Heart & Brain Underwater

Diving Lembeh, Bangka 8th to 12th Dec 07

1 week flew by so quickly when doing something extremely enjoyable – Diving!
Had already heard so much about Lembeh & Bunaken, decided that it was high time I visited & high time Terence did his Open Water. Both places didn’t disappoint & Terence completed OW at Lembeh. Open-mouthed Have done research on both places on Finsonline forum & Scubaboard forum, they are really useful!
Seized the 2-to-go Promo on Silkair, return airfare was $198, plus taxes, total was $303 per pax. Excluding airport tax of 100000rupiah… Invited my cousin Jian Xi to join us on the trip. 
After flying for ~3hrs50mins, we reached Manado. A fleet of comfortable & quite new Indonesia made Toyota MPVs brought us across the scenic North Sulawesi, to the Bitung jetty. It was a "nerve-wrecking" ride, the drivers trying to over-take each other & riders on narrow 2-way streets, witnessed an accident involving another car with a motorcycle… Disappointed From Bitung jetty, it was a fast 15mins, scenic boat-ride across the Lembeh Straits to NAD.
Stayed at NAD Lembeh for 4 nights, from 8th – 12th Dec. Full-board twin-share non-aircon room was US$30/nite each (think there will be a slight price increase in 2008). Room was nice, Food was good & so was the company of divers! There was a big group of nice divers from S’pore, we (Jian Xi & I) dived with the international group (Janet & Michael fr US, Nana from Thailand, Matthew from Switzerland & Marco & Isabella fr Germany, who came on 10th Dec). During surface intervals & meal times, we got to know each other better by discussing abt diving, work, culture, "politics" & even philosophy! Haha, we were a merry brunch! Thanks to the international group for "adopting" us! Hopefully we gave a good introduction of Singapore & they would come visit us soon!
Diving at Lembeh was wonderful, met lots of interesting critters. We had 9 dives with NAD, 6 were at Lembeh & 3 at Bangka, actually 10 total, we did a "check" dive on the 1st day. Boat would leave at 7:30am for 2 morning dives, 3pm for the afternoon dive. Mandarinfish dive at 5pm & Night dive at 5:30pm/6pm. Micheal was our guide.
8th Dec – Check dive at NAD housereef, it was really shallow, abt 3m. It was already dark when we started the dive, viz was quite bad, lots of particles in the water. Lots of hard corals & some long sea grass. Leong (the DM fr the big S’pore group) spotted a juvenile sweetlips. Other interesting critters were a transparent shrimp & large cleaner shrimp.
9th DecAngel’s Window & Maka Wide. Both sites were pretty, Angel’s Window was especially attractive with lots of soft corals, sponges & sea squirts, damselfishes and butterfishes complete the colourful picture. At Angel’s Window,  Pygmy seahorses – pink ones (hippocampus bargibanti) & a tiny brown one! A clouded moray eel & many many nudibranches! Max depth 30.7m. At Maka Wide, 1st ribbon eel, 1st sea snake (only a glimpse of it), a tiny crab clamouflaged inside blue soft coral, many nudibranches, sweetlips & snappers. I spotted a clouded moray eel underneath pink corals, 2 schools of beautiful cardinalfishes. Max depth 24.9m.
10th Dec – Went to Bangka. On the way there, at the north of the Lembeh Straits, we encountered a pod of abt 20 pilot whales!!! The boat diverted from its course for awhile & we could get closer to the pilot whales! Diving at Bangka was challenging, we did drift dives there. 1st at Batu Mandi, there was strong up & down current at the beginning of the dive. Nothing much to see except lots of fluttering triggerfishes. Max depth: 19.3m. Interesting event was that the boat went "missing" when we surfaced at a bay, Yogpi -the other guide & Michael whistled for 10mins & there was no sign of the boat. So Yogpi had to go ashore, walked on the rocks, along the shore over to other side of the island to alert the boat. Jian Xi & I spent the time "snorkelling" & spotted a seasnake! At last, I managed to "capture" a seasnake on photos! The next dive site was at Sahahaung. The current was also quite strong. Saw a huge scorpionfish, a black & white lionfish, a lone longfin batfish, 2 ribbons of nudibranch eggs & the only crown-of-thorns & a white scorpionfish. Max depth: 30.1m
After a picnic lunch at a picturesque beach (not very gd for swimming as it was a bit stony), we dived at Tanjung Kusi. Encountered thermocline & strong up & down currents. Saw lots of big-eye squirrelfish, 2 giant clams, an interesting blue shrimp/lobster with huge white feelers, a Giant Basket-star, a moray eel & a blue ribbon eel. Returned to NAD quite exhausted after a day of challenging dives. 
11th DecMawali Wreck. Huge & encrusted with hard & soft corals & sponges, beautiful & full of life. Were able to swim through the side into its hull, very interesting. Schools of sweetlips, trevallies & batfishes were the residents, together with bannerfishes & colourful butterflyfishes. At the deck, there were nudibranches & I spotted a mantishrimp out at the open, looking quite aggressive… There was some current during the 5mins safety-stop, was quite glad that I had gloves on, the rope was encrusted with barnacles & other marine life! Max depth 32.2m.
Next dive, Aer Perang, our 1st real muck dive! Very interesting! A couple of lionfishes, scorpionfishes, nudibranches, moray eel, a violet rhinopias, a lacy scorpionfish, an orange frogfish! Jian Xi spotted a longhorn cowfish & I spotted 2 moray eels sharing their home with several large cleaner shrimps. Max depth 21.8m.
Mandarinfish dive was abt 5mins from NAD, the mandarinfishes hid among the coral rubbles. They were smaller & quite shy, compared to those I saw in Malapascua. Jian Xi spotted a flying gurnard near my feet soon after we descended, very interesting creature with beautiful wings! We ogled at the mandarinfishes for awhile, then went "hunting" for the next "big" thing – a huge yellow crab with a sponge as cover, a large lobster hiding underneath a crevice with sea urchins for bodyguards & many strange shrimps… Max depth (Shallow): 5.6m, still have 100bars left! haha…
12th DecPolice Pier. Famous Lembeh muck dive site. Saw a rainbow on the way there! They were extending the pier, we could hear the sounds of the construction during the dive. 1st time we could dive with Terence, Jo came along to take care of his student & to practice more skills with him, it was realy nice of Jo. There was a small wooden wreck at the site. Interesting critters: a pipefish & a lionfish (spotted by Jo), many pretty nudibranches, black ribbon eel, cleaner shrimp with marble eel, shrimps in a bright green anemone & a leaf-fish with intense red eyes! Too bad the camera housing fogged up at the end… Max depth 19.3m 
My favourite dive sites are: the Mawali wreck, muck sites: Aer Perang & Police Pier. Would wanna go back to Lembeh & try the other muck sites & dive Aer Perang & Police Pier again!
Many thanks to our guide Michael! His keen eyes spotted most of the interesting critters! & he made sure we were okay during strong current… Yogpi was fantastic too!
Other staff at NAD – the boatmen – Ramly etc, the boat crews, the service staff were wondeful too! Sandra took good care of our transfers, arranged for rooms & other stuff. Jo & Sandra lead a wonderful team at NAD!

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