Saturday, April 02, 2011

Manado trip May 2011

My first dive trip of the year, not counting my abalone free dive daytrips, was to Manado.

Apparently at Manado, in the waters of the Celebes Sea, you get to see

1. Sperm Whales - 40 were spotted at one time.

2. Orcas. Yes, killer whales, who take a fancy for the Whales or Dolphins

3. Dolphins. A Singaporean photographer has a sweet shot of one doing a jump against a Rainbow background.

3. Friendly Whale Sharks.

A story is told of two divers who were busy snapping photos of nudibranches and other small creatures when they suddenly noticed it was becoming decidedly overcast. They assumed it was clouds blocking the sun. When they surfaced, the ecstatic boat crew were asking how many spectacular photos did they take of the Whale Shark that was loitering over them, enjoying their air-bubbles.

The big stuff is found in between the waters of Bunaken and Manado. I spent a whole week at Manado, I didn't see anything big. I did see many interesting small creatures though. I refuse to call them "critters" - it sounds so provincial. Many of them were very cute - I was quite amused to see a furry seaweed covered crab that looked like a teddy bear. Photos don't it justice.

Unfortunately it rained half the time that I was there. And the damn smokers polluted the air non-stop with their cigarette smoke. Next time, I'm going to bring a cover mask. If the Indonesian divers weren't smoking, they were coughing their TB infected lungs out. Covering your mouth when you cough is considered bad form in Indonesia: they may be poor, but they share their germs. I find their generosity in this regard overwhelming.

Thankfully, I got my own room at the resort. La Racasse. Its a pretty good place. We each had our own ensuite which came with a 24 hour cable TV channel. I found myself shamelessly watching war documentaries on the History Channel until 11am. Eventually my guilty conscious found me out - so I headed out to the lounge room to enjoy the sea breeze, gaze at the surf, try and spot the Loch Ness monster or Flipper or Willy the Killer Whale etc.. and to mingle with the other guests. 

But I found that my lungs and Indonesian cigarette smoke are not compatible. So I retreated back to my air con room to watch more war and architecture documentaries.

.... Damn it, my gay neighbor upstairs is humping his cat again or bouncing a big ball on the ground. The fucker causes so much irritation, I wonder whether its a gay thing...

Back to topic - To be honest, I didn't enjoy the Manado trip a lot. The highlight was the trip to the Lehbeh Straits - which took over a total of 5 hours of driving there and back. We got to see an electric looking clam. Plenty of small critters again. 

I guess I don't enjoy muck diving as much as I enjoy wall diving or seeing colorful coral.

The whole process of searching through silt, brown sand, abandoned trash, plastic bottles, plastic bags for a couple of amazing looking tiny creatures is - fascinating! Don't get me wrong. Its quite the experience. But to do that day in, day out gets old very fast.

On one of the dives, the Divemaster, instead of searching for creatures, was busy hunting for his dinner. which was a small yellow pattern conch shellfish. I even helped his quest, thinking I would share some of the bounty for dinner later. No chance, the bugger jumped off the boat and swam to shore with his catch. It was nonetheless an impressive feat given the stormy water conditions. I did find an impressive helmet size conch shell. It was so smooth, shiny and pretty. I wanted to keep it but there was a living creature inside, so I planted it back. Not sure how long that will stay there though given the tremendous amount of overfishing here.

We managed one day's diving at Bunaken but the rainy stormy weather kept most of the diving to the shallow waters at Manado. Shallow water I think is really shitty. Most of the city waste goes straight into the sea. I saw this woman defecating in a river, then later saw the same river leading to our dive site. Woopee.

Maybe it was the unremitting cigarette smoke, or just the muck diving conditions - or a combination of both that made me feel rather sick towards the end of the trip. I was glad to be back home.

The best time to go to Manado is May/June I went in March. 

(Update: On second thought, I think I was a little too critical. I guess the wet weather, constant drizzle, made me a little grumpy.

It really was pretty good. I mean, I dived at Lembeh Straits!!! The ride to the dive site is really beautiful and a foretaste of the wonder that lay beneath. However, the floor is still a brown sandy depressing morass. 

I guess I just found out that I'm a blue water diver at heart. :D