Connect with us
background

Travel Stories

Diving the Coral Triangle

Published

on

There are many reasons to visit the Indonesian archipelago, but a big reason is diving due to the various locations available. After all, Indonesia is located in the “Coral Triangle” within the marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste – a region with more than 500 reef-building coral species and an epicenter of marine biodiversity. Geographically, Indonesia has 17,500 islands scattered over both sides of the equator and spread out in an area that is over 700,000 square miles. You’ll find some of the finest reefs in the world there, but the main reason for my trip to Indonesia was to try muck diving in Lembeh Strait – North Sulawesi.

Heading out for a morning dive in Raja Ampat

Getting it “Strait”

Just the word “muck” evokes images like the Pines River in Revere, Massachusetts which usually (if not always) has dark, murky water – to see the bottom your face must be less than a foot away from it. But the Pins River is only 50 miles from home. Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi is over 9,000 miles away. It’s been two years since my last visit to Indonesia but I’ve been anxious to return and see more of the underwater beauty.

Although Lembeh Strait was at the top of my list, I also considered stops on Bunaken Island as well as Raja Ampat, West Papua. Bunaken Island is known to have excellent wall diving and Raja Ampat is known for having very healthy coral reefs and many species of fish.

So, I started planning and lucky for me a Google search turned up www.divesafariasia.co.uk. Ben Stokes, co-owner of the company, was offering a Trans-Indonesian trip that sounded perfect, and it was. I contacted Ben and he later phoned me that evening to go over details as the trip was departing in less than a month, and there was one spot left. Lembeh Strait was not part of his group trip, but he kindly offered to set up that portion for me, and I would simply go and meet the group the following week in Bunaken Island. By mid-November 2013, I was heading to Indonesia for 18 days.

Ben set up Kungkungan Bay Resort for me on the black sand shore of Lembeh Strait. This is a luxury sea level resort with a professionally run dive shop on-site. The accommodations are superb; a beach front cottage just steps from the water. It had a living room and a large separate bedroom that had a walk in stone shower – and its location is picture-perfect. The resort’s restaurant is open 24 hours with a full-service menu. There is wide variety of deliciously prepared food of quality ingredients. They even smoked their own bacon! The professional and friendly staff ensures you will have a pleasant stay at KBR.

Surface interval in Raja Ampat 2

Boat and Shore Diving

The dive operation www.divekbr.com is run very smoothly by Manager Stefan Soh. They offer two boat dives in the morning, one afternoon boat dive and a night dive. There is unlimited shore diving from the long dock, so you never get sand in your gear. All you have to do is let the staff know that you will be going on a “shore” dive. They will have all your gear ready for you on the dock where you will be doing a giant stride in the water. When you are done with your dive there is a ladder to climb out. The staff is always there to help with getting in and out of the water. Shore diving from KBR is done at slack water only due to the currents – but it’s really the current that drives great visibility and fosters an abundance of strange and wonderful critters.

Pontohi Seahorse Lembeh

The term “muck” has been used to describe the diving in Lembeh Strait, but that’s really a misnomer. Here’ “muck” simply refers to the black sand, lack of natural hiding spots, and a stark environment many critters have adapted to live and thrive in. So it was quick to see that visibility is far from zero.

Lembeh Strait is sometimes called a muck diving mecca – and for good reason – it’s the reason divers from all corners of the globe go search of the most unusual critters. It did not take long to discover that any critter with odd shapes, copious amounts of hair, psychedelic colors, deadly poisons, cunning camouflage (or prefers to carry other marine life on its back) will simply thrive in Lembeh Strait.

My first dive was a site called Palau Abadi located close to shore across from the very busy city port of Bitung. The site is also next to many fishing boats that were moored. My first thought was; “What could possibly be here besides floating debris?” We all did our back roll and descended to the black sandy bottom, but the visibility was far better than I initially pictured in my mind.

The action started right away when my dive guide Liberty pointed out a peacock mantis shrimp, a juvenile painted frog fish, a xeno crab on sea whip, then an orangutan crab, a frog fish, a sea whip goby, a ghost pipefish, a blue ring octopus, a shrimp fish, a Lembeh Sea Dragon, and a Cuttlefish egg with the developing embryo – all in the first twenty minutes of the first dive. The action just continued throughout the day and the remainder of my stay at Kungkungan Bay Resort.

Manta at Manta Sandy in Raja Ampat

When we visited sites like Jahir I, Aer Bajo II and III, or TK 3, there wasn’t any coral and the bottom was black sand only. These locations offered visibility around 20 feet, but I also saw the strangest marine life. On the other hand, dive sites like Nudi Retreat offered a wall covered in hard coral and yellow soft coral. Dive site Angles Window had a wall covered in hard corals, and at 80 feet there was a swim-through with a resident pigmy seahorse. Across from the resort was a dive site named Pintu Colada where we experienced a sandy slope with critters. After finishing the dive in the shallows, there were several healthy coral heads to swim around in the bright shallow water. These dive sites had visibilities that exceed 50 feet. Pintu Colada was also the site of the Mandarin fish dive. This was my first Mandarin dive and we were not disappointed. Several large Mandarin fish greeted us for their mating ritual – this dusk to night dive was truly spectacular.

During the initial dive briefing, the manager invited us to suggest any particular critters that we wanted to see. I arrived with a wish list of “critters” – 32 in fact – and 75% were nudibranchs. The first day of diving, I just wanted to get in the water to see what it was all about. It was incredible, and my guide showed me so much that I practically forgot about my list. When I looked back at the list that evening, the most sought after for me was the “boxer crab”. I couldn’t stand the thought of going home without seeing it, but the following day during the afternoon dive the boxer crab was unveiled in all its radiance.

I saw things there that I never thought I would ever see. It was almost common to see several Blue ring octopus, different species of pygmy sea horses, ghost, banded and robust pipefish, soft coral crabs just to name a few.

Mandarin Fish

Moving Past Lembeh Strait

The second leg of my trip required a three hour drive to Tasik Ria Resort where I would finally meet up with Ben Stokes from Dive Safari Asia. From this point on, I was traveling with Ben and a group of 15 diving at Bunaken Island, and then off to Raja Ampat.

I only had one day of diving Bunaken Island. The spacious dive boat leaves in the morning and stays out near Bunaken Island all day. Lunch is served for all the divers during the surface interval. The dive boat’s guides give a descriptive briefing and are safety conscious. There were four divers to one guide.

The diving here involved gorgeous wall diving with tiny critters sprinkled about. The wall itself is basically vertical and there is some current to contend with, but the visibility was at least 100 feet. There were huge barrel sponges, gorgonians, and big stands of staghorn coral along with giant turtles. There was also smaller stuff including colorful ascidians, soft coral, nudibranchs and more. It was amazing to look around and see all the life.

surfacing in Bunaken - Sulawesi

Round Three

The third leg of the trip involved a late day flight from Manado, North Sulawesi to Sorong, West Papua. During this two hour flight we crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere. We spent a memorable evening at the one and only Royal Mamberamo Hotel in Sorong.

The following morning, we had a two hour speedboat ride to Mansuar Island in the area known as Raja Ampat and stayed at the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge (www.komodoalordive.com) located on a brilliant white sandy beach with the verdant green mountain backdrop. The cottages were very comfortable with good food and a friendly staff.

The location and setting of this dive resort was absolutely gorgeous. It also had a fantastic house reef, though all of the house reef dives were done by boat (again, sand never ended up in any gear). The crew would have us board the boat at the dock, and the captain would either drop us at the end of the long dock or drop us off further up the reef and then follow our bubbles. We would usually have two guides in the water with two or three divers per guide. The briefings for each dive site were very informative, well-illustrated, and well-planned. Our guides were Dovan and Roy, they did a great job pointing out critters during each dive.

Surface interval in Raja Ampat

The boat schedule included two dives in the morning and one in the afternoon with a choice of evening or night dive before dinner. After the morning boat dives, we would stop at an uninhabited island or village for our surface interval which included coffee, tea or water along with fresh fruit and baked snacks. One day we visited Arborek Island and had our second boat dive of the day there. It was a fantastic location with a huge variety of marine life. We had macro critters pointed out to us, witnessed giant clams, and watched a school of Napoleon Wrasse foraging in the shallows before parading off to deeper water.

Another fantastic site worth mentioning is Frewins Wall. I could have spent several days at that one site. It started out as a slope with hundreds of tiny yellow sea cucumbers, but the highlight was a deep cut/overhang that the current took us by. This overhang went on and on with soft coral just draping out of the wall with black coral and gorgonians. It ended with a shallow shelf where we spent some time observing anemones with resident clown fish swimming about; just beautiful.

Raja Ampat had a lot of odd critters, and some were difficult to make out. One of the oddities was a hermit crab with tiny anemones growing on its shell, then the half-inch red crab that looked like it didn’t have legs, but closer observation showed me that the legs were clear. Then, in the white sand, Dovan pointed out a sandy colored 2×1/2-inch flat worm-like critter, but a closer look showed me that it was a tiny flat crab – and these were all spotted on the night dives.

Good Planning and Great Guides

This was truly a fantastic trip! Ben really knows how to put a well-organized dive trip together. It was a long journey but he made everything seem effortless. I enjoyed every aspect of this trip and having him as a guide.

Dive Safari Asia run their ‘Trans Indonesia Tour’ twice a year. The next dates for the trip are:

7th – 23rd November 2014

20th March – 5th April 2015

For more information or to book, call 0800 955 0180 or visit www.divesafariasia.com.

For more than 25 years Andrea has been an avid scuba diver with over 1500 logged dives. Her interests include hunting lobster and scallops in the cold waters off Massachusetts – USA, and since 2006, photography. Her travels have been to most corners of the globe in search of rare critters.

Blogs

Divers Have More Fun in the Philippines (Watch Video)

Published

on

philippines

Pretty much whatever kind of diving interests you have, the chances are there is something for you in the Philippines.

From the Japanese WW2 wrecks in Coron; the Thresher sharks in Malapascua; big schools of fish, sharks and huge walls in Tubbataha; World class macro diving in Anilao, Puerto Galera, Romblon and Dumaguete; Whalesharks in Southern Leyte, Oslob, Donsol and Bohol; Massive schools of sardines in Moalboal and Bohol and stunning hard and soft coral reefs right across the country.

Plus, the Filipinos are the friendliest people on the planet!

Divers have more fun in the Philippines!

Book your next Philippines Dive Adventure with Philippine Dive Holidays, the specialists when it comes to diving in the Philippines! Visit www.philippinediveholidays.com to find out more.

Continue Reading

Blogs

Discover the Beautiful Waters of Malta, Gozo and Comino with Orangeshark Diving Center

Published

on

diving in malta

Surrounded by the crystal clear waters and comfortable temperatures of the Mediterranean sea, Orangeshark Diving Centre in Malta is open throughout the year.

Divers from all over the world travel to Malta to experience what our islands have to offer both above and below the waves. If your passion is for wrecks or the abundant and varied sea life on our reefs. Whether you’re a keen diver from the shore or boat. Wherever you are on your diving journey Orangeshark is the destination for you!

On Malta we dive all year round from both our custom dive boat the Paola One and from the numerous shore diving sites many of which are equipped with toilets, showers and opportunities to buy snacks. The water temperature ranges from 15 in the winter up to 29 at the height of the summer resulting in comfortable diving conditions all year.

diving in malta

The seabed around our islands is predominantly made up of rocky reef, white sand and our famous protected seagrass meadows. There is very little tidal activity in Malta and currents are usually weak except on the deeper wreck sites further out. All of this means that we are blessed with having the some of the best visibility in the whole of the Mediterranean regularly up to 40m!

diving in malta

Malta is well known for being a wreck lovers paradise. Many of the wrecks that we have are scuttled for the purpose of diving, training and to create an artificial reef for marine life. These wrecks range in depth from 6 to 45 metres, perfect for recreational divers. Of course for those who are certified there are also many wrecks beyond recreational limits including ships, submarines and planes between 45 and over 100m deep.

diving in malta

For our customers, we aim to include as many varied dives as possible during your trip. If you are advanced or higher, then you will have more opportunities to dive around the majority of our wrecks and the explore inside if you are comfortable. As the most popular wrecks that we dive are scuttled, they are easy to penetrate and plenty of light entering the inside so you can feel comfortable moving around.

diving in malta

Wrecks aren’t all that Malta has going for it. Our islands offer lots of opportunities to explore the caverns, caves and swim-throughs of the numerous reef dives on offer. These reefs can be accessed by all levels of divers.

diving in malta

In and around the wrecks and reefs, a multitude of life can be seen. From lobsters in dark crevices and octopus hiding in the cracks of the rocks, to tuna and barracuda hunting in the open waters.

diving in malta

Although shore diving in Malta is easy and accessible, diving from our own purpose-built diving boat allows us to reach a larger number of dive sites across all three islands. Paola One can fit 16 divers on board and is designed to make diving off the boat as easy and comfortable as possible.

diving in malta

Orangeshark is proud to be the main distributer of SUEX scooters in Malta and it is our aim to introduce this experience to as many of our customers as possible. The DPV allows us to reach dive sites faster and explore a wider area of a site that maybe you couldn’t do just from swimming. They are simple and fun to use and can add something different to your Malta diving trip.

diving in malta

Orangeshark diving centre is based in the town of Mellieha, in the north of Malta close to many of the main diving sites. To ensure you get the most from each dive we keep our group sizes small and grouped based on certification level and interest.

diving in malta

Booking your dive holiday with us at Orangeshark couldn’t be easier!

We work closely with some of the best hotels and accommodation providers in the area which are a short distance away from our centre. We are also happy to advise and help you with your airport transfers, car hire etc.

Mellieha is a quiet beach town, great for relaxing after diving, but with good connections to other towns around the island.

diving in malta

Now is a great time to take advantage of our package offers:

4 night, 6 dive package from €365*
7 night 10dive dive package from €585*

*Accommodation at MARITIM ANTONINE HOTEL & SPA in Mellieha (or an alternative 4 star hotel): price is per person in a double room, breakfast included. Price is for shore dives with your own equipment. Supplements may apply for boat dives or dives on Gozo. Details can be found at www.orangeshark.eu  Payment: 30% deposit to confirm the booking and the balance 15 days before arrival. Free cancellation 8 days prior the arrival.

diving in malta

For more information contact us at info@orangeshark.eu or WhatsApp +356 79001802
Quote this advert when contacting us and you will get an extra gift upon arrival.

orangeshark.eu

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Instagram Feed

Popular