Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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!

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