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!