We were about to leave home, when I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten my underwater torch, scrambled around and after a 10 mins search, finally found it… The better-half/ driver/ dive buddy was pissed that I had left the packing to the last minute. The Silkair flight was over-booked; luckily we had done the internet check-in on Thursday. The flight was uneventful, except that my neighbors were laughing very loudly while watching Gags for Laugh. Borneo looked very green from the air and there were lots of river meandering through it, at the coast, the rivers brought silt into the ocean.
We were promptly picked up by the staffs of Murex Bangka at the Manado Airport and the drive from the Manado Airport to near Paradise Hotel (which was under renovation), was about 1hr, through picturesque little villages, with their numerous small churches and colourful cemeteries. Boat ride across the strait was about 25mins, through choppy seas. Murex Bangka is situated at a beautiful white-sand beach about 300m, on the left side, the surf was strong, the right side was calmer. My bro D and sis-in-law SL went for a quick snorkel around the area, it was quite nice. Our rooms were large and comfortable, equipped with ceiling fan and mosquito net.
Songra was our dive guide for our trip and he was quite good at his job. D had also developed a good set of eyes for spotting critters.
23rd Dec – 1st dive: Tiga Batu (means 3 rocks), about 15 mins left of the resort. The surge was very strong near the rocks. We saw reef cuttlefish, a pair of brown robust ghost pipefish, 2 hippocampus briganti , D spotted 2 cleaner shrimps in a crevice, an orange frogfish, clown frogfish.
2nd Dive – Tanjung Usi, less than 10mins left (of the resort). We saw 1 black and 1 large sulphur-green frogfish. D spotted an octopus.
3rd Dive – Demak (named after 2 guys who first dived that site), about 5mins right. Songra said he will find Hippocampus Colemani and he did – 3 white with a little green/orange at 1 of the rocks plus a black ornate ghost pipefish and a very small brown Hippocampus Potoni on the other. He found an orangutan crab, D spotted a cute nudibranch halegra.
24th Dec – A super rainy Christmas Eve, it rained the whole day long. On the way to Sahuang for our 1st dive of the day, we saw a rainbow. This site is a little further away than Tiga Batu. The surge was huge, surf was breaking against the rocks, looked very intimidating. I was elated to see a large Napoleon wrasse, it has become quite rare in Indonesian waters. The site was very beautifully endorned with colourful soft coral, towards the end, there was a terrace that looked man-made and pancake rock area – could it be the lost Alantis? A small hairy squat lobster in a large barrel sponge, several nudibranch – a large yellow, and several common ones. The highlights of the dive are 2 white-tip reef sharks that are circling underneath 2 large table corals. There was a very large school of blue-lined yellow snappers.
2nd dive – Tanjung Musi 2, it was chosen because of the challenging conditions at Sahuang. D spotted an octopus and a large black frogfish that looked just like a sponge, 2 spiny lobsters, Sangro showed us a black ribbon eel, reef cuttlefish and a very tiny whip coral squat lobster, SL spotted an elegant fuchsia nudibranch. T saw 2 orangutan crabs.
3rd dive – Demak 2. Sangro spotted a cute reef cuttlefish hiding in a barrel sponge and a beautiful peacock mantis shrimp which was uncustomary out in the open. This site had lots of sea pens at the flat area. T spotted a moray eel. 2 types of cleaner shrimps and 2 brown crabs were hiding in a sea plant.
Diving on Christmas was rewarding!
1st Dive – Batu Mandi. Large broadclub cuttlefish hovering above the hard corals, Longhorn cowfish, Moray eel, white baby clown fish, 2 larger clownfishes – yellow and white, small broadclub cuttlefish hiding in the crevice, white scorpionfish, nudibranch.
2nd Dive – Sampiri. School of bluestrip snappers and spanishflags, pair of ornate ghostpipefishes – the male was smaller and black and the female was colourful and carrying eggs, black pipefish, orange smooth mantis, anemone shrimp, cute tasseled scorpionfish, painted spiny lobster, violet nudibranch and yellow boxfish.
3rd Dive – Sabora. Orangutan crab, anemone shrimps, pair of large black frogfishes, peacock mantis, 2 gorgonian pygmy seahorses – dark brown and yellow, polyclad flatworm, a pair of nudibranch, moray eel, large pufferfish.
Due to high winds, we weren’t able to make the boat transfer to Lembeh. So, the usual way – boat back to Manado, drive to Bitung and a short 10 mins boat ride to Lembeh Resort.
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