Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lembeh Day 2

Selamat siang (good afternoon) from Lembeh!
Three dives so far today and each one has gotten BETTER! What's on your wish list today??? Blue ring octopus? Check....part of the group saw one on the 1st dive today! Nudibranchs? Check! Cuttlefish? Check! Wonderpuss?????? CHECK! It seems like we saw everything on that third dive...mating bullocki nudis with yellow eggs, white ornate ghostpipefish, baby cuttlefish, 2 pairs of Pegasus sea moths, orange mantis shrimp, WONDERPUSS and then at the end of the dive in the shallows, Mandarin fish running all over the 4:00 in the afternoon in the SUNLIGHT! We all came up from the dive "whooping" at the wonder! Enjoy the images...more tomorrow after tonight's night dive....

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Today after breakfast we headed out of Buyat Bay and turned north towards Lembeh. Even though the morning was clear and sunny, it was decided that we'd travel about two hours to do our first dive to get most of the "open water" traveling behind us before the winds picked up. We were traveling in a covered dive boat that sheltered us from the sun. (The pink boat image is NOT our dive boat; it was just a local-type ferry vessel!) All luggage is loaded into the bow hold and it was a piece of cake for us to move everything...the crew did it all!

First dive site was a beautiful island in the middle of the Molukka Straits; 2nd dive site was called Pulau Dua..."Two Islands"...and after a leisurely lunch and another 1/2 hour journey, we were into Lembeh Straits "proper" with mainland N. Sulawesi and the Port of Bitung to our left and Lembeh Island to our right. After a quick check-in, it was time for our 3rd dive of the day. As I type, the rest of the group is off doing their first Lembeh Straits night dive...I'd be with them but I need to play a bit of "catch-up"!

Here's a couple of images from our journey today, including our beautiful Lembeh Resort cottage....heavenly room with outdoor bathroom and hot, hot shower!

One of Mother Nature’s still well-hidden secrets, a few years ago the critters@lembeh staff brought some select underwater photographers to this gem of an area to evaluate its potential for the diving market and everyone was blown away by the pristine stands of massive old-growth corals! Getting here isn’t easy, but when is getting to Paradise ever easy? It’s a four-hour drive up and down and around the volcanic region of N. Sulawesi and the Minahasans’ beautiful homeland. After a long international flight, it might be a consideration to stop overnight in either Manado or up in the highlands at Gardenia Lodge, but we opted to just “push on” and go straight to Buyat. Our driver dropped us off at the Port of Belang where the critters boat picked us up and took us the last ½ hour over water instead of the longer route by vehicle.
CRITTERS@BUYAT is based out of an old mining camp and it’s being billed as “dive camp with awesome diving” so folks are prepared for basic accommodations. Everyone has their own air-conditioned cottage with private bath and shower and veranda overlooking the gorgeously landscaped grounds. The gold mining operation ceased to operate over 10 years ago and numerous tests have been done over the years for ground and water quality in the region. For some reason the commercial fishermen left this area totally intact so the corals weren’t affected by over fishing and/or fish bombing as was prevalent throughout this region for many years, thus leaving pristine diving conditions for us to enjoy! Maybe the locals’ naming of some of the islands like “Poison”, “Bone” & “Antidote” had something to do with that! Meals are prepared family style in the large dining area equipped with a commercial kitchen. A compressor is on site so that tanks can be easily filled rather than bringing everything down by boat from Lembeh as was initially done.
Diving is, to say the least, untouched by diver impact. They have, however, for the past few months had extremely high water temperatures due to this year’s El Nino in the Pacific and some of the corals are definitely showing signs of stress from the prolonged hot waters and are bleaching. Some areas show much greater effect than others. The sponges and sea fans are gigantic and surrounded by massive schools of sweepers and cardinal fish. The sandy slopes are a treasure to discover…shrimp gobies, mantis shrimp, snake eels, flatheads, crocodile fish & pipefish to name just a few are commonly seen in different settings and as photographers, we’ve enjoyed our diving down here. It’s disheartening to see the effects of Global Warming and in no place is it more evident when you see thousands of years of coral growth slowly losing its color (and life) because of the high water temperatures. Our guides are encouraged that this phase is coming to a close because the water temperate has dropped 2 degrees in the past few weeks. One of the more encouraging signs is that corals are apparently learning to adapt to higher temperatures and if the water doesn’t stay too warm for too long, damage can be reversible. As divers, it’s incumbent upon us to continue to educate the world as to the fragility of our oceans and our basic food chain.
Thanks, Buyat Bay, for 3 days of splendid diving! Our guides Andi & Fandy have had “awesome critter” eyes and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed their company and their guidance…..NOW, off to Lembeh!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Off to Indonesia!

We'll be diving Buyat Bay, Lembeh Straits and then off to Ambon to board the Damai on March 4. Traveling from Ambon to Triton Bay, we'll be diving some of the richest ocean in the world! Follow along starting next week!