Our Indonesian Adventure
By Walter Marti, with Linda B. in tow
On April 26, 2008, Linda and I headed to LAX at 8:00 pm. 32 hours later we arrived at our Indonesian destination of Scuba Seraya in Tulamben, island of Bali. Our trip consisted of a quick stop in Taipei, a 5 hour layover in Singapore and a 2 ½ hour car ride to the resort. Scuba Seraya is a very nice resort right on the water. The accommodations are 2 unit bungalows. The rooms are spacious. Just out the back door of our room was a walled in courtyard, which is the bathroom. The toilet and sink are under roof, the shower is open to the stars. Quite charming. The food was very good, a mixture of Indonesian, Indian and Swiss. The owner of the resort, Patrick is Swiss, thus the Swiss cuisine. Weather was good, some small showers. Negatives of the resort (by inference, everything else was a positive); the crowing roosters from the neighboring houses. It must be sunrise someplace at 2:30 am Bali time.
We made 18 dives in 5 days. About half of the dives were by a fast fiberglass un-inflatable boat. These dives included the Liberty Wreck. An American WWII cargo vessel that was torpedoed and towed to the island for salvage. It sat up on shore until Mt……. erupted in 1963, the lava flow pushed it into the sea. She sits parallel to shore, the deepest part being 85’ deep. The wreck is covered in fans, soft corals and table corals. Lots of fish abound, highlights being a school of Bumphead Parrotfish, a large Barracuda that seemed to enjoy getting portraits taken of him and a large school of Jacks swirling about. The other boat dives we did were for wall and reef diving. The water temperature was 80 – 84 degrees
The diving right off of the resort was my favorite. It was diving in black sand looking for strange critters. Without a dive guide there would be no way we would have seen a quarter of what we did. Frogfish large and small, Pigmy Seahorses and regular ones, Mimic Octopus, Cuddly fish, Reef Squid, cute little Blue Spotted Stubby Squid, Tiger Shrimp, Harlequin Shrimp, the hardworking Gobie Shrimp, Boxer Crabs, many other strange crustaceans, Ghost Pipefish ad nauseam, large Spadefish getting cleaned, lots of Lionfish and many varieties of Nudibranchs. There were also the corals reefs with the usual fishy suspects. The dive operation was well run and everyone was very helpful and caring of our large cameras. Nitrox was available and the divemaster gave us a glass of water prior to every dive. A nice touch.
For our soak-out day we hired a car and driver for the day and had a tour of the countryside. Bali has a lot to stimulate the eyes with the rice terraces, Buddhist Temples, local stone and wood carving. All this gives Bali a very exotic feel. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Kintamani volcano crater and lake. It seems these volcanoes erupt lots of fertilizer onto the land. Unlike the Hawaiian ones asphalting the land for hundreds of years before something can grow on it.
The following morning and early afternoon was a travel day to Manado, North Sulawesi. Here at least we had a short van ride to the Cocotinos Beach Resort. We were primarily the only guests here. It felt strange to have an entire resort staff catering to just us two. There was a large dive staff at our will. We were able to make one afternoon dive and a night dive on the first day. The boat we took had a crew of two, plus two divemasters for us. We were unable to spot many photo subjects, with these two guys spotting for us. On the second day we were awaken at 6am by a huge storm that blew in. The seas were choppy and windy. Diving being blown out, they packed us up in a van for the 1 ½ hour ride to the other side and the Lembeh Straits. This is a very scenic area. It reminded me of Browning Pass, but warmer, the trees less pointy and not as may Canadians, aye! For strange critters this was all it was cracked up to be. With our two hunting dogs leading the charge, we had little time to swim around or look for our own subjects. Highlights here were; Hairy Frogfish, Leaf Fish, the Electric Scallop (me sucking the divemaster’s second regulator while taking it’s video), two dancing Scallops, two Rinopia’s (a purple one swimming under my elbow to get next to his mate for a ‘proper’ family portrait), Spiny Devilfish, Pigmy Seahorses, Spotted Porcelain crabs, Banggai Cardinalfish, and of course many varieties of Nudibranchs.
Lembeh is a photographer’s paradise. But be warned, photo training for Lembeh should be La Jolla Shores, Redondo Canyon or under the Newport Pier. If you can take a good picture in soft sand, you’ll love Lembeh. If you want beautiful coral walls, with a muck diving chaser, Cocotinos Resort has it. A short boat ride to Bunaken or Siladen Islands should give you a fill of coral walls. On the third dive you can hit the top of the reef and look for critters. Highlights here were; beautiful scenic coral walls, great vis, the largest Sponges I’ve ever seen, large Fans, Boxer Crabs, tons of tropical fish and of course lots of Nudibranchs.
We also made dives around the resort. The vis was less. The reefs were fairly pristine. On a great vis day it may surpass Bunaken. Lots of coral, the muck diving was the good here. Highlights; fields of delicate Lettuce Coral, yawning Frogfish, tiny Squat Lobster and Shrimp on most everything, jumping Spider Conchs, Cuddlefish on most dives, lots of Mantis Shrimp and of course lots of nudibranchs and flatworms. We made a total of 16 dives in Northern Sulawesi.
The Cocotinos Resort is surrounded by a small fishing village. There are some poor shanties and some houses I would feel fortunate to live in. It has dirt roads (mud since it rained), all the kids are noticeably clean. There is a church and a mosque. The resort is very clean, rooms spacious, and well (overly) staffed. The dive staff won’t let you carry gear, or even clean your gear. Nitrox is available. Negatives of the resort (by inference, everything else was a positive); the blaring loudspeaker call to prayer from the mosque at 4:30 am, it only lasted 5 minutes or so, and the loud music from the village starting at 6:30 am. The plus side of this is, I made one mention of it to the staff and within minutes we were upgraded to a beach side room. I shouldn’t have waited 4 days.
My overall first time dive vacation impression of Indonesia - amazing!!! I have about 14 hours of video (unfortunately very little of me swimming around with the camera on), Linda has 2,800 images, after the first delete pass. The value was also great. We are at the beginning of the prime dry diving season. I would do Bali again and a week or so in Lembeh. Linda thinks giving Cocotinos based diving another try during prime time would be worthwhile. Final analysis, we will come back to this part of the world. This beats the Caribbean by loads. The travel to this part of the world is a rough, but well worth it.