Heart & Brain Underwater

Diving Bunaken 12th to 15th Dec

On 12th Dec, after our dive at Police Pier, we quickly packed up; the boat was scheduled at 10am, transferring us with the others who were flying back to Singapore. Waved good-bye to the good people at NAD, a boat ride across the Lembeh Straits back to Bitung, an hour plus in another Toyota MPV, brought us to Manado Mega Mall. Arranged for 2Fish to pick us up at 2:30pm at the harbour, we have abt 2hrs to kill at the Mall. So we had A&W lunch there and shoppped for some souvenirs…

It was pouring shortly after we reach 2Fish’s boat which was parked at the harbour. The 2Fish crew was doing shopping for the resort, we had to wait until 3:30pm, getting bored, wet & tired in the boat… Oh well, couldn’t complain, since this leg of the transfer was free… We stayed at 2Fish for 3 nights.

Reaching Bunaken 2Fish at 4+pm, we filled up the check-in & dive forms (like the other places) & given were a quick intro abt the diving & resort, got introduced to our guides Agus & Sam, by Tina. Quickly rounded up our personal gear, hopped onto the boat, started our dive at Timur I, which was just 5mins outside 2Fish. Too rushed to bring my camera, decided to just do some diving & furthermore, I hadn’t done bottomless, deep blue wall dive for sometime, better to get acclimatised…

Timur I, max depth 22.4m. Pretty site, not much current, was quite comfortable. Saw trevallies & sweetlips & also a really tiny n thin hippocampus… Short dive 33mins, Agus didn’t bring a torch & it was getting dark. Started the dive at 5:13pm. Felt a little strange having to watch all around me, looking to the reef, looking out & down into the blue & looking up to the surf, could be a little busy.

After the dive, finally got to see our room for the next few days – a comfortable spacious "bungalow". Only drawback was the lack of water-heater…

13th Dec – Sachiko, max depth 29.6m. Tuna were hunting, Trevallies joined in the action & a shark showed up1 Big game action site! Cool! With no current, it was quite enjoyable, even for the new diver – Terence. Of course, he didn’t go as deep…

Lekuan I – Leong told us that we had to visit Lekuan 1.5 if we wanted to see any turtles & we were not disappointed. Shortly after we descended, Sam (Terence’s guide) signaled excitedly that he spotted a turtle, I signaled to Jian Xi & Agus to go right, instead of left as planned. Sure enough, a turtle appeared from the reef below & came quite close to us! Excellent! At last, I managed to get a photo of a turtle! [Have seen turtles a couple of times before this in Maldives & at Phi Phi but I didn’t have a camera in 4yrs ago & I left the camera in the hotel at Phi Phi! (Ya, stupid…)] When the turtle swam away, into the blue, I looked up from the camera, there was another turtle quite far away! Actually, everyone else saw 2 turtles, except me, who was clicking mindlessly away at the 1st I saw…

Current picked up considerably, drift dive. A school of large trevallies joined us at the reef top, fighting the current, totally unconcerned of our presence. Max Depth: 23.9m. Terence was thrown against the corals by a "freak" current

Muka – Night dive, Jian Xi decided to sit out this… Many lionfishes & perfectly camouflaged scorpionfishes, their presence was a little unnerving… Thankfully, no current, so no danger of being thrown onto them unexpectedly… Was an easy dive. Many hermit crabs & other strange crabs, small ones that looked like spiders, big ones with sponge on them backs & one with an anemone as cover! Met 2 turtles, both were quite big. The 2nd one was resting in a crevice, until it was disturbed by my torch. It awakened, turned & headed towards me! I was really scared that I might bite me for daring to disturb it… Luckily, the magnanimous turtle decided to forgive me & swam right above me & disappeared into the dark… I decided to cut the dive short, when many many tiny planktons-like creatures/insects became attracted to the camera, the flash & the torch, it was really quite irritating & it got difficult to see, with them blocking the light… The planktons looked pretty though, they gave off a blue light when we switched off the torches & agitate the water… Max Depth: 17.7m

14th Dec – Mike’s Point. No much excitement on the dive, the current was really strong towards the end. I got tired of fighting the current at around 6m, signaled to Agus I would ascend & went ahead to ascend, w/o completing the full 5mins safety-stop. Agus pulled my fins, until I got down to 5m again… Oh well, at least the current dropped its strength some-what at that point…

Muka. (Again). Guess it was a good choice, as there wasn’t much current… I spotted a turtle!  Agus managed to spot 2 orangutan crabs, hiding at different spots. It was the 1st time I saw orangutan crabs, they were really strange looking creatures & just abt an inch across!

That concluded my 5 dives at Bunaken, the dives were quite enjoyable, except when there was current. All the sites were pretty, covered with hard corals, large barrel sponges, gorgonians & there were plenty of pelagic swimming around, visibility was more than 15m. Unexpectedly, there were many strange critters at Bunaken too!

 

After lunch & some rest, Terence & I went to the village. The "road" (paved path) to the village was muddy from the rain & was full of pot-holes but it added to the sense of adventure! It was raining quite hard when we started our journey & it stopped when we reached the village abt 35mins later. Population of Bunaken was about 3500 (according to the co-owner of 2Fish) We were very curious abt the Bunaken Church, which looked quite magnificent when viewed from the dive boat. Up-close, it wasn’t as big as we thought, but it was very stately & well-maintained. As tipped by Nigel, the interesting things were not its exteriors but inside. The pulpit was in the shape of a boat & at the front, was a large wooden mural abt the bible story of Jesus distributing fishes & bread to the congregation of thousands…

 

We walked to the beach, saw these 2 boys playing with a fish! They enjoyed posing for the camera & we took many photos of their lovely smile (& their fish). They told us that they were washing the fish – cuci ikan… haha… We took many photos of the kids along the beach & in the streets of Bunaken. All of them loved to pose for the camera, they were very thrill to see themselves on the small LCD of the camera, they would excitedly point themselves out. Bless the digital camera! At the jetty, there was a group of boys fishing. I had a chance to do a small part for conservation (hopefully), when I got the kid to throw the 4-inch coral grouper he just caught back into the water. Of course I took a photo of them & the fish, which made them pretty happy to listen to me…  The Bunaken kids were so comfortable in the water, no quaint jumping from the boat into the sea. The sea was their playground & their provider. They looked so happy & carefree, their happiness was so simple, there was no need for expensive high-tech toys, give them a fish, a tyre, a ball or some fishing line, they kept themselves happily entertained & healthy & fit. There were no fat kids there! Who needs Barney (or who/whichever is the latest kid’s craze)?? Who needs the latest PS?? Happiness can be very simple…

 

Am keen to send a digital camera to the kids there, via Nigel, who will be coming to S’pore in Feb08. Anyone with a spare, unwanted but working digital camera lying at home??

 

Next morning, 15th Dec, after we bade our keen-eyes, very wonderful guides goodbye, had breakfast, did some last minute packing, paid our dues & said more farewells to the good people of 2Fish, we were on our way back to Manado by 9+am. When we reached Mega Mall, it was still closed.  Then we realised that we forgot to get 2Fish to deduct the 300USD we paid as deposit, from the final bill… Then a guy came over to inform us that our return flight would be late for 2hrs! Aiyo!!! We were abit skeptical, until he called Rifta from 2Fish who told us the same… Was very impressed the way the "transport" guy arranged everything, he made sure that we didn’t need to go to the airport earlier than needed, transferred our lugguge from the original van which picked us from jetty, into his MPV – smooth operator. Very glad that we didn’t have to spend the extra 2 hrs in the airport, we would have gotten lung cancer there! Smoking was allowed in the terminal, there was a non-smoking area, which had slightly better air quality… Anyway part of the extra 2hrs was spent on picking up cheap Levi’s jeans from Matahari at the Mall for Terence n I, so not too bad… 😉

 

Flight back was only half full (was a Saturday, there was another flight on Sunday), I was able to get 3 empty seats for myself & took a nice nap… 

 

I think I prefer diving in Lembeh, the dive sites were more different & distinct, the muck sites were different from each other, the bottom composites & the coral covers (if any) were distinct. Whereas in Bunaken, the dives became similar after awhile…  However, it was a good decision to try both places. It was a privilege (& not to mention convenience) to be able to dive 2 places with such distinct characteristics, with just 1 short plane ride.

 

There were vicious mozzies at both resorts (maybe due to the monsoon rain), so the SAF insect repellent really came in useful!

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