Another attention-grabbing headline!
Here we are in Black Sands Divers Retreat, Lembeh, after a four day introduction to muck diving. We have met so many sensible and adventurous divers who have raved about it that we thought we should give it a go, so booked ourselves here, the muck-diving paradise.
Lembeh is in NE Sulawesi, nestled underneath a perfect volcanic cone and surrounded by densely-wooded tropical forest, palm trees and luscious flowering plants – baby pink hibiscus, ginger, multi-coloured bougainvillea and flame trees. The Lembeh strait is rich with fertile volcanic rainwater run-off (it is in the rain shadow) and consequently receives nourishing nutrients which makes the local species bigger and better than anywhere else. So we are told.
It is also in Indonesia’s most densely populated Christian area, bristling with Churches, which the government is doing its best to dilute with Javanese and other Moslem immigrants. It’s not just a European problem! On our 1.5 hour drive from Manado, there’s a church every 50 yards or so; I snapped a few from the car as we trundled past…
Muck diving is what it says on the tin: fossicking around in black volcanic sand and rubble, looking for prehistoric critters, some almost invisible to the naked eye – and certainly to my blind ones: nudibranchs, seahorses, ugly-mug frog fish, moth fish (have wings that look like moths), flying gurnards, scorpion fish (no oil paintings either), redeemed by my favourite anemone (clown) fish, although the ones here are aggressive and attack me on several occasions. Check Ross’s website for professional fishy photos.
We have some fun with a pair of ramoras (sucker fish) that think we are sharks – or whales more like – and try to attach themselves to our wetsuits. One rides Ross’s tank for 40 minutes, stuck on for dear life – he oblivious to the fact.
We are lucky: we have the lovely Black Sands resort to ourselves, along with another delightful couple, David and Eileen, inveterate travellers, who have escaped from Mexico to spend six months island-hopping the Indonesia/Malay archipelago. They are good company and stiffen our resolve to do the same – perhaps not for so long – when Ross finishes in Singapore. There is so much to see and do here.
There’s not much to say about muck diving really, except that it’s not for me! I miss the explosions of colour of a really good reef, such as we had in Raja Ampat, and the profusion of tropical fish, shoaling and enjoying their little lives as they dart in and out of gorgeous gorgonians, swaying sponges and soft corals. Of course there is the joy of discovery when your clever guide finds a teeny-tiny little thing and I can get close enough to see what it might be, or even my own moment of glory when I find a coconut octopus buried in the sand, although Roby the guide had to coax him out for us.
So, sorry, Bruce, we loved your hotel and its tranquil location, but we think we’ll stick to reef and wall diving in future!
Needless to say Ross took all the fishy photos…