ThThTh in Indonesia

Tell us your tale of coming nose-to-nose with a 6 gill [--this big--], or about your vacation to turquoise warm waters. Share your adventures here!
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Scubie Doo
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Scubie Doo » Sun Mar 17, 2019 8:29 pm

Gdog wrote:Jesse, awesome pics! That bobtail squid is way colorful. All the shots look great!


Thanks gdog. The bobtail was a treat. I certainly missed ya on the trip dude.


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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Gdog » Sun Mar 17, 2019 8:26 pm

Jesse, awesome pics! That bobtail squid is way colorful. All the shots look great!

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ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Scubie Doo » Sun Mar 17, 2019 6:28 pm

As I packed, checked my list, and re-packed for my upcoming trip to Tompotika, (Central Sulawesi, Indonesia) I could not ignore the mild sense of anxiety I was feeling. It was a good anxiety, but still it was anxiety. Perhaps it was because I was trying a new packing methodology (checking in my housing), or the fact it would take (4) plane rides and a (3) hour bus ride to get there, or anticipation of the cool critters I may encounter, or the fact I won’t be connected with my family for the next 15 days. Regardless, I found to best way to deal with anxiety in any area of life is to prepare or over-prepare in my case.

I looked at my spreadsheet for the 10th time and finally declared “I am ready to go!” I left Seattle at 8:30am on the 14th of February and oh my, was I in for a surprise. The entire trip (door-to-door) took a whopping 54.5 hours (only 35 hours on the return). The travel broke down as follows:

• Drive to Seatac – 1 hour (same on the return)
• Seatac Airport – 3 hours (saved 2 hours on the return)
• Flight from Seattle to Taipei – 13 hours (saved 3 hours on the return)
• Taipei Airport – 3.5 hours
• Flight from Taipei to Jakarta – 5 hours
• Jakarta airport (hotel) – 9 hours (saved 5.5 hours on the return)
• Flight from Jakarta to Makassar – 2.5 hours
• Makassar airport (hotel and 2 cancelled flights) – 12 hours (saved 10.5 on the return)
• Flight from Makassar to Luwuk – 1.5 hours
• Luwuk airport - .5 hours (added 1.5 hours on the return)
• Luwuk to Tompotika bus transfer – 3.5 hours

Some of the highlights of the travel were the beef noodle soup in Taipei (my go to breakfast when I land), the amazing foot massage in Jakarta, the club room in Makassar (with private showers), and of course the whiskey in Makassar as well. As far as my packing, it wasn’t perfect, but I was pretty proud to get all my gear there in one piece, even with checking in my Canon 5d.

Once we settled into the resort, things went extremely smooth. The food service was excellent and we were treated with refreshing drinks after every dive. The dive rhythm each day was as follows:

7:30am swim to the boat for dive #1 - We would typically splash around 8:00am.
Return to the dive lodge and eat breakfast

11:00am swim to the boat for dive #2 – Splash around 11:30am.
Return to the lodge and eat lunch

2:30pm swim to the boat for dive #3 – Splash around 3:00pm
Return to the lodge, recharge batteries

5:30pm swim to boat for optional night dive – Splash around 6:00pm

The morning dives were usually reserved for wide angle diving on open ocean walls and pinnacles, whereas the afternoon/night dives were reserved for macro diving at small reefs and muck locations. In total, I was able to log (41) dives in 12 days, with (1) day being cancelled due to weather. We dove (22) different dive sites in total, with the most dived spots being Pulau Dua (9), MBelang (5), and Ody’s Reef (4). The main reason we dove Pulau Dua so often is that it was our go-to night dive spot. Plus, the critters on this site were truly amazing. The dives consisted of the following terrain:

• (5) Dives on large pinnacles with current (Wide Angle) – Sites included Ondoliang, Batu Tetek, Solan Reef, and Mayumi Wall.

• (13) Dives on pinnacles/reef structure with mild current/surge (Wide Angle and Macro) – Sites included Albi Baba 1, Ali Baba 2, Entre 2 MERS I, Entre 2 MERS II, Entre 2 MERS III, Jenad Side, Ody’s Reef, and Nemo Rock.

• (21) Dives on small reefs/muck with mild current/surge (Macro) – Sites included Pulau Dua, Coliina Slope 1, Coliina Slope 2, Mbelang, Tanduk, Teku Rock, Shallow Paradise, and Smile Point.

• (2) Dives on muck/silt bottom with no current and mild surge (Macro) – Sites included Tompotika Reef and Quack-Quack Ding-Ding (more on this site later).

In general I would say the diving was pretty easy with live boat pickup. I did get blown off a wall and had to ascend solo on one dive, but the captain circle my SMB within 2 minutes of deployment. Visibility varied from 80’ to 10’ depending on the currents and rain fall. Most dives were longer than 60 minutes in length and not extremely deep. They did provide aluminum 100 tanks, but no Nitrox, so the extended surface intervals were nice. My personal dive stats were as follows:

• Deepest (3) dives were; Ondoliang 95’ Dive #30, Entre 2 MERS III 90.8’ Dive #26, and Ali Baba 1 88.3’ Dive #8.

• Longest (3) dives were; Pualu Dua 98min Dive #14, Pulau Dua 92min Dive #7, and Smile Point 85min Dive #21.

• Worst dive was Quack-Quack Ding-Ding – This dive was a muck dive to find mimic octopus. Viz was a terrible 10’ and several of our team members were hammering away on their signaling devices. Since the dive site did not have a name, we named it Quack-Quack Ding-Ding to represent the quacking and dinging of diver’s signaling devices. It was a very fun adventure and we certainly made lemonade out of lemons on this dive. I did flood my backup camera on another dive, but I cannot say that was the worst, because the dive was actually amazing.

• Best dive was my last dive of the trip at Pulau Dua. The main reason is that I spotted a tropical Bobtail Squid on my own. Out of the (25) critters I wanted to see the previous year in Anilao, the Bobtail Squid was the only critter I did not see. The encounter was amazing and it was one of the most beautiful critters I had ever seen.

Overall the diving was on par with Anilao (from a critter standpoint) and on par with Fiji (from a reef standpoint). The variety of structure and critters made for a great diving experience. Speaking of critters, my top (5) critter encounters were as follows:

1. The Bobtail Squid @ Pulau Dua Dive #41 – This was top on my critter list and being able to see this on my very last dive was a great treat. The colors of this squid were memorizing. However, the behavior was vastly different from our local Stubby Squid species. In the Puget Sound, mid-sized Stubby Squid will migrate up into the water column when they have had enough of the blinding strobe action. They typically will hover for photo ops for a good 3-5 minutes, displaying their tentacles. The Bobtail squid simply buries itself, after a couple photos, it will pop out, hover about 2” from the ground and re-bury itself. I really wanted to see it in the water column for a comparable PNW Stubby Squid shot, but I did not want to harass the little critter, so I settled for some beautiful “sand” shots.

2. Reef Squid @ Mbelang Dive #33 – My dive buddy, Val, alerting me to a beautiful (and large) reef squid at around 50’. I quickly switched to my red focus light and pursued this skittish critter to around 80’. The squid was flashing and not wanting to be photographed. Once I slowed my pace and approach cautiously, it allowed me to get some very nice photographs.

3. Black-tip Reef Shark @ Batu Tetek Dive #15 – This was the dive I was blown off the reef by current. Prior to that incident, there was a depression at the top of the wall. As I approached the depression, a black-tip shark quickly shot into view and darted away. Afraid I had scared it, I patiently waited for its return and the scuba gods reqarded my patience with an amazing encounter. The shark circled several times as I peered over the wall. My dive guide, Sofyan, wanted to know what I was watching and I signaled shark. I could see him smile through his reg, he settled down next to me and enjoyed the multiple passes. Although I got one terrible photograph, the experience of seeing a shark close enough to look into its eye is one I will cherish forever.

4. Pygmy Seahorse @ Jenad Side Dive #38 – Although we had seen several Pygmy’s (this area had them on full display), they are extremely difficult to get photographs of. Surge, size, and location all play a role in the difficulty level. I really try to photograph these in a very respectful way by avoiding to poke or hit the sea fan, which is sometimes extremely challenging. This way the sea fan polyps will open up, providing a unique photo opportunity. This encounter was unique because the sea fan was at the base of a rock with a sand bottom. I struggled for several minutes in the surge to capture a shot. Frustrated, I swam away from the rock and reassessed my position. I noticed a flat sand bottom next to it, so I decided to inspect, dump my air and gently stand next to the rock on the sand and shoot up at the Pygmy. The sea fan just so happened to be about 6’ in height, which was perfect. The Pygmy was also on an outer branch, posing perfectly. I settled in and took several photos. I love it when the stars align like that.

5. Crocodile Fish @ Nemo Rock Dive #16 – The previous day my dive buddy, Zack, said he saw a Crocodile fish. I was really excited with the news, because I had always wanted to shot a close-up of the Crocodile fish’s eye. Toward the end of a pretty non-eventful dive, my dive master pointed out a Crocodile fish in the open. As I approached the fish jetted away and I thought, “Darn, just missed my opportunity.” A few minutes later, he noticed me searching the reef, so he joined in and quickly re-spotted it. However, it was wedged between two large structures. I hovered over the reef, positioned my body vertically, and extended my camera down to capture the eye. I was trying to be really careful now to hit the fish or the structures I was in between. I’m happy to report success on all accounts.

Similar to Anilao, I went through my photographs by critter. This makes it easier for me to relive the encounters and really communicate my experience/interaction with the amazing Indonesian sea life. I must admit that the number of Nudibranchs and Seahorses was pretty amazing. In Anilao, I captured (67) different species of Nudibranch/Slugs. In Tompotika, I believe I captured over that number. That is a pretty amazing comparison.

In regards to the number of photos I am sharing, I really need to pare down my gallery to include the absolute best of the best. However, I thought I would simply share every photo I loved capturing in order to let you see, feel, and experience each and every encounter. I am always challenged with photo sharing. Mainly due to people seeing my “throw away” photos and saying “Wow, that’s amazing, how big was that? Where did you see it? How did you find that?” So instead of picking and choosing, I want you to see everything I saw. I’ve always said that any underwater image is amazing. Capturing critters the size of a grain of rice in current, surge, and low-viz with a bulky UW camera is extremely difficult, so let’s celebrate ALL underwater images.

Enjoy the photos and please comment on the ones that make you feel good. I will be posting my Shrimp, Lionfish, Moray Eels, Pipefish, and Nudibranchs soon. Be safe and have a great week.

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p.s. My favorite non-diving moment was body surfing with the local kids on the final day. What a treat, they were so fun.

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Gdog » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:32 am

Wow love those pics!! The ones with all the kids... So love that.

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby RoxnDox » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:51 am

What an awesome trip! You guys all with those ear to ear grins is great to see...
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby ScubaJess » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:09 pm

A few more on land snaps
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Stephen loves the Milo chocolate drink
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Valerie is a super hero! :)
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Donut one of the local Indonesian cats
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The chefs
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Dive buddies
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Goats on the beach
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Our room
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One of the 8 flights
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Vjw » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:16 pm

Gdog, you asked for more above water pics. Here’s a few. Will take awhile on below water footage ...
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby H20doctor » Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:55 pm

Nice... !!
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Vjw » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:07 pm

Kudos Scuba Jess and YellowEye!! Amazing photos and trip report!! Wow, if I could capture half the colors and beauty you do in your photos, I'd be pleased.
What an epic adventure! Hard to summarize quickly but here goes - 2 days of travel, 2 canceled flights, arrived and fought through the surge to the boat and dove and dove and dove. Eye-watering reefs with all types of coral, sponge, sea squirts, and crinoids with schools and schools of the most phenomenal variety of fish. Coleman shrimp on vibrant purple and yellow urchins and pygmy seahorse on resident sea fans with polyps open! Night dives with blue ring octopus, eels, mantis shrimp, the most colorful weird looking nudibranch I've ever seen, emperor shrimp, seahorses, stingrays, squid, 2 playful cuttlefish, frog fish, hairy frog fish and a beautiful view of the Milky Way greeted us after the night dives! So fortunate to get to see all of this and share with all of you!
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Vjw » Tue Mar 12, 2019 8:38 pm

Gdog wrote:Blue Ringed Octopus...Pssshawww. Those dont really exist, otherwise I would have seen one. Great photos!


Really Gdog!!?? :smt064 You coulda snorkeled down 20 ft in Anilao to see one on the reef!! But no, you stayed on the boat!!
But don't fret, my friend! We'll have other opportunities to see them again! I want to show you one!!

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Gdog » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:53 am

Blue Ringed Octopus...Pssshawww. Those dont really exist, otherwise I would have seen one. Great photos!

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby stphnmartin » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:33 pm

Great report Eric and Jess. You guys are fast! What an awesome trip! I'm still not adjusted to the time change. It will probably be a couple months for me to finish the video edit. But, I'm making progress. Thanks for coming along on the adventure and helping to make great memories.
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Scubie Doo
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Scubie Doo » Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:03 pm

Nice photos you two, great job.

What a great trip. I’m about one third through my photos. I’ll post when I get everything finalized :)

Can’t wait to see the video team’s footage. Very exciting.


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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby YellowEye » Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:36 pm

GearHead wrote:Great trip reports! What a treat to be able to enjoy warm water and even warmer weather. The sea life reminds me of the better spots I’ve been to in the Philippines.
I just wish tropical destinations would keep a few HP 100s on hand for those of us who like to go a little deeper and stay down longer.


Thanks James!

They did have 100's, but no nitrox!! :eek: :eek: :angry:

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby GearHead » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:33 pm

Great trip reports! What a treat to be able to enjoy warm water and even warmer weather. The sea life reminds me of the better spots I’ve been to in the Philippines.
I just wish tropical destinations would keep a few HP 100s on hand for those of us who like to go a little deeper and stay down longer.

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby KeithBoll » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:02 pm

Great pictures!
Thanks for sharing about your trip.
Love the blue ringed octo picture!

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby derekcs » Sun Mar 10, 2019 9:43 pm

Keep the pictures coming. You didn't miss much here. The weather sucked.
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Tangfish » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:46 pm

Glad you all made it back in one piece. That sounds like it was grueling getting there. Great pics guys. Can’t wait to hear more in person!

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby oldsalt » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:19 pm

Friends: Yelloweye insinuated you just scratched the surface with your report. Jan Kocian has been feeding us reports on his Fiji trip in installments. I would enjoy reading and seeing more.
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ScubaJess
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby ScubaJess » Sun Mar 10, 2019 1:45 pm

Fantastic report Yellow Eye! I love your pics!!! The colors are fantastic! I love your Nemo picture!!! It was sooooo fantastic diving with you guys!

That was the most amazing warm water Away Mission to date! So many adventures! I made contact a lot of beautiful sea creatures!!! I was soooo cool to see sea horses & cuttle fish!!! And my first swimming shark!!!! Also the staff at the dive resort were spectacular!! Such nice people! :luv: :eric: My away team was top notch! I love you guys!!!

Here are some of my snaps! :popcorn:

P.S. warm water diving is crazy tricky!!! Those tropical fish don't want their pictures taken.
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I love this place
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Yellow eye looking at the sea
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Stormy days = big waves, tricky to get to the dive boat. The staff was amazing they saved me from the waves several times
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The beautiful beach
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I'm a dive ninja, so proud I didn't get sun burned
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Awesome dive buddies
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Alarm Clocks! Rooster on the beach style
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Our cozy lodge
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The juice guy!!!
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Me and the amazing dive staff at Tompotika Dive Lodge
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These guys reminded me of our perch
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I found Nemo!!!!
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Crazy dancing fish
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Fish condo
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Striped fish
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Double the fish, double the fun
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Super cute tiny fish
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Ribbon eel
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Neat fans
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Nudies on orange sponges, the reefs were super colorful
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Nudies in love
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Neat fish reminded me of goby
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Lion fish
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Blue Ring Octo
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby RoxnDox » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:52 am

Amazing!
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Tom Nic » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:49 am

What an adventure! Sounds like it wasn't all wine, roses, and mimosas... Anxious to hear more, thanks for sharing!
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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby Gdog » Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:23 pm

Great report, and awesome shots YE!

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Re: ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby orcasc205 » Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:25 pm

Sounds like a fabulous trip! The pics are amazing. I can't wait to see more from you and your travel companions.

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ThThTh in Indonesia

Postby YellowEye » Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:12 pm

Howdy folks!

ScubaJess, StphnMartin, VJW, Zack (lurker), ScubieDoo and I just came back from a great trip to the east side of Sulawesi, Indonesia

We stayed at Tompotika Dive Lodge, a beautiful dive resort that holds up to about 10 divers, running off 3 small boats.

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It took 4 plane rides and a 3 hour van ride to get to the destination. Two of the flights were cancelled, so it ended up taking us a grueling 52 hours to get there! Yikes! The 3 hour drive took us out thru partially paved roads into rural Indonesia. Near the airport there were hordes of motorbikes on the road, as well as some trucks and vans. Most of the scooter riders weren't wearing helmets, many were just wearing sandals. To what we're accustomed to, there was a lot of close and aggressive passing of cars/scooters. We saw up to 4 people on one scooter. Quite the ride! Shacks lined the road.

The resort at our destination was beautiful. Beautiful grounds, modern private rooms, and a great common area -- right in front of the beach. We would soon find out that the resort was somewhat at the mercy of the unreliable power in the area. But luckily the resort had a backup generator they could kick on most of the time. It made for some challenge charging some times.

As for the diving... We got to see amazing creatures like cuttlefish, frogfish, blacktip sharks, rays, walking sharks, mantis shrimp, sea horses, clown shrimp, flying fish, blue ring octopus, intricate corals, puffer fish, clownfish, and fantastically colored nudibranchs. So much good stuff!

The diving here was surprisingly very challenging. There was a lot of waves, surge, currents. The boats were small and often rocked in the waves making gear prep tricky. But the diving was worth it!

The night dives were really cool. I'm sure some of the more experience tropical divers will provide some great detail of the creatures found there.

Here were some of the snaps:
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Beautiful sea fans lined the reef

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The reefs here were filled with spectacularly colored feather stars (Crinoids). Quite a different locale than our local ones.

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I got to see my first cuttle fish! Seeing one of these has been on my bucket list since I first heard about them as a teenager. They’re so cool, with shifting colors, and their bizarre form of locomotion. This one seemed very curious about our presence. He was about a foot long.
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Like a chock-full aquarium!
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Beautiful sea squirts were a common sight on the reef
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The sun behind a coral head
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These clownfish eggs were barely larger than grains of sand! Baby Nemos!
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My awesome dive buddies go to extreme lengths to get the perfect shot or video clip!
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Anemone fish on plate coral
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Our dive guides found frogfish and many other fabulous creatures
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I got to see my first sea horses. We saw several of these 5" sea horses on a muck dive, as well as the famous tiny pygmy sea horses on sea fans.


The scenery topside was equally beautiful with sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and green jungle.

The reefs were looking healthy, except an occasional bare spot from dynamite fishing. There was also some plastic floating around, but not as bad as other place in Indonesia, from what I hear.

After each dive, we were treated to a delicious juice or tea. These were great. One of the juices was even made from some special fruits found in the local jungle.

Meals were served between dives, and were quite good. We were fed lot of rice, eggs, soy, chicken, crepes, and fried foods. Lemon grass was a common flavor element.

It was my first trip to the south pacific, so it was quite the treat!

Thank you to StphnMartin for planning this whole trip and giving great guidance for us more inexperienced tropical divers! And thanks to other board members like lologrande, vjw, tallmike and derekcs who gave us some loaners!

Many great memories were made along the way. This report only covers a fraction of the good times had. I'm sure we'll be talking about this trip for years to come.
Last edited by YellowEye on Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.


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