Friday, May 22, 2009

Sadly, all good things must come to an end...we've packed up our dive and photo gear and settled up our must be time to head home!

We did, however, have 2 fantastic last dives yesterday. We all loved California Dreaming with its breathtaking soft corals. That reef rivals some of the best we've seen from Fiji with yellows, oranges, reds, purples, lavendar and white soft corals. Lots of schooling fish as well as the little stuff. Ronald found us a tiny, less than 2-in boxer crab with eggs....those are the kinds of dives we dream about when we're in the middle of a Michigan snowstorm!
After we finished diving, we took a Resort boat over to Bitung Port and visited a local zoo. It's not very big but it's very clean and well organized. We saw the tiny tarsis monkeys up close and personal, lots of different indigenous beautiful birds, monkeys, baboons, a python snake & a few cobra safely distant in a cage..the really weird looking babi rusa which is a pig with horns! We also got to visit with some of the local children and watch them playing football and just being kids. They love to get their pictures taken so it's fun to show them the photos afterwards and hear the giggles.
We're all packed up and just waiting for the staff to load our stuff in the boat. This staff is the BEST in the world, bar none! From the fabulous dive guides and boatmen to the lovely staff at the Reception desk and in the dining room. The cooks are fantastic and cater to every taste and diet. We couldn't ask for a better land-based experience and we all can't wait to come back again.....join us next time! From Lembeh Resort sampa jumpa lagi (see you next time!)
Terima kasih, everyone......

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yesterday's 3rd dive was a number of "firsts" for us....first time we saw all 3 phases of a ribbon eel, first time to actually see the yellow female and lastly and the most fun....first time to ever see a free-swimming ribbon eel! Ribbon eels are about the thickness of a pencil and we generally see anywhere from 1" to 8" of them poking out of their holes in the sand/rubble. Yesterday we were on a mission to see a yellow one. Ribbon eels start out black as juveniles, turn blue with a yellow face and a yellow stripe down their backs as adult males and when the need for reproduction arises, one of the males turns all yellow and becomes a female! We've been told that the females mate once and then after giving birth, die, so they are not commonly seen. Well, yesterday we saw the black, then the blue, then the yellow and then the BANGING started......Abner was rattling his rattle, Bill was pulling on my fins....I knew something awesome had been found!
Bob managed to be "in the right place at the right time"! He found a free-swimming yellow phase ribbon eel out in the open. This one was between SIX & EIGHT FEET long! And if you imagine the Olympic gymnasts with their ribbon routines, that's what it's like watching a ribbon eel swim....they coil and stretch just like the gymnastic ribbons! We all whooped and high-fived each other when it finally decided to find a hole and duck into it.
We also saw two great frogfish on that dive, one was a very unusual orange color so here's a shot of that one as well.
Our diving is now winding down...we have only two dives left on this trip. They've all been fantastic but some are always more memorable than others and the ribbon eel dive rates right up there.
After we finish diving today, it's time to try and dry everything out. We're also going across the Straits to a small local zoo this afternoon. It's hard to believe we've been here 12 days...where do the days go??

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last night's dive was at one of our favorite dive sites, Nudi Falls and it didn't disappoint us! Lots of critters foraging in the sand for dinner including all kinds of decorator crabs, shrimp, pipefish & even a red frogfish paddling his way about the reef! It's a spectacular wall with loads of colorful sponges and corals and at night when you shine your lights on the reef you see red eyes everywhere from all the shrimp jumping about. 70 minutes is a normal night dive in Lembeh...that's how long the flashlights and aiming lights can hold out...after that, it's dark so it's time to surface.
We had a most interesting 2nd dive today as well. We went a bit farther north in the Straits and the dive sites have more corals than some of the closer sites. We saw the largest patch of beautiful, healthy staghorn coral we've ever seen and it was loaded with schools of at least six types of beautiful cardinal fish, the most striking was yellow with blue eyes! Then we encountered something we've never seen before....a feeding Triton shell. He was almost finished eating a blue sea star. Their usual diet is crown-of-thorns sea stars but we've only seen one crown-of-thorns here on this trip (which is a GOOD thing), so they are obviously searching for other types of sea stars to munch was a huge animal....probably 2-1/2 feet long by 1-1/2 feet tall so it was an impressive shell to say the least. Thank goodness we saw it with its animal still living and prospering, not in a shell shop somewhere!
We're winding down our diving....we only have one more full day tomorrow and then our last 2 dives on Friday morning. We've seen some amazing creatures but there are STILL things on our "check list" that haven't been checked off....maybe in the next 6 dives, but if not - there's always next time!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday's dives took Bill, Susan, Bob & I up about an hour and a half north of the Resort up the Straits to Bangka Island. Rather than diving in the black volcanic sand, we dove coral reefs for a day. The remainder of the group did the same trip on Sunday.
The reefs are prolific up there and there are many different things to be seen. The corals and sponges are healthy & huge! The reefs are swarming with fish....all kinds, sizes & shapes. On one of the dives we dropped in right over a huge bumphead parrotfish. Unfortunately they are very, very shy so as soon as he saw us, he booked out into the blue! We did three magnificent dives up there with lunch on the boat so we had a very full day. We saw this giant frogfish just perched up on the sponge waiting for his lunch to swim by!
Back in the Straits late afternoon, we barely had time for cup of hot tea before heading off to another fabulous night dive! It's amazing the critters that like the dark of night for their food foraging. Benefit is, they're out in the open for all to see!
Sightings last night included a beautiful single squid, red ghostpipefish, crabs, shrimp galore, finger dragonets, ambon scorpionfish, several types of flounder and the highlight of the dive was
the stargazer! An hour just flies by when you're having fun at 70' on a night dive!
Back in the Straits today for all of us....looking for the elusive mimic octopus or wonderpus, more frogfish, harlequin shrimp...we still have critters to "check off our lists" and our time remaining here is starting to diminish!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Night diving in Lembeh Straits gives NEW meaning to things that go BUMP in the night! You've all seen conch shells in the stores..well here, we watch the animals that live in them inch their way across the sand! Also found an interesting shell animal that I didn't is kinda flat & wavy and the animal moves on it's "foot" which looks like a paddle coming out of the front of the shell below one of its eyes!
We went out for the house mandaranfish dish. You swim out just before dusk to catch them in their "courting". Males & females run through the coral trying to find the right partner for the evening! We saw lots and lots of courting but little mating...guess their signals just weren't meshing last night. When they mate, they choose their partner and come together and move up 6-8 inches into the water column to mate. Their sperm/eggs mix and drift off in the currents, hoping eluding the ever-present cardinal fish who are waiting for an egg dinner.
Yopie led us to a small coral head and pointed out four "strings". Apparently these strings are pygmy pipehorses! Good thing the camera lens has better eyes than I! Any diver would just swim right by and think they were dust or algae hanging on the reefs!
Anyway, it was a great dive ended by a baby hairy octopus right in the shallows off the steps leading up to the dive shop. Don't pass up a night dive in never know what critters await you!

Off to Bangka hour or so north for some "blue water and soft coral dives".....see you tomorrow with more pictures.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's a beautiful day in Indonesia! On the way back from the 1st dive, we passed several longboats all decorated with flags and balloons; we passed lots more on the way to the 2nd dive...apparently today is the last day of the World Oceans Conference in Manado so everyone is coming over to Lembeh for a "Lembeh Festival". Boat parade, market, fair, etc....sounds like a lot of fun for them!

Back to the diving.....we went back to Nudi Falls again (it's MY favorite dive site in the Straits). This time in the daylight and it's a totally different site. Lots of tiny critters. Erwin found us at least ten soft coral cowries, I found a blue ribbon eel and as promised, TWO yellow frogfish! It's hard to pick favorite critters but there's something about frogfish that makes you smile!
Everyone is having a fantastic time. Mike, Linda, Bill & Claudia are doing the mandarinfish dusk dive tonight...Bill, Susan, Liz, Bob & I are going for the full night dive....more tomorrow, everyone. Enjoy the photos...wish you ALL were here with us enjoying this fantastic Resort and its amazing staff. The dive guides here are the BEST in the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bill & Claudia say "hi"!

Last night was a fabulous night dive at Nudi Falls....I know, diving in the dark on black sand doesn't exactly appeal to a lot of folks, but you feel like a bobblehead while down there...someone is always flashing their lights towards you to tell you they have an awesome "find'! Or else someone is tugging on your fins to get you to look at something was a grand 70 minutes...we saw all kinds of shrimp, lionfish, squid, a fantastic little red dragonet which was unique to us and a spiny devilfish.

Today's second dive found us gazing at a flamboyant cuttlefish. There's no end to the wonders here....back to the dive boat....more later!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Good early evening from Lembeh....three great dives today and sunny skies...until the heavens opened at lunch and we had a waterfall coming down all the stairways! Oh, by the way, it's 51 steps from the dive centre to our room...and our cottages are on the "lower level"...wouldn't want to be up in #13 where it's 105 steps!
Our third dive today was at a site called Tanjung Kubut....Cemetery Point. No cemeteries in sight, but lots of seahorses....four in fact, all different colors: a pink thorny, a yellow one, red one and brown one...all clinging either to small sponges or just floating along the rubble.
Best sighting today for us was a hairy octopus...very, very cool..first one for us. Lots of clownfish, cardinalfish, nudis, pipefish, gobies and too many more to list. For those of you who know Bob's "love" for flying gunnards, we saw one of those today as's a photo to prove it!
Off to dinner now....5 of the group are out doing a night dive so I'm sure there will be lots more cool stuff to list tomorrow....til then, jumpa lagi!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Selamat siat (good afternoon!) from Lembeh Resort & Manado!
We had a great travels this time and all flights arrived & departed on time. After a short stay at the beautiful Singapore Airport, our Silk Air flight whisked us to Indonesia across beautiful blue ocean, gorgeous islands and green landscapes.
We were greeted at the Manado Airport by officials wearing masks and asking us to fill out an H1N1 waiver...first time for everything I guess! Other than loads of folks on the plane with us heading to a conference here, the rest of the passengers were divers like us! The greetings in Manado were much more "showy" as well because of the conference. For this whole week in Manado, representatives from 40 countries are discussing our oceans and environment...this is the "World Ocean Conference" and the American Ambassador to Indonesia is among the guests. Of course, scientists and marine biologists and many news media are here for the conference as well. A band from the Minahasan region greeted us when we cleared baggage claim & Customs.
It's "interesting" to say the least to drive in Indonesia! Horn use is mandatory by all drivers, scooters and motorcycle weave in and around all the cars &'s best to ride with your eyes closed, we decided! We thanked "Mario Andretti" when we arrived at Police Pier at Bitung Port!
The Resort is beautiful as usual, we were exhausted so after a brief resort briefing, dive briefing and some gear unpacking it was dinner and off to bed!

Two dives were all most of our weary bodies could handle today....a few of the group made three, but we'll be up to snuff tomorrow with more updates and photos! Jumpa lagi (see you later)......

Friday, May 8, 2009

We're off to Lembeh Straits & Lembeh Resort in Manado tomorrow! Watch the blog starting Monday, May 11 for daily critter sightings and updates...wish you were joining us!