I am absolutely exhausted after 6 dives in 3 days and I am loving being able to sit down and rest today! After spending so much time on a boat, I still feel the movement of the boat even as I sit here typing. The table in front of me feels as though it is rising and falling! Very weird!
We began our diving lessons on Saturday morning with a trip to Alung Bunoa on the north coast of Bunaken
and there learned how to breath through the regulator, how to find our regulator if it falls out of our mouth and how to empty our masks of water. Our first dive there was over a shallow reef and the deepest we reached was 7 meters. We concentrated so much on keeping our ears and mask equalised that I actually don’t remember too much of the dive. There were the usual brilliantly coloured fish but it was here that Ferdinand introduced us to an anemone that you could touch and the suckers suctioned onto your fingers and made us laugh under water when he clicked his fingers and made a feathery ended worm vanish into its hole.
The highlight of this dive for me though was when Bec pointed out to me a brilliantly blue nudibranch on the sandy bottom.
On our second dive at Likuan 3, we enjoyed diving down a sheer wall. It was beautiful although towards the end, I was quite cold with the cool overcast conditions. This dive was purely for fun but also gave us a chance to work on not using our arms and legs so much and also perfecting buoyancy so that we stayed at the same depth as Ferdinand. I am so used to propelling myself underwater using my feet and hands that it has been very challenging trying to be more graceful! This was all the more challenging as there was quite a strong current along the wall, so I found it difficult finding the right distance to stay away from the wall so I wouldn’t bump into it and also close enough that I could see things that were passing quickly by. One of the highlights for me was seeing a huge turtle swim past. They are so placid and she was totally unfazed by our presence. We heard later that sometimes you see 2m wide turtles! The variety of clown fish we saw on this dive was astounding and it felt like every possible colour combination I have ever seen in a reference book was on display on that wall. Ranging from the familiar orange and black to tomato coloured and also a beautiful pale apricot; so gorgeous. I also loved the many yeloow and purple sea squirts (polycarpa auarata).
The following day we both woke up exhausted and it was at this point that I wished we had a longer stay here so that the dives could have been spread out over more than 3 days. On Sunday and Monday, we were joined by Ilsa, a Dutch traveller and experienced diver, and Alo, a local dive master which in retrospect was very fortunate. Ilsa over the next 4 dives shared many tips with us and entertained us with her desire to learn Indonesian. The boat captain taught her, “Kenapa kepala kelapa?” a tongue twister asking why have you got a coconut head and goodness only knows where that would be useful for Ilsa, however she enjoyed both the ridiculousness of the sentence and the challenge of getting her tongue around it all, so before long we were all saying it ad nauseum and laughing! Alo was also fantastic to dive with as he pointed out things that I would never have noticed, no matter where we were diving. Our first dive began with practicing how to signal out of air to our buddy and then the ways to either get to the surface alone or using our buddy’s spare air hose. We then headed a little deeper and practiced returning to the surface with just one breath.We then headed out to the wall at Sachiko’s Point with both Ferdinand and Alo with the firm instructions to stay behind Alo and in front of Ferdinand! Alo found many interesting things for us to look at including a colourful nudibranch, a turtle at rest on a ledge, a lion fish just to mention a few that i can remember. Our final dive for that day was on the eastern side of the island and hence it is called Bunaken Timur.
Yesterday we enjoyed our 2 last dives and it was a lot more relaxing, probably because it wasn’t so new and foreign. We were finally starting to relax and enjoy the dives without concentrating so much on the techniques. We were now at the point where Ferdinand gave us one or two pointers and that was what we focused on during the dive. Both the dives yesterday were off the coast of Manado. The first one was at Mola’s shipwreck but as the wreck was deeper than 20meters, our dive depth limit, we stayed on the reef while Ilsa and Alo explored the shipwreck. Other than the reef fish, I especially loved the marshmallow looking starfish (thick armed starfish – choriaster granulatus), a pair of thin red shrimp and a blue and yellow eel half out of his hole.
Just after we all got back in the boat, a pod of about 20 dolphins arrived. We followed them and it was beautiful watching them diving below our boat. We were all sitting right on the prow of the boat and it was amazing watching them so closely. Under water they reminded me of orca whales, tunneling through the water and rotating slightly as they torpedoed under our boat.
After they vanished, we headed to our final dive at Blackrock. This was to be our most challenging dive as it was a muck dive. Ferdinand explained that the bottom would be fine silt and we had to be very careful not to muck it up with our flippers which would seriuosly interfere with visibility. This dive was so different to all the other dives as when we first arrived, there were hundreds of beautiful starfish and blue spotted fantail rays on a dirty sandbed and the rare small clump of rock or uninspiring coral. However we were to discover very quickly that hidden here were amazing tiny creatures like the ornate ghost pipefish,
,octopus, a moray eel, decorator crabs, a family of scorpionfish, a pair of flounder fish are the ones I can identify. Standing perpendicular to the seabed was a branch covered in grimy algae and swimming very close to the floating algae were a pair of teeny tiny fish. It wasn’t their mottled brown colouring that was interesting but their knobbly shape and their tiny size. Ilsa used her metal stick to pry them away from the branch so we could see them more clearly but no sooner were they separated from the algae, they dashed back again. So cute. They were perfectly camouflaged and unless you suspected they were there, you could easily miss them! This pair really summed up a muck dive for me. At first glance it seems as though there is nothing of any note, but either go with someone who knows what to look for or look very slowly and carefully and suddenly it is teeming with Interesting and unusual life.
Sitting on the prow of the boat with Ilsa as we headed home, she pointed out how lucky we were to have done our diving course on Bunaken. She rightly pointed out that we have seen a huge variety of sea life in just 6 dives and also had the opportunity to dive in a variety of locations, something that just isn’t available in most other spots where diving courses are held! It was a good point of hers because I can see that it would be very easy to become blasé about just how fantastic the diving is here on Bunaken if you didn’t have anything else to compare it with!