It’s been a few weeks since I returned from our most recent Trans Indonesia Tour and although the highlights of the trip are still firmly rooted in my memory (sperm whales in Sulawesi, numerous mantas in Raja Ampat and epic views from volcanoes in the Minihasa highlands to name a few) it’s already starting to seem like a long way off.
We had a group of 14, mostly from the UK and with 2 from the states it didn’t take long for the group to gel – a few beers in the evening helping to lubricate conversation on the first night. Our first day of diving was at Bunaken Island – we always tend to ‘check out’ at Lekuan I (Indonesian for Elbow I) because it’s a little more protected and allows everyone some time to get familiar with their buddies, weighting set up and dive procedures for Tasik Ria.
It’s a plunging reef drop off with healthy corals and vibrant fish life, not long into the dive there were turtle sightings and a black tip to add to the list. After a quick surface interval we headed to Muka Kamung for more superb reefs with hundreds of red tooth triggers dancing in the blue, lazy napoleon wrasse and colourful triangle butterfly fish.
Our schedule is always the same when we’re diving from in North Sulawesi, two morning dives around Bunaken Marine Park (walls diving, reefs & pelgagic’s) before heading back to the northern shores to dive the fringe reefs and shallow sandy bays which are rich with critters and invertebrates – we think this allows for plenty of variation in the diving. After our first dive at Critter Circus there were plenty of smiley faces on the dive boat, huge pharaoh cuttlefish we’re spotted along with clown frogfish, plenty of colourful nudibranchs, robust ghost pipefish and snake eels. As the sun began to set we headed to the jetty bar for sundowners and lots of banter about the first days diving.
The next day was run on a similar schedule with more superb reef diving around Bunaken followed by plenty of critters on Tasik Ria’s house reef. Visibility improved to a good 25m + and some nice currents were attracting the fish life, the 1st dive of the day offering a nice drift and setting up for another which sent us along the length of the eastern coast of the island in stunning conditions. Lots of smiling faces as the groups surfaced for what everyone agreed was the dive of the trip so far.
On Tuesday we made our way to Lembeh Straits for 3 dives, driving from Tasik Ria by minibus in the hectic traffic gives some time to get a flavour of the local life as we pass through villages and townships along the way. We board traditional style boats at the fishing port as locals are preparing their boats for more days out at sea – I often wonder what they think of us divers coming to see the apparently baron black sand slopes of the Strait.
In fact the Strait is anything but baron, there’s a huge amount of life to be discovered here with decorated invertebrates and diverse life to be found on every dive. We saw pygmy seahorses at Nudi Retreat, wonderpus at Jahir and giant frogfish at Nudi Falls to name just a few. Bets had been taken the night before on how long it would take to return from Lembeh to Tasik – everybody had already got a grasp of Indonesian traffic and with Nikki being the winner she enjoyed G&T’s courtesy of the group for the rest of the evening.
For the remaining days diving in North Sulawesi the diving didn’t disappoint, our first dive the next day at Mandolin boasted 30+ meters visibility and beautiful corals – it was a real treat and in complete contrast to the mucky sites of Lembeh. Made even sweeter by the fact that we’d just spent time with 6 sperm whales who were lazily drifting in the waters on the way out. For our final day we finished with a wreck dive.
Part 2 of this blog is coming soon.0