So after the amazing Ubud I headed down to Nusa Lembongan; a small island just off the coast of the southern end of Bali. On the boat on the way over I met Ben an Aussie surfer and Frauke a German girl, and so the three of us hung out. I didn’t have any where to stay so Frauke, who’d been very organised and booked somewhere, let me share her room. She was also a diver and we convinced Ben to join us so the three of us ended up diving together for a few days. The diving was great... the first dive was ‘the manta dive’ and we saw three huge manta rays which were beautiful. On the first day we all went for lunch at a local warung (cheap Indonesian cafe) and I left my bag at a table, when I went to get it I met Nathan, an American who was also travelling alone... and so the three became four and each evening we’d all meet up and the four of us, who’d all come alone, would eat together and hang out. That is what I love about travelling!! Frauke and I also managed to get a free
dive by helping to do a house reef clean – it’s amazing how much rubbish you find on the reef. So happily, after an hour of picking up keys, plastic bags, string, combs, cigarette packets and the like we fell ashore knackered but safe in the knowledge that we’d given something back to Lembongan!! ! On the last day we decided to hire mopeds and take a look around the island. I did like the place with its long white beach and windy bumpy (like all Indonesian) roads. We found a beautiful lagoon, some watery mangroves and a beautiful view across the water to Mount Agung (I think i’ve spelt that wrong!).
So after only three nights and 5 dives I left Ben and Frauke and headed back to Sanur, Bali. I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d do with the next week but I knew that I wanted to head to Komodo in my last week. So as I arrived at Sanur I jumped on the back of a moped and headed to a travel agent to buy a ticket to.... Sulawesi!! I’d heard the diving in the Lembeh straits was some of the best in the world (I’ve
heard that said about MANY sites but that’s not the point!) I managed to secure a ticket for that same evening and bought a return for a week later and then another ticket to Komodo (or more precisely Labuanbajo in Flores)returning just before I head home. So I did what any sane person would do in the heat of Sanur with 4 hours to kill before a flight... I went and had a ‘head spa’ (£10; hair wash, ‘special’ cream added, massage of head and shoulders and back) and then a facial (£10)!! Brilliant.
So that evening I found myself on a flight to Sulawesi!! On the flight to Manado the most extraordinary thing happened. I was sitting next to an American lady who has lived in Sulawesi for the past 15years. When I told her I was going over there for a week to dive she offered me a job!! I kid you not. She offered me a job as a dive master for two months at her resort in the Togian Islands. Now the Togian islands are famed for their diving, not least because it is the only place in Indonesia that has all three types of
reef environments (atoll, barrier and fringing reefs). In the Lonely Planet it says, “If you dreamt of an Indonesia with blissful beaches, plentiful coral and a place to live the life of a lotus eater, the Togean Islands fit the bill.” Well here was this lady – a complete stranger (and I have to admit she did seem, how can I put this? ... a ‘character’!!) but she was, none the less, offering me work (and yes I checked out her website and it all seemed proper!) Well what can I say. I was sorely tempted. I had come travelling for just such an experience... however I had also bought three plane tickets that would need cancelling or changing, no visa to work (or to stay, I’d have to fly out and back in and organise a 2 month visa) I’d also got two weddings to attend and perhaps most importantly 7 nieces and nephews who I’d told I’d be seeing on May 15th. So after much deliberation and agonising and praying I decided to turn the offer down. I still can’t quite believe I did it! But there you go. The Togian Islands will have to wait...
Jesus Prays for Bunaken
so there you have it! Lucky Bunaken!
I arrived in Manado at midnight with no where to stay and no idea how to get to the Lembeh Straits. After visiting 5 hotels which were either completely disgusting or full I finally found a hotel that was bearable and slept. The following morning I woke and attempted to get to Lembeh. I was wholly unsuccessful! Most of the locals couldn’t understand where I wanted to go and with no map and no idea I was a little stumped as to what to do. Even the hotel was unable to understand what I was trying to say! So I headed out onto the road and tried to flag down a microlet (a public minivan –like the bemo in Bali) It just so happened that an Irish guy was in the one I flagged down, and he was able to tell me I was going the wrong way and gave me vague directions of how to get to the bus terminal! When I arrived at the first of the bus changes I got chatting to a local lady who told me she worked at a resort in Bunaken (an island on the opposite side of northern Sulawesi to the Lembeh
Straits, but a very good diving area) so after helping her with the shopping I decided to go with her to Bunaken and then from Bunaken I could get a transfer to Lembeh!!
I ended up staying 4 nights at Novita’s Home stay on Bunaken which was cheap (ish) and dived with the Seabreeze Resort. Bunaken is a beautiful island with both Muslim and Christian villages dotted about. There are no cars and only a few mopeds zipping about. The diving was mainly drift diving on beautiful, huge walls and I dived with a British couple who had about 800 dives each!! The most memorable dive was a late evening Mandarin dive. The Mandarin fish were mating which involves a courting ‘dance’ ending up with them joining together and rising vertically upwards about 3 feet and then coming apart and floating back down. It was amazing, followed by a night dive where we saw octopus, robust pipefish, crabs, hunting morays and all kinds of weird and wonderful shrimps! Novita fed me up with amazing food (I reckon I must have put on some weight!.. bugger) at her homestay (my room was a corner of her living room which was
cordoned off with mdf!) and she was a real gem. On the last night I experienced Indonesian karaoke ... I didn’t have a go! But it was a real family experience and the hospitality was second to none.
Once I’d been transferred over to Lembeh and the Two Fish Resort (which, by the way, was much easier than when I’d tried to get there on my own!) I immediately went diving – i nfact i did two dives that afternoon/evening!! Lembeh is beautiful. You can’t really move around the island by road like you can on Bunaken, you have to move by boat, although once you arrive at Two Fish you don’t really need to leave for any other reason than to muck dive in the most fantastic sites. Now, when I say fantastic I should explain. The sites are full of rubbish and crap ... but the water is full of nutrients as a result of which are mimic octopus, coconut crabs, seahorses, devil fish, rays, decorator crabs, bobtail squid, nudis, Indian ocean walkman, thornback cowfish .. I could go on!! .. I saw ALL these fish... and I only dived 6 times!! It was amazing. I spent
hours (each dive was about 75 minutes... no 60 minute dives for me!!) 6 inches off the bottom of the black sand scouring for the weird and wonderful Lembeh sea life! And boy did I find it!! A. Mazing.
I met some more great people... this time divers from Sea Dragon in Khao Lak – weirdly I‘d been put in contact with one of them at the start of my trip when I was deciding where to do my DMT. I’d not met her but had had a few Facebook chats only to find out that here she was at the very same resort I was staying at! I took endless photos and smiled so much that my mask was constantly letting in water!! Again, the people were great, the diving was probably the best I’ve ever done and I had a thoroughly brilliant time. Sulawesi rocks... and is a place I most definitely have to return to... the list is getting longer!!
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