skull Mucking Around! skull
skull Lembeh Straight, Indonesia skull

Finally! A seahorse.

Sept 20

It is always such a nice feeling to see your name on a card at the airport for a hotel transfer. That’s what I’d spend my money on if I was rich. In no time at all we were in a van and on our way to Black Sand Resort in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia – some of the best muck diving in the world. I was excited! After about two hours we pulled up to a beautiful building and were greeted by Bruce, a Canadian originally from Ottawa, who owned the place with his wife. When our agent (John!) described the place he said it was a a great place to take pictures, do some muck diving, do unlimited shore diving and Bruce, the owner, seems more interested in diving than running the resort. It definitely sounded like our kind of place. It might also be why we were so surprised. He led us to a desk where frosty cold fruit smoothies awaited us. We checked in and got all the necessary information and were shown to our room. OMG! The pictures online, for once, did not do it justice. There were six beautiful bungalows, on the side of a gentle hill and all over looked the bay. The bathroom was only three quarters covered, the shower fully open to the sky – as you shower you look up to blue skies and palm trees. The front of the bungalow was a private deck (we had bungalow 5 and the most private!) and floor to ceiling windows. Absolutely stunning. But! We were here to dive.

One of many, many octopi

Within the hour we were suiting up for our first dive. It was a sunset dive and, aside from being a little creepy with all the things crawling around in the black sand, it was one of the most interesting dives I’ve ever done. In that first dive we likely saw 15 new things. Fifteen! Everything was weird and wonderful. There was a few times where we’d stop, stare a few minutes, look at each other and shrug. James thankfully had his camera to record the “WTF is that”s.

After the dive we had just enough time to hang our gear, shower in the now sky lit bathroom, and head to dinner. All our meals were included and thankfully not a buffet of noodles. In the evening you pick from a small menu for breakfast and at breakfast you do the same for your lunch and supper. Every day the menu is different and delicious. During dinner Bruce popped in for a visit and we had our computer loaded with the WTF pictures in hopes he could tell us what we saw. Again we were not disappointed. He not only knew but gave us some great information on everything we saw and would see. Black Sand Dive retreat truly is a divers dream. Do I sound like an advert and does it make you want to hop on a plane and go today? I hope so and you should. I’ve decided to move into the bungalow permanently and do nothing but dive all day every day.

Obligatory nudi. Can you spot the whip coral shrimp? Freaky orangutan crab.

After a dinner full of dive talk, and a little about Ottawa, we went back to our bungalow where the staff had been around to put out mosquito coils in the bathroom and on the deck, a really nice touch. We curled under our duvet and fell asleep; the last sight I saw was the palm trees silhouetted against a starry sky. Ahhhh it was like heaven!

Ghost pipefish

Flamboyant cuttlefish and its eggs

Sept 21

Apparently even heaven has alarm clocks, but who can complain when we were getting up to have French toast and bacon, real honest to goodness bacon, followed by a day of amazing diving. I think I was almost chipper.

We were to do three boat dives a day then we could do as much free shore diving as we wanted. The boat rides to sites were 5 – 10 minutes and no more than four divers and a guide went in a boat, and if you wanted to go somewhere different than the others – they would. The staff and guides were more than helpful and honestly new the name of everything, writing it on their slate if they saw you looking confused (James’ Note: if you have ever seen Susan underwater you know they did a ton of writing on their slates). They also knew exactly what to look for and by then end of the day we’d decided to hire a guide to join us on a night dive. We usually prefer to dive alone – so that tells you how good they are and how much there is to see.

As it turned out we were alone with a guide for all three dives and could do as wonderfully slow as we wanted. I’m not sure we covered more than a few square feet of any of the dive sights. The night dive was just as creepy and amazing as the night before but we had a guide who pointed out so much more.

The cutest fish in the muck

After a great day of diving we had another delicious meal, harassed Bruce for more information and crawled into bed exhausted. Diving, eating, diving, eating, diving, napping, diving, eating…is hard work. Said with a huge happy smile!


Sept 22

Even though Bruce suggested we take advantage of the area and the amazing sights we opted to trade one of our boat dives for a sunset Mandarin dive. It was a quiet place, a good chance we’d be the only ones meaning an even better chance we’d see them mating. A highlight for any diver. So we did the two morning dives, had second breakfast and then lunch and did an afternoon dive. The first dive our guide had pointed out a pygmy sea horse that I know was there because James has the picture but I couldn’t see. It was so tiny. The guide was concerned I hadn’t seen them so took us to another site where he showed us three! A light beige one, a pink one and a dark purple. I could make out movement but didn’t really get a good look until I saw the pictures. They really are cute though.

The afternoon dive ended up being a little short. We swam out a bit from shore and started to descend in about 2 meters of water where we practically landed on a sea horse. They are funny to watch, very lazy and sloth like. James says they remind him of me. I’ll take that as a “you are as beautiful and graceful as a sea horse” compliment and ignore the lazy like a sloth comment. Anyways we still hadn’t gone more than two meters when something long, thin and grey tried to, what I thought was, bite me. I freaked out (no surprise) and thinking I’d shaken it, swam as fast as I could back to James who was taking pictures. He saw me coming, saw the panic and mimed if I was okay. I said I was…still thinking I’d lost the thing. I stopped and tried to control my breathing, you are not supposed to be hyperventilating under water and I think I was close. Just as I started to calm down it swam past my arm and headed behind…trying to what I again thought was to bite me. I freaked even more. Screaming through my regulator for James to get it off me. It turned out to be a remora fish, ya know those cleaner fish that suck on to sharks. The ones that don’t bite, just sort of suck your skin to hang on. Well I was past calm and was having no sucking remora on me. James got it off me and on to him and we swam to shore, far, far, far away from each other. I sat for a bit, letting my heart calm, but decided to take a break until the night dive. A decision I knew I would, and do, regret missing. But….I thought I was being eaten by an eel, it’s hard to get over that quickly. The dive crew met us on shore and asked if everything was okay. James said yes, I laughed and told him the truth. We were barely off the beach and he heard my screams, how could we lie? He, and the rest of the dive crew, got a great laugh out of it. I think they might now know a new English phrase…scaredy cat.

A tiny squid

After a nap, oh such a hard life, we headed back to the beach for our Mandarin dive. We took a 10 minute boat ride and descended over a rock covered bottom and lied down on our stomachs to wait. Eventually they started to come out, scurrying around the rocks. To be honest at first I wondered even if I was seeing the right things, they were in the cracks and crevices and look like small black fish. It wasn’t until it started to get dark and our guide shone his flashlight near, not at, them that I could see how colorful they were. We sat patiently, ya even me, and finally they started to mate. As they came together they floated up gently spiraling in the water, the male is a bit bigger than the female and they look so beautiful with their fins like fans all fluttering like a graceful dance – cheek to cheek. I wish I had my new camera casing so I could have got a video. We got lucky and saw 4 pairs “dancing”. I think it was worth giving up a full dive to see, something I will never forget. It gives me goose bumps thinking about it.

Mandarin fish gettin it on

With huge smiles on our face we went to dinner, alone with the pictures as evidence. James managed to get a couple of amazing shots.

More weirdos. Bobtail squid. Mantis shrimp. Hairy frogfish.

Saying goodbye

Sept 23

After more French toast and real bacon we squeezed one more shore dive in. It was long, shallow and we slowly swam toward shore at the end were treated to a sea horse in .5 meters of water. I saw it just as my knees started to scrape the bottom so I was going to stand up – it’s like it was waiting to say good bye to me. Most place we go we try to spend enough time to see everything we want to so we don’t feel we missed something and have to go back, but Lembeh I felt I hadn’t even cracked the surface. We have a long list of places to dive but Lembeh is still on the list….I’ll be back some day.

We met Bruce in the restaurant to check out and talk about Africa. He’d spent a few years living there but wanted to talk to James about Namibia. We ended up talking diving, travel, and Canada and barely left on time. We needed to get across the island in time for lunch before our next dive!

PS – I had a hard time picking pictures for this entry, there were just so many weird and wonderful new things so make sure you visit www.nibsy.com to see them all. A huge Thanks! Again to James, your pictures are amazing.

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