my journey to health and well being via exotic destinations

Muck-raking in Sulawesi!

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thorny seahorse

Thorny sea-horse

Another attention-grabbing headline!


View from the balcony of our little villa, across the strait to Lembeh island

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.

Sunset on our first night

Sunset on our first night

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.

Pink hibiscus

Pink hibiscus

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…

One of the many churches we passed on our way from Manado, there's one every 50 yards!

One of the many churches we passed on our way from Manado

And another...

And another…

And another!

And another!

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.

It's mucky down there - clad in new wet suit!

It’s mucky down there – clad in new wet suit! Look at all the stuff floating around in the water…

this is a hairy squat lobster - only  1 cm long!

This is a hairy squat lobster – only 1 cm long!

Orangutang crab also only 1 cm or so

Orangutang crab also only 1 cm or so

Ornate ghost pipe fish

Ornate ghost pipe fish

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.

mandarin fish

Mandarin fish – rare & very pretty

Ceratosoma tenue nudibranch

Ceratosoma tenue nudibranch

Juvenile boxfish

Juvenile boxfish

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.

Our room, with swans in welcoming pose

Our room, with swans in welcoming pose

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.

My coconut octopus!

My coconut octopus!

The  very special zebra bat fish

The very special zebra bat fish

So, sorry, Bruce, we loved your hotel and its tranquil location, but we think we’ll stick to reef and wall diving in future!

View form my balcony

View from our balcony

Needless to say Ross took all the fishy photos…

Author: vickyunwin

I am a writer and traveller. Our darling daughter Louise died on 2 March 2011, aged 21 ( and I started writing as therapy. We never know how long we have on this earth, so I live for every November 2013 I was diagnosed and operated on for a malignant soft tissue sarcoma in the calf, followed by 6.5 weeks of radiotherapy, so am embarking on a different kind of journey which you can follow here. I also have another site with my blueprint for health and well-being.

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