Scuba Diving with Borneo Aquanerds Est'd 2005
Black & White A Lonely Diver Chronicles Publication
Warning these are the only two colours that you will see...
The Journey - 26th March 2010 - 27th March 2010
View from 5th floor of Tune Hotel outlooking the main road. Traffic was still flowing.
The planning started long way back. Tickets all bought early though I had the audacity to buy tickets on the wrong dates. Thanks to Scian with his ever constant updates on the event I managed to realise it early and chage it accordingly. That was the first of many incidences that made this trip all the more memorable and colourful. The big let down was when Air Asia decided to cancel their KLManado flights all of a sudden. To make things more turbulent ( trying so hard to be civilized here), we had to find it out from our resort. After endless nights of contemplation, phone calls, curses and almost cancelling the trip, we managed to get a reroute to Jakarta. From then on we purchased a flight to Manado. The day finally came. I started the journey from Sandakan. Took the first flight out to KL. Arrived by noon and checked into Tune hotel. Thought the rest would be arriving soon but soon got a test message reply from Scian that they'd only be arriving at 11pm. Typically me. Lonely Diver once again. So killed time at down town KL. Changing my Ringgit to Euros as we had to pay in Euros at the resort. Soon enough Scian, Nina and Steven arrived. After a quick third dinner with them, it was lights out.
Note the hand gesture by Scian. It means guide. One of the many underwater signal signs. Yup He was guiding us alrite, to never never land.
Following day greeted by sunshine and happy faces. Spent the morning at LCCT, breakfast at OLD Town while waiting for the KK group to arrive - Red, SAY, Jalis, Yuri and Art. By noon, our trip officially started. boarded our plane and welcomed the anticipation. Arrived Jakarta at 3pm local time and met up with our Singaporean buddies - Sim, Anna and Joan. Arriving at Jakarta Airport ( terminal 2) we had not anticipated that it had three terminals. We almost got haggled by some of the taxi drivers who wanted to take us to Terminal 1. A quick scouting by Scian, we headed to terminal 1 via FREE shuttle bus transfer shuttling every 5 to 10 minutes at the Arrivals Hall level.
Rush hour at Terminal 1 It was begining to feel like being on the amazing race because of all the bag carrying and transfering here and there. By the time we stepped off the shuttle bus, it was like being on the show. The airport was packed. Everyone was either rushing in or out of the terminal, but I suspect most were just friends and relatives sending off or either waiting for their beloved. One quick note that i need to mention. Always print out your plane ticket itinery if you bought your tickets online as we found out you could not enter the check in area without proof of a ticket. Our KK group did not have theirs printed. Nonetheless after going to one of the many airline ticketing sales counter available at the airport they managed to get theirs printed for free.
Once inside the check-in terminal, we were greated by hordes of air-fairing travellers like ourselves queing to check in. It was packed. No specific counter for anyone flight. Any counter would do. I don't know how the check in officers do it. They do it with a smile nonetheless even when those of us who purchased our tickets online needed veryfying as their computer system was down. Come to think of it the whole checking in process took about almost half and hour to be soughted. Kudos to them.
By 6.30pm we boarded our plane. Arrived at Manodo Airport at around 11pm. Once outside, we were greeted by our drivers from Bastianos-Lembeh resort. One small bus covered in Nemo fish art work the other an MPV of some sort.
Tired faces turned to glee once we stepped out of Manado Airport
The drive to Bitung port, felt like forever. I was just too tired and decided to get some Z's flying but my butt was so numb from the days sitting, so ended up looking in front instead. We arrived at Bitung port and waited for our boat ride to the resort. Got our gear onto the boat and started the night ride in darkness. The air was cool. Sound of the humming engine was soothing and without to much waiting, about 30minutes, we finally arrived. A quick check in, sent our gears to the dive center and off to bed.
The Resort Bastianos - Lembeh The resort was fantastic but isolated on an island. No shops anywhere. The front desk office come waiting area greeted visitors and the dive center was just near by. You'd have to make you way up the stairs to get to your chalet style rooms. There were ten chalets if my counting was correct. All air-conditioned. Clean and pest free. The dinning hall, a few meters away had a view overlooking Lembeh Straights herself. The resort has a pool but none of us ever used it. Why would we settle for confined pool when we had the whole of Lembeh Straits to ourselves. The resort had free wifi which was great for Yuri who had and would at every given oppurtunistic moment would log on to FB. The resort also has a pool table. Which we played after the first day of diving.
It was pitched black. Lights were the only thing we could see as we approached the resort.
The Dive 28th-31st March 2010 The dive plan was simple. Dive and shoot. Scout then plan the shoot. Shoot with a theme. Get ID shots for my library collection. Then go creative. Concentrating on composition, colour, structure, shape, lines, interactions and behaviour. As luck would have it, the plan was cut short. Suffice to say, my Canon IXUS 900TI, was wooed by Lembeh herself and forever shall remain in her bosoms. Supprisingly, I felt no pain. No mourning for the lost. No regrets. Rather I accepted the fact and knew I had to move on to improve. A total of 12 dives+1(spent looking for my camera) made. All dives were fantastic and with hilarious incidences. It was fun. 1st dive has always been the best for me. The anticipation and the feeling of what can only be described as exhilirating. Dives were easy. Minimal currents and great visabilty. However, one worthy mention, the dive tanks were extra heavy,purposely so, as we were told, would have better control during shot taking. 8
As expected, first plunge went down like a rock and bouyancy all over the place. Following dives, acclimatised to the situation and brought less weight. Though on one ocassion, used the 'normal- not so heavy tanks', found myself so positively bouyant that no amount of exhaling or rock gathering could keep me down. Situation controlled only when my dive buddy Steven handed me and extra KG of weight did I feel at ease. All the dives were deep dives, reaching down to 20 -21 meters. Mostly spent around 17-18 meters hunting for critters and the likes of which lembeh is famed for. Which meant conserving air was done with delibrate slow relaxed and easy breathing with minimal fining to conserve energy, something you tend to learn as you dive more. An average bottom time of 60-70minutes meant exiting air was 30bar though I did go as low as 10bar at one point. On one occasion someone did ran out on air but that was after a safety stop and at 2 metres. Funny! Here's a few shots that I managed to pull before the lost of my beloved. Wished things could have been different but oh well not to be.
Nudibranch or 'Nuddy' or 'Nuddies' which ever you want to call them or spell are probably one the most easiest and interesting invertebrates around to capture. One thing they're slow moving and another they come in all shapes, colour and sizes. Some may even have a shrimp or two piggy back riding on them but I failed to spot any. I for one am not a nuddy enthusiast but on occasion if I find one that I have never seen before I would without hesitation fire off a shot ever hoping that it would be a new species and have it named after me â€“ Lonlius Divius or something to that effect. I'll keep dreaming about it for now but when the day comes, you'll never hear the end of it. This I promise. There are so many in Lembeh, the shots here are just a tiny tiny tip of the iceberg. Sorry can't provide you with the ID's of the ones here. Just going for artistic portrayal. This brings me to my next subject. Of all things diving, 'Muck Diving' is my favorite. As the name implies, its practically diving in muddy or mucky environment, 'barren' sandy bottoms which may or may not contain an area of junk such as garbage, unwanted tires, dead debri etc depending on your dive site.. Make not of the word 'barren' which isn't quite true, whilst at first glace it may look desolate, but with a careful eye, you will begin to why places that offer the best muck dives become the raves and rantings of underwater marophotographers. 13
Lembeh straights provides one of the best muck environment to dive in. With many wonderful unsual and rare sightings of certain critters. Amongst things spotted ranged from your nuddies of variable shapes and sizes withs its beautiful colouration, the blue ring octopus, flambouyant cuttlefish, tiger shrimp, coleman shrimp, angler fish, banggai cardinals and the fabled Pontohi Seahorse of Lembeh. The list goes on. This is what makes Lembeh great. Whilst current and visability were great, getting off a perfect ID shot proved to be a nuisance especially armed with and automatic compact camera without strobes and macro-lens. Robust pictured left. My camera autofocus was having its job cut out. Kept focusing on the many little tiny particles floating around. Having 6 divers armed with a camera didn't help either. It was fun while it lasted. Muck diving at first may not be your cup of tea if you've just started diving but soon enough with your lust for the underwater world and if you're as enthusiastic as I so called 'proclaim' to be about my love for the ocean, you'll soon progress to love it. There's only so many big game you can see. Not all dive sites provide them.
Last day of dive, did nitrox with 34% enriched O2. After night of reviews and exam, the anticipation to do nitrox was exciting. A thoruough check of our tanks, we made our last dive at hairy ball. If you've ever wanted to know what its like to dive with nitrox, well, it's the same as using regular compressed air. You air consumption remains the same. It does not make your air last longer than usual. All it does is reduce your nitrogen load and makes you feel less tired. I know I did but I guess we did only one dive for the day. Towards the end of the my diving adventure, I could not but stop thinking of the lovely and wonderful things that I might have captured. As with all things in life, certain things has to end somewhere. With the lost of my Canon IXUS 900Ti, all my dives were just spent mucking around, trying to find interesting things for my fellow divers (failed miserably) and basically pondering on how if had a camera in I would capture the next great shot. As such I part with you this knowledge. Whilst not dismissing the other important aspects of photography, in an attempt to fire off an underwater shot, these 3 things you must remember. Shoot low. Shoot up. Shoot close. Chances are you'll almost always end up with a less than ordinary shot. Just something I picked up along the way and from reading about it here and there. So give it a try next time your under. 25
Surface Intervals Nothing much spent during surface interval. Dives consisted of two morning dives and evening dive and the optional night dive. Morning surface interval consisted of just resting on the boat, reviewing shots taken, and the never ending supply of jokes and laughter.
After two morning dives, it was lunch. Lunch was to my liking. Similar to Malaysian style cooking. Before our noon dive, we'd usually loiter around the dining table or some would just grab a quick afternoon nap.
Dinner around seven o'clock was as always delicious. The nights onwards was usually spent chatting, surfing (the resort had free wifi) and trying to finish of our duty free liquor. The day would usuallu end by 11. Breakfast at 7 in the morning, though on occasions tried to wake to get sunrise shots but to no avail. Had one morning, accidently woke up at 5.45am, and it was already bright so deciced to forgo sunrise shots through out the trip, opting more in favour of getting an extra hours of sleep.
Local kids playing and swimming on the shore
Of the night...
There will always be time for fun and games....
Getting Home 1st-2nd april 2010 Time flew by fast. Soon enough the last dive was over. It was time to pack. Said our goodbyes. Tipped our guides and boatman, settled our bills, group photos and by 2pm headed back to the mainland. This time round it was bright. The sun was out and we basked for one last time the beauty and traquility of Lembeh Straights. At Bintung jetty, our ride took us to Novotel Manado, about an hours journey.
Sucking it all in one last time 31
The hotel was new and amennities were to standard. A quick shower and lounging around the hotel, we headed to town at 6pm with the hotels free shuttle service. It was already dark when reached Manado city. There was only one place to go. The mall - The Mega Mall. Not meaning to say this in a bad way, but the mall was just like your typical mall. It felt like loitering around any mall back home but slightly smaller. After a quick dinner, while the rest decided to hang around the mall, Steven and I decided to sweep the streets of Manado in search of entertainment and some photography session. While it appeard busy wtih people and traffic going here and there, there weren't many shops. We went end to end. After working up some sweat, we decided to head back to the mall. After much loitering, we picked up by our shuttle by 10pm, though originally had planned to stay a bit longer, we knew by then the was nothing much to do in town after 10pm. While loitering around in the hotel bar, we noted on the free tourist guide pamphlet there was actually a bar in town. As it was already late we decided to go to bed instead.
Checked out at 7.30am and headed straight for the airport. It was only about ten minutes away. After a qucik check in, lesson learnt, we had breakfast. Flew out to Jakarta at 9.25am and arrived Jakarta time at 12noonish.Our Singaporean counterparts had to rush to catch their 2pm flight to Singapore. So our goodbyes were lightning quick, no hugs, no kisses and no tears. Thanks for memories guys - Sim, Anna and Joan. Hope to dive with you guys again. Our flight back was only at 6pm, so decided to kill time by eating and eating and .... eating. Finally arrived KL at 9pm. Stayed at Tune for the night dreaming the night away before heading back the next day from whence we came. Reality sucks.
Thoughts While I had not anticipated on my camera betraying me and leaving me for the beautiful Lembeh herself, I wanted this trip to be more than just a diving trip. I wanted it to be my photographic trip of self discovery. This Black And White series pratically sums up the trip. The black - the rescheduling and rerouting of flights and the lost of my camera. The White - the amazing journey that we took and new friends we have meet. I had not planned to convert everything in black and white, though I said in the beginning I felt no pain for the lost of my beloved camera, going through all the shots that I've taken, I've realised the only memories that I have of it were the things that were seen and captured through its eyes. So as an ode, I converted everything to black and white, for the wonderful captures we've been through together. A nostalgic feeling was what I was after. Good bye my trusted camera. May you be in Lembeh's good care. My thanks goes goes out Scian for organising such a wonderful trip. To Nina, Ang, Steven, SAY, Yuri@Deidre, Art, Jalis for your wonderful company. To Sim, Joanne and Anna my new found friends. Diving with you lot has been fantastic. To the Crew at Bastianos-Lembeh Resort, thank you for showing us a great time. 35
The last shot captured
Just Say NO to Shark Fin Saw this at Jakarta Airport