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.

No comments:

Post a Comment