Thursday, October 18, 2007
Alien Sea Creatures and Grumpy Dragons
Check out the Best of our Indonesia photos at our photo website.
We just spent almost four amazing weeks diving around Indonesia. Problem is we did so much diving we didn’t get much of a chance to explore the land of Indonesia. Oh well, that just means we have to come back again.
Lembeh StraitOur first stop for diving was the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi. We were told by fellow divers that this is muck diving and were given a description of muck so we thought we knew what to expect.
Upon entering the water, two questions went through my mind
Lembeh Strait is known as the critter capital of the word and it definitely lives up to its name. I’m not even going to begin to tell you the names of what we saw because we have no idea what we saw. All we know is they ranged from the unusual (to put it mildly) to the outlandishly freaky (which is a more accurate description). After a dive I would be looking at Troy’s photos and I would ask “What is this?” A few of Troy’s typical responses “I don’t know but it walked! I don’t know but it had a mouth, two eyes and I saw it eat something! I don’t know but it gave me the heebie jeebies!”
On some of the dives you just didn’t know what you would come across. I would be swimming along looking at this vast bed of black sand when I would notice a small dab of color other then black. All of a sudden this huge blue, purple, white and red crab would come roaring out of the sand, claws raised to the sky just itching to yell expletives at me if only it could talk! Then there is a creature called a Bobbitt Worm. It is rumored to be up to nine feet long but lives in its hole perpendicular to the sand. So when it strikes, it comes straight up out of the ground. It got its name, Bobbitt, by the infamous case of Lorena Bobbit cutting off a certain appendage of her husband. People say the worm looks like said appendage. I think it got its name because the claws on top of the head looks like it could do the deed just fine. Not to mention the nine foot strike zone.
The resort we stayed at was beautiful but some of the guests were just a little uptight. I attributed it to their big cameras. It seems that when we are a at a dive place and no one has cameras and the diving is only so so, the divers are so much friendlier to each other and are just out to have a good time. But when we are at a place such as Lembeh where the diving is exceptional, all the big cameras come out as well as the attitude. It’s like “I have the best and biggest camera so I am by far a better diver then you since you don’t even have a camera and stay out of my way because only I get to see the creatures!” Trust me, Troy and I are not the only ones who feel this way. But aside from these yucky people we met up with two women from England who were in their late 60’s who were just a hoot to hang out with! Troy and I never thought we would hang out with geriatrics on our travels but they were the best and would love to meet up with them for future diving!
Raja AmpatOur next stop was an 11 day liveaboard in Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is a group of islands (stay with me now) on the western edge of Papua which is on the eastern edge of Indonesia. It’s on the west side of Papua New Guinea which is directly north of Australia (did you get that?) Some people know the area as Irian Jaya.
There was not a single individual item that stood out about the diving but everything together as a whole made it astonishing. For one thing, the place is absolutely untouched. For another the water was deliciously warm. Yes, I said deliciously. Raja Ampat is also a marine park where commercial fishing is not allowed so the reefs where totally pristine and fish life was outrageous .We saw Bumphead Parrotfish that were the size of the door of your grandpa’s old Cadillac and clams that were the size of a Mini Cooper. (Not so sure what is with the car/fish references but they work). We never once dived with other people so all our dives it was just us five guests and our two dive guides. We never saw another boat except for the rare fishing boats that had one or two guys on them. The area is known for currents which is normally good because it brings in the big fish. But it can also be bad. There were a few dives where the current was very strong. I would be hanging onto a rock with one hand and using my other hand to hold onto my hat to keep it from blowing off, while instead of leaves tumbling past its fish and divers.
I just have to make a small side comment here: Troy and I have come to realizes there are a lot of bad divers in this world. I’m not talking about the newbies at Sharm El Sheik who are just learning. I’m talking about experienced divers who should know what they’re doing but clearly don’t. There is the PHD mathematician that can figure out complex quantum physic algorithms but can’t figure out how much weight to use while diving which is something that is learned in Diving 101. Then there is the 70 year old retired doctor who doesn’t tell anyone (not even his dive buddy) that he is done diving and decides to go back to the boat by himself which is a HUGE diving no no!!!!!! We’re searching for him thinking he had a heart attack and is lying on the sea floor somewhere.
Komodo IslandsNext stop was the Komodo Islands. I have to briefly mention the airport that we flew into. It didn’t look like they were building the terminal, it looked like they were tearing it down. There were big holes in the wall, sections of roof missing, no windows, and huge piles of rubble and trash. It’s not like they decided to go the sensible route and do sections at a time, they (whoever they are) decided to remodel, build, whatever, the whole thing at once. It was really quite an amusing sight.
Back to the diving…Troy and I are suppose to be on this so called “budget” for this trip but for the Komodo Islands we decided we couldn’t be bothered with a budget and ended up chartering our own dive boat with our own personal dive guide! It sounds so posh and luxurious (and expensive) but it really wasn’t. This guy, Graham, from Diving 4 Images, had set up our Raja Ampat trip and suggested this small boat called Charlie for the Komodo region. No one was on it and was waiting for paying guests so we said why not. Graham didn’t have much to do that week for work so he decided to be our guide. Graham and Diving 4 Images were great and specialize in doing custom trips in and around Indonesia. We would highly recommend them for anyone planning a trip – especially diving – in this area.
We had been told that the south area was cold water and we thought we were prepared for it but we were not. It was cold and it sucked! One night dive I thought I was going to cry but then there is the dilemma of where does my snot go? Never again unless I have a thicker wetsuit - much thicker. The diving in Komodo was good but for me it was shrouded in the memory of cold water (did I mention it sucked?) Whenever the boat moved I was afraid it would be back into cold water so I never fully looked forward to the next dive. Troy didn’t enjoy the cold water either but he had a much better grasp of where the boat was moving so he was able to look forward to the dives because he knew we were still in warm water.
One day our boat was parked in a cove next to Rinca Island that has a large population of Komodo Dragons. While we sit and eat lunch we could watch them wander up and down the beach sunning themselves and looking for any stray animal that has wandered too far from mom. One afternoon the three of us took the dinghy boat to shore along with our lunch leftovers. After Graham threw the food onto the beach we waited a short bit to see what would come out of the vegetation. Here comes a dragon slowly sauntering down the beach getting a whiff of the food. He finds the first scrap then slowly picks up momentum as he finds the next scrap which actually is a trail that leads right to us. Hmmm… something is wrong with this picture. Do you know these big 250 pound dragons can actually move quite fast? Well let me tell you, they can. I don’t know if he is attracted to the scent of the food or us but he is walking, no wait, running toward us as we make our rapid retreat to the dinghy. Funny thing though, the tide has gone out quite a bit since our short time on the beach and we are struggling to push our boat into the water while the dragon is gaining ground on us. We get on the boat thinking we got the last laugh when Graham tells us that dragons are really good swimmers. We shut up rather quickly and high tailed it back to the main boat.
We decided that was not enough interaction with the dragons so three days later we went to the Komodo National Park where we were guaranteed to see multiples of them. We barely got to the ranger station when we noticed a big mamma (or papa) under one of the housing units. These guys are big, ugly, scary and grumpy. But we were safe though because our ranger guide had a big stick! Yes that was our only protection… a big stick! Then under the kitchen were three more lazing about with a few more coming from other areas because they saw they had “guests” – us. When they would invade each other’s space they would make this hissing sound that reminded me of lighting a kerosene lamp but much more evil. One big difference is if a kerosene lamp licks you it’s not going to give you flesh eating bacteria.
We will definitely be back to Indonesia. Probably not this trip but in near future travels. It is too big of a country to visit only once. Next stop, back to Malaysia to dive in Sipadan.