Monday, 24 November 2014

Episode 31 Northern Indonesia - Sangihe to Bitung

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

At the end of Episode 30 we were at Sangihe in Northern Indonesia.
We had cleared in and had spent a week exploring and diving with great weather.

Our route for this episode

Sangihe Island

Diving in Sangihe

The day after posting Episode 30 we spoke to David who worked at the tourism office and tried to organise some exploratory diving in other parts of the island.

The following day we loaded up a rental car and travelled over to his family’s village on the eastern side of the island. We met his uncle (the chief) and got permission to do some diving.
We then linked up with another uncle named Set and his son Jack who are local fisherman and chartered their boat for the day.
He brought it around to the local wharf and we loaded it up and headed out with perfect weather conditions.
According to the Chief, no-one had ever scuba dived along the coastline that is within his village jurisdiction so we were the first and he was very interested to find out what we saw.

The first dive was along a coral wall surrounding a very small island. The viz looked good and the dive was interesting with scattered coral and lots of big barrel sponges but not jam packed with coral and fish action.
Like normal, Paul shot wide angle and Lisa did 60mm macro.

A bit of a weird way for this Scorpionfish to hang out….

Nudibranch - Pimpled Phyllidiella

Large Whip Coral Goby

Juvenile Yellowtail Coris

For lunch we stopped at a nice little beach on the small island.

For the second dive we returned back into the bay and dived on a small coral reef protruding out from a headland.
The spring tide was flooding in and the viz looked OK but we were a little dubious as the coral outside was only ok and inside should technically be worse.
When we jumped in we were amazed to find great viz and a fantastic coral garden in the shallows.
The deeper we got the better it was and on the floor at 32m the coral was simply amazing with stunning soft and hard corals as far as the eye could see.
It was pristine and colourful – and we were the first ever to see it!

Sea Star Shrimp

Mushroom Coral Shrimp

Network Pipe Fish
Coming back up the wall we had the setting sun in front of us creating some great photo ops in the shallows

We were so excited when we returned and so were David and his family after finding out what we had seen.
We were allowed to name the dive site so we called it Tumsu Gardens after the name of Set’s boat.
Tumsu in the Indonesian language roughly translates to
“God bless every effort”

By the time we returned to the village, washed the gear, said goodbyes and drove home we got back to our RIB at around 7pm.

We had promised to have drinks with Pete and Deb off Downtime who had only just arrived the day before and had cleared in while we went diving.
We had over 3 months of catch-up to chat about and finally got home at 11pm.
It was like Christmas as Pete had brought a mixture of much needed boat bits and a few new toys for us (and him) from the USA.
Included was a new 2014 Liquid Force kite bar for Paul as a present to say thanks for looking after Downtime in Davao. It will go well with the 10m surf kite Paul brought from Pete before he left The Philippines.

Wow! What an amazing but loooong day.

We went with Pete and Deb on their first Indonesia dive and show them the shipwreck in Tahuna harbour that was located right next to Lorelei’s mooring.
We both went for macro but Paul took Lisa’s new tele-converter for its maiden dive.

With underwater macro photography using Nikon DLSR’s there are only really 2 main lens options which is 60mm and 105mm. Whilst we both have a 60mm Nikon each, Lisa really wanted to get the 105mm too but it is very specific and only really suitable for very small subjects.
Mark Gray, a fellow photographer, dive nut and good friend recommended that Lisa should get a 1.4x tele-converter instead as it was so much more versatile both above and below the water and suitable for all our lenses.
It effectively turned the 60mm macro into an 85mm macro lens but we did have to purchase a longer port for the housings.

Paul was just amazed at how great the set-up was.
After 220 photos and 95minutes underwater he surfaced grinning like a Cheshire cat and saying something about Lisa now needing to buy another as she was not getting it back….
Here’s the photo’s of its first dive.

A very small Sea Star Shrimp (5mm long) on a Pin Cushion Starfish

Peacock Mantis Shrimp

A Brown Barred Jawfish blowing sand out of his mouth

L: Sea Star Shrimp    R: Magnificent Anemone Shrimp

Paul trying to be funny…..

Squat Shrimp (only 4mm long)

Two Spotted Porcelain Crabs

Mimic Filefish

Lisa’s Photos of that dive with her 60mm macro lens

A juvenile Many-Spotted Sweetlip
After 3 dives of watching this little guy flitter around at high speed
and taking over 70 photos of it, this is the best we have.

Ringed Pipefish

Signal Goby

A very small (only 3-4mm) Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp

Spotted Porcelain Crab and Clownfish in the background

That night we invited Pete and Deb over for dinner – Sushi of course, made from fresh Yellow Fin Tuna, Squid, Chicken and locally grown veges.

The next morning we were up very early to dive a pinnacle in a southern bay 3nm away. The high tide was at 7:30am and we dived from 7am to 8:30am but were surprised to still find a moderate current.
The wall was only OK but the shallows were great. Paul was trying our spare Nikon body for the first time and just couldn’t get the right white balance set-up.
Lisa had a blast with the macro though.
Of the 8 dives so far in Sangihe, the “best photos of the dive” count reads Lisa 5 - Paul 3….   Hmmmm – so much for the master and apprentice!

Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp

Sea Star Shrimp

Sky Blue Phyllidia

We normally don’t post clown fish photos as we see so many of them but these 2 shots Lisa took are certainly worth putting in.
Pairs of False Clown Anemonefish

Sangihe Week 2

For the next week things went from ok to bad to worse.
We had left both our RIB and Pete’s RIB (named Super Dink or SD for short) tied to the rock wall along the town’s foreshore.
The bay was flat when we left.
When we returned 4 hours later a westerly swell was pounding into the bay and the yachts were all violently rocking from gunnel to gunnel.
The RIBs were also being smashed into the concrete wall and onto the oyster covered rocks. Our RIB’s stern anchor was just holding and we were missing the rock by just inches. SD (which had just being repainted in Davao) was not so lucky.

For 4 days we rocked and rolled violently. We couldn’t cook, could barely sleep and found it hard to get the dingy back up onto the davits.
For sleeping we had to stuff 4 pillows around each of us to hold us in place. That combined with closed hatches due to the rain meant hot, stuffy and uncomfortable nights.

During the day we tried to get off the boat and have lunch in town.
We had to go to the bank to pay our Indo sponsor some USD so we could organise an extension of our CAIT. BNI was the bank.
The BNI bank was being renovated.
Check out the bamboo scaffolding. Not quite Aussie OHS&E compliant…

We were assigned a lady who spoke English and she advised the best way to pay the bill and future bills was to open an account so we agreed and returned that arvo with the required paperwork to do it. We triple checked that it was all OK considering we are not residents, etc but were assured it was.
2 hours later we walked out completed (or so we thought), MC debit cards in hand and 12 000 000 rupiah in the bank. Instant millionaires!!
The next morning we receive a phone call to return to the bank to complete more forms. We get there and find we also need more paperwork from another government office on the other side of town.

Day 3 of the saga finds us at the office for 2 hours trying to get the paperwork completed.
That arvo we return to the bank to discover they want the debit card back as it’s the wrong one for an account in 2 names and we would need to wait a month for the right one. So we ask for the account to be changed to Lisa’s name only to keep the card. Come back they said.

Trip no.4 and we find they cannot keep the account open as we now cannot supply an ID card from the Justice Dept. which is just too hard for us to obtain.
So they closed the account, charged us a closing fee and spent 2 hours having us signing more forms than we can imagine. Paul was furious and signed everything with an “X”. The girl, now in tears, knew it was wrong but didn’t say a thing. We left after a total of 8 hours (over 4 days) in the bank with a wad of cash 6” thick and a sour taste in our mouths. But on the upside we did get the money to our sponsor.

On the Friday it was the start of the Indonesian National Paragliding Championships which were held in Sangihe.
The lookout on the hill is reported to be the best hill in the country to jump off for paragliding.
Over 150 competitors had flown in for the 2 day event.
One paraglider did a test run but the morning was postponed due to high winds.

In the arvo it got worse with some big storms and rain and the day was cancelled.
The next day we woke to heavy rain and couldn’t even see the jump off point through the low lying cloud. Eventually the entire competition was cancelled.
The lookout behind Downtime was high up in the clouds.

Everyone was so disappointed. We really felt for the competitors who had travelled so far to be at the event.
The locals had spent a week building a new timber launching ramp at the lookout and we had purposefully stayed an extra week just so we could be there and both do a tandem flight which we had booked to do with the tourism office.

So between the bank, the cancelled paragliding event, the patchy internet, the weather and the non-stop violent rolling – it had not been a good week.
At least we had a nice week prior. Downtime only arrived 2 days before the bad weather hit.

The upsides were our water tanks were overflowing and we had fun in town where the rockstar treatment never stopped.

Lisa with a bunch of school kids in the main street

The sunsets were also fantastic with the cloud all around

Thanks to Deb for this pic of Lorelei

We saw a lady on a street corner selling brightly coloured chicks.
We have no idea why they were dyed such a strong colour.

The microlet buses in town are a hoot to catch. They are 3000rp (0.25c) from one end of Tahuna to the other. Most of the buses have thumping stereo systems and most have around 24 speakers inside including up to 6 x 15” sub-woofers in the back section. They have massive batteries on the floor in the front area to cope with the enormous sound systems.

The markets are huge, fun, jam packed with fresh produce, poultry, pork and seafood. There are both indoor and outdoor sections and most things are very cheap.
The issue is the currency. With an exchange rate of around 12 000rp to $1 it makes calculations a bit of a brain strain.
When the lady tells you in Indonesian it 247 500rp it takes a bit to work it out.
Paul fortunately did 2 years of Indonesian language at school and can understand the numbering system into the 100s of millions but the others cannot yet grasp it.

Our favourite fresh chicken lady

We could not identify this fish and asked for help.
Many thanks to our friend John Gransbury from Professional Diving Services in Brisbane, Australia who identified it as an Opah or Moon Fish.

Lots of dried and salted fish at the markets

Pauls favourite stall…….

During the bad weather we celebrated Deb’s birthday by going to lunch at the only Chinese restaurant which is called Cita Waya.

Afterwards we walked home taking some photos on the way.

Ladies at the ferry wharf selling Langsa
(a nice tasting fruit cross between a Lychee and a Rambutan)

Just one of the jet powered ferries that commute daily
between Sangihe and Bitung taking 10 hours.
We had planned an arvo of partying, drinking and a birthday cake but when we got back to Lorelei we found our mooring line (which was doubled up in 2 loops) completely chaffed through the first loop and only a few strands left on the second. If it had snapped Lorelei would have ended up smashed onto the rock wall.
We immediately got 3 more 20mm (3/4”) ropes and Paul snorkelled down to attach them. It was as rough as hell and Paul coped a hiding trying to do it. Lisa who was in the dingy holding the bow also had a hell of a time holding on.
20 minutes later the main line snapped and we settled back onto the 3 new ones.
Paul was really angry as that was our main (and only one of its type) mooring line which was very expensive, super strong and normally, very abrasion resistant.

Later on (once the internet decided to work…) we discovered that the cause of the bad weather was Typhoon Nuri that was located to the north of us. At that time it was a consistent 95 knots with gusts to 120 knots and was forecast to reach a whopping 180 knots (340klm/hr) in 48 hours time. That’s some serious wind and whilst we were still down about the weather, we were very glad we were heading south away from
typhoon alley.

On the Sunday night we managed to brave it and head to Downtime for a rolly Pizza Night.

Paul and Pedro’s Pizzeria

After a hellish weekend, we were up early and into the Port Captain’s office to give 24 hours notice of our departure. Even though we were only changing ports within Indonesia, you still must check in and out with the Port Authorities and get the appropriate paperwork.
Fortunately they were not busy and did it on the spot for us.

The weather that arvo was looking better, the swell had subsided a little and the wind had all but dropped out.
But Sangihe had one more little surprise for us that night when the swell returned with a vengeance.
All 4 yachts in the bay rolled like hell. It was just terrible.
Our navigation computer fell out of its cradle, the fruit storage bowl upturned and a 6kg watermelon and 2 large paw paw (papaya) smashed onto the saloon floor and the worst thing, 2 x 5 litre bottles of diesel engine oil were crushed in the engine room storage locker and split causing the oil to leak down into the engine room putting about 6 litres of oil down the walls and ribs and all over the floor under the engine.
Of all our years cruising it was the worst night we have ever had whilst being anchored or moored.

After 1 hour of cleaning we left Tahuna harbour at 6am on Tuesday 4th Nov.
But not before Paul had to jump in a swim down to untie the 3 mooring lines.
Thank goodness we were outta there……

Overall Sangihe had given us mixed opinions.
The people are super friendly, the landscape is stunning and the stores & markets are great.
The downside is the anchorages (or lack of them) for the yachts, Tahuna harbour is just so exposed and there is no suitable dingy access to get to shore.
If you have trade-wind conditions and swell from the E-NE, then you will really enjoy Sangihe. If the weather is coming from the west plan for a lightning fast visit just to get cleared in and get going again.

Mahengetang Island &
Active Underwater Volcano

From Sangihe we transited 30nm south to a small island called Mahengetang which has an active underwater volcano close-by.
The issue was trying to find a suitable anchorage nearby so we could dive the volcano.
We motored  Lorelei and Downtime right up the the side of the volcano and could see it quite clearly in the crystal clear viz. The smell of sulphur also confirmed we were in the right spot.

We knew of possible anchorages at other islands more than 6nm away but decided to try and find something on the small and round Mahengetang Island which was only ½ mile from the volcano.
Fortunately around the other side we found a small slopping coral rubble wall and managed to anchor both boats in 15m /50ft depth.

After lunch we went ashore to meet the local people and ask permission to dive the volcano. They spoke no English but we got the message across in our broken Indonesian.  We also had a look around the village and a large boat the local men were building.

Local Fisherman repairing their nets

They can’t speak English but still know how to pose!!

With a 4pm high tide, we dived the volcano late arvo.
At 3:30pm the current on top was still flying across the crater top.
It was a mission to swim over the crater and down the wall but once we were below 12m it was fine.
The coral and fish life were immense and the water crystal clear.
The topography was also just awesome.
With the water temp being 38 degrees you certainly don’t need a wetsuit!!

Giant Moray Eel

False Clown Anemonefish

During the dive we could hear the occasional small rumble or boom but at the end as we were under the Rib and doing our safety stop, we heard and felt a huge boom. The noise and pressure wave went right though us.
We were a little concerned for the cameras and what impact it would have on the electronics and housings but they appear to be fine.
Talk about freaky….

On the low tide the next morning we dived it again but this time the current was going in the opposite direction which allowed us to dive the other side.
It was awesome with loads of coral, sharks and fish life both big and small.

After the dive we snorkelled all around the crater looking for sulphur gas vents (which were reported to be seen during a 2011 exploratory
dive expedition) but we did not see any.
It was also interesting to note that we found 2 pinnacles on the craters edge that break the surface. In 2011 they were reported to be at a depth of 5m/17ft underwater.

Siau Island &
Karangetang Active Volcano

With no wind, we motored once again down to Palau Siau which was a 30nm run. On the way we passed many smaller but mountainous islands.

From 15nm out we could start seeing the huge shape of Siau and the Karangetang Volcano.
When we got closer (around 7:30am) we saw plumes of smoke bellowing out of the crater.

By 8:30am it was getting hot and the clouds had started to form around the 1800m high peak.

As we transited down the eastern side we searched in the bays for a suitable anchorage but they were all too deep and mostly over
50m/175ft deep within 30m of the rocky shoreline.
We were amazed to find a second mountain and caldera to the south behind Karangetang. It too had so amazing cloud formations around its peak.

Looking up the hill side we could see huge lava flows from recent eruptions.
It is a very active volcano and from 1980 to 1988 it was in a state of continual eruption. In 1992 there was a major eruption and one of the worst in the recorded history of the volcano. Since then it has erupted over a dozen times with a large one in 2009 when 6 people died, another in 2013 and even a mild one in August 2014 – only 3 months prior.

Looking up at the lava flows which continued up into the clouds.

These are photos from an eruption in 2013

We finally found a shallow 20m/65ft section just off the main town called Ulu.
The view from Lorelei looking up to the volcano was just awesome.

A short time later Downtime had also arrived and 1 hour after that a Police launch pulled up and the officials came onboard both boats.

They were super friendly and the police chief just loved Lisa.

With the paperwork all in order they helped with some information for dive locations and a possible guide up to the crater’s edge if we wanted to tackle the 12+ hour hike.
They get very few tourists and only 1 or 2 visiting yachts a year so we were certainly celebrities.

Over on Downtime, Pete also got close for many photos with the officials but interestingly, they were a bit wary of Deb with her frizzy red hair, pale skin and freckles. The 4 of us had a bit of a giggle about it later on.

That evening we had sunset drinks on the bow just kicking back watching the volcano spewing smoke high into the sky.
Such an amazing spectacle!!

With the sunrise illuminating the entire face above Lorelei we were able to see it with much better detail, particularly all the lava flows and burnt tracts of land from recent eruptions. Wow!!

Deb took this morning shot of Lorelei at Ulu with a rainbow

Exploring Siau

We linked up with Dominik (who was with the boarding party the day before) and he took us for a walk around town and was very helpful with a lot of information and gave some assistance with the language as very few people spoke English.

At the main wharf tying up SD

We saw this man just off the main street making an amazing 3D wall mural out of cement

On the way we dropped into a local primary school which turned into an hour of great fun. We visited classes and talked to the kids about our travels. They were very interested and Paul organised to return early next week with a slideshow of photos from our diving and in particular the underwater volcano.
Lisa talking to a class

The kids came to the front individually and asked us questions

Spot the odd one out….

The girls were a little shyer than the rowdy boys

The main street of Ulu

In Siau the public transport buses are very different from the blue microlet buses on Sangihe with the side doors.
These were more like Filipino Jeepnee’s with the open rear area and bench seating.
But like Sangihe they have thumping stereo systems.
Indonesians are soccer/football mad and most of the buses have a theme based around their favourite European club.

Inside the rear area of the one pictured above – count the speakers…

A lady owned and drove this bus with a pink interior

Whilst the buses where really fancy, the gas stations were not.
Buying gasoline/fuel in Indonesia is an unusual set-up.
Indonesians can line up for many hours at the main gas station to fill cars or jerry cans at a government assisted subsidised price of around 0.60c.
If you don’t want the wait you can simply pull up to one of the scores of people selling fuel in 1 litre coke bottles for around $1.00 each.
It’s certainly an unusual system and unfortunately foreigners cannot buy bulk fuel at the gas station. Buying 6 or 8 one litre bottles is certainly not logical when refuelling a large vessel and therein lies the yachties refuelling dilemma.

Motorbikes are way more affordable and therefore more popular than cars and are also subject to the “pimp my ride” mania.
We saw many Honda 125cc Scooters fully painted up to match the Repsol Honda Moto GP bikes which we thought was pretty cool.
The superman bike below had a terrific paintjob.

Diving Siau

When we spoke to Dom about diving he recommended a local named Harry and that evening they came out to our boat to discuss diving options.
Harry is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet.
He is an ex Lembeh dive guide and fantastic at spotting unusual things, particularly the macro stuff.  He is also a past national water ski champion and his daughters are current national wakeboard champions.

We arranged to do some diving with Harry over the next few days.
For the first dive we did a muck dive in the Harbour with Harry and his younger protégé Carol.
We were blown away at how good the macro life was with the highlights being a family of Giant Frogfish and Ornate Ghost Pipefish.

Giant Frogfish

Giant Frogfish

Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Tiger Mantis Shrimp
Giant Frogfish

Giant Frogfish

Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Nudibranch – Girdled Glossodoris

Juvenile – Emperor Angelfish

Giant Frogfish

The next day we loaded Harry and Carol into our Rib’s and headed 2nm north to a black sand beach out from Carol’s home village and did a muck/macro dive there. Again we saw lots of firsts for us.

Painted Frogfish

Robust Ghost Pipefish

Juvenile Warty Frog Fish (15mm long)

Halimeda Algae Crab

Dragon Sea Moth

Nudibranch – Armina Species, un-named

Nudibranch – Aeolid Species – undescribed Cuthona

Painted Frogfish

Juvenile Warty Frogfish (25mmlong)

Nudibranch – Armina Species, un-named

Swimming Crab – un-named carupa species

Whilst Lisa loves night diving, Paul is not that keen on it but we certainly had to do a night macro dive in the harbour.
It was unreal with lots of crazy stuff to see including some massive crabs covered in soft corals.

Anemone Hermit Crab

Grand Pleurobranch (20cm diameter)

Golden Mantis Shrimp

L: Nudibranch – Beautiful Hypselodoris   R: Nudibranch – Swollen Phyllidia

Banded Sole

Nudibranch – Swollen Phyllidia & Sea Urchin

L: Doubled Spined Urchin & Shrimp R: Orbicular Burrfish Eye

Black Longspine Sea Urchin

For a day expedition we loaded all our dive gear into a bus and went to the other side to the island to a Town called Ondong Chity.

On the way over to the other side we stopped to have a look at some of the mud slides and devastation caused by past volcano eruptions.
This is from the 2009 major eruption and they are still cleaning it up…

This ladies job was to gather large rocks and break them into smaller ones.

This bridge used to go over a small river/water course.
Now it’s just full of lava, rocks and mud.

Harry had arranged an awesome boat to charter and we went out for a great days diving.

First dive was the well known Eddy Point which has amazing coral and a wreck in 32-45m on sand just out from the point.
The wreck is covered in coral both inside and out.

On the way back up from the wreck we swam towards the point which had fantastic coral.

We drifted along the wall that was interspaced with black sand giving Lisa great macro photo options too.

Broadclub Cuttlefish

White Spotted Hermit Crab

Nudibranch – Crested Nembrotha

Nudibranch – Magnificent Chromodoris

Bubble Coral Shrimp

For the second dive we did an amazing wall dive with stunning coral and lots of fish in the shallows at the end.

Harry our guide posing for Paul

Pete in the shallows

Carol (Harry's younger protégé and excellent macro guide) in the shallows
We finished the dive right near a volcanic hot spring and went up for a swim.
It was scalding (boiling) hot in the shallows and we had to be careful not to get burnt.

On the way back in we saw a pink boat leaving with a pink motorbike on the bow. Must be the ladies boat…

In the late arvo we had a look around the islands Government district which is very well laid out. The offices are all centred around a statue of the main local produce crop – Nutmeg.

We had many people come out to say hello and invite us to see their office.

It was a full-on day and by the time we had dinner out and got home it was well after dark.
We showered and crashed into bed and that’s where we stayed until the alarm went off at 3:00am…..!!!

Climbing the Karengetang Volcano, Siau

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…. The alarm rings at 3am and Paul is still tired but that’s not going to stop him attempting to climb Mount Karengetang.
After discussing the climb with Dom, Lisa and Pete decided not to do the climb but Paul and Deb were keen.
It was not as simple as just heading on up.
The day before (while we were out diving), Dom went to the Volcanologist office to ask permission to go up and to resister the route, persons, etc…
He was given clearance to 1000m only on the eastern face but had to phone the next morning if we reached that level and wanted to continue to 1300m.
Even though the peak is at 1800m, due to its recent activity, people are not permitted higher than 1300m.
It would be near impossible to climb 1800 vertical meters on that terrain in a single day anyway.

By 4am we were on motorbikes and winding our way up into the hills and at 4:30am we had started walking up though the rainforest by torchlight.
With us was Kiki, Dom’s good friend and fellow mountain guide.

By the time the sun had risen we were already well up a lava flow and past 500m.

By 9:30am the sun was beaming straight onto the east face and we were completely soaked with sweat and doing it tough as we walked up over the unstable rocks of the lava flow. It was very tough and slow going.

The view however was just awesome!

At 850m we started to get clouds roll in. It was just amazing watch them roll up the lava flow towards us and totally engulf us. With it came the colder temperatures which helped to cool us a little.

We reached 1000m by 10:30 but it was mostly cloudy with rain patches and only the occasional clear patch to see the peak.

We tried to push a bit further but the cloud was very thick limiting visibility and time was against us.

Descending was a mission!!!
We all had burning thigh muscles and with many loose rocks, we all had a few falls.
At 2/3rd’s the way down Deb was very fatigued and down to ¼ speed on the rocks, having to stop every few minutes for a rest.
At that rate we risked not getting off the mountain before dark so Dom made the decision to use an alternate route and exit the lava flow and continue down though the rain forest.
Even though it was a lot faster, it was very slippery and we all fell at least once.
We got back to Ulu at around dusk and just in time to meet Pete and Lisa before the 6 or us headed to the local Chinese Restaurant for dinner.

To say we were stuffed was a massive understatement!!!
Even Dom and Kiki were a mess.
Paul had taken 5 litres of water with him and consumed the lot.
His top end Kathmandu hiking shoes left in perfect order and returned trashed. His legs were not much better.

All in all though it was an incredible experience but very challenging and certainly Paul’s toughest ever one day hike.
For the next 4 days his body slowly recovered but his leg muscles were very fatigued and he found it difficult to walk for 3 days afterwards.

School Kids, The Regent and Tarsiers.
On our last full day at Siau we arranged to go back to the school and give a small presentation about the local diving and what we saw.
They had removed a wall to link 2 classrooms so the whole school could cram in. There was also a projector and mic set up ready to go and both the students and teachers were really excited.

For an hour we talked about our travels, the local diving and Paul’s volcano hike the day before.

There were also some other adults watching too and soon the word was spreading like wildfire across the island about our presentation and photos.

1 hour later we are at the local markets when Dom arrives to tell us a car has been sent to pick us up and we have a noon appointment with The Regent, Mr Toni Supit. (The title “The Regent” would be similar to Mayor or President, etc..)

Lisa explained we were only in casual clothes and the presentation was designed for 10 year old children , not someone of Toni’s position but it didn’t seem to matter.
So we were ushered to the Government Building and went through all the normal signing in and security checks before the audience with The Regent.

It turns out Toni studied in Australia and had an interest in boating.
We showed him the underwater photos and explained how incredible and somewhat unique the diving was and he was just amazed.
The area is trying to promote a 2015 festival with lots of activities including an underwater photography competition and our photos certainly helped Toni and his team understand the value of their diving locations.

Before leaving we were presented with a fantastic new book on diving in Indonesia by Eddy who is the head of the Coast Guard.

The last thing Lisa really wanted to do on Siau was try to see a Siau Tarsier which is a small marsupial which has evolved into a separate species due to its isolation on Siau island.
Dom had arranged this for 4pm that evening. When many people at the government found out they said they may meet us there as it would be fun. You sit quietly in a designated area and slowly they build confidence and come up to you. Wow sounds great we thought. We had images in our head of the scene but they were far from reality…

At 4pm we are in a bus heading up a tough winding road that made us car sick.
From there we hiked (with Paul barely able to walk….) along a slippery track with failing light and lots of bugs until we stopped mid track.
The guide starts to look, sees one and proceeds to bush bash into the dense undergrowth to follow it. After a while we are encouraged to follow but it is wet, slippery and steep.
Eventually we saw one in the branches above but only with our strong dive lights and photography just wasn’t possible.
Dom is hoping one day to make a decent path and clearing with seating for a better experience.
So our best photo of the cute little critters came from Mr. Google.

We sailed out of Siau at 6am the next morning with Downtime after an amazing 1 week there.
It was a fantastic week if not a little full-on with activities.
The diving is just amazing and the volcano is an incredible spectacle, even from sea level.
We highly recommend the place and they have already started the new waterfront plaza and hotel complex and the airport is due for 2019 completion.
We envisage that this place will soon become one of scuba diving’s new hot spots when the word gets out. With it being only a 5 hours high speed boat ride from Manado, we can see in future divers spending time at world famous Lembeh/Manado dive resorts and then having a few days or a week in Siau.
If the 2015 underwater competition does go ahead then we would be very interested in returning for it.
Dominik is an excellent go-to person in the area for tourism and speaks very good English and a little French.
Harry has an excellent little dive business with stacks of tanks, complete scuba sets for hire, great boats available from both sides of the island and his guiding is first rate. Highly recommended!!

2015 festival flyer

The only 2 downsides (and both are from a yachties point of view) is the limited anchoring locations as most areas are too deep and the lack of decent places to leave your tender when going ashore in the town area. These are the same 2 negatives we also had in Sangihe and Mahengetang and there is certainly a trend appearing in this whole area of such steep and mountainous terrain which continues below the water surface.

 Ruang Island, Volcano and Lava Flow Diving

We sailed from Ulu across the old caldera and through a pass with a screaming outgoing tide and incoming waves which we slammed into at 9 knots creating a lot of spray.
The 25nm from there was uneventful but we did battle current the whole way with boat speed sometimes down to under 4 knots.

Motoring towards Ruang Island

Motoring between Ruang and Tahulandang Islands

Lisa had studied the google earth charts and took a hunch that there might be anchorable depth in a small bay on the east side of the island just near the “New Lava Flow”. She was spot on and 15 minutes after safely anchoring up we had a terrific rain storm that washed off all the salt spray and filled our tanks. Perfect timing!!!

That arvo we feasted on freshly made Mahi Mahi Fish Tortilla’s on Downtime.

Lorelei anchored under the volcano and lava flow.

The following day we did a morning drift dive on the northern part of
the New Lava Flow.
It was an incredible dive.
After we surfaced we all agreed it was the best coral fields we have ever seen.

It was that good that in the arvo the tide had turned so we did a reverse drift on the southern part. This time the current was screaming along at 3 knots and it was a fast ride with us having to use reef hooks to stop to look or take photos.
With the sun dropping behind the volcano it was like doing a dusk/night dive.

Pete hooked in with his reef hook

L: Sea Star Shrimp  R: Nudibranch Eggs


The next morning we loaded up for a run around the bottom of the island to the Old Lava Flow which was also reported to be a great dive.
We checked many spots along the face of the flow but found that underwater was just the same as above – bare rocks interspaced with black sand and no coral. We just could not believe the difference in the 2 locations.
So we aborted and went back for dive 3 on the new one and did the southern end as a drift back to the north.

There was a lot of quality coral on the black sand which made for great photos.

The 3 sponges seconds before they fell on Paul…

At the 20 minute mark, the 3 of us were at 24m/80ft depth when we hear this heavy thumping sound that sounded like a large ship approaching.
Within seconds it was super heavy thumping and just too much to bear. We were holding our hands over our ears to try and stop the pressure that was killing our ear drums.
We looked up to find the whole reef wall shaking violently!
We were experiencing an earthquake – and a BIG one!
It was so bad we could not even focus on the reef and seconds later the wall began to break up. The 3 large sponges Paul was photographing toppled and landed on him and Pete was over near a rockier part and had huge rocks (some nearly as big as cars) rolling down towards him.
We quickly swam out off the wall away from the carnage.
Paul managed to snap a few quick shots before the sand completely silted everything up and we were in an underwater sand storm.

When the main quake passed, we ascended with Lisa and Pete staying together at 10m and Paul making a rush for the surface.
A quick scan showed the volcano above had not erupted and both RIB’s appeared to be still afloat and anchored. Fortunately it was a glassy flat day and he drifted for a few minutes scanning the horizon making sure there was no tsunami which was our worst fear.
The rocks on the lava flow near the waters edge had sand running off the side of them which was a good indication that they had all moved violently too.
We were still a long way from the second RIB so all we could do was go to 10m/33ft depth, stick close and drift to the waiting RIB. On the way we had 4 more small tremors but nothing like the initial quake.

Back at the yachts we were all pretty shaken up.
We had arvo plans but decided to cancel and stay with the yacht and got ready to sail, just in case anything else happened.
We actually witnessed some small landslides on the water’s edge where the sand became unstable and collapsed.

A few hours later a boat load of locals came past and whilst they didn’t speak English we gave them some shaking signs and they all gave signs back that certainly indicated they had experienced it too.

It really rattled us.
At Mahengetang when we felt the volcano booming and rumbling underwater we thought it was pretty freaky but at no time did we feel unsafe.
This was completely different and we never want to experience anything like that again.
That evening Pete came for dinner and we talked about it a lot just to clear the air and see how we all felt.
We had never been in a large earthquake before and had no idea what level it was on the richter scale but Pete (who grew up in California) had experienced a few particularly as a child and said it was right up there with the most powerful he had seen and thought it would be around a 6 on the richter scale.
With no phone reception and no internet we could not check to see if it was widespread or not.

After a bit of a restless night we were up at 6am and decided to move on with a 35nm final push to reach the northern islands of Sulawesi.
The morning sun on the lava flow looked fantastic.

As we motored down in another glass-out we downloaded our emails.
There was an inbox full of tsunami warnings and questions from other yachts about our safety with the earthquake.
As it turns out, the epicentre was reasonably close to us and 6klm underground. It was a whopping 7.3 magnitude and affected a large area.
There was a Tsumani warning for all of Indo, most of SE Asia and the NW Pacific. Pete even had friends on the other side of the world emailing him regarding the quake so it must have made world news.
A small Tsunami did hit Indonesia’s northern islands including Sangihe but we did not feel it and suspect the very deep water around the Ruang Volcano and our deep and open anchorage offered us deep water protection.
Interestingly enough there was another yachtie couple, Jan and Laura off Anaconda who were also diving at the time of the earthquake. They were in Lembeh a little further from the epicentre than us but also have a wild story to tell.

It appears the quake had taken its toll on Lisa’s ears which were very sore from the heavy pounding. It kept us from diving for a few days.

On the way down we went through a pod of large Melon Headed Dolphins.
We had not seen these before and their heads looked more like Orca’s than Dolphins.

We past this large metal bouy in the middle of nowhere.
Not something you would want to hit...

Bangka Island

As we motored down the side of Bangka Island we stopped to look at the first anchorage option that was the closet to the main dive sites but it was exposed and rolly so we headed south to the bottom of the island and found a fabulous inlet with a small basic dive resort. The bay was well protected but very deep and we just managed to find a shallow enough patch to anchor.

Ten minutes later a boat from the resort comes out and says we must move as a huge cruise ship is arriving in a few hours and will be picking up the mooring also in the bay.
It looked a long way from us but we assumed it must be a very big ship and moved to the other end of the bay even though it was right on the anchoring depth limit, more exposed and very close to the reef edge.
The cruise ship did not show….

The next day in the arvo the wind got up and pushed us dangerously close to the reef (only a few meters away…) so we had no option but to move again.
So we went to another part of the bay but the resort staff were running up and down the beach screaming at us saying we are now in the entrance path for the big ship. We were nowhere near the deep water channel but we moved anyway and went up into the bay but this time a long way from the mooring.
Out comes the resort staff telling us we are still too close to the mooring for the super cruise ship that will be arriving in less than 1 hour.
We were miles away but still moved again having no choice but the new location put as  too close for comfort to the reef edge just to make the resort happy.
That day no ship…..
The next morning we wake up to find the ship on the mooring.
It was about a 65ft old timber fishing boat converted to a dive live aboard.
We were really pissed. The thing was not much bigger than Lorelei, smaller than Downtime and they had us giving enough room for the Titanic to do 360’s.
We are conservative and still could have anchored 6 boats between us and the boat.

At least the diving was good and for the first dive we did a fast drift down an outer wall.
It was completely different to anything we have dived in Indo and just like diving the Ribbon Reefs back home.
The terrain looked identical to Challenger Bay (a popular spot Paul used to guide at whilst on SOF) and we started to look in areas we knew the unusual things would be.
Sure enough 5 minutes into the dive we found a Black/Red Leafy Scorpionfish and a few minutes later an Orang-utan Crab – a first for us.

Black Leafy Scorpionfish

Orang-utan Crab

Unidentified Scorpionfish – another first for us…
Maybe a Flasher Scorpionfish??

Nudibranch – Loch’s Chromodoris

Golden Trevally

With the super dive liveaboard now in, there were alot of dive boats running from it and the 2 nearby resorts.
Great we thought – well just follow them as they must know where all the top spots are.
So we head out around the corner to find most of the boats dropping divers around a series of exposed rocks out from a point.
We had a look but found the surface was choppy, the water green, the viz crap, the rocks bare of coral and colour and more plastic & junk in the water than the garbage tip.
We checked 4 different spots around the area and all were the same.
We couldn’t believe they were putting paying guests into such crap conditions.
So we headed 2nm north to an area we thought looked much better – and it was.
We saw adult and juvenile Ribbon Eels and more Orang-utan Crabs amongst other unusual things.

Male Adult Ribbon Eel
Juvenile Ribbon Eel

Juvenile and Male Adult with identical poses just for a comparison.

Orang-utan Crab

Juvenile Rock Mover Wrasse

Nudibranch - Anna’s Chromodoris

Pete with a curly Whip Coral and Lionfish

With the protected bay it allowed us to get out and play in-between diving.
We went wakeboarding in the early mornings which is always a lot of fun - but talk about being out of practice...
A far cry from Palau where we wakeboarded every second day.
One arvo Lisa and Pete went onto the land to play and practice with Pete's new drone helicopter which has a camera mounted on its underside.
It was prudent to have the controls totally wired before attempting to fly it off the bow of the yachts.

Lisa taking a photo of the Helicopter

and the helicopter taking a photo of Lisa
- or is it the other way around...???

Even though we wanted to do more diving in the area we decided to move further south to Lembeh Straights. A combination of the Super Liveaboard giving us a marginal anchorage, too many divers in the area, onshore winds on the dive sites making it choppy, Lisa’s Birthday on the 20th & trying to find a nice resort to dine for the day and Pete’s new crew member arriving in 2 days made the decision to move an easy one.
We will return in a few weeks time…

So that’s it for Episode 31 of the Hog Blog.
It’s been one super jam packed episode!

This Episode was supposed to be about Lembeh and we cannot believe we completely filled an entire blog between Sangihe and Lembeh.

So future plans for Episode 32 are to explore the area around the NE tip of Sulawesi.
To the west is Manado, The Bunaken Marine Park with world class diving and some fantastic land based national parks with all sorts of unusual creatures.
Here on the eastern side is the world famous Lembeh Straights with over 60 of the best macro/muck dives on the planet.
And there is alot in between….
Either way we will be in the local area until the New Year.

Cheers and Sore Ears
Paul and Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei.

As you can see we have started to label our macro pictures with the names of the animals.
Whilst some of them have different names depending on who you talk to and what reference book you read, we choose to use the books listed below as our references.
Whilst we have many books on the underwater world, we find these the most comprehensive with accurate information and actual photographs of the animals for easy ID.

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