We got to our next hotel, 4 Fish, in good time, dropped our bags, grabbed our dive gear and the owner drove us the 5 minute walk to the dive shop. We were hoping to make it in time for lunch and we just did, or rather caught the tail end of the buffet. Bunaken is described as having great walls and coral and some decent muck diving. Our fist dive happened to be a shallow muck dive. It wasn’t as great as Lembeh, I doubt anything muck related every will top that, but was still a great dive. I was a bit concerned when I saw 8 & 12 divers per boat but they ended up being extra wide with lots of room to move around and gear up. There were enough guides that groups were no more than 2 or 4 and the bottom was a bit full of divers but in this case the more eyes the better. Little critters are hard to spot. At the end of the dive James said he was concerned about a few drops of water in his housing. Yikes! It might be condensation or the start of a leak. Tomorrow we’d keep a close eye on it.
Both ends of a frogfish
We walked back to the 4 fish, had a swim and a shower, luke warm….we were surprised that there was no hot water, or air conditioning for that matter. Manado obviously caters to divers who have some money and at $75 a night for our hotel we were expecting a bit more. It was fairly clean, included breakfast and dinner, had a pool and was cute as can be (ie small). I think the value/money just surprised us. That aside the staff and owners were very friendly and the meals all home cooked and delicious. The meals were family style on the large deck and to be honest after a day of diving and moving hotels and a bit of sun I could barely keep my eyes open let alone be sociable. I can only imagine how James, the not so sociable, will last for five nights of “company”.
After breakfast we walked to the dive shop with a young girl from Holland (the hotel owners were from Holland and it turned out we were the only non-Dutch guests) and found our boat. The dive shop has a great system set up; it looks very organized and almost is…but not quite. Nothing big, they just they seem to forget a few pieces of equipment, our weight belts a few times, a wet suit once, and who ever fills the constantly leaking tanks can’t seem to get them above 180 bar (one dive it took James 8 tanks to get one over 180). The confusion aside the guides are good and the guests a nice mix. The first dive we met a couple; he snorkels and she dives. He is obviously proud of her because within minutes he is bragging that she didn’t start diving until the age of 60, the year after she broke her back, and became addicted (like the rest of us) and has almost 780 dives…will hit the 800 mark before they leave. She also climbs into the boat with her equipment...making me look bad. Just goes to show it is never too late! We met a couple a few months ago and they said they loved Bunaken so much they didn’t bother going to Lembeh. We were curious to compare and as far as muck diving goes Lembeh far better. They were more big fish divers so I can see why they didn’t bother though, Lembeh isn’t a fishy place.
Tiny weirdo fish
We wandered back to the hotel and relaxed until dinner was ready. We aren’t use to meals being included (the dive shop includes lunch) and I was feeling very spoiled, it’s nice not having to look for your dinner every night.
For the second day in a row we were up nice and early – 5:30 freakin am! There is someone who does street sweeping with his broom made of sticks and it’s a loud scratchy sound that echoes through our open windows. I think it’s one of those sounds, like traffic or trains going past that you’d get use to but it was a new sound for us, not quite roosters but enough to have us both up – and cranky. I managed to get back to sleep; James I think used the time to get www.nibsy.com updated. Before we left for diving we dropped a few tampons in James’ casing. I’d heard that some people put small pads in to soak up any drips but I didn’t have any so improvised. Travel Hint: Some people put those “Do not eat” squares of desiccant that come with shoes and purses in to soak up any condensation or moisture. (James just informed me that the squares come with tons of things other than shoes and purses lol) And we were off.
All our dives would be boat dives and the dive shop was located right across form Bunaken Island, close enough to the dive sites that we could just go back and forth, for lunch, to pick up/drop off people and it seemed the first two were wall type dives and the last a shallow muck type. You didn’t have to do all three; it looked like quite a few people who had more time slept in and did only last two.
Minutes before the housing flooded
About half way through our dive James signaled his camera was leaking. Crap! We slowly ascended and did our safety stop. I was so worried the camera would be wrecked. It’s always a possibility, on every single dive you can have a grain of sand or a hair or a leaky button and flood your casing. We’d agreed if that happens then we’d replace the camera asap...but who knows how long that would take. I got out first and very carefully, following James’ instructions for once, lifted the camera out. James jumped out after me and started to fiddle with it. The tampons worked! Luckily it was a slow leak and as we came up and the pressure decreased it stopped. What little did get in was soaked up by the super absorbent OB’s. What a huge relief. Well for me, James was a bit cranky. He couldn’t figure out why it was leaking. Knowing James you can imagine how careful and precise he is with the casing and it should not be leaking.
The rest of the dives were amazing. The dives all seem to last about 60 minutes (the dive shop actually has a 60 minute maximum dive policy but we went over a few times) and the walls were vibrate and healthy but as you come up into the shallows the colors and amount of fish is shocking. I love dives like that; it feels like you are swimming in an aquarium.
Cuttlefish during the calming down yellow stage between normal grey and pissed off white
James had fiddled with his casing and thought he fixed the leak so we did the first dive with an empty case, just to be sure. It seemed fine, although he didn’t realize how much air it actually held empty and was way to light so did a lot of swimming down on the dive. The second dive he added the camera…and half way through again it leaked a tiny bit. We slowly surfaced again and climbed aboard. An English guy, who was here with his wife and another couple, was on the boat and walked over to see why we’d surfaced early. James and I both stood staring. He had a huge gash in his head and it was bleeding down his face and into his ears. WTF? He must have been in shock because his answer was “oh that, I got attacked by a Titan Trigger Fish”. Remember? The fish that chased us in Mo’Orea? I guess he was swimming about 4 feet from the wall and all of a sudden he saw a flash and felt something like a car bumper hit his head then saw the thing, about 2 feet in length, dart around his head and bite him in the back of the wrist; leaving 5 huge bleeding holes. Five because one of the six teeth they have had broken off and was stuck in his head. He was at about 15 meters and colors change; his blood was pooling out of his head and wrist and was green. His wife and friends had no idea what was going on. Who thinks “oh yeah, blood looks green at this depth”. He surfaced and was calmly telling his story to us. Eventually everyone else surfaced and his wife came over to see how he was. He was so calm, saying he should be fine for the next dive and telling her he didn’t need the plastic bandages to pull/hold the “cut” together. She then explained it was a huge gash and there was no way he’d be diving anytime soon. I sure didn’t want to dive near him, doesn’t blood attract sharks? And he was still bleeding well. He got off the boat when we picked up the 10 am divers and it turned out he had to take the next day off as well. I really wanted to take a picture but didn’t have the nerve. I also wondered if this scardy cat would have the nerve to jump back into the waters knowing it was the time when Titan Trigger Fish were guarding their nests and aggressive. I did get back in the water, but I think everyone was on the lookout for the mean buggers, giving them a wide berth.
With a lot of frustration we carried the camera casing back to the hotel for James to look at. The owner turned out to be a great help and the two of them played with it for a while. The first day it leaked the salt water had fried the something something that fired something that made the flash flash. Got it? Well kinda. But there were a few options I guess and unlike James’ first solution (to use it as a paper weight) we should be able to use it again. There was even a slim chance we could get a shop in Jakarta to express ship the something something part to us in Manado. Slim, but still a chance. Even without it James says he can bypass the something something and use it manually. Got it? Well kinda. I’ve given up countless items to make room for the camera and casing and strobe and love, love, love the pictures but know nothing about how it works.
After our 5:30 am wakeup call by the sweeping boy, who almost got gravel chucked at him today, I had a nap…then went to breakfast. I miss getting nights and nights and nights of interrupted sleep in my own bed with my own pillow. Okay, done complaining…I think I’m homesick for my bed today. Today was a no dive day because we were flying tomorrow and because we couldn’t afford another. So buying shorts was on the list and an afternoon/evening tour to Tangkoko-Batuangas Saudara National Park.
We opted for a cab because the local bemos could take hours to get us to the mall in downtown Manado, and got dropped off at the hyper mall. I wasn’t feeling positive but once in found a few stores that actually had stuff to fit me. The mall apparently catered to the foreigners and had some really good shopping. I was wishing I had a bit more time. I bought one pair that would do then went to the other mall and found a second (Surprise! Surprise!) pair that was what I was actually looking for. No worries though, I’d lost two pairs so far and was happy to have them replaced. I also found a Speedo bathing suit shortie thingy that zipped up the back. I was looking for one for dives that you don’t need a wet suit, I’m not a big fan of wet suits, and in a country where they cover up, full piece bathing suits are everywhere and much cheaper than in Canada. For once I felt shopping went well.
Our driver picked us outside the mall and we headed up the mountain towards the park where we hoped to see a Tarsier. A Tarsier is the smallest primate and has huge eyes that are literally larger than their stomachs. It would have been smarter to do this from Lembeh but our free day was at the end, not when we were there. A few hours later we were at the park. Our driver handed us over to our guide, who was supposed to speak English but didn’t quite. I went to the toilet (actually I peed behind it, it has made it to the top 5 worst ever – it was filthy beyond words and crawling with cockroaches) and James had a chat with the guide. The guide told him that there would be mice that came out and would bite our feet. James told him not to tell me. Of course he didn’t understand James and promptly told me, explaining if I sprayed my feet with mosquito repellent they’d leave me alone. First of all – mice come out to bite me? Second – bug spray keeps them away? I had a full on anxiety attack and thought I was having a heart attack. Why wouldn’t they warn us about biting animals? What kind of tour is this? (James' Note: Many days later we figured out he was actually saying "midges" not "mice")
I somehow talked myself into continuing, I think I was in shock after the heart attack, but with a big stick. We came across a troop of Black Macaques. Truly wild ones. Because no one feeds them they don’t come at tourists or try to grab bags looking for food. After a few minutes I was still a bit nervous around the 80 or so wild monkeys but not like I am at temples and parks with mean beggar monkeys. Our guide, who I’m sure was high, talked on his cell for most of the walk and every now and then would point at a tree and mumble. We think he was having a laugh…saying in Indonesian “and this is blah blah blah tree” or “and this is you smell like a monkey tree” and then he would break out in a hysterical laugh. At one point he said he was going to walk on a bit to look for a certain bird, even though we repeatedly said we aren’t interested in birds (sorry all you birders) but he just walked down the trail a bit, hid behind a tree and talked on the phone thinking he was hiding from us. He wasn’t, I was standing on a big tree stump keeping my out for mice and could see him. We saw another group of monkeys before coming across about a half dozen tourists and a few guides sitting under a huge tree. I guess this is where the Tarsiers sleep during the day, or so the guide behind us was saying. Just before it got dark they started to wake up, stretching their arms and legs and rubbing their eyes. They were so tiny and cute. Their eyes were about half the size of their bodies. Once awake they “hopped” around a bit on their tree then hopped off to search for food. We all got excited and James got some great pictures, they too didn’t seem inclined to pose, until one of the guides said it was time to leave them alone so they could go feed. I wished I had of worn my hoodie so I could smuggle one out in my pocket.
We stopped at a homestay for a meal and were not surprised it was a nice big fish. This fish and seafood allergy is a pain. Bruce’s place was excellent. I ordered fish for lunch once and they came to find us to make sure it wasn’t for James. And the 4 Fish just needed to be reminded the day we arrived, but the dive shop couldn’t seem to remember. Every day we had to remind them and they didn’t seem to care, one day all but the green beans and rice had fish. I felt sorry for the vegetarians who also looked a bit unhappy. I feel like emailing them and saying that if James is allergic for one day then it usually means every day and it also includes tours. It’s not like we don’t remind people enough, it ended up being a joke between the dive guide on the Ikan Baru and us…”Oh by the way my husband has a fish & seafood allergy”.
We got back a little late and fell into bed, we couldn’t linger out on the deck with the other guests, we had a 5:30 am wakeup call coming.
PS - Congrats! Finally to Christine & Nick
Travel Day! Yeah! Usually I don’t like travel days much, who does?, but we are on our way to Sorong then Nabire where we meet Blaine and hopefully see WHALE SHARKS! I am so excited. Our flight wasn’t until 2:30 so we had lots of time to pack, swim, linger over coffee and pick up our dive log. The dive shop gives you a print out of a map of the areas sites and a list of where your dives were and the depth and time of each. Something that is really easy to do and a nice touch.
Finally we were packed up and heading to the airport. I was hoping for one last A&W root beer float but I think Manado is the first airport we’ve been at in Indonesia without 10 of them. Our flight left on time, another first and a short flight later James was checking the time change and we were in Sorong. Sorong is in Papau, Indonesia which is connected to Papau New Guinea. It is a way far away, or seems, from anything and most people (foreigners) come to dive Raja Ampat. There was one other couple doing a week on a resort on one of the islands in Raja Ampat. Sorong is described by everyone as small, dirty and with nothing to do. Great! With the flight schedules and boat schedule we end up spending 5 nights here coming to and from…maybe it’ll help our budget.
The guide book recommends walking to the main road to pay half what the airport cabs charges and once there the friendly information girl from the airport spotted us and negotiated a bemo for us. Very nice! The 15 minute ride, 20 with the stop for gas?!?, was interesting. My first thoughts were we’d gone back to Kalimantan or East Timor. It did look a bit rough, a bit poorer and very small compared to Java, Bali and the Manado area. Our hotel was a bit pricy but we’d be spending a lot of time in it so we splurged. By the time we checked in it was 6:30 pm and we were starving. Considering the lack of options in town we ate at the hotel and tried to get some sleep. We had another long day of travel tomorrow.