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Jim & Cary Yanny’s Guide to Diving in Indonesia

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Part 1: Lembeh’s Little Monsters

Jim 13Royal Blood’s rock track “Little Monster” was one of my favourite chart hits of 2014. Maybe it’s the snarling lyrics, the thumping drum beat or the catchy bass guitar riff that gets into your head and won’t leave? Or could it be that the title reminds me of a real-life little monster I once encountered on a dive? The “monster” in question, of course, was a Stargazer and anyone who’s ever been fortunate to come across this most bizarre of fish should get my monster reference. (Actually, can a thing that buries itself totally below the sand, leaving only a shrimp-shaped lure protruding in water to tempt in an unsuspecting victim, actually qualify to be called a “fish”?)

jim 12The place was Lembeh, a narrow 10-mile-long strait between Lembeh Island and the mainland of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia.The Stargazer looks like some kind of flatfish to all intents and purposes. Even when it’s not completely covered by sand, all you can see of it are a lure, huge mad staring eyes and two rows of teeth that would make Hannibal Lecter’s mask-maker proud. However, this view from above hides the truth about the Stargazer, which is that it’s a pretty fat animal that resembles a bulldog with gills. Amazingly, it can dig itself right down into Lembeh’s soft black volcanic sand, in just a few wiggles, till it completely disappears – and I mean completely! Then it sits, staring upwards towards the moon and stars, and it waits until a passing little fish gets curious about the shrimp bobbling about just above the sand and wanders over to take a closer look, to check if it’s indeed an edible morsel. That’s when the Stargazer strikes. Blink and you miss it! In a split-second and a puff of sand the unsuspecting fish is confined to history and the Stargazer has his meal. (“I’m having a fishy friend for dinner…”)

Jim 4Jim 6Stargazers aren’t monsters, of course, they’ve just brilliantly evolved to make it through their life cycle in one of the harshest marine environments on earth. The most striking feature of the Lembeh Strait is that, well… there aren’t any! You see, what makes Lembeh famous is the “muck diving”*, a way of describing the divers’ experience of diving over flat black volcanic sand. Not the most attractive of expressions, I grant you, but we’re actually the richer for it, because it’s this unforgiving habitat that forces species who live in Lembeh to “adapt or die”. To live on a flat sandy bottom, every species in Lembeh, without exception, has to do something pretty special or it won’t make it past breakfast. So the order of the day is camouflage.

Jim 2Jim 1This is the realm of the pink Pigmy Seahorse that nestles in pink coral and grows lumps so that it looks like just a piece of the coral to any uneducated passer-by; the Coconut Octopus that grabs the two halves of the coconut shell and pulls them in around its body until it’s gone and all one can see is an inedible coconut lying on the sand; the Mimic Octopus that changes both its shape and colour to perfectly imitate more threatening species such as sea snakes or flounders. Not to mention Frogfish with perfect impressions of sponge and Stone Fish with perfect impressions of, erm, stones. And then there’s the Stargazer.

Jim 7So it isn’t strictly true to say that Lembeh is featureless. To be fair, several Lembeh dive sites are covered in the most glorious coral walls and there’s even a couple of WWII wrecks thrown in to round off this most unique of spots and put it firmly in the “world class dive destinations” category.

It’s a year-round destination, with tropical weather, flat seas and a backdrop of jungles and volcanoes. A populous region of Indonesia, North Sulawesi offers excellent resorts and dive centres to round off the offering on the ground. Getting there is comfortable, with flights on Singapore Air/SilkAir via Singapore Changi Airport and you can combine a stay in Lembeh with a Singapore Stopover on the way home. Alternatively, opt for some superb wall diving at Manado’s Bunaken National Park (next month’s instalment), or even combo further afield with Indonesia’s other iconic dive spots of Raja Ampat, Bali or Komodo (all also coming in future editions of our Indonesian dive guide).

Jim 11Jim 10I’d suggest a two week holiday to give you enough time to get the most out of Lembeh because diving it is like peeling the layers of an onion – there’s another one underneath to discover.

For Underwater Photographers, Lembeh is arguably the best underwater macro photography location on the planet. It really is as simple as that.

Lembeh has easy diving, but actually I’d say it’s more suited to experienced divers. Why? Well, when you think you’ve seen it all, that’s the time to go to Lembeh!

*The term Muck Diving was first used by Larry Smith, our dear friend who sadly passed away a few years ago. Larry put Lembeh diving on the map and was instrumental in training Lembeh’s guides. His legacy is the understanding, sense of wonder and pure enjoyment that hundreds of divers now enjoy in Lembeh each year.

For more information, visit www.diversetravel.co.uk/destinations/indonesia.

A few moons ago, Jim was General Manager of Emperor Divers Red Sea, where Cary was Senior Instructor. Later they moved to Indonesia to establish and run award-winning dive centre and resort, Eco Divers, before returning to the UK to launch Diverse Travel. Cary also runs a photographic business and is the Photo Pro, often leading photographic trips to exotic destinations, most recently to South Africa and Mozambique. Jim and Cary’s driving passion is to deliver the best personalised travel service available. That same philosophy shines through Diverse Travel and sees clients return again and again to book their next holiday.

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Diving below the waves of the Western Cape, South Africa – Windmill Beach (Watch Video)

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Head under the waves of False Bay and explore the incredible diversity that is found along the Western Cape. The bay has popular dive spots from diving amongst the biodiverse underwater kelp forests to jumping in with the playful and friendly cape fur sealions (Arctocephalus pusillus). The bay along with the rest of the South Africa coast is known for the range of shark species that are found from the shallow coastal shores out into the open oceans. The coast is also home to numerous endemic shark species such as puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) and Pyjama shark.

Situated a short drive out of Simonstown is the shore dive at Windmill beach. A short swim over the sand and through the large boulders you enter the incredibly diverse and colourful kelp forests (Ecklonia maxima), a species that can grow up to 12m tall. Life is found in abundance from the base of the kelp where many sea urchins and species such as abalone can be seen then heading into the canopy many shoaling fish species can be observed.

Diving with the local dive club – Cape Town Dive Centre.


Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

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Fourth Element to make diving tools from recycled PPE

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Fourth Element has partnered with recycling and repurposing experts, Waterhaul, to retask the mask; turning single-use plastics into the tools we use in pursuit of underwater adventure. Face masks and other items of PPE from hospitals are melted down into blocks, sterilising the material which fourth element purchases, recycle and transforms.

These cave line markers are the first of what fourth element hopes will be many products using this waste material to give it a new life beyond protecting the lives of our frontline healthcare workers. Each marker re-uses the equivalent of two disposable masks. Waste is given a new direction.

The end product is completely safe. The PPE is heat treated by the hospital: the plastic is heated to high temperatures multiple times; first to make the blocks within the recycling process, and also whilst injection moulding the parts.

What makes this OceanPositive?

In the UK alone, 58 million single-use plastic face masks are thrown away every day, littering landfills and polluting the environment. Globally, we use 129 billion per month – that’s enough to wrap around the world 550 times! Over the last 12 months, a recorded 1.5 billion have entered the ocean, disrupting our ecosystem and endangering marine life across the globe. And that’s just what has been recorded.

These lines markers are made from recycled PPE, each one saving two masks from entering landfill or our oceans. Part of fourth element’s Zero Waste and Zero Plastic initiatives; to re-purpose as much plastic as possible and find new uses for products at the end of their lives.

We believe that this is the way,” said Jim Standing, co-founder of fourth element. “We are all going to have to tackle the challenges of a post covid world and one of these will be how we deal with the waste we have created as part of keeping ourselves and in particular, our frontline workers protected. We intend to play our part.”

For more information visit the Fourth Element website by clicking here.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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