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Indonesia 2016

2016 Northern Sulawesi – Indonesia, Diving with Tasik Divers and Kasawari.

Eight of us (Jo, Richard, Gabby, Simon, Sarah, John and special guests Judy and Barry) set off in an easterly direction for a week of diving the Bunakan national park followed by a week diving in the Lembeh Strait, it went like this:

Holiday Preparations are truly underway

Well, we’ve 7 sleeps to go until the big off but Zippy and Spanky are all set go!

Two sleeps, Peeps

Well, as The Big Day moves ever closer (at a snail’s pace…this has been an extraordinary llooonnnggg week) I thought I’d share the state of packing at Barnard Manor. My packed bag is in the foreground – Si’s belongings are scattered in the background :)
Let’s hope I’ve not forgotten anything.

The Night Before The Day After

Well it’s finally arrived…and so has our luggage, all 240kg’s of it. Mostly Si’s pants, cos they’re big (his words!).  Delicious curry downed and a couple of bottles of bubbles embibed and we’re ready for the off. Over and out. Xxx

Excitement Mounting

It would seem that it is beer o clock.

Our chariot awaits….

And we’re in the top deck….just like the tour buses that go round London:)

The Lateful Eight

Well, after 27hrs intrepid flying a top our Airbus 285 Heathrow to Manado via Singapore and 1.5hrs circling Manado before landing. Phew! And, we’ve brought a bit of Blighty with us….its p*ssing down :)  No major panics though and all travellers safe and sound. Chairman is now doing the Monkey awards post dinner. As with the best reportage, I’ll update as the action unfolds (roll the telex machine noise of the footie results)……Sarah has painted her left boob red with an exploded lipstick; John took a spectacular tumble care of his crocs just after the meet & greet chap warns us about crocs and wet floors); Mr B broke his earplug adapter with his bottom after crowing about being the only one to bring one AND followed Jo into the Ladies loo. Your votes ladies & gentlemen please…..and tonight’s unanimous winner is….. (drum roll) Mr B. Night all, morning all, afternoon all – whatever – next exciting instalment posted tomorrow.

The Land of the Setting Moon

To quote our genial host Dan (from Islington) who also told us that 150 years ago the locals would have eaten us…..”Not too much chilli in my cooking pot! It plays havoc with my Celtic complexion”
Well the first days diving is over and we are in agreement that our Diving Mojo has returned. It’s vaguely familiar sub-aqua but someone’s turned up the technicolour to MAX. We saw the biggest, blackest frog fish ever but I think those Eurocrats would’ve had a fit at the state of the sea cucumbers.
Winner of Spanky was Sarah, something to do with air…not enough of it….returning to the boat to change tanks. You know, those buddy checks that BSAC et al suggest we may want to try, they might just catch on!
But winner of the loveliest legs goes to John. You were so Money Supermarket in those shorts ;);)

Too many currents and not enough bun

A trying first dive is one way of putting it….yoyo-ing, pogo-ing, trampolining are perhaps more fitting adjectives. Needless to say after 30 mins and with the group averaging 50bar we finished early – but together and intact.
Sarah spotted the first shark of the holiday, which despite initial scepticism was later confirmed as a White tip.
One dive ended with Sarah, John, Barry & Judy being “buzzed by some purposeful tuna”.
For some it was a 4 dive day OR for those not opting for the night dive, a 3 pinocolada day (Jo, just can’t leave it alone).
The night dive saw a hairy octopus amongst other weird and wonderful critters (not just the marine fauna then!) with all the Japanese technology lasting the duration, even if the divers look a little secondhand.
On the whole, a good, if not slightly challenging day’s diving.
Monkey tonight, was presented to…..Simon, again! (but then, we’ve not got Malc, Jen or Keefe here to even the odds;)) This time for not making sure his bcd hose was attached before his night dive.
Those buddy checks – they’re looking more and more like a good idea :(;)

Shark soup …but no fins

Well, I think the clue’s in the title. Shark-tastic as Mr Scales is want to say. Current totals are averaging 10 sightings on the first dive with more turtles, Ornate ghost pipefish, Cocatielle fish (looks like a leaf), Napoleon Wrasse, nudibranchs…you get the picture!  And the wall dives were spectacularly colourful.
The only slight downside was the contingent of Japanese divers on the boat. I must say Jo,  I’ve never seen that hand gesture in any of the diving manuals…..��
3 dives today and all rather wonderful, we’ve had a good day. This was rounded off by the room upgrade….wowzer. Outside showers are amazing but I’m not sure they’ll catch on back in Blighty.
Now for the monkey moment. We’ve had a mid-air collision (Barry & John), loose tanks (Moi), non attached very expensive cameras whilst diving (Jo), dropped & lost Lembeh dive stick (Judy), last minute air turning on (John), Ornate Ghost pipe fish hogging of extraordinary lengths by Sarah. And….drum roll…..ddddrrrrrrr…..now for Simon. First dive, at the end, spots Napoleon wrasse �� but gets DSMB ready whilst watching and then spots shark. Then goes to deploy DSMB but it’s gone ��. Mrs B deploys her’s – all fine. Simon then spots his rolled up DSMB floating on the surface!  Last dive, he gets excited again, faffs with torch, camera &dive stick – drops his torch which Mrs B spotted and claimed as hers. Guess who got the Monkey.
Btw, Simon will be demonstrating this new way of deploying a DSMB at the next club training dive so book your places, peeps. It’s a doozey!!

Le plat du jour – Turtle Soup

Today’s diving started with a WWII wreck – a gerry cargo ship known only  as “Wreck in front of Molas Village” – photo at the top. Language barriers being what they are we know it was sunk 1942, cargo undetermined. Bow at 25m and props at 39m but being of that vintage covered in corals and all sorts of sea creatures. Beautiful with 1  complete prop, the other in some disrepair. Not really one to penetrate though.
Next dive was a wall dive….usual suspects but with an incredibly strong current – flying like supermen, we were!
Final dive was another wall dive, but dear reader, imagine if you will a wall with shelves cut into it so that turtles can rest a wee while and ponder life – well, we must’ve seen 16+ of them and big buggers too . To be honest, got rather blasé about it towards the end. Jo was literally batting them off like flies! �������� (Yes, I know they’re tortoises, but my emoticons don’t stretch to turtles).
On the whole the other divers are okay; although one or two are perhaps “on the scale” so to speak and occasionally need reminding of diving etiquette. A couple of our group have devised a rather unique way of displaying their displeasure at such individuals – I’ll let them bring you up to speed dear reader☔
Post dive, we tend to head for the pool bar. Today there were some Muslim ladies in the pool fully covered as is their want. To further  international and religious relations, Si then treated them to a full frontal (top half) to much verbal ghasts of shock and awe (more shock than awe). So proud :)
Oh, and boringly so, Si gets the monkey AGAIN. Took his go-pro case but not the go-pro camera. And all that turtle action ��
Night all.

Goodbyes – Part1

Our last day at Tasik Ria and the diving didn’t disappoint although it was a taster of the weird sh*t we’re going to encounter at Lembeh. And boy, some of those critters were weird – beautiful but weird.
We dived a wall first thing with more turtles, then onto 2 reefs, one of which has 2 ginormous clams which must have been hundreds of years old. Beautiful.
Amongst the goodbyes to our fabulous crew and resort staff (they really have been great – even Herman the gardener who insists on giving you language lessons as he jumps out of the shrubbery) Simon has finally managed to say goodbye to Monkey.
This was ably enabled by Jo who managed to smack herself in the face when donning her rash suit. That takes talent :)
We’re all feeling like we’ve had a great week of somewhat demanding diving – happy but knackered. So I’ll wish you adieu and blog from the next leg of our adventure tomorrow.

Hello’s – Part 2

Well after a stunning breakfast of Manado porridge which is more of a broth and rather delicious, we spent about 3hrs trekking across the island to Lembeh.
Kasawari resort is nothing short of stunning and once again the staff were very welcoming and perhaps a little more “polished” than Tasik Ria. Well, apart from telling the only 2 other guests that we were Americans!!!!  However, you want for nothing and do even less – just plop in the water at the appointed time.
Although I sat today’s diving out I am reliably informed that it contained “the most vibrant & varied macro sealife incongruously placed next to the most dull sea scape”.  Well, there you go folks!
The night dive was hilarious due to 100+ razor fish that followed the group for the entire dive, getting entangled in limbs, lines and cameras. And the squid were likened to fruit pastels – I think the antimalarial tablets are taking their toll.
Early to bed and early to rise tomorrow for the first of 2 breakfasts.

Puffer Fish City

So, Pigmy Seahorses are a bit of a misnomer. I had thought they were about a couple of cm’s tall given the pictures in the books but they are actually microscopic. Even Jo struggled to get a shot with her underwater submarine camera thingy. I took a photo but you’d struggle to distinguish it from the sea fan.
The muck diving is exactly that – imagine if you will the bottom of the Thames or some such river, just silt, silt, silt. But when you get your eye in you do see some amazingly bazaar creatures – nudis, octopi, cardinal fish, eels, frog fish etc.,. I even managed to photograph a stationary pipefish which was beautiful…..until Si came next to me and photographed it’s head-end.
It has to be said, there’s a hell of a lot of rubbish down there which is at odds with the stunning flora & fauna, but it’s a 3rd world country so what do I expect?

Fish on fish action

First 2 dives of the day were some rather delectable reefs – small but perfectly formed. Some more microscopic Pigmy Seahorses and and electric clam. I’ve invented the sign for those – I’ll enlighten you sometime.  One of the sites was called Nudi Retreat and much to Richard’s disappointment this didn’t require diving in the Nudi – headlines..”Shoal of Great Whites spotted off the Lembeh coast…..”;);)
The night dive was The Mandarin Dive where we mored up in a dock yard(I kid you not) and sat in about 7m of rubbish strewn water waiting for aforementioned action. Got bored after about 5mins so took some shots of nursery fish – Jen, one for your zoo!! Baby clowns, cardinals and cuttle fish. Gawgeous!!!!
One of the dive guides was clearly bored too as he pointed out a couple of frog fish.  Ugly buggers with a face only a mother could love, but bless ’em, very obliging when it come to posing for photos.
Then, they started arriving. These aquatic Sheiks with their harems….wiggling and waggling and basically getting IT on. It was exhausting just watching it let alone trying to keep up with the cameras.
Well, we’re all off for post-coital buffet and bed so I’ll wish you a good night ��

What do you mean we’re going home?!!

So the time has come for us to bid a fond farewell to this little corner of paradise – the Isle of Manado
The diving as been spectacular both for the dive sites we’ve visited and the sheer variety of corals, critters and crustaceans.
The people have been lovely – very welcoming, friendly and overall very smiley :)
I think it’s fair to say we’ve all had a great time…Jo who had no end of problems with her dive suit (and mine); Richard and his voluminous panataloons – get some braces, man; Twin-tanks Barry who was piped aboard after every dive; Judy – always the quiet ones you need to watch – with her Little Green Book; Sarah aka Sherlock, who left no coral unturned ; John who entertained us all with his witty & obscure t-shirts; Si who won the monkey more times than anyone; and me, the Holliblog Bird who still hasn’t written up any dive logs ;).
A bigmungous THANK YOU is due to Richard and Jo for organising this trip – you’re absolute superstars!! ��������������������������������
I think I can speak for the whole group in highly recommending this part of the world for a dive holiday…..but ssshhhh – it’s our secret, right?

And so, on that note Holliblog Bird is signing off and wishing you all a Duke & Betsy good ol’ fashioned “Nighty Noodles, y’all” Gxxx