Thursday, 11 December 2014

Episode 32 Indonesia - The Lembeh Straights

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

At the end of Episode 31 we had transited south to the north-eastern tip of Sulawesi and had just arrived at The Lembeh Straights.

This Episode (32) has been posted only 3 weeks after Episode 31.
If you missed Episode 31 (The one with Volcanos and Earthquakes...)
then here is the link:

This Episode (32) is a little different from all the others we have posted.
Usually one of our blog posts spans a month or more in time and generally we cover a larger area onboard Lorelei and exploring as we go.
Not this blog post!!!
It is all about The Lembeh Straights on the NE tip of Sulawesi.
Lorelei moved a total of 2nm during this episode and apart from a few land
based sorties and resort visits, we just dived, dived, dived…..

Sorry if this bores you but when you are in the world’s best location for muck diving – you make the most of it – and we certainly did just that!!!

The Lembeh Straights

The Lembeh Straights is a busy waterway on the NE tip of Sulawesi.
It is less than a mile across at its widest point approx 4nm in length.

Google up “Lembeh Straights” and up pops pages and pages of information about the local dive resorts.
Change from web to images and the screen is covered in 100’s of amazing photos of some very unusual underwater critters.
That’s because The Lembeh Straights is regarded as the best underwater muck diving in the world.
What the hell is “Muck Diving” you might say?

Muck diving has a pretty broad series of meanings but generally Muck Diving refers to scuba diving on a silty or sandy bottom (and best on black sand) and searching for small critters along it and the unusual substrates of scattered rubble, fallen logs & trees, man- made garbage and weed.
The best areas in this tropical region are in bays with a small township and fresh water run-off. A mild current also helps.
The visibility is sometimes silty and usually a lot less than diving on a healthy coral reef.

Muck diving was first discovered in Milne Bay in PNG in the 1980’s and since then it’s popularity has boomed, particularly with experienced divers and photographers.
The Underwater Macro Photography facebook group has well over 30 000 members with hundreds of magnificent photos being posted each week.

With volcanic areas and black sand being known as very good locations, The Ring-of-Fire area in SE Asia has boomed for muck diving and The Philippines, Borneo/Malaysia and Indonesia are regarded as the top areas in the world.
Currently the best locations are Lembeh, Ambon & Bali in Indonesia,  Anilao, Dauin & Dumegete in the Philippines and Mabul & Kapalai in Sabah,Malaysia.

The unusual critters are generally small and range from 40cm down to less than a few mm’s – hence why photographers use macro lenses.
Of the “Top 100” underwater macro critters list, Lembeh would generally have about 85% of them.

With over 60 dive sites and 15 dive resorts to choose from, it certainly has become a popular international diving location.

For sure muck diving is not for everyone but for experienced divers it certainly provides a great opportunity to dive and photograph something different from the worlds stunning coral reefs and WW2 wreck locations that are all so popular.
Whilst some experienced divers arrive here with some pretty serious camera gear, the reality is for the average diver with a standard “point & shoot” camera with internal flash, they can get some great up close shots of slow moving critters and leave with more satisfaction than trying to get great photos of large coral reef scenes and large fast moving fish that really requires some serious lighting and a good wide angle lens.

For divers who are ticking a lot of the other locations and want something different, they need to experience it at least once. Careful it’s addictive!!!!
And we love it…..

The Dive Sites of The Lembeh Straights

Diving Lembeh – Week 1
Lisa had done A LOT of research on the area and after many hours of study had a pretty good grasp on the dive site locations and what critters were highlights at each place.
With over 60 dive sites it made for a hell of a spreadsheet!
She also had a large list of critters that we wished to see and photograph.
Our thoughts were that if we could see half the list ourselves we would be happy.
For the extra special things we did not see but really wanted to, we would approach one of the dive resorts and dive with an experienced guide to help us locate them.

The plan for Week 1 was to simply take ourselves off diving. We tried to vary it up a bit by doing a black sand/rubble dive on one dive then a coral reef or wall dive for the next. Lisa used a 60mm macro and Paul took his 60mm with Lisa’s 1.4x convertor effectively making it an 85mm macro lens.

Dive 1 – Magic Crack

Magic Crack was right next to Lorelei’s 1st anchorage so we simply dived next to the boat. It wasn’t a super wow factor dive but a good start.
One man's trash is a little fishes treasure.....
Shorthead Fangblenny

Nudibranch – Reticulated Chromodoris

Upside Down Jellyfish & Jellyfish Carry Crab.

Nudibranch – Ocellated Phyllidia

Banggai Cardinal Fish which is endemic to this region.

Oranged-Edged Sapsucking Slug

Shortfin Lionfish

Fimbriated Moray Eel

Kai Sole

Nudibranch – Anna’s Chromodoris

Nov 20th – Lisa’s Birthday

On the day before Lisa’s birthday, Pete had a new crew member arrive.
Julie is from England and is an experienced yachtswoman and a diver. For diving it was perfect as we now could dive in 2 x buddy pairs.

Lisa slept in for her birthday while Paul made her a cooked brekkie before we took off to a dive site of her choice (she chooses every site  - but anyway…) “Nudi Retreat”. She just loves Nudibranchs so it was the logical choice.

Dive 2 – Nudi Retreat

Nudi Retreat as the name suggests is a popular Nudibranch site.
It is a coral reef interspaced with sand patches and has a wall teaming with colour that goes quite deep.

Nudibranch - Unknown

Nudibranch – Creamy Chromodoris

Longnose Hawkfish

Painted Spiny Lobster

Nudibranch – Willian’s Chromodoris

Banggai Cardinal Fish which is endemic to this region.

Ridged Egg Cowrie

After the dive we changed and took off in Super Dink in search of a resort where we could enjoy lunch.
We didn’t have to go far! Just across from our anchorage was the Kungkungan Bay resort that looked fantastic with a large over-the-water restaurant.
The place was awesome, the staff great, the menu fantastic and very cheap.
It was the start of regular sorties there for lunch or dinner.

Dive 3 – TK2

The next day it was back to the “2 dives a day” routine.
TK2 was our first black sand dive in Lembeh. We simply parked our RIB in 3m depth on the sand just off the beach and descended down the sloping black sand. The amount of unusual critters on the sand was just amazing and we did a 105 minute dive.

L: Nudibranch – Tryon’s Risbecia    R: Six-:Lined Soapfish

Black Saddle Snake Eel

Raggy Scorpionfish

Urchin Carry Crab

Unknown Pipefish

Goldbar Sand Diver

Spiny Devilfish

Juvenile Shortnose Box Fish

Strapweed Filefish
Orange & Black Dragonet

Juvenile Peacock Razorfish

Dive 4 – Batu Sander

Batu Sander was our first dive on the Lembeh Island side of the straights.
We found a few pairs of mating Nudibranchs which was cool.

Large Whip Goby

Nudibranch – Streaked Chromodoris

Tasseled Scorpionfish

L: Nudibranch – Mating Unknown Nembrotha’s
  R: Nudibranch – Chamberlain’s Nembrotha

Nudibranch – Chamberlain’s Nembrotha

Dive 5 – Critter Hunt

Critter Hunt is one of the most well known dives in the area. It is located in the centre of the straights behind a series of small islands (and Lorelei’s anchorage). We saw our first Lembeh Frogfish and a Moray Eel being cleaned by cleaner shrimp which made for a good photo op.

Nudibranch – Tryon's Risbecia

 Soft Coral Ghost Goby

Warty Frogfish

Fimbriated Moray Eel being cleaned. Note the cleaner shrimp on its face.

L: Rigid Shrimpfish   R: Male Adult Ribbon Eel

Warty Frogfish

Dive 6 – Nudi Falls

Nudi Falls was only 150m from Lorelei’s anchorage and is against a small cliff face with overhanging trees. The dive boats use mooring lines hanging down from the tree branches and sit parallel to the wall. It  proved to be a very popular dive and we watched many boats arrive to dive it each day and night . It was so good that we did it as a late arvo dive and then again the next morning.

Crinoid Cuttlefish

Giant Frogfish

 Nudibranch – Redline Flabellina

Criniod Cuttlefish

L: Banded Coral Shrimp 
R: Stop flashing those damn strobes in my eyes!!!

Dive 7 – Nudi Falls - Take 2

The next morning’s 8am dive….
We found a second Giant Frogfish near the first one that we photographed the day before. Can’t believe that we didn’t see it on the first dive…

2 different Giant Frogfish 10m apart

Giant Frogfish

Nudibranch – Girdled Glossodoris

Nudibranch – Elisabeth’s Chromodoris

L: Nudibranch – Gloomy Tambja 
R: Nudibranch – Kubaryana’s Nembrotha

Spider Squat Lobster

Nudibranch – Loch’s Chromodoris

Peacock Mantis Shrimp - Red Colour Variation

Peacock Mantis Shrimp - Red Colour Variation

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Nudibranch – Diana’s Chromodoris

Shipping, Shipping and more Shipping…

What the dive resort brochures don’t show you is that The Lembeh Straights is a major shipping hub with the city of Bitung being centrally located within the straights.
Travel less than a mile south past the resorts and there is a massive hub of maritime activity.
At any one time there are scores of medium sized container/cargo vessels anchored and literally hundreds of fishing boats ranging from modern longliners to seedy old rusted hulks barely afloat – with the majority being closer to the latter.
There are many wharves with boats rafted-up 6 deep and a lot of very large slipways and refit/repair locations.
At any hour of the day or night you can see welding sparks coming from the port.

Above and below – commercial vessels as far as you could see…

A traditional Indonesian/Filipino Fishing Boat. It acts as a mothership out at sea with the men going out on the tiny single-man boats pulled up upon the outer sponsons when the mothership is underway.

A more modern approach to fishing – a large fleet of Longliners

The massive slipway and re-fit facilities

We just could not work out how they got those massive ships high and dry and blocked up so far above sea level – and how they are going to get them back into the water….

There where loads of very big un-powered barges anchored in the straights

With all this industry comes a large town, Bitung  – and an old, smelly and seedy one at that.
With the town comes population and with that – rubbish!
The entire straight is filled with rubbish, both natural and man-made but much more plastic and off-cut milled timber than anything else.
It’s just terrible and it is on the surface, mid water and on the bottom.
Driving around in the RIB’s is a real challenge and we often hit something and many times had to stop with plastic bags around the leg, prop or covering the saltwater intake causing the engine to overheat.
Quite often we surfaced from a dive with a raft of plastic floating all around the RIB.
But with Bitung being the only source of re-provisioning, we had no choice but to brave it and go and explore.
Initially we never left the RIB’s at the wharves, instead leaving one person to stay with the yachts and run the rest of us into town and back.

Check out the boats at the main wharf. No wonder we struggled getting our RIB safely tied up while we went ashore

Paul bringing Super Dink into the wharf to pick up Lisa, Pete and Julie.
It was certainly a tight squeeze

The view from the wharf looking back out – boats galore…

The markets were certainly plentiful with a lot of variety of fresh food but had a terrible smell and the floors were filthy.
We would go in, get what we need and get out ASAP.
Having said all that, the people are always smiling, happy and very friendly to us, waving friendly hellos and calling out “Hey Mister”
(even to Lisa…)
A few people tried to rip us off with overinflated prices but after a few trips we soon worked out who the honest stall owners were and simply elected to deal with them. It worked a treat and soon they got to know us and after returning home we would always find a few extra treats that had been slipped in for free.

Dive 8 – Serena West

Serena West was also very close to Lorelei’s anchorage and less than 100m away.
On the rubble bottom at 20m we were very excited to see an unusual Sea Horse and loads of small Mantis Shrimp running around.

Unknown Seahorse

Nudibranch – Bullock’s Hypselodoris

Highfin Fangblenny
Pink-Eared Mantis Shrimp

Unknown Seahorse

Devil Scorpionfish

Dive 9 – Batu Kubar

We had a map of Batu Kubar but it had no mooring buoy so we looked around in the shallows and quickly found some concrete mooring blocks and threw the anchor down between them.
Near the blocks we found a family of Solar Powered Nudibranchs which were a first for us.
They were high on Lisa’s must see list and she was very excited to find them.

Nudibranch – Solar Powered Phyllodesmium

Nudibranch – Solar Powered Phyllodesmium
Nudibranch – Solar Powered Phyllodesmium
Barred-Fin Moray Eel

Juvenile Barramundi Cod

Dive 10 – Air Bajeo

Air Bajeo was an awesome dive for us and was a black sand dive in a bay on Lembeh Island.
We saw 3 new things - a Black Ornate Ghost Pipefish, an Orange Frogfish and a large White-V Octopus.

White-V Octopus

Painted Frogfish – Orange Variation

Ornate Ghost Pipefish – Male Variation


Nudibranch – Unknown – Possibly Milne Bay Discodoris (on a holiday…)

Snowflake Moray Eel

Reptilian Snake Eel

Wicked Mantis Shrimp

White-V Octopus

Ornate Ghost Pipefish – Male Variation

Juvenile Blackbarred Razorfish
Painted Frogfish – Orange Variation

Diving Lembeh – Week 2
After the first week of diving, we had ticked many things off the
“Must See” list and were still going strong. We felt we were doing well and after talking to the very friendly local dive boat skippers and guides, we were seeing most of the things they were showing their guests.
Lisa had compiled a what’s left to see and dive location list and we were crossing them off as we went.

So we just continued on the way we were, happier that we were doing it on our own (and a heck of a lot cheaper…..)

Dive 11 – Serena Point

The one thing that was the top of our list was Blue Ring Octopus.
These deadly little creatures are hard to find but come to Lembeh to mate for the month of November. After mating the larger female eats the smaller male and then leaves the area which accounts for the massive decline. By December they are all but gone.

We had read reports of people coming here for years and not seeing them.
By dive 10 it was the 27th Nov and we still had not seen one but we continued to dive the areas where there were past sightings.

Pete had decided to skip the dive and we took Julie in our RIB.
We moored up at Serina Point at 4pm on the 28th with a howling surface current but braved it and dived anyway.
Not only did we see a few Blue Rings but we even watched two court and mate. It was awesome and certainly a Lembeh highlight for the 3 of us.

Blue Ringed Octopus

Blue Ringed Octopus

Mating Blue Ringed Octopus

Mating Blue Ringed Octopus

Peacock Mantis Shrimp - Green Colour Variation

Nudibranch – Siboga Glossodoris

Peacock-Tail Anemone Shrimp

Exploring The Straights

In between all the industry there are pockets of fun things to do aside from diving in the straights.
We would take the RIB and go for little sorties exploring the coastline and  small islands.

The white cliffs along Lembeh Island

Just one of the many small townships on Lembeh Island

Not sure what this building is but the aeroplane probably indicates it’s a Museum

A little pocket of paradise – 2 Fish Resort

Wow, this was like being back in Palau -
 an arch that Pete just had to drive through.

Dive 12 – Hairball 1

Hairball is one of the best black sand dives in Lembeh.
We saw Hairy Frogfish, 3 Species of Waspfish and Ambon Scorpionfish which were all a first for us amongst many other interesting critters.

Striated Frogfish  - note the small lure on his antennae that it
dangles in front of his head to attract fish to eat. 

Ambon Scorpionfish

Painted Scorpionfish

Raggy Scorpionfish

Spiny Devilfish - Red Variation
Short-Tailed Pipefish

Ambon Scorpionfish

L: Coconut Octopus  R: Sea Pen

Stargazer Snake Eel

Napoleon Snake Eel

Shuttlecock Spindle Cowrie

Emperor Shrimp

Emperor Shrimp

Striated Frogfish – Hairy Variation
Photo of its head and Lure

Juvenile Giant Sweetlip
Striated Frogfish

Cockatoo Waspfish
Widebarred Goby

 Spiny Waspfish
Two Spiny Devilfish

After looking at our photos of the dive we were a little disappointed in our frogfish photos.
We had correct focus and exposure but not the composition and lighting/strobe positions which made for a lack of contrast in many of the pics with the camouflaged backgrounds.
We had great subjects but were not getting those super Wow factor shots we wanted.
So it was back to the books and internet for tips on macro strobe placement on things like the hairy frogfish.
Camera position also needed to have a few tweaks too.

Dive 13 – Jahir

Well our camera changes worked a treat and we were able to get some better shots at Jahir, particularly of the Hairy Frogfish.
Paul took one shot that we put on facebook and he thinks it’s one of the best he has ever taken.
It was a huge breakthrough and we started to pursue other subjects using the same format . Some wins – some loses, but hey, that’s photography…

Striated Frogfish
One of Paul ‘s favourite all time photos and certainly his best from Lembeh

Upside Down Jellyfish

Devil Scorpionfish

Striated Frogfish – Hairy Variation

Spotted Burrfish

Bluestripe Pipefish

Juvenile Coconut Octopus

WhiteFace Waspfish

Brilliant Flatworm

Dive 14 – Makawide

We had a dive map and info from the internet on Makawide, a black sand slope dive.
When we jumped in it was a series of amazing colourful bommies on a white sand slope with a flat soft coral field at 25m.
Either we had the wrong spot or the internet info is completely wrong…

Nudibranch – Undescribed Arminid

Nudibranch – Geometric Chromodoris

Nudibranch – Desirable Flabellina

Nudibranch – Red-Lined Jorunna

Striped Catfish

Striped Fangblenny

Kungkangan Bay Resort Bar

One night we took off with Pete into the resort and the 3 of us headed up to the cocktail bar for drinks. It was a beautiful outlook and the staff let us stay up there for dinner and brought our meals up to us instead of going downstairs to the restaurant.
Paul took some great time exposure photos with the tripod.

 A Ship travelling through the channel next to the Resort

Dive 15 – Angel’s Window

The night before, we saw some photos from one of the resort guests from the Angel’s Window dive site which was further to the north. He had modest photos but they clearly showed a pink frogfish and a black one & white one in the same photo. We hadn’t seen pink or black ones in Lembeh so we headed up to check the area out.
35 minutes into the dive a storm from the north hit and we could look up from around the pinnacle to see the RIB’s getting slammed by the waves and pulling up hard on the mooring.
So we aborted at 45 minutes and got a wild downwind ride home back to the yachts.
We did not see the frogfish….

Orangutan Crab

Nudibranch - Funeral Jorunna

Dive 16 – Air Prang 2

After the wild morning’s dive, we chose a calmer bay for the arvo dive.
When we got there, we found the “Pain in the A**” dive liveaboard
(from the end of Episode 31) anchored in the bay.
We (along with all the other resort dive boats) just ignored them and went diving.
We linked up with a guide at 15m who showed us our first ever Flamboyant Cuttlefish and in return we showed him and his guests an Ornate Ghost Pipefish and a very small (8mm long) Orange Frogfish.
Everybody was all smiles…

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Ornate Ghost Pipefish – Female

Juvenile Painted Frogfish – less than 10mm long

Ambon Scorpionfish

Nudibranch – Pitted Ceratosoma

Nudibranch – Blue Dragon

Juvenile Painted Frogfish

Nudibranch – Gold and Purple Chromodoris
Decorator Crab

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Ambon Scorpionfish

Helmut Gurnard

 Kai Sole

Nudibranch – Undescribed Mexichromis

Exploring Bitung Part 2

Pete had done a bit of a sortie and found a safe place to leave the RIB’s while we went ashore. It was a few miles north of the city at the maritime training academy.
We could safely tie to a rescue pod that was on the wharf.

One day when we went in, training was underway and Paul was very interested as it was similar to the marine and fire fighting courses he has done in Australia.

The academy also has a large boat building section and many projects both new and refits were underway.

The easiest way to get around is by motorbike but we felt a little uneasy and unsafe riding around without a helmet. The other issue was the law and we nearly came unstuck going from the academy into town as we went past the police who were out on the main road checking for helmets.
So we went and brought one each. We lashed out and got 2 top-end ones with all the bells and whistles. And the cost – less than A$32 each…..

The other really good thing about walking around town carrying a helmet is you appear as a local rather than a tourist and with our language (particularly greetings) getting a lot better, we don’t get hassled anymore for all the tourist traps, etc.

The Eiffel Tower look-alike monument in the centre of the main street.
Note the top is an anchor for the marine based town.

We had to get our Visa renewed (as you do every 30 days…) and we were dreading doing this but surprisingly it was no hassles, done in 48 hours, the staff were fantastic and we did not pay any bribes.
We get called “Hey Mister” everywhere we go (even Lisa) and now we know why. Even the Immigration Office promotes it….

All through town and along the wharf there are a huge amount of fireworks for sale. We found a shop in the main street packed with a large variety of fireworks. They were very cheap but there were some massive ones for over A$300 each that you just light and sit back and watch the near professional quality light show.
Being only 3 weeks from New Years Eve, we lashed out and got a few.
So New Years this year is gunna be a cracker….
It’s a near nightly occurrence that we can go upstairs and watch a display along the shoreline somewhere.

The boxes on the left are just one firework.
Just light the single wick off it goes...

A very tired Lisa after a big day in Bitung...
No points for guessing what the ones in the red box will do....
Dive 17 – TK2

We woke to a windy and overcast day and dived a protected bay and black sand beach known as TK2. For a 110 minutes bottom time, we didn’t see a lot – just the occasional interesting thing.
We did get some good photos though.

Small Fire Worm

Some funny shots of the same pesky Anemonefish

Juvenile Shortfin Lionfish

Devil Scorpionfish??

Spiny Devilfish

Reptilian Snake Eel

This Trumpetfish was just sooo friendly and kept hanging around Paul’s camera.
It would swim in front of the lens, around the arms and even between the camera and sync cord. After 3 minutes of hanging around even while Paul was swimming along, Lisa came over and took this shot.

Network Pipefish

Nudibranch – Gloomy Tambja

Dive 18 – Air Prang 1

After having such a great arvo dive at Air Prang 2 the day before, we moved 100m south and did Air Prang 1 the next afternoon.
We rolled in and on the bottom directly below us was a large yellow Seahorse. What a great start!

Common Seahorse- Female

L: Common Seahorse - Female  R: Squat Lobster

For nearly all of the dives, Lisa had been searching though the Crinoids for Crinoid Shrimp and Crabs. Paul after looking a few times on the earlier dives found nothing, lost interest and gave up.
Lisa had found many shrimps but they were always deep inside the Crinoids and virtually impossible to photograph.
At the end of this dive she surfaced grinning like a Cheshire Cat!
She had found both in one dive and got some amazing photos as well.

Elegant Crinoid Squat Lobster

Elegant Crinoid Squat Lobsters

Twin-Stripe Crinoid Shrimp

Golden Fire Worm

Indonesian Sweetlip

Blacksaddle Snake Eel being cleaned
by a Magnificent Anemone Shrimp

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Nudibranch – Beautiful Hypselodoris

Nudibranch – Colourful Hypselodoris

Saddled Snake Eel

Nudibranch – Leopard Chromodoris

Farewell to Downtime and Julie

On the 4th Dec we said a sad farewell to Downtime and to Julie.
48 hours prior a new crewmember for Downtime had arrived.
Sadly it changed the whole dynamics of the group and all our future plans.
Julie left and made her way to Australia. We had done 16 great dives with her, spent some fun times ashore reprovisioning at the local markets and shared in Lisa’s birthday celebrations.
We also said goodbye to Pete as we had decided to do our own thing.
It was a very sad day for all but with new plans brings new adventures and hopefully fun times for all – wherever they may be.

We continued to dive over the weekend but had started to make plans to reprovision, refuel and leave The Lembeh Straights.

Being on our own we were not able to do drift diving so that effectively ruled out going around to Manado and the Bunaken Marine Park.
This area is a no-anchoring zone and predominately wall drift diving so we thought it prudent to change our plans and give it a miss.
It turned out to be the right decision anyway as we had pretty much constant N winds which was onshore along the very open and exposed Manado coastline.

Dive 19 – Hairball 2

We survived a wild and windy night which got us up many times to go out and check we were all ok.
It was gusting up to 20 knots….guess we HAVE been near the equator for far too long. 20 knots seems like a tempest... back at home we wouldn’t have even stirred!
We slept in until 8:30am (usually we leave to go diving at 8am) and had a late start and a lazy 10am dive that lasted for just short of 2 hours.

Thin Ghost Pipefish

Twin-Stripe Crinoid Shrimp

Variable Fire Urchin

Thin Ghost Pipefish

Nudibranch – Marie’s Mexichromis

Squat Lobster (only 5mm long) on a Coconut

Urchin Carry Crab

Juvenile Brown-Banded Bamboo Shark.
The only shark we saw in Lembeh…

Dive 20 – Nudi Retreat Night Dive

Finally after 20 dives, Lisa had conned Paul into doing a night dive. Paul does not like them all that much, but Lisa just loves them…
It turned into a loooong 2 hour but very fun dive and we saw lots of unusual shrimps and crabs.
Right at the end Lisa was chased by a very irate Moray Eel.
Her photo of it chasing her is fantastic.

A very angry Fimbriated Moray Eel that chased Lisa…

 Unknown Crab found in a Crinoid

Nudibranch – Redline Flabellina

Long Nose Rock Shrimp

L: Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp 
R: Elegant Crinoid Squat Lobster – Brown Variation

Reticulated Hinge-Beak Shrimp

Striped Catfish

White-Margined Moray Eel
Helmut Gurnard

Decorator Crab

Dive 21 – Nudi Retreat

Now that we were planning on leaving, we had about 5 dives left so we started to dive sites that we knew were more popular for the critters we still wanted to see.
We had heard that Nudi Retreat had Pygmy Seahorses on the Gorgonian Fans at depth but after looking until we went into deco, we could not find any. Strike one…..

Nudibranch – Diana’s Chromodoris

Crocodile Flathead – Black Phase

A pair of Large Whip Gobies.
Note the eggs they are guarding on the Coral Branch

Large Whip Goby and Eggs

Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp

Sea Cucumber Swimming Crab

Dive 22 – Pantai Parigi

In the arvo we dived a dive site that was not on our map. Every day when we passed the area it had dive boats on it so we figured it must be a good site… so we dived it.
It was 4pm, the weather overcast, the viz crap and it was more like an eerie night dive. We had to dive with lights turned on for the whole time.
Lisa was on fire though with her critter hunting and she found lots of things including a few newbies.

Arrowhead Crab that has attached Halimeda Algae to its rostrum

Mombasa Lionfish

Fingered Drangonet

Juvenile Highfin Grouper

Orangutan Crab

Unknown Crab on a Starfish

Robust Ghost Pipefish

Dive 23 – Critterhunt – Take 2

Critter Hunt is supposed to be one of the top dives but the first time we dived it we did not see so much so we thought we would give it another crack and concentrate on a different area. It paid off as we found some great things in a shallower area than before.

A well camouflaged Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Nudibranch – Tryon’s Risbecia

Margarita Egg Cowrie

Squat Lobster – only 5mm long

Blue Ribbon Eel – Adult Male

Nudibranch – Batangas Halgerda

Nudibranch – Geometric Chromodoris

Ringed Pipefish

Juvenile Bicolour Parrotfish

Large Whip Coral Goby

After 3 weeks at Lembeh we were getting itchy feet and decided we wanted to get going to somewhere new.
We had made 23 dives and while we planned to do some more, we felt we were just diving for the sake of it and it was getting a little repetitive.
We were doing 90+ minutes underwater each dive and a day’s double dives was the same time underwater as doing 3 dives with a guide/resort.
We had gone from taking 125-150 photos per dive each on the first dives to less than 40 on the last dives.
We were just not seeing anything new.

We had an awesome time and were proud to have spotted so many new critters without the need of a professional guide.
(You’d think after 3500+ dives though we should have a general idea what we are doing and what to look for….)

Initially we were a little disappointed at the lack of Octopus we had seen.
We didn’t get to see a Wonderpus, Mimic or Hairy which were all up there towards the top of the list.

Lisa pointed out though that it’s nice to have something to hunt for further down the track. We plan to be diving at most of the macro hotspots in SE Asia in the next 2 years so we will hopefully see them then.

The one thing at the top of every macro photographers list is the Rhinopias or Lacy Scorpionfish. After talking to many dive guides we found out that there are virtually none in Lembeh at the present time with only one very small 10cm one discovered at one of the southern most dive sites in the last few months.
Fortunately we have also seen these in many colour variations in Australia and the Coral Sea.

So that’s it for Episode 32 of THE HOG BLOG.

Have a safe, fun and festive Christmas and New Years everybody and we will too.
We’ll post another exciting Episode from somewhere in Indonesia in 2015.

Chrissy Cheers!!!
Paul and Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei

No blog is complete without one Sunset Photo……

From our anchorage looking back towards Bitung

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