (who, by the way, is the one who found the Pygmy Seahorse the first time), and we go straight for the 31,5 meter mark. Not much to see down here, although the wall is covered in corals. They are, on the other hand, slightly covered in sand from above.
Things change when we get higher. Especially the five to eight meter top reef is fantastic: The texture and colouration of the great variation of soft- and hard corals in combination with the cloud of different fish are mind-blowing. Even though we spent quite some time in the dept, we end up with a 80 minutes dive, and I'm not that keen of getting on leaving that top reef.
Back at Froggies for lunch, and then out through the rain to Muka Kampun in the western end of the bay. A winding wall with many caves, but except from a tiny red and white clown frogfish, here are not that much interesting. That is, of cause, if you don't consider a black lionfish special. A couple of the red form can also be seen.
We surface after an hour - and a little - due to the unappreciable weather. It have not gone worth, but is is rather frisky with showers and wind. A cold shower was not what I was looking forward to, but at least the water is back. Photos (rip-of from Morten) and diary until dinner.
Chatting the evening away, and go back to the room to clean the seeds I got. There are a thin fruit skin on the nut, and it tend to rot. Not too late in bed - it is a tough life we are living. Wake up to several heavy showers during the night, but the roof seems to manage this time.
25. Jesper and Amira are leaving with the morning boat, while the French take a day off, and will be leaving tomorrow. That means Alan, Morten and I are alone with Hence. Two Malaysians; Ravi and Vanee, who came yesterday are on a early dive with Jimmy. To morrow, we will be five guests and 37 employs.
The waves are too big in the bay, and the water is probably less clearer than we want it to be. Just round the eastern corner, Pangalisang is the perfect place. The morning sun is on the vertical wall, and the top reef are the most beautiful reef I have ever seen.
I start at little deeper than twenty metres, but quite fast, I work my selves up to the top reef. This waste garden are packed with soft- and hard corals in any colour, and in the few metres of water above, thousands of fish swims around in large schools. In a cave way too small for it, I find. a reef octopus.
I end up diving for 91 minutes, and I even have a bit of air left! Spend the tour back on the deck, warming up and getting slightly roasted. After the bad weather last evening and night, it is a perfect day. Decides to take the day off tomorrow to do some exploration of the western part of the island. Have been diving for thirteen days in a row, and it is getting a bit doll...
Even Morten fails to dive this afternoon: Only Alan, Hence and I head for Likuan lll, in the middle of the bay. Just before we reach the dive site, a dugong shows up. We see it clear from the boat, and I jumps in to swim even closer. Unfortunately, it is on the real shallow ground, and the water not that clear. They say I'm three metres from it, but I fails to see it.
The reef is a steep or even overhanging wall with small caves and cracks. We find three new nudibranches, one black with few but bright green "fingers", one light blue with deep, black lines and two huge and bright yellow ones. A blacktip reef-shark passes under us along with some rather large tunas.
The top-reef is slightly disappointing. The waves are too hard on it, and many of the rough and bold corals are dead. After an hour, I have seen enough, and I'm the first in the boat, closely followed by Hence and Alan. I'm glad I didn't take Morten up on his offer to borrow his camera: Then I would have to explain how the dugongs came on...
We had actually planned to take the day off, but a tour to the remote Barakuda and Bango have been organised, and Morten claims it is the best top reef he have seen. Ergo, we have to join in with the Indian/Singaporean/Malaysian and the English/Scot.
26. Slightly cloudy morning, but the weather tend to change ever so often around here, and in an hour, it can be storming and raining, or completely calm and sunny. We leave a little passed nine for the hour and a half boat ride with the rather little but fast Tom, which have had a third engine fitted for the occasion. Lunch is packed, and it is the spirit of a water-trip we leave Froggies.
Unfortunately, the waves tend to be too big for safety, when we eave the ease of Manado Tua. Some are over two meters, and the captain redraws. We end up at Negeri, right outside the settlement on Manado Tua by the same name. The wall is steep and deep, with some caves and cracks.
Not much new to see, except from two nudibranches. For me, the peak is a banded sea snake, which I follows for quite some time. I even manages to steel Morten's camera at take a few shots at it. The top reef are marked by the huge waves, but there are still some nice corals and plenty of colourful fish to see.
Back at the boat, we eat the brought lunch, and sail pass Froggies to Likuan I. We have been here before, and I'm still not impressed. Only outstanding creature is a real huge green sea turtle. The dive starts with a long and hard swim at 25 metres depth, and that shortens my dive some. Does not matter that much; the top reef is nothing special anyway. Bit of a bummer we didn't get to the remote sites.
Just before dinner a rain-storm passes: We have reached the rainy season. The sea will be less calm but more filled with sediment from now, and we are considering if it is the 100€ a day worth staying here. The jungle of Sulawesi are quite tempting after all. Evening spent in cosy company at the restaurant, swapping histories from the hot countries with Ravi and Vanee.
27. Finally a day off! Morten have brought a huge book for the owner of a resort nearby, and we will deliver it on our tour. Unfortunately, we misses the resort, and instead of getting to the western end of the island, we end up in the eastern end. We start on the beach, and then on the old, and no longer used path to Desa Bunaken.
It winds its way through the coconut- and banana plantations, and strangely enough, we meet no people. We passes some small huts with a big pile of coconuts in front, some hens and a few cows. The sun is baking, and the temperature reaches 35C fast.
We reaches the backside of Desa Bunaken, near the mosque. There are many people gathered in front of it, and we discovers they are having a Friday slaughtering. Three big cows have been slaughtered, and are now being divided into kilo bags, right on the ground.
We continues down the concreet path through nice houses with lots of pot-plants on their porches. Mainly Sanseverias, Euphorbia milli and some Adenias, but also some others. The church, which should have half a boat as alter is closed, and after quite some walking, we find our selves at the water.
We head down the other path in the city, looking similar to the first. Every person we passes on the path or see in their garden greats us vide smiling. These people are amazingly friendly! We head out the settlement by an real old and not not very used concrete path. Figures we might find the new one, if we are to deliver the book.
We crosses over the island, which turns out to be quite a challenge. There are no tracks, no people and no guidelines. I navigates by my tiny compass and even teenier memory of the map-layout. It turns out the map I have seen only includes the old and no longer used path, not the new one we actually are trying to find. Truly a cross country adventure! Insects, orchids, strange plants in general, even a Psilotum of some sort. The heat and humidity is immense, but we just keep on walking.
An hour and plenty of coconut palms later, we finally reaches the new path, and end up at Froggies precisely at lunch time - the lunch we cancelled this morning. Coffee and cinnamon biscuits does it, a look at my questionable map, and we are off again.
This time, we actually find "Pandora's Guesthouse", which actually is called Panorama Cottages, but eventually are named Bunaken Island Resort. It is not on the beach, but it's entrance from the back-road are a kilometre long and 30 centimetre dirt path. The guesthouse/cottage/resort is brand new and real impressing.
We don't find the owner, but his daughter are most friendly, and we sit and have a nice chat. Relived from the heavy book - which Morten have been caring all the way from Denmark, and since this morning, we head on for the western part of the island.
This part of the island is scarcer inhabitant. The coconuts and bananas continues, but we only see a few houses before we reaches Alungbanua .Here is a impressing white church and a small collection of nice houses. We end out on the pier where big bags with coconuts are loaded on small, wooden cargo ships.
The sun are getting low, and we head back for Froggies. We meet several people on our way home, and we actually knows around half of their names! It seems like all the dive guides, cooks, cleaners and whatever from Froggies live out here.
Reaches our cottage at five, after eight hours of walking. A deserved shower and a critical look through the 200 photos, which are reduced to 80. I can now leave this island with good convenience: I have seen it, and I got photos of most of its plant species - although many seems to originate from Madagascar, Africa and other parts of the world...
A bit warn down, but I just have to stay in the restaurant, chatting with Alan, Rani, Vanee, Benny and Morten before I head home. Got some cloth washing and diary to do.
28. Spend the day creating and up-loading slide-shows, and packing. Finish just before dinner, and are now ready, both physical and mental to head on with the Sulawesi adventure. During the night, a heavy thunderstorm passes, and delivers an immense amount of water, brining some cloudy water to the divers the coming days.
We head deep into the unexplored interior of Sulawesi in Dairy 4