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This year’s diving holiday was planned in Indonesia. In 1984 we made an marvelous trip through Java and Bali so other parts of Indonesia were still on the program. This would nicely fit in between our winter sport holiday in January and our trip to South Africa in March.

Unfortunately, after we planned the diving holiday, it appeared to be a malaria infested area and as no 100% protection exits Birgitt definitely did not want to go with our lovely little daughter Mariska. It was a short notice holiday and at Friday we booked for the next Tuesday, for one week scuba diving in Indonesia. Saturday all elements of the trip, including the diving package were confirmed, so we picked up the documents in Amsterdam and all looked nice. A nice resort on the coast with a package of 20 dives. And free Wi-Fi internet! But Monday afternoon, so just prior the morning flight at Tuesday, I heard the news that there were no other guests in this low season period and so no diving, unless an extra charge was paid. The travel agency was furious and organized another destination closer to Manado on Sulawesi was offered, be it only with 10 dives. It was difficult to cancel as the aircraft ticket was confirmed and paid already, se we agreed. This destination was run by a Dutch couple, and the management of the dive school was a Dutch lady as well, the travel agency mentioned.
So quickly the additional documents were sent by the travel agency through email and early next morning I took the train to Schiphol.

Singapore Airlines flew with a Boeing 777-200 in twelve and a half hour to Singapore. As usual the Singapore girls were stunning beauties, smiling all trip while giving excellent service. Interesting was that we had the first part of the trip a jet stream tailwind with 250 km/h resulting in groundspeed of 1150 kms. It was however a bumpy ride. A the end of the trip the tailwind changed in a head wind of 90 km/hr and the groundspeed dropped to 770 km/h. We arrived in the morning and that left some time in shopping paradise Singapore. The next trip was with and Airbus 319 to Manado. The trip was bumpy again and after more than 3 hours we landed, and could see some exotic old Russian planes and helicopters. The crew could not crank up the APU, the auxiliary power unit, so after the engines were shut down it became silent and dark and as no APU means no air condition, it became quickly hot inside. But soon we could disembark.

After standing in an endless row to pay your visa, get a visa sticker and get the usual endless number of stamps and pieces of paper from the Immigration, customs and border guards. Though bureaucracy has not been invented by Indonesians, they surely developed it into an art.
We were picked up by the minibus of the guesthouse. Shortly after leaving the airport the driver crashed in the car in front of us and immediately we were hit from behind. Sensational entertainment that may lead to a whiplash however. After waiting for the police and the necessary paper work, we arrived at the guesthouse , where I was the only guest and then I went to the dive centre to arrange the dive gear.
Fortunately they had wireless internet. In fact not the dive centre, but the hotel next to it. The Santika Hotel was a big hotel with apartment style rooms in the adjacent buildings, shaped in a V, with the pools in between. It is situated in a well maintained garden, like a paradise.

The 4Fish guesthouse in Tonkaina was run by a friendly Dutch couple, Jan and Ineke Kiefte. It has 6 guest rooms and I was the only guest. I got a luxurious breakfast and the evening meal was prepared by the cook. It was delicious food. Adapted the European taste of course, so I had to add some of those hot spices. The rooms were clean but rather basic: no air condition, no chairs or table. The water pressure of the own bore water was low and unfortunately in this room, water only trickled out of the tap. A cold shower was that the showers had only cold water. Even in the tropics you need once in a while a hot shower.
The guesthouse is just along the main road to Manado and goes somewhat uphill. The most frequent used vehicle are light motorbikes,with noisy two stroke engines. They pass all day and evening along your window. It must be a paradise for people who like the noise and smell of two stroke engines.
They were in the dive business before and decided to start this adventure in Indonesia. Although the project is not finished, hot water is still on the wishing list for instance, it looks nice. It is situated in a well groomed garden, full of flowers and the well maintained swimming pool is wonderful.
The commercial power was unreliable and was often down, so a generator was available, that has indeed been used many times during my stay. I wish the Jan and Ineke lots of success in their endeavor.

I enrolled in the Thalassa dive centre. It was run by Simone, a Dutch lady who started it some 10 years ago. The dive centre has 11 boats and a staff of 41 people. But as it was low season, there were only a few divers The little harbor (Maps courtesy by Earth Google) was built just into the sea, on the reef beyond a mangrove forest and could be reach by a three hundred and ten meters long wooden jetty. All build by the dive school, so that give upfront a fortune to invest before you can start operations. The owner Simone Gerritsen, a proud grandma of two, was involved in local development and even sponsored a local school as well.

The dives usually were around Bunaken, a protected area, and returned after the dive to the dive centre. Of course there were many options to go to other dive spots. The dive centre was big and the staff was friendly.

It is always interesting to see the local area and the people when you are enjoying your holiday.
The first impression when we left the airfield was very positive, mostly well maintained houses and new cars. That changed however as we moved further away from the town. The roads were badly maintained and had even dangerous holes. The homes were not well maintained and usually roofed with rusty corrugated steel plates. Though were flowers everywhere, the people looked poor but happy and friendly. On the street were often dogs, chickens and even small black pigs. But everywhere green trees, palms and other plants. Everywhere the smell of delicious food, but as well the penetrating stench of burning waste as well. That habit did not changed since I was in Indonesia 25 years ago.

Next day the diving experience begun. I was informed that the Bunaken area was one of the richest coral areas in the world. Especially soft corals were abundant here. The first dive for me was at 10 o’clock and the second at 2 in the afternoon. The dive spot was reached by a fast wooden dive boat. Propelled by outboard engines, the boat was well built and very sturdy. After the first dive we went back to the dive centre and had a delicious lunch. The second dive started under a torrential rainstorm. When we surfaced again it was really bad. High waves prevented us to enter the harbor. The captain was making circles just before the harbor. The dive guide explained what happened: he captain counted the waves and when there was a good occasion he would launch the ship on a high wave into the harbor. It is a very critical maneuver, but he made it. Just on a high wave and just before an even higher hit us, we were safe in the harbor. There were others who tried it, one was damaged. Another wrecked. And a boat with 2 German divers was missing. The storm disrupted the power and internet for days. It was the rain season and that was noticeable! The rain however has hardly any influence on the diving here, the sea water stays clear.

The following day diving was cancelled due to the stormy weather. It was a good opportunity to look around and make some pictures and video of the village. Today there was a heavy earthquake, 7.4 at the Richter scale, causing damage north of us and a tsunami warning. No wonder why the houses are built low here. Next day a trip to Lembeh was planned, as it is a relatively quiet area, shielded from the storm. Lembeh is the muck diving capital of the world. Muck diving is diving on the surface of a sandy bottom, in this case black sand. Lots of special creatures can be found here, which are unique in the world. Like an electric shell. Due to the open sand bottom many creatures cannot hide and are very poisonous. As they are well camouflaged as well, like this dangerous stonefish, you have to be very careful if you touch the bottom. A 2 hour trip through the island took us to Lembeh. The driver seemed to be the suicidal type, but that did not differentiate him from other drivers. After an endless series near misses and close shaves, we miraculously arrived safe in Lembeh where we boarded on a dive boat for 3 dives. The muck diving seems initially boring as lots of rubbish is on the surface and the seafloor, but soon we saw indeed lots of small and interesting creatures. On the sand there are isolated coral and seaweed formations which are furiously defended by clownfish. There are always 2 big ones and lots of tiny ones. The big ones are the aggressive females and the many small clown fishes are males. When one of the big ones dies, one of the smaller males grows and changes sex into a female. The frogfish was spectacular big, looking like yellow seaweed. On the other hand the morays were relatively small. Splendid coral wall were inviting to be explored. When it was dark again we returned, and the trip was only more dangerous as on the roads with holes were now animals, pedestrians and of course lots of small motor bikes competing for the part of the roads without holes. This time again we arrived safely.

Indonesia is plagued by corruption and inefficient government, according to people living there. This results that e.g. funds for road are spoiled and if a road is repaired, the quality is so bad that it lasts only a short time. But the Indonesian people seem to be happy with it. Everywhere friendly and smiling people. The economy does not flourish. The inflation is sky high and the bank notes show enormous numbers. Indonesia is the country of millionaires, however spending weekly millions.

Next day was Sunday and relative calm sea, so excellent for another two dives. This time the location were vertical walls totally covered with soft and hard corals. Even with some small caves. The colors were brilliant, but only can be seen with light as when you go deeper, mostly the grey and blue colors are visible. Sometimes fish and coral however still display flashes of bright blue and other colors. The batteries have a limited life and unfortunately sometimes they die, so we have to wait at the surface to replace them. Usually the batteries give up just before an interesting encounter.

The weather was not very good. It usually rained during the night and it was often cloudy, but invariably hot. No wonder it is now low season. For diving it does not make too much of a difference. The visibility under water stays relatively good, despite the rains and the storms. As always, the spectacle under water was stunning and only an empty air bottle prevented us from staying longer in this wonderful world.

Monday again two dives, the sea started rough but soon calmed. The first dive was in the Bunaken area and the second dive on the reef of Sulawesi main coast. Both dives were brilliant, and many pictures will keep precious memories alive. No doubt that Sulawesi belongs to the top dive sites of the world.

The 10th and last dive was at the basis of the volcano in the sea, the dive spot was requested by one of the divers. It was a bad choice, we better had got an advice from the dive guide. The current was strong and irregular. Sometimes you were pulled down to the deep by the currents, but all managed to stay at our assigned level. And the only special thing we saw, was a sea turtle, passing deep under us. Making pictures was difficult as the current prevented to stabilize the camera.

The last night the food was not the best until now, but still good.

So after a week it was time to get prepared for the trip to Holland. The gear was washed by the dive guides, who delivered excellent service. The dive gear was daily transported to the boat and back. It was of course very impractical to drag your heavy equipment the long distance over the jetty to the boat. The guides did a splendid job to show us the beauty of the reef and were keen to point to interesting coral or animals.

So time to pack. The last day only one dive as you should not dive within 24 hours prior the flight, to avoid the risk of nitrogen bubble in the blood. Diving is always the fight to limit the effect of nitrogen bubbles in blood and fabric. So almost everybody has a dive computer that accurately calculates the risk and give adequate warning.

The next day the another kamikaze trip to the airport of Manado. We were in time for the flight, but the plane not, it had a 2 hour delay. That was not a problem as I had still ample time for the next trip to The Netherlands. Just after takeoff in Manado during the climb I felt the typical creeps of the nitrogen micro bubbles emerging in my legs. Apparently the 28 hours between last dive and the flight were not enough to wash out all the nitrogen out of the blood. Further the trip was uneventful. After spending a few hours in the shopping malls of the Changi Airport in Singapore, the trip back home was uneventful, but enjoying again with the excellent service of Singapore Airlines.

Safely back at home again I enjoy the recollection of a nice holiday. I met great people, smelled and tasted the delicious flavors of the Orient and had awesome dives in one of the greatest divespots of the planet.

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