Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bali 2011

A week of Easter Holiday comes and on this trip, only me, my mum and my dad went. My sister had her exams coming up, so she decided to stay at home and study instead- what shame... Anyway, my parents decided that we should go to Bali and dive (usual). We always go to Bali every year- even when my I was not born yet! I think it's a tradition in our family! My dad bought a new Olympus camera, which is the Xz-1. It's a compact camera like the Canon we used to have. We gave it away because the lens got stuck, so it needed to be serviced. When my sister started underwater photography, my dad got her a lesson with a famous Australian underwater photographer, Jeff Mullins. He thought that it might be useful if I get a lesson too- and it'll then be fair! I had a two day course in Tulamben. After Tulamben, the three of us had a car ride to Menjangan, North West of Bali. We stayed at a very luxurious hotel, called Mimpi and dived with Disthi Scuba.

On all the three days at Tulamben, my parents and I started it off with a one hour morning dive at Liberty Wreck. This dive site is one of my favourites in Bali. Many bump head parrot fish swim there early in the morning, nudibranchs can be found either on the wreck or on the sand as well as flounders hiding in the sand. Liberty Wreck is full of life. I saw Spanish Dancer Eggs stuck on the rock, while swaying in the water following the water flow. Beautiful like a flower, colourful like a rainbow!

After the morning dive, Jeff had a look at my previous pictures, therefore he will know what I needed to improve on. This also happened on the second day of lesson. Me and my dad visited jeff's house and Jeff gave my dad and I some papers to read, learn and understand.
(I love Spanish Dancer Eggs because the colour is pink - my favourite colour - and it sways in the water, therefore like a ribbon.)

On the first day of lesson, I was taught about the basics of a camera and underwater photography. There is the manual option, the auto option, the aperture mode or the shutter speed mode to use. He also told me what these mode or options are for and why they should be used. Since I love macro the most - and I didn't know how to take wide angle shots yet - Jeff increased my knowledge on taking macro shots. He showed me the best on using macro lens, thus the main subject becomes bigger without the picture being blurred.
(These fish are tiny. They are the length of a toe nail and I used double macro for this picture.)

(This Peacock Grouper was hiding under a stone. The shadow hid its beautiful colours until Jeff told me to tae a photo of it.)

On the second day of lesson, Jeff introduced me to taking 'wide angle shots'. Of course, I can't take wide angle photos as good as my dad's because my camera is only a compact camera. Also, it doesn't have the right lens therefore I have to go further away from the object, though the light from the strobe won't be powerful enough. he gave me some tips and like the previous day, we went diving again. I tried to use the knowledge Jeff taught me. In the end of the day, I produced some wonderful pictures! (This is an Emperor Shrimp on a Blue Sea Star. I used two macro lens and this photo is one of my best works!)

On the last day of stay in Tulamben, my parents and I only did one dive- which was a morning dive. We went diving at Liberty Wreck, only because we had to go to Mejangan- on a CAR (not that there was any other nice private transport)! Like our previous dives at Liberty Wreck, there were MANY giant Bumpheads!!! We saw a Flounder and there was also a bit of current. I love wrecks because there bug fishes swim around them- though I'm not so sure why... Whatsoever, I really enjoyed the last dive at Tulamben, it was fun and I would suggest the Liberty Wrecks to dive lovers- excellent for any diving levels, as well as for snorkelers!

(There was this Moray Eel and I decided to take a photo of it. Suddenly this blue Cleaner Fish came into the picture and the Moray Eel opened it's mouth. The Cleaner Fish swam into the mouth and started cleaning the Eel. This picture seems as if the Cleaner Fish is lying on the Eel's teeth!)

On the way to our next diving spot, we stopped at a school where they teach students around my age. We donated some books, since we had way TOO much! Also, it would be a waste if we threw them away- recycle the books ->save the environment, donate the books -> elps other children! Anyways, the trip from Tulamben to Mimpi Resort took us around 4-5 hours. Once we checked-in to our resort, we explored around the villas, then we visited the dive centre Disthi Scuba later on in the evening.

Disthi Scuba was very well known for it's magnificent pearls. Me and my family went to the same shop a few years ago, but it didn't have any diving centre or maybe we didn't even knew. The hotel I mentioned before was popular for it's hot springs. I didn't have enough time to have a relaxing warm dip. Apparently, you're not allowed to go into hot spring right after scuba diving. However, my parents and I had a chance to dip our legs in. It was warm and very soothing...

On our first day of diving at Menjangan, we actually went to the the Menjangan island. We went to three different locations and my favourite was nearby a beach. There was a temple on the hill and when we visited the place (for lunch first), it was very busy- full of people wearing kebaya, trying to get on the shore. Anyway, the diving there was beautiful! It was steep but very clear. What i love about this dive site is that we saw Pygmy Seahorses!!! It wasn't very deep and we saw about three. There were two red ones and one yellow, though the guide said that it was yellow because it was getting old. We were wall diving and it was very COLOURFUL! I loved the blueness of the sea and the colours of the corals. We only went diving for about 30 to 45 minutes. This was because I wanted to dive at the Pearl farm. I have always wondered how it looks like. We stopped at the farm and jumped in as soon as possible. I didn't imagine the clams to be that ugly. Okay, it wasn't ugly but I didn't expected it to be covered in corals and sponges. In cartoons the clam always seem clean and shiny, looking very priceless. However, when it is actually underwater, without the corals and sponges, it would look dull and dirty. I was surprised. The dive was marvelous though I hated one thing. This is at the fact that clams eat plankton. Luckily for the clams and unluckily for us divers, the water was full of plankton and it stung me a dozen times! I was itching my body when I got out of the water. This experience was something I did not expect and something that I will remember!

(When the Pearl Clam is still young and is starting to grow, it is put in a net. Corals, weeds, sponges start to grow, attracting other widelife to the Pearl Farm. This is a picture of a shrimp on the net.)

(This is a photo of the pearl clam. I'm not fully sure what the orange thig isn, but it looks like sponge. The tiny black thing near the white stuff, is actually the gap of the mouth!)

Second day at Menjangan... That meant that it was our last dive at Bali for 2011. Our guide was explaining that there is a dive site - not at Menjangan Island - just a few minutes away from the resort by car. It is called Secret Bay. He said that it is good, but FREEZING! The lowest temperature was 24'C and at that time, I didn't know how cold that was. However, they did suggest me (told me actually) that I should borrow their thick short wet suit, since my wet suit is only 1mm. Anyway, when I laid a foot in the water, I felt like screaming (exaggeration)! I nearly felt like I won't be able to take the Apparently, there used to be a Pearl farm at Secret Bay too, but I don't know what happened. There was also some Lobster catchers and I saw a Lion fish over there. There were corals but it didn't cover every single area of the dive site. They were mostly on a rock; some as small as a cushion, others as wide as a sofa. There was also a boat wreck. The sea bottom is white sand and it was very light, therefore it was easy to muck up the water. We saw a Sweetlip or too. Many fishes on the wreck and there was also a sea snake! This snake is not the usual Banded Sea Snake in fact, it seemed like the 'Blinded' Sea Snake! It was swimming like it couldn't see and it nearly bumped a Sea Urchin! I wonder what specie it is... lso, on a rock there was this Frog fish. It was orange and reminded me of an orange! I took many pictures of this creature and guess what? When my dad were looking through my photos on the laptop, he realised that there was also another Frog fish- just a much TINIER one! It was around the size of a thumb nail- maybe a bit bigger. I was very surprised! We also saw a File fish near the weeds, as well as a Gurnard. After a while, my parents and I couldn't take anymore and came up to the surface. As my dad always say, there is always some positive and negative points to everything!

(I didn't get much photos of this juvenile Box Fish because it kept on swimming into the coral. The fish looks really cute.)

(This fish was not tiny, as big as a child's foot and is an excellent dancer! The fish kept on wiggling and wiggling it was quite difficult to take a photo of this fish...)

After the dive, me, my mum, my dad's friends and the guides had dinner at 'Mba Lina'. We ate yam Betutu (Betutu Chicken) which was a Menjangan specialty. It was delicious, but it was also VERY S-P-I-C-Y!!! Menjangan, Tulamben in fact, the whole island o Bali is full of surprises. Either you encounter it underwater or in your tastebuds, Bali is amazing! This trip was really fun and exciting. I enjoyed it very much and I can't wait to go to Bali AGAIN!

Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia 2011

Summer is here, meaning more time to relax! My family and I visited Sulawesi again (where Gorontalo, Togian, Bunaken, Lembeh and Tana Toraja is) but this time, we went to the East. From Jakarta, we went to Makassar first (transit) then to Palu. From the city, we went to a small town called Donggala. Just out of town, there is a resort called Prince John- which was where we stayed.
This is the beach at Prince John. I LOVE how there are three different shades of blue for the sea! The big bungalow is the restaurant. There are also deck chairs along the beach, which are always full at midday and afternoon!

Prince John is the only dive resort in Palu. The rooms are made out of wood and what I love about these rooms is that most of them (the one bedrooms) are on the edge of the hill, looking like its hanging! Me and my family slept in a different type of cabin. It has two rooms and used to belong to the manager of Prince John, therefore it has a kitchen (though there is no gas). I also love the beach! Why? First of all, the water is REALLY clear! I could see the corals pretty clear when I was snorkeling. Second of all, I saw a BAT FISH, a LION FISH and a FLOUNDER just off the shore- they were only around 1 to 2 metres deep! And last but not least, unlike in Tulamben, the sand at Palu and its surrounding beaches are white making the whole beach seem much relaxing!

This was at Prince John. I was playing on a Slack-line. This is where you have to walk on a flat rope from one tree to another!

First Day
On the first day, my dad decided to do only two dives. He just wanted the first two dives to be a 'warm up'. Thus on the second day, we hopefully dive without any problems. Since the whole family only has two underwater cameras now, my dad gave his one to my sister and I use the Olympus Xz-1.
This is a photo of my sister taking a photo of little blue fishes at Grand Canyon!

1st Dive- House Reef
This place is BEAUTIFUL. It is full of colourful corals and colourful fishes. There aren’t many interesting creatures. However, on an anemone, there were some Clown fishes with a Porcelain Crab walking around the anemone. I was looking at this book after the dive and it was specially featuring on sea creatures (Crabs, Shrimps, Nudibranchs – not fishes though). From this book, I now know the difference between a normal crab and a Porcelain Crab. The main claw on a normal crab is smaller, comparing to a Porcelain Crab’s. Besides crabs, we saw numerous amounts of tiny Emperor Shrimps on Sea Stars and Sea Cucumbers. Also, there was this other tiny shrimp. The colour on my photos and underwater seemed green, but I’m not completely sure. It was crawling up and down on this coral stick thing. It looked like a stick, but it had some soft coral-like features on it.
This is the Porcelain Crab. See how the front claws are HUGE!
This is a photo of artificial corals at the House Reef. People purposely grow artificial corals to attract for underwater wildlife!
This green Shrimp turned out to be a Crinoid Shrimp.
2nd Dive- Alex Point/Anchor
Alex Point or Anchor is literally 30 seconds off Prince John’s House Reef, with a boat. Just like the dive at Prince John’s House Reef, there were Emperor Shrimps on Star fishes. There were also other types of shrimps, such as the clear shrimps on anemones. Apart from Shrimps, there were different types of crab too. At the end of the dive, there was this small Ornate Ghost Pipefish, swimming nearby a blue crinoid. However, my favourite part of this dive was when I saw Nudibranchs on a Sea Squirt- twice! On the first encounter, the Nudibranch was blue and yellow. It matched perfectly with the Sea Squirt! The colour of the Nudibranch was black and white on the second encounter, nice but not like the blue and yellow Nudibranch.

It took me awhile to take this photo because the shrimp kept moving. The size of the Shrimp was around 2cm!
This was the first Nudibranch I saw. There was another one of the same type, but it was under the Sea Squirt.

2nd Day
1st Dive- House Reef
Second day of diving and we started it off with a morning dive... Like usual. The day before, my dad wanted to know if everyday we could dive before breakfast, so around six. When the guide said it was possible, we went diving at 6.30am the latest. Unfortunately, when I was transferring my images from the previous day, I forgot to put the memory card back, thus I was limited on how many pictures I was able to take and that was 13 pictures. In the beginning, there was this small Mantis Shrimp. It was hiding in a small hole, with it's antennae sticking out. It took awhile to take a photo of the Mantis Shrimp. I saw a Scorpion fish too and a Flounder at the end which I chased for a bit!
This Scorpion fish was sitting still on a rock.
Day Trip
After the dive at House Reef, my dad planned to have a day trip. We went diving at South Atoll first, then Pasi Kava. It took us one hour (by boat) to our first dive site. After a tiring one and a half hour dive we had lunch.

1st Dive- South Atoll & 2nd Dive- Pasi Kava
Both dive sites were not famous for it's macro life, mainly because there were hardly any seen, but for the corals and big fishes and I mean big. Guess what they are... They are as long as me, way tougher than me,I think they can be found in a shop, is also black or white on top, eats everything in the sea, but luckily not me… SHARKS!!! In South Atoll, my family and our guide saw 5 different White Tip Sharks and one Black Tip!!! I was disappointed that I didn't see a single one. Our guide said that sharks swim only in this area and by area I thought he meant South Atoll only. So on the second dive, I didn't expect that I'm going to meet more sharks. Just when we went down, a shark passed by, 10 metres away from us, well more or less. Then another one and another one and another one and more! In the end of that dive, we saw 4 or more sharks!!! I was so exhilarated because I have never seen any White Tips or Black Tips apart from when we went to Sipadan (read my Sipadan blog to get more info)! In Pasi Kava, we also saw TWO Orangutan Crabs! It literally looked like an Orangutan, with long brown fur. There was also a Squat Lobster. It was tiny and was on a Sponge. It had white spikes and a pair of red eyes. Last of all, we saw a Moray Eel. I think it was black and when I took a picture of it, the image didn't turn out the way I wanted and expected.
This little creature is so cute I wanted to touch it, but obviously I'm not allowed.
These are the two Orangutan crabs I described.
3rd Day
1st Dive- House Reef
Again, we went diving at the House Reef. Luckily, I brought my camera WITH the memory card. If I didn't, I think I would CRY (just kidding) because what we saw was spectacular! (Not as spectacular as a Whale Shark or Dolphins though…) There was that green shrimp on the coral-like-stick-thing AGAIN, though I think it is the same coral-like-stick-thing we saw before, but I wasn't sure. Anyway, when I was looking at an anemone, there were Clear Shrimps jumping about and I decided to take a photo of it. Later on at night, when I was going through my pictures, my dad spotted eggs in the shrimp's body. I was not 100% sure because it was pink and I thought it was the brain…; We also saw a small group of Rigid Shrimp fish and a TINY WEENIE Nudibranch!It was blackish and it was difficult to take a photo of it with only two macro lens. We saw an Ornate Ghost Pipefish hovering about. Just when we were ashore, just nearby the place where we took our fins off, we saw a JELLYFISH!!! The inside of the Jellyfish was purple, but it had NO TENTACLES!!! We talked about this with the guide, after our dive. He said that another fish ate the tentacles therefore, it is tentacle-less!
It was hard taking a photo of the Jelly fish because it was close to the surface and it was a bit choppy!

2nd Dive- Natural
I didn't find this dive site that special unfortunately. Mostly because there were hardly any macro creatures. There were tons of Emperor fish- as usual and a Moray Eel. But there was this animal that made this dive site have a little specialty- which was the Cuttlefish! I was just swimming around and the guide pointed the Cuttlefish out. I couldn't figure out where the animal was. So I gave the guide an where sign. He pointed to the corals and I saw the Cuttlefish. It camouflaged perfectly with the stone! I was tricked! I took a photo of it and I began to come closer to the Cuttlefish. It swam away and I chased after it. I got tired and stop… Right at the end, there was a Leaf Scorpion fish. However, it was hiding down a coral. I tried to bring it up. I wanted to give up, since my air was running out. Just when I was about to leave, the fish jumped out and it was at a perfect spot for me to take a picture. AGGGGHHH! I felt so frustrated. I refused to go and stayed underwater for a few more minutes.
The Cuttlefish kept swimming away and I wasn't close enough to the animal for the strobe to reach.

3rd Dive- Shipwreck
Just before we were going to do our third dive, we heard that two people was going to a shipwreck. My dad was curious and therefore he asked the guide. Our guide said that in front of the House Reef, there is a shipwreck. However, it was slightly too deep for me, thus he didn't suggest the dive site to us. The guide also said that we might be able to find Bullocki Nudibranchs. They are pink with yellow gills and yellow antennae. In addition, they are very rare and can't be found worldwide. We soon started diving and the ship was around 10 metres in length. I was SO excited! I was looking around and I saw this big Moray Eel, hiding between a little gap of the ship!!! I badly wanted to take a photo of it, but I was scared. However, I don't think it is as big as the one my sister and dad saw when they were night diving. They said that the size of the body was nearly as big as mine! Even my sister was scared to take a photo of the Eel that night! Anyway, there were many Bat fish swimming in the wreck and every time I was 10 metres closer to the group, they swim away! In addition, there was this huge Grouper! I think it was sleeping because it stayed still then again, but then again, I can't be sure since fish sleeps with their eyes opened...

The Bullocki was 'walking' on the top of the shipwreck. The little white animal at the bottom is a shrimp.
This is a close up of the Shrimp. The picture has been cropped, but I used 2 macro lens.
This looks like a Flatworm (which was the first thing I thought), but it is actually a Nudibranch because it has a pair of antennae and gills.
LAST Day- Marantale
1st Dive- Maymel
It took us 3 hours to reach Marantale from Prince John by car. Our first dive site was called Maymel. Actually it's not... None of the dive sites in Marantale is named. Me and my sister therefore wanted to name it Maymel- from Mayang and Melati! Anyway, Maymel was amazing! The visibility was 40 metres (no joke)... Or at least 30 metres. The corals and sponges were huge and beautiful! They also looked very healthy. However, there was one tiny weenie bit that I didn't really like and that was the Antheas-like fishes. Usually Antheas are pink in colour and are easily seen against the blueness of the sea. These Antheas were blue and blend excellently with the sea, therefore the fishes can hardly be seen in the picture, in my opinion. Anyway, on my Gorontalo blog, (for more info on Gorontalo, read my Gorontalo blog) I said that Salvador Dali sponges only exist in Gorontalo... But guess what? It doesn't! In Maymel, we saw a huge Salvador Dali!!! It was only one, but that still makes the fact 'Salvador Dali only lives in Gorontalo', not a fact! Gorontalo and Marantale are both AMAZING, but as I've said, surprises are everywhere!

I LOVE this picture. I like how the purple of the anemone; the orange and white of the Clownfishes match perfectly together! My dad said if I used a lower aperture, the background could've been all black.
From the two dives at Marantale, I learnt that Blue Star fishes makes a picture look better! However, this was not my best wide-angle photo at Palu.

2nd Dive/last dive- Grand Canyon
First of all, my dad named this dive site Grand Canyon. Why? Well if there's anyone who has been to the Grand Canyon in the US, picture in mind of an identical one and imagine it being underwater- with blooming corals and sponges; with many tiny blue fishes; with swaying anemones filled with Anemone fishes and Clear Shrimps; with colourful Nudibranchs and other underwater wild life! Yes, this name has been taken - twice! - but the name fits with the dive site PERFECTLY! Just like at Maymel, the visibility reached 40 metres! This is something hard to imagine, thus come to Prince John and have dive trips you'll NEVER (I literally mean never) regret!
This picture might as well be my favourite because I love how the Nudibranch is at a position where it looks like it was going to flip!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gorontalo and Togean Islands

On this trip, me and my family went to Sulawesi, central east of Indonesia. We’ve been to Manado (Lembeh and Bunaken), so we travelled a little to the south. We started at Gorontalo, went diving for three days, then we went on a ‘ship’ (ferry, which was super slow!!) ride to Togian Island. Again, in Togian we went diving for three days, including the first day when we got to the island. Apparently, around March the sea is calm and on May the sea is totally flat- not a single wave. In this condition, you can see Dolphins swimming. However, this year is a bit strange, with weather patterns changing. The sea was very rough in Togian when my family and I visit this Island, so we didn’t have the best diving trip.

In Gorontalo, there aren’t many macro lives; you can see at least one Nudibranch in a dive. The maximum amount of Nudibranchs I saw was around three, but you can probably see upto five if you are lucky. The main photography technique that is used is wide-angle. This is best used when there is a current. This is because fishes love sports; therefore they swim in currents, going to the opposite direction of the current. The stronger the current, the bigger the fish and fishes will surround you. Anyway, in total my family and I had nine dives in Gorontalo. Some of these dive sites took an hour to reach from the town.

Most tourists come to Gorontalo to dive and see its beautiful Sponges. Two types of Sponges grow and live only in Gorontalo. They’re called the Salvador Dali Sponge and the Cigar Sponge. Sounds familiar? Salvador Dali is the Italian Surrealist artist. The Salvador Dali Sponge is named after the painter because of the patterns on the sponge. It looks like the technique used by Dali- squiggly. An example of a painting by Dali, that has a technique used in the patterns of the sponge, is called ‘The Melting Clocks’. It is very similar. The other sponge is called a Cigar Sponge because of it looks like a cigarette. The colour is brown with a white collar on top, making it look as if smoke is coming out.

1st Day

1st Dive- Honeycomb West

In Honeycomb West, there wasn’t any species that I founded interesting. There was just the usual Butterfly fishes, Trigger fishes, many others. But what surprised me the most was the clearness of the sea. Gorontalo is a city that has a river leading into the sea. The river is brown, mucky, and is used for bathing and washing clothes. I was amazed at the fact that you can see over 10 metres underwater.

This is a split photo of me ( taken by my sister) just away from the Ule-Ule village beach.

This is a photo of me (taken by my Dad) beside a Sponge.

2nd Dive- Buffalo Head

The name Buffalo Head comes from the shape of a nearby island (of the dive site). The side of the island is a bit pointy; making it shaped a Buffalo head. It is interesting actually. I saw one Nudibranch and nothing else apart from this critter and the name Buffalo Head was fascinating.

3rd Dive- Fallen Rock

Like Buffalo Head, I only find the name and sight interesting. Fallen Rock is practically a fallen rock, or at least it looks like one. Just a few metres of an island, there is a rock. On top is a rock that has apparently fallen, pointing downwards. This objection looks like a sculpture. In fact, if it was entered in an Art competition, it might win! Underwater was as usual, Nemos, Trigger fishes, Sea Cucumbers and many others.

When we were going back, it started to pour. I slept on the boat, as it was an hour journey back to the town. The guides started yelling ‘Dolphins! Dolphins!’ and in a blink of an eye, I woke up. Dolphins are one of my favourite creatures, as they are loveable, cute and beautiful. At first, the Dolphins were quiet far, so I couldn’t really see them. Minutes later, a huge Dolphin jumped out beside the boat. I was amazed. The dolphin has a big size and no pointy nose! This specie is called the Risso Dolphins.

2nd Day

1st Dive- White Point

According to our guide, White Point is reasonably popular for the Cowries that live there. Cowries are white shells that have a unique black (with decorations) ‘blanket’ that can cover the shell if harmed or threatened. They are actually quite beautiful. I’m not sure if they’re poisonous but I suggest that you shouldn’t touch them.

This is an Egg Cowrie. The black skin-looking-thing is a bit opened, revealing it's white shell.

2nd Dive- West Point

West Point is one of the dive sites that I really enjoyed. I found a few fishes that I thought were adorable. On this dive, I went a bit further than my maximum depth. Because of this, on the sand, I saw a Randall’s Shrimp Goby. It was staring out of its hole, while its shrimp friend was making the hole deeper- probably. I love Gobies because they work with other creatures, which is the shrimp. I’m amazed at the fact that shrimps (who work with Gobies) can’t see, or is blind. However, they can dig. On the other hand, Gobies can see, but can’t dig holes. This is why they work together. Apart from this little beauty, I saw a Bluestriped Blenny, orange version though. These types of Blennies live in corals. They pop their head out when trying to get dinner, but hides in their coral hole if they feel threatened. According to my fish book, Bluestriped Blenny may bite divers if they certainly feel hurt. Luckily, when I took pictures, I was at a reasonable distance, enough for me to take pictures, but enough so that I am not disturbing the fish too much. In West Point, I also saw a Spotfin Lion fish. I love this fish because it has a unique fin, as well as the details on its body.

This is the Bluestriped Blenny. I was very lucky not to get bitten!

This is a Randall's Shrimp Goby. The Goby looks as if it has eaten some pebbles!

3rd Dive- Cliffs/Paradise

This dive site was actually quite a paradise, though I still prefer West Point than this. Anyway, as I was diving, I saw a ribbon looking object - swaying on a rock - though it looks rough. I took a picture of it and realised that it was Nudi eggs. The colour was light pink, pretty faint. The height was short so I know that it couldn’t be Spanish Dancer eggs, because the colour of Spanish Dancer eggs, is hot pink, and is quite tall so it seriously looks like a glued ribbon. Also, on a rock, was a Scorpion fish, hiding, camouflaged, ready to have dinner. Now, scorpion fishes in Gorontalo and Togian are ‘scaredy-cats’, or even ‘scaredy-fishes’! They are not easy to approach, or else they swim away, which one did and got me scared to death! Anyway, the one we saw in Cliffs/Paradise was alright. I was able to get a close-up shot, which was relieving.

3rd Day

1st Dive- Honeycomb East

This dive wasn’t very exciting. Anyhow, Honeycomb East is the other side of Honeycomb West (as east is the opposite of west). There were just the usual fishes. I loved how the water is VERY clear. In fact my dad was able to get shots where the object (e.g. Sponges, Sea Fans...) seems larger than the model. The trick to this is to have a big lens, and the model has to be at least a metre away from the object. My mum was the model and she also held a torch to make the photo look cooler! While that was happening, my sister and I carried on with our ‘business’, taking photographs- my pictures was mainly macro.

This is my mum, around a metre or two away from the sponge, holding a torch while posing for the shot!

This is our guide, a few metres behind the sponge, posing for the shot too. Because of the way the picture is taken, the sponge looks as if it is over three metres when it's not even 2metres!

2nd Dive- Traffic Circle

The following two dives, I must say was the best I had in Gorontalo. After all, it was the last day. Anyway, in Traffic Circle, I saw two Fire Dartfishes! This type of cutie is really interesting to watch because they are quick swimmers. But, what I admire about these fishes the most is the colour of their body. They have a white antennae, white body (top half though, including head) and the bottom half is red. Just when we were doing our three minute stop, there was a Turtle! I was very excited because I didn’t expect to see one! It had moss or green stuff on its shell, and the head was out. Unlike in Sipadan, this turtle was terrified of us, so I chased the creature for a few metres, and then I gave up.

This is the Turtle. The shell has green stuff that looks like moss.

3rd Dive- Sand Castle

This was the last dive and I have to say that I was quite upset. I actually love Gorontalo, though there aren’t many macro lives. There are still dive sites that my family and I haven’t discovered. So I look forward to going here again. Anyway, I really enjoyed the last dive so I wasn’t that disappointed. Sand Castle is muck diving. The sand is very soft so you have to be careful when diving. There are many hidden creatures in the sand. Lion fishes live here as well. They mostly stay near wood rocks or corals. It is unlikely for them to be wandering away from their homes. I saw a couple of Nudibranchs on the sand. There was a Helmut Gurnard as well. I couldn't get a good picture of it because it kept on swimming away from me! I also saw a Giant Shrimp Goby. However, I accidentally mucked the water; therefore I wasn’t able to get a good picture again. Anyway, our guide found a Shortnose Pipefish. I got a close look at it and it was really cute. The nose is short (from the name) and the head looks like a dragon’s, a black dragon. Sand Castle is known for the Nemos eggs. Anemone fishes live on the sand too. Different groups have separated anemones. However, it could be quite close. Hidden on the anemones are not just Nemos and other little fishes, but Anemone crabs! They look similar to Porcelain Crabs. At the time I was there, most of the Nemos had eggs. They were on some kind of object, e.g. wood, rock, coral. This reminds me when I nearly touched an egg in Lembeh, thinking that it was coral, and got bit by a Nemo. So every time there are Nemo eggs, I am careful to not go too near to the Nemos or Nemo eggs as they’re parents will be furious!

This is a Shortnose Pipefish. I love the head because it looks like a dragon's. The sand was very soft it disturbed some of my images.

These are Nemo eggs on a rock. You could make out the eyes of the fishes.

After the excellent dives in Gorontalo, my family and I moved on to Togian Isalnds. We used a ferry that took us AGES! Actually it was 13 HOURS! Luckily, my parents were able to get two rooms – one for my parents, one for my sister and I – though they weren’t the captains, which they wanted to get as it was the biggest. My parents got the Captain of something (not the ferry) and my sister and I had a smaller room, though I’m not sure who it actually belongs to. We left off Gorontalo at 2100, and reached our destination at around 1000.

Togian Island is an island located in the middle of Tomini Bay. The sea is very calm when it is raining, apparently there won’t be any wind. My family and I were very unlucky, not being able to go to the best dive sites in Togian. There is only one island where there are resorts, which is where we stayed. Togian Island is a remote island, so there are no shops except the ones from the resort. They get fuel for boats from the city on main land, and our resort gets fish from a nearby market.

We stayed at Black Marlin. In total, there are three different resorts to choose from: Kadidiri Pardise Dive Resort, Black Marlin and Pondok Lestari Kadidiri. Kadidiri Paradise is very expensive, excellent rooms though I’ve heard from other guests that their service is not so good. However, Black Marlin is a bit cheaper, with good food, good rooms and excellent service. The people are friendly and me and my sister played pool with them on the last day! Pondok Lestari Kadidiri is the cheapest and apparently, they share the kamar mandi/ showering room. The resort is owned by a Bajo fisherman. Food, drinks, tea or coffee is available at all times and is free. If guests want to snorkel anywhere in Togian (but I think there is a limit), I’ve heard that it’s free. If you want, you can join him on a fishing trip which I believe is free. The order of these resorts are in the order of how I have listed them (on top), starting with Kadidiri Paradise which is on the left.

1st Day

When we got to the resort, we had to wait for half an hour till our room is ready. We unpacked our clothes and diving equipment and decided that we wanted to have a dive in the afternoon, since we arrived around lunch time. We had a nap and got ready to dive!

1st Dive (only dive of the day)- Kota Wall

This dive was a bit of a slope. There wasn’t much that I was interested in, apart from the clearness of the water. However, we were diving near the sand and since the weather was a bit weird, sand particles came up, disturbing my photos. There was a strong current too. Underwater, there were many Sea Fans, big sponges and Nemos! They looked very cute. The anemones were swaying going along the direction of the current.

There were MANY Xmas Tree Worms in Togian. They hide in corals, popping their colourful respiratory structures out.

2nd Day

1st Dive- Taipi Wall

Taipi Wall is located near Taipi Island. The dive is not exactly a wall, but more of a slope. Luckily, four creatures caught my attention. One is a Crocodile fish! I was close by to our guide. As I was swimming past the fish, not realising it, the guide suddenly stopped me! I was thinking- what’s happening? The guide pointed downwards, showing a green face, camouflaged against the coral, with a beard. Good thing, the Crocodile fish wasn’t scared at me, giving myself a chance to take pictures of it. The other fish that fascinated me was a dark blue Blenny, maybe a Fangblenny- though I’m not sure. The head kept on popping in and out. The mouth kept on opening and closing too, it was adorable! The last two was a pair of Bumphead Parrot fishes. They were really far away so we couldn’t take any pictures of it...

This is the Blenny I mentioned.

(Please comment on the article if you know the specie of this fish.)

This is the 'not-so-scardey-cat' Crocodile fish. On this picture, the fish looks as if it's asleep.

2nd Dive- House Reef

On the 24/3/11, the sea was really rough and we weren’t able to go away from Togian too far, so we swam in the House Reef. The House Reef was in front of the island, but we had to use the boat for some reason. Apparently, one group saw a Soft Coral Pigmy Sea Horse. They said that they saw it in the House Reef so we decided to find one. However, the staffs believe that the Sea Horses probably moved because of the strong current. Anyway, we tried to find some Sea Horses on the Soft Corals, but there weren’t any. (There were MANY Soft Corals.) Instead, on the soft coral we found a Soft Coral Shrimp! It was perfectly camouflaged to the coral, because I had to ask my mum (who found it) what she found! It was light pink with dark-pink stripes. Beside this unusual creature, we also saw a pair of Ringed Pipefishes, swimming on the sandy bottom. Last but not least, we saw a Scorpion fish, camouflaged with coral, ready to strike!

This is a Ringed a Pipefish. However, it is not a very good picture of it. The current was quite strong, I couldn't balance myself well enough.

3rd Dive- Taipi Island

Taipi Island is a tiny island located around a kilometre away from Togian. Taipi Wall is a bit further away from Taipi Island, in fact you can’t really tell- apart from our guides and the boat drivers! I was excited to see a lovely creature; it was the Yellowmargin Moray Eel. Its elegant body and the yellowness just brings the creature seem so majestic, even though it is just a regular eel! Again, there was a strong current, so we just followed it.

This is the Yellowmargin Moray Eel. My dad said that he couldn't cope guiding both me and my sister (in case we kneel on something dangerous when taking photos), so he said that my sister and I should share cameras. This picture was taken by my sister.

I think this Anemone fish is a Spinecheek Anemone fish. I'm not so sure because I can't really see the spine on the cheek.

3rd Day (Last Day)

1st Dive- Mini Canyon

In my opinion, Mini canyon was alright. Again, there was a current. But what made me say that Mini Canyon’s alright, is that we saw a pair of Napoleon Wrasses! It was huge. However, like the Bumphead Parrot fishes, we couldn’t get any footage of the amazing creature. Unlucky for us, good for the fishes!

This is an Anemone Crab in Togian.

2nd Dive- New Reef

First of all, New Reef is NOT a new reef. It must be splendid if it wasn’t for the horrible current! I couldn’t get much decent pictures. I wasn’t able to hold on very long, the current kept dragging me. Unluckily (again), there wasn’t any extraordinary creatures or plants, except of course, some wide Sea Fans, beautiful Sponges and many fishes! As I explained before, fishes love to exercise, therefore, we saw many fishes swimming about. It was like a blue festival! After the tiring the dive, we had to struggle even more to get on the boat. The wave was quite big, we had to use a rope - to pull our self – to get to the boat, where we take our equipments off and go into the boat on the ladder.

3rd Dive- Nursery Rock

Like I always feel on every last dives, I felt disappointed and upset. We weren’t able to go to Una-Una, where tornadoes of Barracudas live. We weren’t able to see the underwater volcano, where we could smell stinky sulphur and feel the warmth of the bubbles. There is also a plane wreck from one of the world Wars which we weren’t able to see too. Our resort apparently, did not have enough fuel to go there and get back. Anyway, Nursery Rock was probably one of my favourite dive sites in Togian. According to the guides, they said that a group saw an Eagle Ray, with a wing span of over 4 metres, which we wanted to see! We tried to find it but I don’t think it wanted to meet us... Anyway, the diving in Nursery Rock was more of a muck dive, but there were quite numerous amounts of corals. We saw a few Flounders, which we chased about! There was also a couple of Nudibranchs. There was a very strong current again which could’ve led us to exhaustion. Luckily, we had an excellent guide because if we didn’t go down, below the current, we could’ve been swept to Taipi Island, which a group did! There were three groups on the boat and when our group was out into the boat, one group was still missing. We searched and searched when we finally saw an orange thing bobbing up and down, which was that thing you inflate to tell boat divers that there are divers below. Nursery Rock and Taipi Island is at least 100 meters away!!! Nursery Rock was certainly interesting! I can’t wait to come back here again (if we do) and go to Una-Una, the plane wreck and the volcano! I certainly miss Togian!

These two Nudibranchs were the ones from Togian.

*Most of the pictures were taken by me, but some was taken by my dad or by my sister.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Other Photos from Ambon- Indonesia


Maluku Diver Boat - Sitting in the boat Mayang, Emily Aiken, Jennifer Widom, Alex Aiken, Tim Aiken, Me, my mum - and standing - Marcel the resort manager

All photos below are taken by myself with Canon G9 and Epoque strobe