I received the DVD that Mike managed to put up after a lot of work considering all the footage he had from our trip in Sangalaki. The result is absolutely amazing. Some sequences are available courtesy of Digital Diver. You can find them here. You have 4 versions of different quality (9.6MB, 15MB, 29.5MB, 45.5MB)
I have been kindly asked for several pictures of the wounded black manta taken in Sangalaki to be used as materials for a PADI Specialty Course called Mantas of Ningaloo as well as for research. The course can be taken at the Exmouth Diving Centre, Exmouth, Western Australia. This is where I wanted to go last year to take a chance at finding a few whale sharks. But this was a long way from Perth (~1300km) Oh well...
No pictures today. I took a flight from Manado to Singapore at noon to catch my flight back to Paris at 22:30. I will be arriving the next day at 6AM and I'm going to work right after at 9AM. I did not stay long in Lembeh, but it is still better than not going at all. Heather, Mike, Paul and Bob stay here until for a few more days.
I haven't seen a lot of nudibranches and flatworms in this trip but diving in nudi falls I expected to get a few snapshots of new species (for my personal database at least). I was not disappointed with the Hoplodoris nodulosa or the Glossodoris rufomarginatus. I did not have time to ids all of the critters because I can't find the time and resources to do so efficiently. Of course frogfish were there as well as the Banggaai cardinalfish.
This ghost pipefish was a first to me, as I have never seen one in post-larval stage (we thought at first it was a different specie, until I looked for more information). You can see it still being fully transparent. It was a mission just to take a picture of it as it was driving me nuts by swimming around me, up and down. I stayed for more than 15 minutes doing what Mike called on DD imitation of the Tasmanian Devil" trying to have a side shot with tail fully expanded. Mission accomplished.
This macro shot of a crocodile fish eye was taken in Paradise dive site, just next to a giant frogfish and a massive phyllidiopsis shirinae with chromodoris tinctoria. Paradise is well...not really what the average diver would expect of a tropical dive site. It is a grey, dark place, covered not with black sand but silt. Any single move of a fish on the bottom creates enough shit to make the water cluttered with particules and thus not really great for photography.
Our plan for the day was to find a Weedy scorpionfish - Rhinopias frondosa, in a new dive site called Bethlehem (named to mean BEtter THan LEMbeh). Our dive guide Kennedy did not take long to find it. I think we could have stayed here for while as obviouslly the critters found here are quite promising on the quality of the dive site...and it is not as frequented as Lembeh which starts to look like the Bahamas (ok, not quite, but it's on the way)
Despite the plane being one hour late, we were picked up yesterday night at Manado airport by Bob's friend, Andrew, manager of the newly built Kima Bajo Resort & Spa. He kindly invited us to stay at his resort for the night. The bungalows are resort-style villas with stylish Balinese furnitures with private terrace, outdoor sunken bath and shower. All the resort is made of iron wood that gives a truely unique aspect. The pictures speak for themselves.
I'm in Balikpapan right now. We arrived this morning from Berau and had tpo pay an excess baggage of 450,000 rupiahs (56kg excess). We checked in for the afternoon in the Grand Senyur hotel (blatant luxury). We'll be in Manado tonight, so don't expect any pictures before I get back to France on October 5. Sorry. But it should be worth the wait
Only Mike and I decided to go for this dive, we left at 7:30AM to try to get the mantas. We got our best dive ever with the mantas. We slowly drifted from the boat to dive within a group and follow slowly the sandy 'avenue' by sticking to the bottom. We separated quickly and amazingly met at the same location: a coral head to be used as a shelter to protect us from the current. It was located at where the big sandy 'avenue' was splitting in 2 smaller one. The mantas were flying on each avenue and passing over us during more than 30 minutes.
The hundred mantas were lining again in several small groups. I bumped again into the wounded manta that has 2 hooks in her right wing and a trailing fishing line. I still did not have any knife to attempt some quick line cutting.
We were supposed to go to Maratua at the Nabucco resort today but we are finally staying to Sangalaki for various reasons. In the morning there were over a dozen groups of manta rays lining up to feed on planktons. As each group is about 10 individuals, do the maths: over a hundred mantas in one location ! Camera settings were again challenging due to the variation of weather conditions in a short time: cloudy with no sunshine, cloudy with sunshine, blue sky with sunshine, rain, ... all that during an hour.
Ron, Manager of Sangalaki Dive Lodge took us along with Ian (dive instructor) to the Blue Light Cave at Kakaban. He restricts this to experienced divers as this is a deep dive in pitch black conditions: no light at all and that it happens that some people discover that they suffer from claustrophobia in those conditions. So better be cautious here considering the depth. The entrance is a vertical shaft on top of the reef in about 50cm of water. There are 2 exits from this cave, one is apparently located at 44m, the other one is at 64m. I took the camera for this dive and literally forgot about it...despite that the housing is rated to 40m ! It worked without a hitch though and was able to take a picture at the exit point (looks like a gate). I wanted to take a shot without strobes but did not have time to do so. It is quite amazing as the exit looks like it is carved.
Now that we are the only customers at the dive lodge, we can go back to longer bottom times. It does not change much when this is a manta dive as it is most of the time quite 'physical' when I have to follow them or going up and down, but it is nice when doing a shallow macro dive.
Manta shots are starting to improve, but I'm still relatively unsatisfied. All shots are taken by intercepting the trajectory of an approaching manta on its side and slowly moving under their belly. Note that all this is generally done against a slight current, with the manta flying effortlessly while I'm sucking air by pushing the whole ocean with my Mares Quattro fins (highly not recommended for such things). I'm putting so much energy swimming, that it is a challenge to be able to shoot at the same time while trying to adjust settings depending on the sun position.
I had a pleasant surprise today as there were quite a good number of mantas today, especially appreciated as a birthday present. This did not stop here, as the whole Sangalaki staff surprisingly came during the evening singing a happy birthday to me and Aima (Ron's wife) offered me a birthday present as well. Thank you so much for the nice attention !
Sangalaki is breeding ground for turtles. About a dozen turtles come each night to lay eggs and a hundred babies hatch from each nest about 50 days later and crawl directly to the ocean. Sangalaki Dive Lodge historically established a baby turtle nest adoption program where divers could act as sponsors by buying eggs from collectors. At the time the program was founded the indonesian government was allowing egg collectors to dig up every nest and sell eggs for human consumption throughout Asia. Fortunately this has stopped since january 2002 and Ron, founder of the Sangalaki Dive Lodge should be thanked for establishing such a program that probably avoided the island from being emptied from turtles.
Turtles decided to nest under the bungalow around 3-4AM. The beach in front of our bungalow looks like a battlefield with huge holes about everywhere. On the dive side, we did our first dive around Samama island located about 15mins from Sangalaki.
Kakaban is a coral atoll about 30 minutes from speed boat from Sangalaki. What is particular about this place is the land-locked lake: the world's largest jellyfish lake. There are 4 species of stingless jellyfish as well as tunicates, sponges, tube worms, bihalves, crustacean, anemones, sea cucumbers, sea snakes and at least five known species of gobies.
Since I haven't been using the camera for a while, I'm not expecting stunning pictures for a couple of days. Especially since I upgraded from a single strobe to a dual strobe system, therefore modifying (and complicating) the solution. I now have a more flexible and powerful lighting system but at the same time, strobe positioning is more challenging and as these new strobes output much more power than the last one (and that it's a manual and not a TTL system) I have to get used to it and go through various range of settings.
We arrived at the Sangalaki Dive Resort after a hectic trip (for me at least). After landing to Singapore at 6:45AM, I met Heather, Bob and Mike at the Changi Airport at Singapore to take the Silk Air flight to Balikpapan leaving at 7:55AM and with ETA 10:15AM. At Balikpapan, Bob and Heather were stuck for a while at the immigration to get a visa. We grabbed all our diving gear and rushed to the departure gate to check in to the DAS/Kalstar flight to Berau..we checked in at 10:55 while the flight was leaving at 11:00...
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.
As you may have noticed, I updated the pictures. It took me about 3 hours non-stop, that's not so bad especially considering that Ubud is the cheapest place I have found so far for Internet (9000RP/h). I was so tired after that I decided to have a Balinese massage nearby at the Milano salon .
I took a Perama bus this morning from Sanur at 10:30AM to go to Ubud. I'm staying at Dana Sari, 43 Hanoman St. which is the first place I found. It is very nice and won't complain about the price (40000RP bargained and of course breakfast included). There is no swimming pool (what ?? !) here though it seems strangely kind of a standard in a lots of place in Ubud, but I really don't care much for now.
The United States delayed the visa procedure to October 26, 2004.
I offered myself a birthday present. I had the idea for a couple of weeks now and this is all set today. I will leave on Oct. 4 for a 11-day liveaboard starting from Manado (North Sulawesi) with Murex, probably onboard of the MV Serenade as we are 12 divers.
Took the bus this morning back to Sanur for 25000RP. I went through Ubud and was astonished by all the hawkers that jump on the tourists leaving the bus to stay in Ubud. This place looks insane, it must probably be a Kuta bis . I have asked the people in my bus if it was always like this in Ubud as they stayed there before and they told me that painfully, it was. In their opinion it was much better staying in Padang Bai and do all the daily circuits from there rather than staying in Ubud, even though it involved some additional driving . I understand now why some people told me they basically stayed there less than 2 hours before leaving somewhere else...
I'm back to Padang Bai, tonight. I was quite undecided today about what to do. Stay another night and leave early morning to Lovina or go back to Padang Bai. ( I need to go back to Sanur quickly). Finally I took a couple of bemos back to Padang Bai (25000RP). We had to charter a bemo for the last part as it was quite late, thus it is a bit more expensive than during daytime. I will probably leave to Sanur tomorrow morning.
I did another 2 dives on the USS Liberty wreck. First dive was around 7AM during 80min and second one was around 12PM during 104min. The wreck is absolutely amazing and full of marine life. You could dive here hundred of times without being tired of it, it makes me think about the Lighthouse in Dahab. I'm quite pleased by the pictures I took so far and I start to reasonably use the strobe coupled with the wide angle or the macro lens. It gives me way more possibilities than before. I hope that you will like the pictures as they are much different in style(when I will be able to post them).
Today I'm in Tulamben. I left Padang Bai early morning to get some cash in KlungKung as there are no ATMs in Padang Bai, Candi Dasa nor Alampura. I found at least one ATM that was working in Klungkung. I went back to Padang Bai early enough to catch a chartered car to Tulamben. I paid 50000RP for this one and it took me less than 2 hours to arrive there. I did not feel like taking a bemo for this one, though it would probably be piece of cake and about 20000RP total (and probably 3 to 4 hours).
I took a bemo from Padang Bai to Amlapura (8000RP) followed by a rip-off ride to Abibi (5000RP) to see a magnificent view with rice terraces. The Royal Pool/Water Palace in Tirtagganga was a bit disappointing especially as I missed the 'swimming pool' but I did not go there to swim anyway. I then walked a bit from Tirtagganga to the beginning of Amlapura and jumped into another bemo where the driver tried to overcharge me with 2000RP. Sorry guy, no way I can be ripped off twice in a row, 1000RP is way enough for this ride. I then took another bemo to Candi Dasa (4000RP) which is nothing but a disappointing town.
Internet access in Indonesia is nerves cracking. I have never experienced something THAT slow and it looks like I won't be able to upload pictures before leaving the country. It would probably take 48h non-stop to do it.... It takes me about 10 minutes to check one email in bearaway.org and I need almost 30 minutes on Hotmail (note that I disable pictures loading for that...). This is even slower than a mobile phone connection at 9600BPS shared between 4 users in the Perhentian Islands. And this is not even cheap, roughly a little more than US$2 / hour.
I'm now in Padang Bay. This is a small village known as the main port to go to Lombok as the ferry is leaving from here. I left Nusa Lembongan this morning taking advantage of a small boat that brings fruits and vegetables to the island from Kusemba. I was in the boat with 2 nice german girls, Ines and Jessica who are medical students in Munich and it took us a short hour of sailing/engine to reach Kusemba. (It is basically 10 minutes from Padang Bay)
I decided to stay one more day in Lembongan, giving me another chance to see the Mola Mola that keeps escaping me since the beginning. After all that's my birthday and I'm officially turning 30 today, so it MUST be there. I was very surprised by the number of people that wished me a happy birthday as the word spreaded obviouslly quickly. That was nice from everyone. And thanks to all of you that wished me a happy birthday via email
I'm still pretty mediocre at using the strobe with the camera, moreover the camera itself is very different than the previous model which does not help. I manage to make some excellent pictures from time to time and discover the joy of the wide angle lens underwater, I would need more and more lights however in some shots. Amazingly while sometimes I need more light at full power I find myself overexposing badly some pictures despite being at f/8, 1/1000. All this seems very weird to me since I was used to have only the internet flash and there is no way I could get enough light at something like f/8 1/50 ! What a change !
I've been diving Nusa Lembongan with World Diving since monday and I must say that it is very impressive. The visibility is simply awesome, as is the coral reef and the marine life. The water is however subject to huge thermoclines and ranges from about 24 to 18C, you'd better take a 5mm wetsuit. The downside is that there are impressive currents sometimes reaching up to 5 knots and in every way: left, right, upward and...downward. Some dive sites are not recommended for beginners.
Diving Manta Point and Gamat Bay. As you can guess we are supposed to see Manta rays in Manta Point. The B&W stylish picture is made to avoid the hideous overexposure as I did not anticipate that the Manta would pass right between the sun and me !
I'm moving tomorrow to Nusa Lembongan. It is a very small island about 1 to 3 hours from Sanur (well you never know...), just north of Nusa Penida which itself is between Bali and Lombok. Ok it does not say much to you but it is supposed to be very nice .
I arrived in Bali yesterday evening. I was stuck at the immigration for about 30 minutes as the police officer requested to see my return ticket and of course he could not figured that the date on it was just a fancy one 'July 30' and it was in reality an open ticket.