Day : 141
Temperature : 33 degrees
Weather : Sunny
So here we are on Pulau Lembeh, on the north west tip of Sulawesi. We have come here for the world famous "muck diving" of the Lembeh Straits. Welcome to an alien world where weird and wonderful creatures, small and large, live on a black, sandy, coral-less sea floor. Bizarre names like "Hairy Frogfish", "Flaboyant Cuttlefish" and "Ghost Pipefish" are not out of place here. Many of these critters are impossible to find, if it's not for the experienced eyes of a dive guide.
We woke early this morning and had a wonderful breakfast...cornflakes and milk
! Oh, how I've dreamt about breakfast cereals for months! We gathered our diving gear which we were hiring and waited for the other two divers ( a Polish couple on a two week diving holiday ) to arrive. Once on the boat we headed to our first dive site, donned our dive gear and jumped in. The visibility was reasonable, maybe about 15 metres, and we immediately descended to the bottom at about 10 metres. The first creature our guide spotted was the hairy frogfish. He banged his tank in order to get our attention and signalled for us to come closer. We were all on now on the sea floor. Our guide was pointing to a piece of algae, much like any other random piece of algae that was commonly seen. I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at. The polish chap enthusiastically started snapping away. I was still oblivious...until the piece of algae / seaweed started running across the sea floor!!! Then I could make out the eyes, the mouth, the body and tail, all covered in green algae looking "hair"! What an incredible creature...these are like animals from another world! I was instantly hooked on this muck diving malarky. We continued our dive and spotted a sea horse, more frogfish, pufferfish and other strange animals which I have yet to look up in the identification book. Unfortunately I seemed to be having a problem with my weights on this dive. We were using smaller tanks which were, according to our guide, "heavy". This, along with the fact that my bcd was slightly too big, and so was sloching around on my back, meant that when-ever I relaxed underwater, I flipped onto my back and was staring at the surface
! Not ideal when you want to be face down half a metre from the sea floor! I adjusted my weight belt umpteen times in order to get more weight on my front but it made no difference, so I spent the entire dive constantly on the move unable to stop finning, otherwise I would flip belly up like a dead fish!
Once back on the dive boat...which was luxurious when compared to our dive boat in the Togeans...were were served up tea and biscuits and fresh fruit. After a sufficient surface interval time, we moved to another dive site for our second dive. Again, within a few minutes our guide had found more strange critters. Then suddenly I heard rapid tank banging and turned round to see a banded sea snake (highly venemous..) swimming past. We all stayed motionless in the water. The snake then turned and "slithered" towards me. Great. I was sat vertical on the sea floor and was unable to lift my feet up because of my weight distribution problem. The only thing I could do was inhale, hold my breath a little, and hope that I would rise up of the sea floor enough to enable the snake to swim underneath me. I tucked my feet up underneath me as much as I could and the snake swam just centimetres underneath, hesitated, then swam on...phew! I turned round to find Kevin, but I think he was already on a plane back to the UK by that time! We continued our dive, and a minute or so later we stopped to look at a sea horse
. The polish chap was lying prone on the sea floor engrossed in his photography. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned round to find Kevin pointing to the sea snake which had swam back towards us and now headed straight for Thomas who was taking the photograph on the bottom. We watched in amazement and slight horror as it slithered between his legs and zig-zagged underneath him until it's head was an inch away from Thomas's face and it's body was writhing underneath Thomas. We swam over to alert Thomas to the fact that he was squashing a venemous snake between himself and the sea floor, when his wife suddenly spotted the snake and started screaming underwater! As Thomas tried to look underneath himself he inadvertantly lifted himself off the sea floor a little, and this allowed the sea snake to escape. It quickly swam out and was twisting and turning this way and that, looking very agitated. Kevin was practically on the surface and had kicked up half the sand on the sea floor by this time, in his frantic attempt to get away from the snake. Eventually the snake swam away and we continued the rest of our dive, although Kevin was about 2 metres above everybody else, fearful of descending again incase the snake returned. Thankfully, I don't have a snake phobia and was able to continue looking at all the critters, inbetween my belly up episodes. Back on the boat Thomas said that he did feel something underneath him but just though that it was a piece of equipment that was stuck somehow, and was thankfully completely oblivious to the snakes presence.
And that brings an end to our first day of muck diving. We don't have many piccies to show, since Kevin was too afraid to descend to the sea floor and get close enough, and I was constantly battling to stay face down. But we do have a couple just to give you a taster. Hope you enjoy them, and hopefully we will have more tomorrow.