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Published: August 22nd 2007
Hobby or Obsession?
Oceans, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the scuba-diver Ali. His five-year mission: To explore strange new reefs. To seek out new fish and new nudi-branches. To boldly dive where no one has dived before.
Of all the marine environments coral reefs contain the highest diversity of species, of all the reefs in the world those in South East Asia have the highest diversity. The epicentre of this biodiversity is somewhere in Indonesia - marine biologists can debate as to exactly where. As you travel further from this point the biodiversity declines.
The reefs of the Caribbean have only a third of the species numbers that those of these Indonesian reefs enjoy. It's something special.
Sulawesi is home to several famous dive locations, drawing scuba divers from all around the world. It drew 5 divers from the Perhentian Islands Malaysia via Singapore - my friends Tommy, Olly, Sunny, Andy and myself.
Bunaken Island with it's crazy currents, mangroves, lush reefs and drop offs to 70m seabeds was our first destination.
Arriving late, nothing booked we talked to the guys at the airport, looked at brochures and decided to give Immanuel Divers, part of Daniel's Homestay a try (the other options include Two-Fish Divers). My criteria for choosing a dive shop are - do they make me feel welcome, is the equipment I rent well maintained, does
the air taste acceptable, am I getting a fair price?
Immanuel Divers did really well on all counts.
Heading out from the island, a lush forested island a few kilometers long, sandy beach gives way to mangroves, small inlets sea grassed allow boats to pull up. The reef starts, gradually descending to around 15m (depending on tides), and then the drop off. A lot of the diving at Bunaken and the surrounding islands is drift wall diving. Dropping down to 30m, allowing your self to be swept along with the current, gradually ascending, searching for macro-life on the wall, keeping half an eye out into the blue for the larger Tuna, Turtles and Sharks. The last 15 minutes of the dive are shallow searching over the reef, the light comes back, the water feels a touch warmer - then it's all about stretching out the air to get the maximum time in this paradise.
The abundance of fish over the reef is astonishing, I tried to photograph as many of the reef fish as possible on one dive, trying to get a good shot of each of the commoner species as well as those that were pointed
out by the guides. Several hundred shots later - this blog has around 60 of the best.
Compared to diving in Sipadan; it's similar, the macro-life is easier to find, but the large pelagic fish are less abundant. Having dived there several times I'm glad I took the time to visit Bunaken. Coming soon - diving the Lembeh Straits.... and some of the weirdest things I have ever seen. Notes:
The island has a very basic infrastructure, no banks, minimal shops. There is a very poor internet connection on the island currently, one internet shed. Though there were rumours of Wi-Fi across the island next year. The last lot of rumours I heard were about Wind Turbines on Perhentian Kecil - so yeah right - that's never going to happen.
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