The Dugongs

Author: Alexandra Sutopo
Trip report on Diving Manado 2003

 

The Arrival Of The Dugongs On May 11th, 2003

After a long night without sleep due to working late at the office and packing our diving gears, I and Yoni headed to the airport at 05:00 sharp. After getting our boarding passes at Lion Air counter, we met up with Oka who would be flying Garuda Indonesia. Three of us fondly called ourselves The Dugongs, lovely sea creatures once believed to be a reincarnation of mermaids.

A surprise was on our way; our plane could not land at Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado due to bad weather. Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia had to fly back to Makassar waiting for the weather above Manado to improve. Finally the dugongs arrived at Sam Ratulangi Airport, Manado at 17:30. The drive to Tasik Ria Resort was not a really enjoyable one, we were starving and the condition of the road was not helping either.

After checking in at the hotel, we met with some of the KSDC members and founders who were enjoying their time at the pool bar. We kindly introduced ourselves to them since we had not met some of them before.

Dinner time! Finally, after being starved for too long, we could attack the dinner buffet. We sat with other members of KSDC at a long table specially prepared for us. We started chatting with a courteous conversation by telling them the story of the plane ride. It dragged on to some other interesting subjects which unintentionally ended up dividing the table into 2 sections, the sane section and insane section. After discussing the diving arrangement, they broke the news to us that we could not join them diving at Bangka Island for the next day. This was because Eco-Divers does not allow first day dive at Bangka Island.

Before entering the dream world, the dugongs were getting acquainted fine in room 624 and we were agreed to make this diving trip a fun & great holiday. We arranged the hairdo for us to look good in the morning. I volunteered to do the hair twist for the other 2 dugongs. Then we slept like babies.

Day 5

We woke up at 06:00 sharp, then we took turn in using the bathroom. I was first then Oka got in while Yoni still snored. Then after I fixed all our hair, we headed to the restaurant for breakfast.

We depart from the jetty behind Tasik Ria Resort, Manado at exactly 07:30 to Bunaken Island. The sky was clear and it was sunny. Deeker (our divemaster) showed us around Aquatica, the boat that would take us to dive sites, and explained about the rules and regulation.

On the way to Bunaken, after 15 minutes ride from Tasik Ria, we came across a family of Pilot Whales! We were so excited and somewhat stunned that we forgot to take pictures! It was then too late when we realized we had not taken any pictures, they were all gone!

The boat continued its journey to Bunaken Island. The dugongs fell asleep peacefully on top of each other inside the cabin until Deeker woke us up for the briefing. We were somewhat disoriented when we woke up and trying hard to figure out where we were and what we were doing here!

Our first dive site was Sachiko Point, Bunaken. The weather was getting cloudy. However, we were still very excited to dive considering this was our 1st dive in Bunaken, Manado. We jumped in at 10:16 and when we hit the water, SHHHIII??.it was so cold!!! The temperature was around 26?C (considered low for tropical water) with visibility of around 20 meter. When it was time to descend, we had difficulties going down. Deeker had to pull us down. The dive went fine with a maximum depth of 31.1 meter. After rendezvous with some black tip sharks, napoleon wrasse, school of fusiliers we headed for our safety stop. In total we dived for 59 minutes. Then we got up to the boat for the surface interval.

After taking a nap on the sun deck it's time for another briefing. The next dive point was the Likuan 1. We add another kilo to our weight belt then dived at 13:11. The water temperature was 27?C but the visibility worsened to 15mtr. After diving for 58 minutes we resurfaced and found ourselves far away from the boat. The sea was swelling high, we tried to stick together. However, Yoni started feeling sick, her face turned green! Finally the boat approached us. Yoni, Rolf and Ayu were the first to get onto the boat. Then when it was Oka's turn, the waves were getting rougher and higher, pretty scary because she could be smashed under this giant boat. 20 minutes later, we were all safely on board. Some of us got really seasick, we soon headed back to the hotel.

Deeker asked us whether we wanted to do the 3rd dive. Immediately, Ayu, Yoni and Oka refused the offer. Then it was only me from the KSDC who did the 3rd dive at the House Reef.

On the 3rd dive, when we were descending, we came across to a pair of giant squids which just finished laying their eggs at the buoy rope. I also saw 2 mandarin fishes, what a pleasure since before diving, I told Deeker that I really wanted to see them. We also came across a transparent flat worm which was dancing around us. Down there, it was like a garden of Horned Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus) with lots of Ghost Pipe Fish.

We spent 60 minutes underwater with maximum depth of 18 meter and visibility of 7 meter.

It was a great dive! We headed back to the hotel and met the other boat which was on its way back from Bangka Island .

During dinner, we got really excited telling the story of our 1st rough day at the sea!

Day 8

The Very Special Night Dive On May 15th, 2003

After diving in Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, we were amazed by one day of good weather that Manado offered us after all, a sunny day with warm breeze. We were so tempted to do the night dive at the house reef. At around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we saw the face of the moon, a full moon, we were so excited! So we gathered as many people as we can. In a matter of minutes a team was formed consisting of Yonatan, Tjokro, Tom, Oka, Yoni and myself. Great, six divers! We headed to the dive center to report our intention to have a night dive.

We were greeted by Cary and she told us that it would be an impossible thing to do night dive that evening. For sure we were totally confused, we did not understand, since we were told that whenever there are 4 divers, they would arrange the night dive. Cary mentioned that it had to be arranged 24hours in advance. Well, we had never been informed about that rule, and also experiencing the bad weather in Manado for the past few days, no one could ever arrange the dive that far ahead. Understanding was what we were asking. Jim stepped in and also strongly suggested to us of the impossibility! We left the dive center with burning head not knowing what to do, we tried to calm down and control our emotions.

We met our buddies at the Jetty and told them the story. After discussing it, Yonatan (go Yonatan! Use your lawyer skill) and Tom went back to the dive center trying to talk it over again with Jim and Cary, they were unsuccessful. We were so upset. We sat down near the boats with long faces. Then Daniel (the owner of the Tasik Ria Resort) passed by and asked us what happened. We told him the story. He smiled and said he would try his best to help us (cool dude!). He made some effort to discuss with Jim and Cary but still with no luck. So Daniel called the dive center next door. Unfortunately, they were ready to take off, no time for us to join in, we were back at square one.

As we were ready to drink to take away our disappointment, Oka ran and told us to get ready for the night dive. Apparently Donny (one of the divemasters) was willing to take us for the night dive and somehow he managed to discuss it to Jim & Cary together with Daniel. Cary walked fast to the Jetty with furious face and told the divemasters not to compromise with guests (especially our group!). Anyway, before they changed their mind again, we got ourselves ready with the gear. It was already dark in Manado and the lighting at Jetty area was very dim. Not a good way to be prepared for a night dive.

The deal was that we would dive that night without a boat trip, just off the jetty. We could smell a very strong diesel fuel odor. Donny told us that in the afternoon there was a leak of diesel fuel when they re-fuel the boat, poor them (the sea creatures). Anyway, we hit the fuel? I mean the water and started to swim about 10mtr to the open sea. After swimming and almost running out of breath, Donny signaled us to dive. Somehow, my subconscious thought told me that Yoni was not wearing any weight belt, but I despised my thought. So we went down at about 18:27 in the evening, and the water temperature was 27? C with visibility of only 2-3mtr. At around 2.7mtr after 1 minute dive (according to my dive computer), suddenly Tom sped up from behind trying to catch Donny. He signaled him to go up. We were so confused, however, we all swam up and started to yell at the same time, "WHAT THE H? HAPPENED?" Tom said: "Yoni ga pake weight belt!" ("Yoni is not wearing any weight belt"). She left the weight belt at the jetty. Yoni continuously apologized for her carelessness. Then Tom swam to the Jetty to pick up the belt and gave it to Yoni, "my hero! "Thank You" Yoni said. Anyway, while waiting for Yoni to get ready, we were enjoying the full moon and stars of that night. Such a romantic view! J

After Tom catching his breath again, at 18:50, Donny signaled to start the dive (again!). This time we were welcomed by a small young octopus which was crawling in the sand. Then we saw another bigger octopus inside a pipe coral. It looked funny, its eyes piping out from the hole! Then we saw some scorpion fish, some more octopus hmmm?. good for sashimi! We played around with a juvenile of Black Spotted Sweet Lips (Dakocan) and a juvenile Clown Angler Fish. After spending 63 minutes with average depth of 3.9meter, we resurfaced. We were so happy and giggling while swimming back to Jetty. Approaching the dock, we realized that our body became so slimy and slippery of the diesel fuel! We tried to wash ourselves as clean as possible at the jetty to get rid of the fuel?.uuurrrggghhhhh??

Then we called the restaurant to hold the dinner for us and we sped up for a quick shower at our room. During dinner, we told the story to other members and laughed on the story of Yoni.

Well, that night we slept with a satisfied smile on our faces. At least we did 1 night dive in Manado.

Day 9

Certainly this would be the most memorable dive for us (Lily, Farquhar, Yoni & Lala).

In the morning, we looked up the sky of Bunaken Island; well it was a bit cloudy seeing it from the jetty of Tasik Ria. But, as we have experienced from the last few days, it could get better in a matter of hour.

The Nautica boat left Tasik Ria jetty at exactly 07:30. Divemasters on board were Melky, Jimmy, Monica and Cary. The sea was calm with small waves. Because of the party we had the night before (?J?), we slept peacefully inside the boat until Melky woke us up for the briefing with a big grin on his face for knowing what happened the night before!

The 1st dive at Bunaken for that day was at Likuan 1. Even though we did our 1st day dive there, we were still excited to plunge in. The briefing was done by Cary. She reminded the divers, who were mostly underwater photographer, not to touch any coral or living things. She told us that the buddy of the photographer should keep an eye on the buoyancy, if necessary to hold him/her.

We were assigned to be with Melky J accompanied by another 2 photographer divers. We went down at 10:03 and the visibility was about 20-25 meter, calm and unnoticeable current. The water temperature was 28?C of which was the warmest dive we ever had. We went down to 28.6mtr, we wanted to go even deeper but considering that we had to fly the next day, we could not do that. It was a good 59 minutes dive. When we resurfaced, the sun was shining on the island of Bunaken. Wuauuwww, we thought that this is gonna be a nice warm day after all. We sailed to Negeri dive site, Manado Tua. Lunch was served and we were so starved, we ate almost twice as much than usual. Then we had our nap until 12:45 inside the cabin since the sun deck was full of other divers trying to catch the sun of the day.

The 2nd dive briefing was done by Monica. It was a short one. Then we went down at 13:03. The visibility was improved to about 25-30mtr, the current was peaking up just a bit, and the water temperature was 27?C. We saw many Orangutan Crabs and also Morray Eel. And the funniest thing we saw was one giant turtle just came back from the open ocean to take a nap in the wall. Yoni commented that the turtle just got back from its night out. We dived at maximum depth of 19.8 meter trying so hard not to do a deeper dive especially when we saw that turtle about 10mtr below us. After 60 minutes of dive we headed to the open sea and check our dive com. It was still another minute before we can go up. I looked up, sighed and thought "hhmmmm?it's dark up there!" So much of sunshine today! When we resurfaced, the wave was building up; the boat was quite far from us. We were rocked here and there by the swelling wave. After 10 minutes of waiting under the heavy rain, the boat finally arrived to get us out of the water. With great difficulty we managed to get onto the boat. The boat started moving to take all divers back from Manado Tua island to Tasik Ria Resort. The wind storm started to pick up. Yoni & me sat at the back (where the divemasters' gear was) to avoid being sea sick. The rain drops really hurt our faces and hands it's like being bombarded by thousand of small pebbles. We did not dare to take out our wetsuit. The sea was getting rougher; one of the divemaster was getting sea sick and started vomiting. After while of the rough ride, we felt that the boat was not moving at all, visibility was only about 5m and it was foggy and all white. We started to get scared, we pray in our heart but on the outside we joked and laughed trying to chase away the terrifying feeling of that the boat might roll over and drawn. Other divers who were in the cabin looked at us in confusion, "are these girls ok?"

Suddenly, there was a big swell, the boat started shifting sideways, that was the moment when I thought the boat was going to roll over! Then we looked at row of tanks at the right side of the boat, they started moving and limping down. Yoni was thrown of to the bench at left side and I was thrown onto the floor, and the bench on the right side fell off and made a loud "BANG" followed with hisses coming out from the tanks. Cary stepped down from the captain's deck and told us to get inside the cabin. The divemasters started to move all the dive gear from right side of the boat to the left side. While they moved things the boat crews distributed life vests to all of us. With no further comment we put on the vest. Lily was trying to sleep and Farquhar was trying so hard not to get sick, so I asked him to take a picture of yoni and me.

The boat made it to the dock but since the boat was maneuvering with only one engine (the other engine's gear box broke down), it was very hard to get into the dock which was crowded with other fisherman boats and the Aquatica. The divemasters, boat crews and the owner (Mr. Daniel) were trying to pull the boat with rope from the side and under the boat. Because of the waves, Aquatica had to go back out of the dock to make a turn and try once more to park. On the second try, the boat slightly hit the rock wall of the dock and almost hit Donny (divemaster) who tried to tie a rope at the back of the boat.

Finally, the Aquatica parked safely. Everyone applauded the captain and started to jump out of the messy boat.

Wuuaahhhh?.what an experience it was!

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