June 22, 2012

Indonesia Manado Scuba Diving Trip - Bunaken

The View from outside the resort room
Manado situated at the northern tip of the Indonesia Sulawesi island is a major shipping hub between the resource rich eastern islands of Indonesia, China, Japan and Philippines. It also boast some of the most diverse scuba diving experience in the world. The diving group consist of the same batch of unfitters who went on the Pulau Dayang and Aur trip: Crippled, marathon girl and Mr L. This is a 6 days 5 night trip and consist of 11 dives: 6 dives at The island of Bunaken and 5 dives at the island of lembeh. Silkair has a daily flight to Manado and the air fare is pretty standard throughout the year at 450 SGD. This trip is jointly organized by Simply Scuba and Submersible. A short 4 hrs plane ride later, we were whisked off on car and boat to the island of Bunaken. To our horror, we realized that we forgot to bring along something essential for the trip: beer, coke and potato chips, all thanks to the efficiency of the organizers that we did not have time to stop by a nearby supermart on the mainland.


We were staying at Bastiano resort and all the rooms sports a sea front view. The accommodation is very comfortable and the resort actually has access to Internet!! Something that I did not expect on a remote island. The sunset was beautiful and we did our dutiful tasks as tourists and went wild snapping away at the dipping sun.
The corridor leading to all the rooms
Bastianos main building in the evening

A map of the dive spots around Bunaken
A solitary local looking for crabs at the coast

Bunaken is famous for its wall diving. It is like diving off an underwater Cliff except that the Cliff is made up of corals, developed over thousands of years. The most important diving technique you need in wall diving is the ability to attain neutral buoyancy. The bottom of the wall is pretty deep going as deep as 60-90 meters. Most of our diving activities hovered around the 10-20 mark where the marine life is the most active and there is still sufficient sunlight to throw off the colors of the corals. The authorities at Bunaken marine park do not allow divers to wear gloves, to prevent itchy fingers from destroying the fragile corals so it became a challenge to hover in mod water, without an anchor point and taking pictures of small critters and fishes. There is also this challenge of keeping track of the diver's depth since it is possible to deviate as much as 10 meters from the designated depth, when the diver is too engrossed with tracking a queer looking fish. A dive computer is definitely recommended for this area.

A walk to the diveboat at lowtide
A disturbed turtle escaping the photographers
The first thing that struck us as we jumped into the lukewarm waters was the clarity of the water. We can probably see up to 20-30 meters, which is pretty rare as most dive sites offer at most 10-15 meters of visibility. The best way to describe the diving experience is through the ten minutes video which I have compiled. A video is worth a million words.

We also had the privilege to share the same boat with Tim Ho, an award winning underwater photographer who is conducting an advance underwater photography certification for a group of advance divers. Although we did not officially sign up for the course, Tim was generous enough to share some of his ideas and knowledge with us. We also had the opportunity to see professional underwater photographers in action. Between the 4 of us, we had 3 underwater cameras, whom are also trained in DSLR camera techniques, so his accidental sharing helped us immensely with understanding how some of the land techniques can be used underwater. Do visit his website at http://www.underwatercompact.com
The boat group shot
 One of the highlight of this trip is to spot the mating of mandarin fish. These shy colorful fish will venture out of their nest during dusk to mate everyday and the whole venture takes only 20 min. Experienced divers like crippled along with his best assistant and wifey, marathon girl, managed to capture these lusty fish in action, in pitch black darkness, while I groped about trying to figure out what and where I should be looking. A strong torchlight, a cooperative buddy and a picture of a mandarin fish is needed to capture that perfect moment.

The mating mandarin fishes. Courtesy of Crippled
Before we know it, our diving adventures at Bunaken is over and we packed up to travel to the other end of the Manado island, to the island of Lembeh. 

Author's Note:

This post came really late. I was sitting on it until recently and completed the article at last in October. The main holdup is due to the video, which I spent some time to edit. Hope you enjoy the video.

Xeo.
25th Oct 2012 

Location: Jalan Molas - Tongkeina, Manado, Indonesia

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