Tuesday, November 9, 2010

French Polynesia, October 2010

Snorkeling with humpback whales, face time with feeding blacktip reef sharks, eye-contact with play-fighting adolescent bottle-nose dolphins, diving with more than hundred gray reef sharks, swimming with napoleon, ... plenty of fascinating encounters indeed!


travel blog

French Polynesia - info sheet

VisumFor Europeans a valid passport is enough, but when transiting through the USA a to be paid and approved ESTA application is also required.
TimeFrench Polynesian time = CEST — 12h
WeatherAir temperature: around 25-30°C, with occasional rain showers. Water temperature: 26°C.
Currency1 Euro = 119 XPF
LanguageFrench & English are spoken by most.

Teatime with a nurse & some hungry boys

→ Among Sharks, clip #5: Nurse & Blacktip Reef Sharks

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dream over

Woke up in my own bed this morning. A dive bag full of salty gear and a light suntan the only apparent reminders I did not just imagine everything... In other words: I've got some back-logging to do.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back to the future

Our time travel journey started yesterday at 5am with a 15' transfer by van to Papeete's air-port, for the first jump of our voyage, arriving in Los Angeles 3h into the future, after having hung 7h30 in the sky.

After a short Starbucks break, we boarded another, less comfortable but more efficient time machine, fast-forwarding us to Paris 9-1h* into the future in only 9h30. (* Losing one hour due to a seasonal irregularity, i.e. summer time returning to winter time overnight.)

From Paris to Munich time remained un-stretched, meaning we flew one hour and arrived exactly one hour later too. In time for our 2h earth-bound shuttle to Sonthofen.

Simply said, it took us 30h to get back home from the other side of our blue planet. With all our luggage. And some jet-lag.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fakarava - Tahiti

Shortly after breakfast we're brought back to the atoll's populated north by boat (1h40) and pickup (25'), where after check-in at the airfield we're treated by our host to a plate of spaghetti so as not to travel with an empty stomach on the short (1h) flight to Tahiti.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Napoleon

Burning ear

Worrisome. As soon as we submerged my right ear started acting up: a slight discomfort and constant crackling noises at first, a painful burning sensation later on. So much so I had to abort the dive after having endured it for 44', my ear by then claiming my full attention.

Frustrating. Now that we at last enjoy warm sunny weather, with a beautiful reef full of sharks at our doorstep and curious napoleons begging to be photographed, I can't put my head below the waves.

Gray parade

The incoming tide today graced us with great viz and a stream of at least a hundred grays flowing by supremely.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The passage

Tetamanu's tidal passage is a less demanding and thus more enjoyable dive than Rangiroa's high-flow Tiputa. Not only that, the local gray reef sharks can be observed here within recreational depth limits, that is, between 20-30m. Special encounters are less probable though.

Besides the resident grays (carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and the occasional blacktip (carcharhinus limbatus, not to be confused with the more common carcharhinus melanopterus, a.k.a. blacktip reef shark), the healthy reef's alive with smaller & bigger fish, most noteworthy of these being several napoleons, which, like sharks, have alas become a rather rare sight these days in asian waters a.o.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rangiroa - Fakarava

Short 1h30 flight from Rangiroa to Fakarava*, via Manihi, followed by a 25' pickup ride and 1h30 speed-boat transfer to Tetamanu Village, a basic but friendly resort located on Fakarava's south end, right beside the Tumakohua passage, French Polynesia's #1 dive spot.

[ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ]

We're warmly welcomed by Annabelle, Tetamanu's charming hostess. The two french guides though seem a lot less enthusiastic. Both are here temporarily. Not surprising I guess given the rather isolated nature of the resort and the fact that there's only one great dive site.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Polynesian black pearls

Today we visited Gauguin’s Pearl Farm, where we got shown around the sweat shop and informed about the pearl cultivation process.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Silver banquet

Got my mask knocked or kicked off upon back-roll entry. Luckily another diver saw it sink and caught it before it disappeared into perdition. Not quite the close contact with wild-life I had in mind coming here.

After several no show dives, our guide once again took two frozen tunas down with him to attract some action, desperate to offer us some entertainment. This time on Avatoru's reef edge, under slightly better controlled circumstances.


Guest list: one large & one medium silvertip, besides a couple of smaller ones for good measure and some gray reef sharks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Forbidden attraction

Forbidden shark feeding dive off the coast so as not to upset the local fishermen? The sharks weren't hungry though, with just one silvertip and less than a dozen gray reef sharks joining our party after hanging around in the blue for almost half an hour.

I'm no expert, but hanging down some boxed bait from a bobbing boat while having a dozen uncontrolled divers hovering all over the place waiting for some feeding action, just doesn't feel safe right to me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eye-contact!

This morning we've been split up in two teams. A deep six team and a shallow four team. I'm in the latter by choice. No way I'm diving to 50m on a single tank of air with unplanned decompression and possibly strong currents, just to get a bit closer to the gray sharks congregating down there. Not to mention with a bunch of unknown, probably unqualified, and thus for me unreliable divers.

Soon after submerging, we're passed by a tight pod of seven bottle-nose dolphins and get approached by the resident school of large barracudas. Still wowed by these wonderful sightings, Yann suddenly points upwards. At the surface, two dolphins are taking a deep breath before plunging 25m straight down towards us. WOW! They appear to be two adolescent males undecided about play-figthing together or taking a look at us mesmerized tourists. So they show off both to each other and us, swimming real close to me several times. Once even close & slow enough for a brief eye-contact!

Afternoon slack-tide dive without anything worth mentioning. That's just the way it is with action diving. Either it happens or it doesn't.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Easy diving

Two nice & easy dives today, one at Avatoru and one on Tiputa's outer corner reef.

Avatoru sightings: handful of relatively small silver tips plus a larger one, schooling juvenile barracudas and big eyed jacks and a dozen or so of very serious looking african pompanoes.

Tiputa sightings: seven gray reef sharks coming up from the blue hoping to get fed, two chasing tunas trying to catch a meal, a lone napoleon and some heard but unseen dolphins.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shock treatment

We're ten divers plus two french guides and a polynesian boatsman on a big zodiac from The Six Passengers. It's overcast and the sea's kind of rough for our first dive at Rangiroa's famous Tiputa passage. Not what I'd call ideal conditions nor site for a check dive...

We're all supposed to jointly roll-back into the ocean at 1-2-3-GO! Standard procedure, but with empty BCDs to be able to submerge immediately upon entry. As I roll-back on GO! I can see the diver on my left still sitting on the boat. Splash! I'm about to pop back to the surface, surrounded & buoyed by bubbles, when I suddenly get knocked on the head by a tank. Shocked, I need a moment to recover my dislodged mask and my bearings as waves keep rolling over my face. Except for Petra, everybody has immediately submerged, including my hit-and-run man, and is already carelessly playing with a couple of dolphins down below. Luckily only the side of the tank made contact and chafed my hooded head, and I'm able to dive and enjoy some nice sightings too, e.g. a school of big barracudas, five mantas in a row flying by beneath us and a carpet of gray reef sharks down below around 50m. The dive's end though is again rather stressy, as we get sucked through the passage by the incoming tide.

The late afternoon sunset dive is a much more relaxing and uneventful happening, on top of a very nice reef with plenty of life, several schools of juvenile barracudas, two eagle rays flying by and various relatively close encounters with bottle-nose dolphins :o)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Moorea - Rangiroa

Early pick-up at 4:50am in front of Linareva for the 40' bus ride to Moorea's airfield and short 10' hop to Tahiti's airport, in time for our connecting 1h flight to Rangiroa and short ride to the Maitai, a modern impersonal 39 bungalows resort. Room to room a 5h transfer.

The Maitai's restaurant serves good but expensive food (1500-3000 CFP/meal). Across the street are a small store, selling baguettes, cheese, tomatoes, chips & water (110 CFP/1.5l bottle) a.o. and a small restaurant, serving pizzas (1250 CFP), meat & fish dishes.

Dive briefing by Yann at 14:30 for Tauchertraum's group of ten divers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sightseeing tour

Half a day island sightseeing tour (4000 CFP/pers) in a 4x4 pickup-jeep together with a couple of americans and two mexicans.

First stop: a small business cooking up various strange tasting jams from exotic fruits. More interesting and informative though is their experimental vanilla plantation. Note that most of French Polynesia's vanilla normally comes from Tahaa, Raiatea or Huahine.


Next: quick photo shoot at the Belvedere, for a panoramic view of Moorea's imposing land- & seascape. Followed by a look at some jungle overgrown ruins. There being no written language, except for body tattoos, there's not much known about the past of the people here. Last stop: fruit juice and liquor tasting in a tourist shop.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Catering

As already mentioned in a previous post, we get a generous breakfast served on our terrace each morning at 7:00 (or later if you so wish).

For lunch we do with bread, cheese, sausage, tomatoes & cucumber.

Most evenings, we enjoy a tasty (*) dinner at Linareva (2000 CFP), ordered upon request from an excellent catering service by our hosts.

Alternatively, there's a small but good open-air pizzeria two minutes by foot from the resort, where Daniel quickly prepares ones choice of pizza (1300-1500 CFP) in a matter of minutes. It's also possible to get picked up for free by several restaurants further up or down the coast, but we haven't felt like trying any of those out yet.

For those in a cooking mood, each bungalow has its own kitchenette. There are two mini-markets about 5-10' by bike up & down the road from the resort. Check your change though in the one down the road, otherwise you'll unfortunately get ripped off big time.

Bruno, living besides Linareva, makes various ice cream flavors for several restaurants & hotels on the island, but also sells to passersby's (500 CFP for ½l).

* Except on thursdays (& saturdays?) where it seems to be another cook at the stove. Alas that's also the closing day of Pizza Daniel.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Feeding frenzy

Overcast but nice weather. Still un-showered after my morning dives. Fresh load of fishy left-overs delivered today. Camera battery fully charged. Wetsuit dry. 16:45. No time to loose to get ready for action!

My favorite nurse is already waiting for me food from the sky as I carefully slip into the water and position myself below the jetty. Five minutes later Roland appears above and performs his mesmerizing magic. Small fish explode in numbers, remoras wriggle by, briefly clear space when the head nurse swirls by, blacktips in feeding mode zooming in & out, snapping at morsels & splashing with their tails to get away with it... all that right in front of my mask running camera.

Tiki

Pregnant lemon shark slowly passing by on the first dive and great viz at Tiki for our second dive, with enough blacktips and gray reef sharks to actually keep me attentive the whole time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Together

Overcast windy weather drives us to Moorea's north side, past Cook's bay, without a single blow to be seen two hours into our watch.

Jerome's hunch proves to be a good one though, when two plumes suddenly greet us not too far off. First dip's in vain, but on the second drop, in barely 10m of water, I get to see an imposing humpback mother with calf in her wake gliding by right beside me! Nobody else got in the water in time. Back on board, we wait for the baby to breach again. Sure enough, a few minutes later it briefly surfaces in our neighborhood and we all slip in.


Luck's with us as the mother no longer seems to see us as threat and decides to hang around. Letting her baby pop up every few minutes while remaining below. Only when she needs to come up for air too, about every twenty minutes, do we need to climb back onto our boat to be dropped off where she dives down again. An adult whale easily covers hundred meters or more between ascent, 3-4 breaths and descent. Four times we had the privilege to float in the water near mother & calf, before having to head back to base, due to time-out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lemon valley

Training dive with a couple of lemons, blacktips & a gray reef shark.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stingray city

Whale song

Michael having flown back home, I've taken his place as spotter beside Jerome. Watching is one thing though, seeing another. We've been cruising for almost an hour when, as I take a look behind us, a movement way back briefly catches my attention: a tail gliding into the ocean? Jerome immediately turns the boat around and heads towards the place I've pointed out.

As we approach the supposed dive spot, there's nothing indicating the presence of a whale. I'm already doubting my imagined sighting as Jerome stops the engine and jumps overboard, soon popping up again saying the magic word: singer! And from the sound of it relatively near. It's just a matter of waiting for it to surface. Incredibly enough it indeed breaches about 20m away for 3 or 4 breaths before diving down again to continue its song.


As soon as it submerges we slip into the water too, head below water we're immediately engulfed by the whale's strangely beautiful song.

The whale itself is nowhere to be seen, so I just let myself float around while listening and staring at the sun's rays plunging down in the ocean's unfathomable depths.

Twenty minutes later the whale re-surfaces for an encore...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Family day

Double shift, meaning morning & afternoon watch without a break, a good 8h at sea on a small boat. Early sighting of a solitary whale, but no luck seeing it below the waves. Later on we find a mother with calf and male escort. They're not in a playing mood though, shying away from the boat each time we approach and diving down when we slip in the water and swim towards them.


After a short pit-stop at Linavera, we return to the same spot and soon find both the lone whale and the family again. This time we're allowed in the inner circle and get to swim close to the baby as it slowly comes up to the surface for a couple of breaths, while its mom and her escort remain below.

Baby humpbacks can measure up to 6m and weigh about 2 tons at birth... so keeping a respectful distance isn't a bad idea, unless you don't mind being accidentally bumped into. [ → humpback whales ]



UPDATE: Yesterday a tourist tried to pat a baby humpback. It patted back. The lucky tourist got away with only a few broken ribs.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feeding time

Every day, at 5pm, Roland strolls to the end of his jetty, a bag full of fishy appetizers in his hand. Awaiting him eagerly, besides his guests and resident small fish, are some local big girls and cool guys, a.k.a. nurse and blacktip reef sharks.

Today, the sun being in a shiny mood, I decide to dip into the water myself, 5 minutes before show time, for a closer look at the action below the waves. Positioned right below the jetty, I ask Roland not to throw the morsels too far off, the viz not being that great, i.e. less than 5m. He gladly obliges and I'm promptly rewarded with a nurse slowly swirling around and around in front of my camera, trying in vain to get a free snack, while a handful of blacktips keep darting in for a quick snatch, when not outdone by a few opportunistic remoras.

Sometimes there are up to three nurses in attendance and a dozen of blacktips all competing for a bite, not to mention some daring seagulls snapping the food away in mid-air or as it hits the water.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Close encounter with two giants

Two impressive close encounters with a pair of 10-12m humpbacks.


I actually had a sensory overload as once both slowly rose up from the blue right in front of me, my still jet-lagged brain alas rather unable to fully register that overwhelming moment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Plumes, dorsals & tails

Fortified by a big french breakfast, consisting of an extra-large cup of coffee, home baked bread & jam, baguette, croissant or chocolatine, plenty of fresh local fruit & juice, we set out at 13:30 for our first whale watching tour, together with four other german tourists, boat captain Jerome and Michael, owner of Tauchertraum, accompanying us as guide & spotter.

Basically, whale watching is scanning the horizon while cruising along the coast, in this case the outer reef, until somebody sees a plume, dorsal or tail of one or more breaching humpback whales, then head towards it, wait for one to come up for air, then slip into the water and snorkel in its direction, hoping to intercept it, for a brief look before it plunges down again on its endless journey.

Our first dip was in vain, with no whale to be seen underwater, but on our second try we actually saw two shapes slowly gliding by below us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Check dive among blacktips

We're picked up at 07:45 by Catherine from Moorea Fun Dive, for the short drive from Linareva to the dive center, where her husband Greg is waiting for us to gear up and board the dive boat.


Moorea's reef suffered a lot of damage when cyclone Oli blew over Polynesia last february and is in a rather desolate state. Luckily the sharks are still there: blacktips, grays and lemons. The latter are currently in mating mood, meaning they're mostly busy elsewhere, i.e. in deeper waters beyond recreational limits. One paid us a courtesy visit though, attracted by the irresistible smell of a frozen tuna head, which Roland, acting as dive guide today to help out his wife's nephew Greg, brought down to get some special attention.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Résidence Linareva

Our 37h journey started yesterday at 6am, by car to Munich, jet to Paris, jet to LA, jet to Tahiti, aircraft to Moorea and finally bus to
Résidence Linareva, our first stop on this three islands tour.


Owned, managed and run by Roland & Edmée, two very hospitable and friendly Alsatians, Linareva is a small garden resort located right at the coast on Moorea's wild south-west side.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recreational SCUBA gear


Booties, fins, 3mm neoprene suit, hooded vest, swim trunks, gloves, regulator, power horn, DIN-to-INT adapter, SMB, belt, aluminum backplate & harness with utility pouches, weight pockets & two CAM bands, single tank wings* (12l), whistle, strobe light, mask, snorkel, reef hook and pointer... all in all about 12kg of SCUBA gear.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Underwater Photographer

Ordered online monday morning from amazon.de and delivered at my door today by the postman: "The Underwater Photographer" by Martin Edge (4th edition, ISBN: 978-0-240-52164-0, 25€ incl. free shipping).


Here's what others have to say about it:

→ book review on wetpixel by Steve Williams
→ customer reviews on amazon.com and amazon.de



UPDATE: And here's my opinion after having read it from A to Z.

Martin Edge's rather heavy 500 pages book isn't quite as encyclopedic as its not-meant-for-traveling weight might suggest, it being more an inspirational guide book to the art of underwater photography than a referential source of dry facts and educational how-tos.

Though not always as detailed or in-depth as I would have liked (*), the text's very easy to read, covering most aspects of underwater photography and always well illustrated with plenty of exemplary photos. (* internet links often point to additional online resources, but on paper these aren't clickable of much help)

I don't know about experienced underwater photographers, but for amateurs wanting to make underwater photos rather than just take snapshots, I'd say Martin Edge's "The Underwater Photographer" is a recommendable book to get started. Without a doubt much more so than e.g. "An Essential Guide To Digital Underwater Photography" (1st edition) by Michael Aw & Mathieu Meur, which I personally found disappointing from every point of view.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sulawesi, Indonesia, April 2010

Wonderful muck diving in Lembeh's famous strait with Two Fish Divers and relaxed reef diving near Donggala with Prince John Dive Resort.


travel blog

Indonesia - info sheet

VisumBelgian citizens can get a 30 days visa-on-arrival for 20€ or 25$. [ → Indonesian embassy in Berlin ]
TimeIndonesian time = CEST + 6h
WeatherAir temperature: around 30°C, with occasional tropical downpours. Water temperature: 28°C.
Currency1 Euro = 11200 Indonesian Rupiah
LanguageEnglish is barely spoken by some.

Videoclip: Lembeh critters

It took me about a day and a half to go through my 244 critter clips, sort them down to 193, i.e. 6.4GB or about 70' of WVGA resolution Motion-JPEG footage (taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5), rate, import into iMovie 08, select, cut & paste the best passages, edit and export them into a short 6'56" 960x540 MPEG-4 video of 193MB.

Exporting & uploading to YouTube took almost half an hour. For an optimal viewing experience, be sure to watch it in 480p.

→ Lembeh Critters

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Singapore - Sonthofen

Door to door it took me 30h to get back home. I actually arrived early, despite Iceland's volcano outburst having messed up european airspace and as a consequence all flight schedules the previous week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Donggala - Singapore

One hour sweaty drive from Prince John Dive Resort to Palu's domestic airport (dept.tax: 20'000 Rupiah), followed by a cool 45' flight to Balikpapan (int.dept.tax: 100'000 Rupiah), where five hours later I can board my two hour flight with Silk Air to Singapore.

Note that Singapore-Balikpapan-Palu is the normal route into C-Sulawesi for most divers, e.g. in combination with a stay at Maratua Paradise Resort, off Kalimantan's east coast.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One more time

Dive #15 [ 9:15 | 76' | max.25m, avg.9m | House Reef ]

Last dive of this trip, leaving me with 24h to off-gas, dry & pack my gear, before boarding the first of three planes on my way back home.

Sightings: angelfish, sweetlips, butterfly fish, goatfish & jacks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Busy night

Dive #12 [ 9:52 | 58' | max.25m, avg.15m | Pasi Pome * ]
Dive #13 [ 14:18 | 68' | max.25m, avg.11m | House Reef ]
Dive #14 [ 18:38 | 65' | max.13m, avg.8m | House Reef ** NIGHT ]

Very nice reef top at Pasi Pome seamount, half an hour away from the resort, with lots of sponges and nine cuttlefish in mating mood.

And another great private night dive straight from the house beach.


Sightings by day: cuttlefish gathering, crocodile fish, moray eel, mantis shrimps, small sea snake and a lone turtle.

Sightings by night: several moray eels prowling around, cuttlefish, tiny blue ringed octopus on the hunt, crab with a sponge plate as cover, camouflage boxer crabs, seapen with two tiny crabs, nudibranchs and of course plenty of basket stars & crinoids.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back among jacks

Dive #9 [ 9:25 | 64' | max.21m, avg.12m | Natural Reef ]
Dive #10 [ 14:11 | 68' | max.13m, avg.7m | House Reef ]
Dive #11 [ 18:38 | 68' | max.13m, avg.8m | House Reef * NIGHT ]

Back-rolled in again as soon as I could. Got some catching up to do!


Sightings by day: cuttlefish, blue spotted stingrays and my favorite schooling fish: silver jacks!

Sightings by night: lots of basket stars, unknown something, camouflage crab, lion- & scorpionfish and whirling plankton.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grounded

Three dry days due to a nasty ear infection. With the sea at my feet that's like an eternity.

So I picked up a 900 pages thick book, my first novel in german as a matter of fact, there being hardly any english ones in the resort's library. And I actually sat on the beach, underneath a straw roof, for a few hours every day, thereby getting a shade of a tan while waiting to submerge again below the inviting waves.

Friday, April 16, 2010

By my self

Dive #7 [ 9:17 | 69' | max.15m, avg.9m | House Reef ]
Dive #8 [ 14:40 | 57' | max.15m, avg.9m | Anchor Reef ]

Lost my group again - I must have a knack for it. Probably too independent & impatient to just hang onto a guide's fins without a good reason. The cause this time was lack of communication from the guide's part: no briefing above nor clear signals underwater, poor visibility and current that picked up shortly after we submerged. And of course me refusing to just hover nearby without there apparently being anything interesting to see and thus wandering off...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Housereef by night

Dive #4 [ 9:23 | 62' | max.21m, avg.12m | Natural Reef ]
Dive #5 [ 14:08 | 65' | max.29m, avg.14m | Green Wall ]
Dive #6 [ 18:41 | 63' | max.13m, avg.8m | House Reef ** NIGHT ]

While I quite enjoy the relaxed reef dives here, it's the wonderful encounters by night that really get me thrilled.


Sightings by day: shy napoleon, lots of gardens eels, crocodile fish, various nudibranchs, small sea snake and a cuttlefish a.o.

Sightings by night: two small false stonefish & a juvenile lionfish snapping at sardines attracted by my light, snow white & wine red basket stars hypnotically weaving their numerous arms around, lots of crinoids, several crabs & shrimps, flashy squids, cuttlefish & tiny octopus on the hunt, palm sized nudibranchs, scorpionfish lying in ambush, baby sole, flat worm and loads of micro-organisms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

South atoll

Dive #2 [ 10:33 | 61' | max.32m, avg.14m | viz~10m | South Atoll ]
Dive #3 [ 13:04 | 63' | max.24m, avg.12m | viz~10m | Pasi Kawe ]


Day trip around the corner with the big boat, to a sandy atoll barely sticking out of the sea and a submerged seamount. Visibility could have been better but both sites offer beautiful reef tops and I got to have a peek at a tiny squat lobster, two pygmy seahorses and three leaf scorpionfish.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prince John Dive Resort

Got a nice hill side category 1 bungalow with private tree shaded sea view terrace and cold water mandi. Electricity only from 6pm to 6am, but for charging purposes there's 24h power in the dive center.


Prince John Dive Resort is currently being managed by Gaby & Alex, a german couple doing a pretty good job catering mostly for german tourists in this relatively remote location.

Took the morning off, just hanging around, enjoying the sunny weather and meeting the other guests.


I actually already passed by here back in 1994, but didn't get to dive then due to financial disagreements with the former manager. The snorkeling however, especially at night, made enough of an impression to get me to return for another look.

Dive #1 [ 14:16 | 64' | max.20m, avg.8m | viz~10m | 28°C | Alex's Point ]

Despite the proximity of Donggala and other smaller coastal villages, the wonderful reef top is still pretty intact and vibrating with an healthy amount of coral fish life. Not to mention trash of all kinds.

Sightings: octopus, cuttlefish, mantis shrimps and a small school of juvenile jacks a.o.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lembeh - Donggala

It's supposedly possible to fly directly from Manado (dept.tax: 30'000 Rupiah) to Palu in about half an hour. However, the responsible? Indonesian carrier being too unreliable to count upon for getting tourists to their destination on a specific day, a longer journey, via Makassar (S-Sulawesi) with Lion air, needs to be undertaken.

Meaning my transfer from Two Fish Divers to Prince John Dive Resort took 13h in stead of 5h. Both resort-airport transfers take a bit more than an hour by not-for-easily-unnerved-people kamikaze-like taxi.

Note that whereas the plane from Singapore to Manado was mostly filled with international underwater tourists, I was the only foreigner on the plane from Makassar to Palu. In my case, that's a good sign.

Upon arrival around 11pm I'm met by Bruno, a swiss scuba instructor in charge of the dive operation, and shown into my private wooden bungalow, where after a quick mandi-shower I just crash into bed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The last parade

Dive #14 [ 8:26 | 61' | max.23m, avg.13m | Makawide island ]
Dive #15 [ 10:43 | 63' | max.20m, avg.12m | Police Pier II ]

Strangely missing in action on this trip: warty, hispid & hairy frogfish; reef & estuary stonefish; pygmy seahorses; seamoths and mimic & wonder octopus a.o. Maybe next time?


Critters: red seahorse swimming around, pink seahorse, false stonefish, scorpionfish, orange painted frogfish on the move, and of course various lionfish.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lembeh at its best

Dive #11 [ 8:27 | 63' | max.21m, avg.13m | Batu Sandar * ]
Dive #12 [ 10:37 | 71' | max.18m, avg.11m | Jahir ** ]
Dive #13 [ 15:12 | 75' | max.11m, avg.9m | Aer Prang *** ]


Highlights of the day: a supermodel anemone crab, a crazy devil scorpionfish scratching a false stonefish's humpback and a much looked after weedy scorpionfish posing with yet another devil scorpionfish. Yes, that weedy was a rhinopias frondosa indeed, a first sighting for me, so I took my time with it :o)


Critters: various lionfish, emperor shrimp, juvenile batfish, camouflaged box crab, tiny flamboyant cuttlefish, ambon scorpionfish, orang utan crab on the sand, brown seahorses, handful of cockatoo waspfish, anemone crab & shrimps, several devil scorpionfish & false stonefish, a rhinopias and various sea urchins.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The art of guiding

Dive #8 [ 8:18 | 48' | max.23m, avg.13m | Critter Hunt - ]
Dive #9 [ 10:33 | 81' | max.17m, avg.9m | Tandu Rusa ]
Dive #10 [ 15:20 | 73' | max.19m, avg.11m | Makawide shallows ** ]

Lost my group at Tandu Rusa, meaning I did not get to photograph the seahorses there. With visibility varying between 5 and 10m, it's inevitable to get out of sight while trying to get a shot. A good guide however would return and get you back on track. Having the guide just for me on the third dive made everything alright again :o)


Critters: false stonefish, nudibranchs, various shrimps, waspfish, sand eel, lots of anemones, lionfish, pair of ambon scorpionfish, long-arm octopus on the hunt, flying gurnard, small brown frogfish, various scorpionfish, crab carrying an urchin on its back and a velvetfish.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Muck diving extraordinaire!

Dive #5 [ 8:34 | 61' | max.21m, avg.12m | Hairball ** ]
Dive #6 [ 10:48 | 75' | max.17m, avg.12m | Tandu Rusa ** ]
Dive #7 [ 18:01 | 64' | max.15m, avg.10m | Nudifalls * NIGHT ]

Today I got what I came for: Lembeh diving as I remembered it :o)


Critters: colony of hingebeak shrimps, various lionfish, trio of whitish harlequin ghostpipefish, cockatoo waspfish, pair of devil scorpionfish, several flounders, tiny bristle? worms, sea snake, brown, red and yellow seahorses, false stonefish, autumn-orange juvenile batfish, tiny orange frogfish, anemone shrimps, emperor shrimp, banded pipefish, cardinalfish, nudibranchs, crabs, blue spotted stingrays, flat worm and blooming corals during the night dive.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Not quite like the first time

While I do enjoy spotting critters myself, I do find it kind of weird that I'm actually stumbling upon more creatures than my guide... and I must say I'm slightly disappointed with the relatively little we've seen so far, that is, compared to the many extraordinary sightings during my first trip here in July 2005. Time to lower my expectations?

Dive #3 [ 8:33 | 58' | max.30m, avg.15m | viz~10m | Angel's Window - ]
Dive #4 [ 10:58 | 66' | max.21m, avg.12m | viz<10 | Batu Sandar * ]

Whereas yesterday I just point-n-snapped a few macro shots with my five year old Sea&Sea DX8000G, today I tried out some underwater close-up videography with a housed Panasonic FS5. In both cases using a TillyTec LED 2000 VIDEO light for illumination.

Critters: octopus, pair of orang utan crabs on a bubble coral, short-tail pipefish, 2 relatively big crabs, 2 small brown seahorses, tiny ambon scorpionfish (3cm) and a small robust ghostpipefish.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Two Fish Divers Lembeh

After having been welcomed and briefed yesterday by Helen & Gizmo, the two new managers of Two Fish Divers Lembeh, I made myself comfy in my budget room directly above the dive center, unpacked, set up my gear and met some of the other international guests.

The room's raher spartan & not very charming, but it's clean, with two basic hot! water bathrooms and toilets downstairs around the corner. To my surprise there's no mosquito net, but an electric dispenser does a great job at keeping any would-be-stingers outside. There's 24h power, so charging lights, strobes and cameras can be done around the clock. A must be for any photo- or videographers.


Activity being the best remedy against jet-lag, I immediately went for two morning dives right after breakfast.

Dive #1 [ 67' | max.20m, avg.12m | viz<10m | Tanjung Tebal ]
Dive #2 [ 70' | max.18m, avg.11m | viz~5m | Teluk Kembahu ]

Visibility ain't too good, but for artificially lighted macro & close-up snapshots that doesn't really matter too much. Water temperature's a nice 28°C, meaning my 3mm wetsuit and hooded-vest are enough to keep me relatively warm. I'd recommend a 5mm though.

Critters: small devil scorpion fish in the open, small brown frogfish pretending not to be there, four squids hovering in formation, several parading lionfish, two anemone crabs apparently not minding my attention and a tiny cuttlefish scuttling over the sandy bottom.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sonthofen - Lembeh

After a 26h journey by car, 3 trains (to Munich), 2 planes (to Manado via Singapore), van and boat I find myself on Two Fish Divers Lembeh's black sand beach. Tomorrow the diving begins!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Food Is Power

As long as we, as consumers, just buy & eat without second thought, there'll be providers eager to supply & sell, without any scruples, whatever we pay for, no matter the price & consequences.

Nutrition is ruthless business. A fact proven once again at this year's CITES world conference, attended by over 1500 delegates from more than 170 governments, where China, Japan and their bribed allies defeated every proposal to protect various endangered shark species and the overfished atlantic bluefin tuna a.o. Shark fin soup & sushi are big money. Way too lucrative to restrict harvesting in any way.

They won't stop until it's too late, unless we can change our feeding habits. Be aware of the far reaching impact of your shopping list!

Friday, March 19, 2010

TillyTec LED 2000 underwater VIDEO light

Took advantage of TillyTec's fairly unique offer to upgrade almost any of its light-heads or battery-packs to a newer more powerful one.

That is, I exchanged my outdated-technology HID 35 not just for one, but for two new LED 2000 VIDEO light-heads, in order to have a dual evenly illuminated video lighting solution.

TillyTec's standard LED 2000 has a 175W halogen equivalent 10° beam ideal for technical diving, whereas the non-focussed VIDEO version has a more diffused 110° wide beam optimal for videography.


Modular & expandable underwater lighting system configurable to one's needs.

Power: Seven hi-tech LEDs delivering 175W of halogen equivalent output according to TillyTec's specifications (5500°K, 45000 Lux).

Despite its power, the VIDEO version has a rather limited range.

Burn time: two LED 2000 light-heads can shine for more than 100' on one TT 3 NiMh battery-pack. (note that it is not possible to connect two LED 2000s to a single Flexi II or TT 2 battery)

Robustness.

It's not possible to dim the output, nor change the beam's angle.

A diffuser is available that can be popped on or off underwater. While not needed for the VIDEO version (except maybe for reducing its intensity), it can be useful for softening the SPOT version's beam.

Note that, even with diffuser, the LED 2000 SPOT has a hotspot when pointed towards nearby subjects or surfaces, so this option is not recommended for e.g. macro photography or close-up videography.

A Goodman handle and flexible arms are available as accessory. Both can hold e.g. TillyTec's HID 35, LED 1000 or LED 2000.

IMO, TillyTec's LED 2000 VIDEO produces nice hotspot-free illumination for macro photography or close-up videography.

→ macro photography illuminated by just one LED 2000 VIDEO
→ close-up videography illuminated by one LED 2000 VIDEO

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dive trip booked!

Got a pretty good offer for a dive trip to Indonesia from Aquaventure Tauchreisen which I readily accepted :o)

Planned are six muck diving days with Two Fish Divers in Lembeh (N-Sulawesi) and ten reef diving days with Prince John Dive Resort near Donggala (C-Sulawesi).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I need to submerge and soak up some sun

After seeing an ad in tauchen, I requested a quote from Aquaventure Tauchreisen for a 3 week combo-trip to north & central Sulawesi, for some extraordinary muck & relaxed reef diving.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

boot 2010: TaucherTraum

TaucherTraum having several special tours I'd just love to join, we immediately headed for its booth to get some more information.

Michael, the owner, being the specialist for Polynesia, answered all our questions regarding snorkeling with whales, diving with sharks, accommodation & living costs and even presented some of the dive guides for some first-hand impressions. After which we had a friendly chat with Steffi & Stefan whom I'd met two years ago among sharks.

Besides Polynesia, I also gathered some info about Baja California and enquired about the situation in the Galapagos. The latter's alas getting more expensive and more restrictive every year, with dive tours not allowed on land and land tours not allowed in the water?

Still, plenty of wonderful dreams indeed, waiting to be dived into...