Lembeh Straits

Trip Start May 23, 2008
Trip End Jun 09, 2008

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Where I stayed
Two Fish Divers

Flag of Indonesia  , Sulawesi,
Saturday, May 24, 2008

So I booked myself a two week diving holiday to North Sulawesi in Indonesia.  I stayed one week on Lembeh Island (east side of Sulawesi) and one week on Bunaken Island (west side of Sulawesi).  I stayed with Two Fish Divers for both weeks. 

The trip nearly started in disaster when the taxi I called decided to pick up another fare rather than me, and so they had to send another taxi.  I got to the train station with a minute to spare.  I flew to Singapore with Singapore Airlines on one of the new A380 Airbus planes.  It was pretty cushy, lots of leg room for a change, and made the 13 hour flight pleasant.  After that it was a 3 hour flight to Manado, where I was picked up at the airport and driven to the port, for a short boat ride to the Two Fish Diver resort on Lembeh Island. 

The resort itself was basic, but had everything you'd need for this kind of holiday, I stayed in a wooden cottage
which was spacious and clean

Lembeh Straits is considered one of the best macro dive sites in the world, there is little coral in it, the bottom been mainly black volcanic sand.  And lots of rubbish.  But the critters seem to like it.

I'd decided to move on from using a point and shoot camera for my underwater photography and splashed out on a underwater housing for my Canon 40D SLR, along with a strobe and various other bits required for this kind of photography.  With it been a new housing I didn't put the camera in for the first dive, just to make sure it was OK and wasn't likely to flood.  And what do you know on our first dive we saw a mimic octopus, which is one the main things I wanted to see.  This is a octopus that can mimic other sea creatures to scare off predators.  And of course because I didn't have my camera in the housing this would be the only time I got to see it, so no photos.

On the first and second days diving I was getting about 45 minutes air time out of my tank, whilst everybody else was getting 70 minutes plus.  Which was a bit demoralising.  Anyway on the third day I did my Padi Peak Performance Buoyancy course, which I hoped would improve my buoyancy and air time.  The course involved watching a video about buoyancy/weight/trim stuff, and then doing 2 dives to practice various buoyancy techniques.  The first thing to do was to sort out how much weight I should be carrying and were it is placed on my person to get the best balance.  For the first 2 days diving I had 8kg and then 9kg.  Tina my instructor quickly got that down to 6kg.  No wonder I was using air up so quick, dragging all that excess weight around.  We then played around with positioning the weights and I ended up with 2x2kg around the front at waist level and then 2x 1kg on the back of my BCD Jacket.  The dives consisted of passing weights around and handling the weight gain or loss through breathing so that you didn't sink or float up.  I also had to move in close to items, within inches, without touching them, and do forward/backward rolls and some other stuff.  As I put these skills into practice over the remainder of my holiday there was a definite improvement in my buoyancy and I felt much more comfortable and confident in the water.  My air time also increased and I was doing 60min plus by the end.  A course well worth doing.

Did some fantastic dives over the week and saw plenty of marine life that I hadn't seen before.  Had one near miss though, it was on the 3rd dive of the day and me and my guide hit some pretty strong current, instead of letting us go with the current he kept taking us into it, which meant I used up my air pretty quickly.  I was down to 50 bar and signaled that we need to start our ascent, so we moved up to 5m, which meant going up an incline and also into the current.  When we got there I had 40 bar left, wasn't worried as we only had to do the 3 min stop.  But I had to fin to stop been swept away, once the 3 min was up I let go and started to drift to the surface, at which point I looked at my air gauge, 0 bar, I got to the surface ok on whatever was left in the tank, but another minute or even less and I'd have been in a bit of trouble.  When we surface we saw the other groups, all of whom were a 100m down stream of us, having gone with the current rather than swimming into.  I lost trust in my guide after that dive.

We also did a wreck dive, which was OK, not too sure about wreck dives.  To get to the wreck we had to move up and down a mooring line, which happened to have coral on it and of course we had to grab hold of the line/coral to stop been taken by the current.  This meant coral burns for myself and a few others.  Mainly on my finger tips.  They were a bit sore, for the rest of the week, but things were to get worse when I got to Bunagken Island. 

It was a great week and I would definitely consider going back there, pretty cheap as well.
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