Saturday, July 16, 2005

Murex dive resort on Bangka

On our way from Lembeh to Bangka, a pod of dolphins graces us with their presence, effortlessly riding the ship's bow wave, before veering off to go somersaulting in the stern waves. The crossing only takes a slow 2 hours, after which the Liburan drops us at Murex's small resort, where we accommodate ourselves in one of the spacious sea view bungalows. Our guide here is Kennedy, who does his best to keep all the tourists satisfied. The food's excellent and for once there's no noise disturbing the peace.

The diving here is mainly around pinnacles overgrown with soft corals or along sloping walls. Currents can be pretty strong depending on the tide. Making it totally impossible for me to photograph the tiniest seahorse I've ever seen. Actually, it being only a couple of mm tall, I can't even say I had a good look. Not a dive goes by without at least one frogfish being spotted. Considering they pretend not to be there for a living, it must seriously undermine their self-confidence to constantly be in the center of divers' attention.

Dedi had some problems with his ears, so I left my eardrops on the Liburan. Only to get hit a couple of days later by a double ear infection myself. Despite preventive action. Luckily some Dutch divers staying in the resort had some eardrops I could use. But I still had to stay dry for three long days. I guess there must have been something nasty in the water, because three other tourists also had ear problems during our stay on Bangka.

My favourite site here is actually located on the mainland. A 15' crossing from Bangka, Paradise Pier is first class muck diving with more critters per square meter than I've ever seen. The pier is heaven for all kinds of creatures, from refuge seeking juvenile batfish to hidden daemons waiting in ambush for innocent souls. Hot springs keep the water temperature comfortably warm. An ideal playground for photographers indeed. But beware where you put your hands!

A sea fan is home to several wonderful harlequin ghost pipefish. At some point four of them even posed together. With sunlight in their back they almost seem to have a halo. A beautifully colored frogfish, inspired maybe by the pipefish's typical head down position, tries hard to keep his precarious upside-down position between a sponge's arms. Among paradise's rubble you can find devil scorpionfish and false stonefish, moody cuttlefish and small seasnakes looking for some morsel. Nudibranchs are all over too, should you run out of usual subjects.

Surrounding the pier are three different habitats: seagrass, sandslope and coralreef. There I saw green pipefish, baby frogfish, small stingrays darting out of the sand, a whole colony of frantic hingebeak shrimps and even a hovering army of ghost shrimps...

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