Have been suffering the proverbial ‘writers’ block’ recently; can’t marshall my creativity into a firm direction. A bit depressing really. The SG50 celebrations did nothing to raise my spirits as it was mainly a wash out – the highlight of the weekend being England winning the Ashes in spectacular fashion.
So it is with great relief that we leave for a long weekend to dive back in Bunaken with our friends the Bensons. They have just returned from several weeks in England and are both nursing various ailments, so I hope that it won’t be a wasted journey for them!
Everything goes smoothly and we are picked up at Manado airport and navigated through a bustling, hot and dirty Manado to the harbour, now aspiring to be an up-market marina, following the opening of their high tech bridge which has taken 13 years to span a not so large area of water! Surprisingly built by Singaporeans – but we are in Indonesia.
Bunaken is a beautiful spot, nestling underneath a perfect volcanic cone on a nearby island, and with at least three other volcanoes in sight. Living Colours, our resort, has 10 villas set up a hill up some 60 odd steep steps; on the waterfront there is a bar, aptly named the Safety Stop, where the bar tender Yandry mixes a mean vodka lime soda, and the dive centre.
The next day we all jump aboard the dive boat and head out to sea. John and Christina seem recovered and keen to take their refresher dive course. It’s the 70th anniversary of Indonesia independence this weekend and the resort is busy with boats, but we manage to find dive sites that are uncrowded and even when we dive Bunaken’s most famous wall, Lekuan 2, we manage to avoid all the other groups by zigzagging up, finding sharks sleeping in caves and the tiny marine life that flourishes here like the weeny coral and orangutan crabs and hairy squat lobsters.
Worryingly though my hip aches like mad on every dive. I am not sure whether it simply doesn’t like the pressure or whether my rather languid finning is putting too much stress on it. Out of the water the problem diminishes. A massage helps ease the stiffness. However, our next year is packed full of diving trips to take advantage of where we are…so I am concerned.
The two days pass quickly in convivial company – what I really like about coming to small and relatively inexpensive dive ‘resorts’ like this are the other travellers you meet. They always have stories to tell of places they have been and inspire me with ideas for the next trip. Here we met a lovely HK Chinese woman brought up in Britain where her parents started a Chinese take-away in Somerset. From such humble beginnings she managed to get into Oxford and is now working for the World Bank in Jakarta.
Then there was the deputy head from an Academy school in Hackney, holidaying before starting a sabbatical to look at the six most successful education systems in in the world, Korea, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan, to see what we can borrow without turning our children into automatons via rote learning and homework. His school – one of the most successful Academies in Britain – has a completely different blueprint for education, based on a combination of strong discipline, leadership and pedagogy (meaningful learning).
Plus a British pilot with Garuda, his American wife and son visiting from the USA, based in Makassar; and an American former Peace Corps teacher who had lived in Indonesia and is now in Seoul. And, of course, the ubiquitous Germans…but it is a happy houseful of guests.
Sadly two days diving is all too short, and I longed to stay and chill a little bit longer – perhaps find my mojo.
So now back and looking forward to our next expedition – birdwatching in Bukit Fraser, Malaysia, staying in a dry guesthouse!
For more underwater photographs check out Ross’s website.