Yesterday evening I just realized that I was actually supposed to have the car back to Perth...mmm...in fact I probably mixed up the date concerning my planning but anyway. I tried to call back AVIS but was fighting with the phone that kept eating my coins and cutting all my calls so I never could reach AVIS which could have been useful to prevent them for declaring the car stolen and launching a nationwide police research on a French terrorist driving a blue Hyundai Getz.
After a quick and short drive to Cape Le Grand situated about 60km east of Esperance, I rejoined the main (only) highway (road) to Kalgoorlie. A few kilometers later, I amazingly joined Susie, Sarah and Pete on the way to Kalgoorlie. Susie managed to impress me by driving twice over the speed limit in some areas and deciding to overtake a queue of vehicules stopped at the roadwork. The lollipop man handed her the 'stop' sign desperately while I was laughing in my car at the back of the queue.
Esperance is named after a French Naval vessel sheltered from a storm in a bay a few kilometers from the present town. It is also known as the Bay of Isles due to the vast number of small islands offshore and it has absolutely amazing white sand beaches with stunning shades of blue. The downside being that it is incredibly windy with an average of 27km/h a year.
An absolutely stunning dutch-british weather (read rain all over the place) this morning. Plan was somewhat to go to Mount Frankland, but considering the weather the view would have been a stunning 100m-viz at most. I made my way through the forrest made of Karri and Tingle trees to find the Giant Tingle Tree, then stopped at the Valley of the Giants (A$6). The Valley of the Giants is a nice piece of engineering that allow you to walk on the treetops, 40m above the ground. Honestly it is more interesting for the engineering part than the thrills of walking on the treetops as it is not especially dense and the view has nothing extraordinary.
Rainy day. Pretty annoying. After going to Leeuwin lighthouse where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet (about 8km from Augusta), I went back south to visit Jewel Cave (A$15.5) where I was greeted by the guide with a 'Your country is Germany, right?'...errr absolutely not, sorry, it's France.
I decided this morning to join a Whale watch tours with Naturaliste Watchers (A$45) in Dunsborough (between Busselton and Margaret River). Once I arrived in the car park, I was coincidently joined by Karl, the german yoga teacher I met in Bunburry and we all jumped on the boat. We have been able to see a few humbpack whales around Cape Naturaliste, but nothing extraordinary. A couple of tail flapping (I missed all the shots and I will be better off with a 300mm anyway) but nothing really awesome.
Before leaving from Bunbury I went early morning to the Dolphin Discovery Centre, or more exactly the beach facing it. This is the place where dolphins are sometimes coming. I went there to check the water, as you can 'float' (no real swimming authorized) if dolphins are around. But visibility was crap so I was not very tempted to try. That said, the dolphins came a few minutes later (no shots sorry) only for a couple of minutes and then went away.
I'm right now staying in Bunbury which is well known for being able to swim with dolphins when you can do it, that is: not now. Bunburry is located about 200km south of Perth, so as you can see I have been driving a bit since yesterday as I was 250km north . I stopped along the way to Whiteman Park slightly north of Perth to take some pictures of some koalas and was briefed extensively by a cool ranger about Victorian koalas.
I finally took a car at AVIS, a compact Hyundai Getz which is a joy to drive and I have been driving 250km north of Perth to spend the night at a place called Cervantes. Cervantes as you all know, is famous for its pinnacles and ...stromatolites at Lake Thetis. Before you hit Google to figure out what is a stromatolite, it is simply the oldest known fossils and is formed by photosynthesizing microbial communities such as cyanobacterias. This is damn exciting. I know .
I sent back the DS50 to Ikelite this morning via FedEx and hope for a quick repair and as you can see I also uploaded some pics from the liveaboard. I also contacted DEPP to see what's going on about the camera flood claim as there is still no news after a month and I have had no replies to a couple of emails. I had a reply from the CEO as I put him in CC telling me he will look at it first time as he happens to be in the right office today. Good news as every communication with him has always be fruitful but I hate doing that.
I just arrived in Perth this evening after a flawless flight from Denpasar. I had the usual inquisitive/long bag search of the customs in look for any dust I could bring from outer space or cheese from somewhere else (France ?). I have been asked 3 or 4 times between the visa desk and customs if really understood what was written in the customs declaration form or if I had any food. Do you have any food items ? Are you sure ? Are you really sure ? Are you totally sure ?
I'm just back tonight from the liveboard in Manado. Overall this was great for critters as most of us were able to see things that we never saw before. The muck diving in Lembeh Straits is simply amazing considering all you can see in this place. Expect some crazy pictures posted soon. Which means more or less once I'm in Perth, Australia. If things go well it should be online by monday, at least I hope so.
The last 2 dives as I'm flying the next day at 2PM and must respect a no-fly time of 24h for safety. It happened to be nice as we were able to see turtle, manta ray and sharks albeit from quite a distance. The first dive was awesome due to great visibility, sunshine, and school of fishes making it nice for wide angle.
Excellent wreck packed with critters. Very few pictures as the strobe was not very cooperative and I apparently forgot to change the camera batteries. Could not be more frustrating. We went into the sticks afterwards which is packed with critters at a shallow depth. even after 79min I had almost 150 bars as I spent all of it at a maximum depth of 3.3m !
It was decided to go back to Lembeh because the weather is not very inspiring on the North and we got another long/boring/noisy night ride to Batu Pendeta and go back in the afternoon to Lembeh Straits. My Ikelite strobe decides it has enough after the 2nd dive and stop working in the middle of the dive. Simply awesome.
A long endless noisy night ride to Mahengetang with the Serenade to swim on the underwater volcano. Bad news, the weather is not very inspiring with low altitude dark grey clouds, rain and choppy water. We got the ride of our life with the Kennedy that decides to bring us straight down to about 40m to avoid drifting too much with the current.
No night dive tonight as we must leave early in the afternoon to prepare for the long ride in the north. It is not that far relatively speaking but the boat is by no mean a F1 as it goes only to 4-5kt. To make things worse the sea is not helping us.
Tough morning dive at Batu Pendeta. After about 30 minutes the current got stronger but fortunately some rocks offered a welcome shelter. For a few minutes only as the angle switched a few minutes later making the safety stop a challenge without drifting away. We were hanging to the rocks to avoid drifting away as can be seen from one pic.
We are not tired of seing frogfish as they are truely amazing creatures. The good thing is that the dive sites are full of other interesting critters as well and it is packed with nudibranchs.
Impressive day with some big Emperor shrimps (Thanks Craig!) and a stunning weedy frogfish ! This one was amazing as it was really a nervous one, running all over the place at very high speed (for a frogfish). Seeing him fishing was quite an experience as well. Look at the size of its pole and lure !
A good frogfish day with different species of hairy one. While landing on the sand to get pictures of something I suddenly felt something moving under my knee, I moved (quickly !) and saw a fish swimming away and burying itself 20m away in the sand... pfeew, no stonefish... I quickly went to see what was that and saw an absolutely ugly fish face: a stargazer ! Stunning !
Stunning dives in Lembeh with the long awaited pygmy seahorse (around 15mm long). Not far from a magnificent orange frogfish, I was under heavy attack by a big damselfish that kept charging me and my camera.
We arrive in Lembeh Straits in the afternoon and jump straight into the well known Nudi Falls.
First dives in Bunaken with the crowd, that is: Bob Whorton, Darren Taylor, Todd Mintz, Ross Atkinson, Christin Boyd, Herb Ko, Heather Mullen, Gail Kinster, David Grundy, Vince Webster, Craig Jones and myself. We are onboard of the Serenade from Murex.
I'm off to Manado tomorrow morning assuming I don't miss the early flight. I should arrive about 5 minutes before Bob's gang, so we should all be able to meet at the airport. We are boarding the boat on the evening and I'll be back in Bali on October 17. I also confirmed my Qantas flight to Perth on October 18 (5PM). So there will be kind of a blackout of the weblog. I hope to come back with some awesome pictures from the liveaboard.
It has been raining cats and dogs since the last 2 days. Basically the rain is pouring down quasi non-stop, only a few interruptions from time to time. So I haven't been visiting the volcanoes. There is obviouslly no need to see a landscape blocked by low-altitude clouds and hiking when there is water all over is not really fun as well.