Diving Bunaken: Under the sea

Diving is adventure.  Diving is exploration.  Diving is going somewhere that few have gone before.

I love exploring.  When I look at the map of the world, I am overwhelmed by all the places I’d like to visit, by dreams of seeing things I haven’t seen.  Initially when you look at a map, most people immediately focus on the land, the continents, the idea of foreign places around the world and images they’ve seen of these places flash through their head.  But take your focus away from that for a second and consider the other 70% of the map in front of you: the water.  There is a lot to explore, a lot that few or no humans have explored.  Once you have glimpsed this world below sea level, you can’t help but continue to be drawn in.

I haven’t always been a diver.  In fact, I never planned to be.  But when the perfect opportunity presented itself on the small island of Lembongan in Indonesia, I said yes.  This was a year ago.  At this point, I have only 15 dives under my belt, which to some people, places me as a rookie/noobie/land dweller still.  But that first breath under water had me hooked, and I know that I will be diving for the rest of my life.

These photos are from three dives around Bunaken Island, at the northern tip of Sulawesi in Indonesia.  I avoided the larger dive shops run by foreigners and instead found a local dive master name Son, who had an unsurpassable 30+ years of dive experience on his home reef.  As well, it just so happened that he was one of the local photographers on the island.  Cameras are very expensive by Indonesian standards and out of the reach of the locals, but the government bought two underwater cameras for Bunaken: the compact that Son has and an SLR someone else takes care of.  The shops rent out these cameras and with the money they receive they do something nice for the community (eg: buy shoes for children).  Being a photographer, I saw it as a win-win situation to rent the little compact diving camera for the day and give underwater photography a shot.

Two of the dives Son and I did were afternoon dives (dive sites Likuan 1 & 2).  Turtles as long as I am tall pushed off the coral wall to swim around us.  Shadows of reef sharks came in and out of view another 50m below, not to mention all the small life on the reef wall: shrimp that were 30 cm long (huge!), crabs that were only 1 cm long (small!), and poisonous stone fish masquerading as rocky coral.  There is so much life in the ocean here that you could dive the same site over and over, and always have a different sort of dive experience.

The last dive of the day was actually not a dive in the day at all, but a night dive.  Son knew of a little patch of coral that a bunch of the elusive mandarin fish called home.  As the sun dipped below the horizon, the two of us dropped over the side of our little boat into the darkness to wait on the bottom for the little fish to emerge.  Watching the psychadelic little fish edge out of the coral and mate in front of us was a really unique experience.  Night diving is a little bit like exploring a cave, in that all you can see is the little circle in front of you that is lit up by your flashlight.  Combined with the completely different night life that comes out at the same dive site you saw during the day, it is an inspiring reminder that there remains much to discover in this world.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I highly recommend the fellows over at Bunaken Kus Kus Resort.  Great people, great huts, great food, and great diving buddies.