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 ( 20'000 Rupiah), followed by a cool 45' flight to Balikpapan ( 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


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 ( 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!