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Dive Safari Asia: Trans Indonesian Tour Report

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Time flies; is it really a month since I returned from a fantastic small group trip to North Sulawesi and Raja Ampat? Our group began their adventure with a group transfer from the airport to the friendly family owned Tasik Ria Resort and Spa, situated north of Manado located in Tanawangko Bay on the north west coast of North Sulawesi. The resort boasts a fantastic pool and spa as well as the beach front, a jetty bar and a pool bar. The food is served buffet style with a great variety with many delicious Indonesian dishes, however for those guests that did not want to take the heat there were plenty of other options. The en-suite rooms are all very comfortable with full air conditioning with coffee/tea making facilities.

The next five days saw us diving a mixture of wall drop-offs and reef slopes around Bunaken, Manado Tua and Siladen Islands, three of the five islands in Bunaken National Marine Park. The tides made the drifts vary from non-existent to very gentle to exhilarating. Safety stops were a joy and everyone spent time marvelling at the colourful reef tops. Bannerfish, Napoleon Wrasse, Green Turtles, Dart and Sailfin Gobies, Pyramid Butterflyfish, Cleaner Shrimps, a nice variety of Nudibranchs and Flatworms to name a few. Gorgonian Sea Fans, Barrel and other big sponges decorated the walls competing with a huge range of colorful reef fish. Small Whitetip Reef Sharks were spotted sleeping in crevices. Nudibranchs, Pygmy Seahorse and various crabs and shrimps could be found. We also dived the North West coast near the resort where the diving was more relaxed but full of interesting critters. We dived the Molas shipwreck and spent one day diving the world famous Lembeh Straits. Night dives on the house reef were available and there was plenty to see. Flamboyant cuttlefish, Painted, Warty and Hairy Frogfish, Mandarin Fish, Octopi, various scorpionfish, Robust and Ghost Pipefish. All this in water of 27 to 30oC. The list just kept getting bigger and bigger; I was kept busy identifying the many various fish and creatures in the evenings! No wonder the sites of Bunaken Marine Park are ranked among the top in the world for marine diversity.

Gill McDonald, the resident photo pro, gave us a fantastic illustrated lecture and quite a few of the group took the opportunity to do the 1 hour, 3 hour, or full day session on underwater photography with her. One the last 2 days she came on the boat with us and those that wished to joined her for photo practical sessions.

When people weren’t diving they could be found relaxing around the pool or enjoying a spa treatment or just chilling in the bar. A couple of our group were non-divers and they had a great time either joining us on the boat and snorkeling, kayaking, going on their own bespoke tour to see the tarsiers and black macaques, or exploring the local villages and area.

Then it was time to get the diving kit washed and dried and a group transfer back to the airport to fly to the next destination, West Papua in the far east of Indonesia, centered on the island of New Guinea and the reefs of Raja Ampat.

A plane and a speedboat trip saw us arrive at The Raja Ampat Dive Lodge, Yenpapir Beach, Mansuar Island. The resort is fronted by a white sand beach with the Papuan rainforest as a backdrop. We stayed in the en-suite individual air-conditioned bungalows located on the beach front, an ideal place to relax on the veranda and look out to sea. (not that we had much time for relaxing, with many of the group opting for 4 dives a day!). Once again the food was served buffet style with more of an emphasis on Indonesian food, vegetables, fish and prawns.

As our website at Dive Safari Asia states there are few locations on Earth which parallel Raja Ampat for sheer diversity of marine life. This is reef diving perfection combined with awe inspiring congregations of fish life and truly stunning topside vistas. We were not disappointed (even though on this occasion the mantas failed to show). It more than made up for it with schools of Jacks, Sweetlips, Barracuda and Batfish, as well as grey and white-tipped and black-tipped reef sharks, fantastic reefs, sea snakes, crabs, shrimps, and cleaning stations located on the tips of reefs filled with a large variety of fish. We also managed to spot smaller stuff such as pygmy seahorses and skeleton shrimp. Once again the reef tops were stunning; passing schools of bumphead parrot fish appearing, the odd reef shark buzzing in, and Tasselled Woebegone Sharks resting under ledges and in table corals. Then there were some fantastic jetty dives with giant clams and a variety of nudibranchs and other critters. Once again night dives on the house reef were available with nearly everyone doing at least one night dive.

All too soon we had completed our 18 dives and it was time to get the dive kit washed and dried for the return journey. The following day saw us all getting up early in the morning; not to catch the plane, but to go to the nearby island to see if we could spot the Red Birds of Paradise. We were lucky – we saw 2 males performing their dance in the tree canopy, and when they were not there, a Cus Cus – a type of marsupial – was spotted perched on a branch, looking at us looking at him or her! We travelled back to the lodge for breakfast and spent a lazy final day “off-gassing” by snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, walking or just chilling by the beach.

The following morning we left Mansuar Island by speedboat and flew from Sorong Airport back to Manado. Our trip wasn’t over yet! A picturesque transfer through the local villages and town of Tomohon took us to the Highland Resort located in the highlands of North Sulawesi. The resort once again consisting of a small number of individual en-suite bungalows, this time with the highland jungle as a backdrop.

It was a lovely afternoon when we arrived, so after a quick visit to the resort to drop off our bags, a group of us departed for a visit to Lake Lokon, a Sulphuric lake at the foot of Lokon-Empung volcano. We were just in time to see the variety of green and yellow hues of the lake and the steaming fumaroles before the sun went down and the whole lake changed, looking very ethereal bathed in a glow which we later found out was from the geo-thermal plants located in the forest behind the lake! A great end to the day as we munched on hot bananas covered in chocolate sauce and drank coffee. Then it was back to the resort for a Chinese Banquet style meal before bed.

The next morning saw a group of us up very bright and early to visit the Mahawu Volcano and take a walk around the rim. Once again the weather was kind and we were able to see the active Empung Volcano and Mount Kalbat as well as the forest and lands stretching down to Manado City from the volcano rim. All too soon time was up and it was back to the resort for breakfast and a quick shower before travelling back to Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado and the start of our journey home… and a well-deserved rest.

Underwater photos by Maggie Russell

Topside photos by Jeremy Smith: www.jeremysmithphotography.co.uk

Maggie is a Tour Leader for UK-based tour operator Dive Safari Asia. to find out more, visit www.divesafariasia.com.

Maggie has over 20 years of travel, exploration and diving experiences from the cooler temperate waters around The British Isles to the warmer tropical seas on the other side of the world. She loves diving with a passion; it has brought with it a host of experiences, new friends and a real love of our oceans and the life contained within them. She is a tour leader with UK-based tour operator Dive Safari Asia, an enthusiastic underwater photographer and all-round ocean lover.

Competitions

WIN one of the NEW Momentum M20 Dive Watches!!!

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For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Nautilus Diving to give away one of Momentum’s new M20 Dive Watches as a prize!

Leading watch brand Momentum has introduced the new M20 series of watches. The new collection includes the M20 DSS Diver with a classic black dial, or striking Bahama yellow dial, and the M20 GMT Diver in a black & blue “Batman” version.

The M20 Dive watch features a solid 316L stainless steel case that is beautifully rounded and polished, taking its design cues from our original 1990’s Aquamatic model. The case is just under 42mm in diameter, but the smooth curves make it feel much smaller. Style, performance and unmatched comfort on the wrist.

The M20’s elegant yet durable design allows it to be worn in almost any situation. It has a 200M depth rating along with an off-set screw-down crown for added comfort.

The M20’s are also very legible, with its double-dome sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating there is virtually no glare. At night, the SuperLuminova luminous dial and hands come to life, a vital feature for serious divers where light may not reach certain depths.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can find here), we reported that the Women Divers Hall of Fame have announced the selection of how many new members who will constitute the Class of 2021?

Is it:

  • A) five
  • B) six
  • C) seven

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Nautilus Diving Momentum M20 Dive Watch October 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, or employees of Nautilus Diving and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. Your information will be shared with the competition's sponsor unless you tick the opt out box. This competition closes on 09/12/20. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Dive Training Blogs

5 Easy Steps For Choosing A Scuba Diving Center You’ll LOVE! (Watch Video)

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How do you pick which dive operation wins your money for your scuba diving vacation? If you only get to dive on vacation, you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth and getting experiences you enjoy. That’s why we are giving you our easy 5-step process for filtering out dive centers and narrowing down your selection to find the scuba team you want to be diving with!

In this example–driven video, we are showing you our procedure for how we pick our scuba dive operator. In this case, I use the island of Barbados, as I’ve actually never been scuba diving there.

THANK YOU so much to EVERYONE who is a part of this great community. We promise we have so much more planned for this channel. We’re going to keep spreading information and positivity to the Scuba Divers around the world! IMPROVE. INSPIRE. EXPLORE.


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Spend 7 nights at the Cinco Plazas Apartments, Lanzarote with flights and 5 days diving from just £625pp with Diverse Travel this winter.  Travel 12th November - Spaces are limited - contact us now to book. Other dates available.

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