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  1. #1
    Bacon fiend londonsean69's Avatar
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    Bangkok, Lembeh, and Lembongan - a rambling photo diary / trip report type thing

    Warning - long, and very picture heavy (around 90 - mostly mine, plus a few from wifey). A mix of diving and non-diving, supplemented by inane ramblings fuelled by Bintang and Chang.

    Day 1 - Heathrow to Bangkok
    Wifey (Claire) and I flew from Heathrow to Bangkok with BA. Used a bunch of Avios and an AMEX 2-4-1 voucher, so we were in business class. We had a huge luggage allowance (64 kg in the hold, each, plus 46 kg in the cabin, each), but didn't get anywhere near it.


    Each dive bag was around 23 kg, camera kit (hand baggage) around 9 kg for me.


    Day 2 - Bangkok
    Stayed at the Pullman G hotel. Very nice, great breakfast. Not the cheapest place in Bangkok, but we've both done budget places in the past.


    Swingy seats in the lobby


    Booked into an executive suite - it was massive.


    The bedroom is around the corner - it even had 2 bathrooms


    Being on the 33rd floor, we had a good view


    'Broken' building opposite our hotel - I love the design


    Day 3 - Bangkok
    The main thing we did was go and get fitted for clothes.


    A small sample of the various shirt fabrics


    I did lots of eating.


    Chicken with chilli sauce - I kept asking for it hot, or "Thai style". They never were.



    Fish (of some sort) encrusted with salt then barbecued - damn good



    Deep-fried crispy pork - bloody hell that was good!


    The bar on the 37th floor had a decent view


    Night-time in Bangkok


    However, Bangkok in April - never again! It was roasting, even the Thais were complaining about the heat. I was sweating so much my watch went into dive mode!


    Day 4 - Bangkok
    We were supposed to have been leaving Bangkok on an early flight, so booked ourselves into the Novotel at the airport. Bloody Garuda airlines switched the flight to a 1410 departure. Oh well, the hotel was booked and paid for, so we stayed there anyway; went for a swim, had a few beers and generally chilled out.


    The hotel entrance lobby


    Day 5 - Bangkok to Jakarta
    Well, it was supposed to be Bangkok to Manado, via Jakarta, but the flight change from Garuda forced us into an overnight stop in Jakarta. After a bit of encouragement, they agreed that as they had forced the overnight, they should put us in a hotel. They use the FM7 hotel. One of the strangest laid out places I've ever been in. Food wasn't great, and the bars were pretty crap too. If it happens again, I would just pay for the airport hotel that is at the actual airport.


    FM7


    Garuda offers a bid-to-upgrade system, so for £80 extra, we ended up in business class. Well worth it, decent lounge, extra baggage allowance, better food and drink on the plane, and the sort of seat BA short-haul business flyers could only dream about (it's a better seat than BA long-haul premium economy).


    Day 6 - Jakarta to Manado
    A stupid-o-clock flight had us getting up at 0400. The previously mentioned upgrade to business meant we breezed through security and were first onto the aircraft. The 3hr flight 'flew' by (hahaha) with the aid of a film on the laptop.

    Met at the airport by a driver for the dive centre, and trawled across Sulawesi in heavy traffic for a couple of hours. At the port, we transferred to a boat, and headed to our home for the next 12 nights - Divers Lodge Lembeh.

    We were in the top (as in highest) bungalow - Rajawali. It's 80+ steps to get up to it - brutal in the Indonesian heat - but after so much food in Bangkok, I really need the exercise! Low water pressure as the tanks are only a couple of metres above the bungalow - we were told this before booking.


    Looking down at the bastard steps


    Good view from the top though


    Walenokoko bay


    Lashed down overnight.

    Continued below...
    Sean

    A few more pics - www.arrowpix.com

  2. #2
    Bacon fiend londonsean69's Avatar
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    Day 7 - Divers Lodge Lembeh - Start of diving pics
    Diving - finally! I've not dived since Barbados in September, which was itself the first time I've dived since having my chest cracked open to fix a little problem with the heart. So, this is my second dive trip since 2013,which was when I was last in Lembeh.

    We did Three dives, Batu Lubang Besar, Kareko Batu, and the House Reef. Rubble slopes with outcrops of coral. Plenty of critters seen: many nudibranchs, flamboyant cuttlefishes (yes, more than one), loads of morays, melibe nudibranch, Xeno crab, wonderpus, and quite possibly the biggest frogfish I have ever seen.


    Goby at Batu Lubang Besar



    Hypselodoris bullocki at Batu Lubang Besar



    Crab at Kareko Batu



    Peacock mantis shrimp at Kareko Batu



    Chromodoris nudibranch on the House Reef



    My interpretation of the same Chromodoris nudibranch on the House Reef


    All told, I was very disappointed with my photos on the first day. I have switched to a compact camera rig (Sony RX100) as I couldn't be arsed carrying an UW DSLR setup anymore. I found focus very hard, often missing the plane of focus by a couple of mm, owing to shutter lag. In my defence, these are the first set of UW macro shots I've taken with a compact since 2008! I am hoping it's just time in the water I need, to get used to the nuances of the system. All my shots in Barbados last year were wide angle - Barbados trip report.


    Sony RX100 in El Cheapo Chinese housing, 2x Inon S2000, Saga +10 macro lens


    Wifey is also shooting with a compact rig. Her Canon G12 has been relegated to backup duties. She now uses my 'spare' RX100, also in an El Cheapo Chinese housing, with an Inon macro lens (sometimes she used my +10 macro), and a single Sea & Sea strobe.


    Claire's camera - Sony RX100 in El Cheapo Chinese housing, Sea & Sea strobe, Inon macro lens


    Unfortunately, Claire has buggered up her ear, so no diving for her tomorrow.
    Drizzled all day, and absolutely tipped it down overnight!


    Day 8 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Just me on the boat today. The morning dives were at Pulau Abadi and Jahir. Abadi is a mixed coral/rubble slope, Jahir is a proper muck slope. Plenty to see; nudibranchs, Ambon Scorpionfish (Tiny), dragonets, flying gurnard, an octopus of some sort. We also found a "Shaun the Sheep" nudibranch (Costasiella kuroshimae). They are frighteningly small. The +10 macro lens didn't even make a dent in trying to get a photo of one, so the big gun (+25) is coming out this afternoon.


    Tiger shrimp pair at Palau Abadi - there is a lot going on with that animal!



    Emperor shrimp on sea cucumber at Jahir



    Just look at the size of the little bugger!


    For the afternoon dive, I tooled up with the bad boy +25 macro. It's a complete pig to use! We went to Candy (as per the book, or Jandy, as per the dive guides), which is a true muck slope - the detritus of countless boats that have been moored here litters the seabed.


    Inon Macro lens, Saga +10 and Saga +25 size comparison, AA battery for scale


    I managed to find a 'Shaun' nudi and even managed a reasonable shot of it, although it's quite a crop (even with the +25). They really are tiny, and the depth of field is almost non-existent, very difficult to photograph.


    Costasiella kuroshimae


    We also found some tiny nudis, a couple of seahorses, soft coral cowries, and ornate ghost pipefish.


    Tiny seahorse shot with a +25 macro


    Day 9 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Claire is back in the water. We have been joined on the boat by a Canadian couple, nice people. The guiding is done at a 2:1 ratio, so we stuck with our guide, Rinko. He is pretty damn good at finding the critters.
    Three dives today, Air Prang, Nudi falls, and Monument.

    Air Prang felt cold, even though it was 27c. We found a good number of frogfish, of various sizes and colours. A nice blue-ring octopus stuck around for a few minutes as well.


    Blue-ring octopus



    Ceratasoma


    Nudi falls was quiet in terms of critters, but not divers. Another dive centre dropped in just after us with a big group. It was hard to move underwater without bumping into one of them, who wanted to jump on the critters we found. Nudi falls ends on a small wall, and annoyingly they were underneath us the whole time we were on the wall. Their exhaust bubbles made macro photography a pain - the fronds of coral and plant life would be moved by the bubbles, and when the depth of field is wafer-thin, that's not helpful. We finished up finding a pair of Pegasus sea-moths, I found a Xeno crab, and just under the boat was a smiling blenny who had made his home in a broken bottle.


    Blenny - would have been better had both eyes been swivelled forwards



    Phyllidia


    When we got back to the resort for lunch, we found out that Dan, who had been here to shoot a promo video, had flooded his housing and killed a Canon 5D Mk3. I am honestly heartbroken for him, as he has further destinations on his trip yet, and the chances of sorting this are slim to nil. He is trying to look on the bright side, and has priced up a Subal housing for his 1DX Mk2 - $$$$!

    Monument - it was raining, so the darkness and visibility UW was reminiscent of UK diving. It was a combination site - corals in the shallows, rubble slope down to about 18 m, then a very gentle sandy slope. Our guide found us a couple of seahorses, some nudibranchs and a selection of shrimps. Overall though it felt very quiet down there.


    Bubble coral shrimp



    Seahorse


    A grotty day, weather-wise. It was cloudy or raining all day.


    Day 10 - Tangkoko National Park
    Claire's birthday. As a special treat, we had a 0500 alarm call, for a 0530 departure! Our destination was Tangkoko National Park, and we wanted to be there for gate opening at 0700.

    On arrival, we were met by our 'guide', who we proceeded to follow through the rainforest at a fair old pace. Our first stop was a troop of Sulawesi Black Macaques. There must have been 100+, from babies to older males. Initially, they stayed in the trees, but after about 20 minutes, they all headed to the ground. You could get within a couple of feet, they were cautious, but are pretty habituated. I was drenched in sweat by the time we were finished with them.


    Baby Sulawesi Black Macaque



    Sulawesi Black Macaque


    After another forced march through the jungle, we 'found' a small family of Tarsier monkeys, the world's smallest primate. I say 'found', as clearly the guide knew exactly where they would be, even though he made a big show of finding them. The orange dots on the trees that marked the way were a bit of a giveaway.


    Tarsier family


    After that, I was done. I was so hot and bothered I could barely think. I was sweating in places I didn't know I could sweat. Thankfully, as per the dive centre's recommendation, I had a fresh shirt waiting in the car.
    My land camera is now an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2, a mirrorless. Today, I really missed the autofocus of the Nikons I recently sold. For fast moving subjects, in low light, the Olympus really struggled, whereas I know the Nikon would have nailed a lot more shots.
    However, I don't miss carrying a pair of Nikon, plus associated lenses.

    Just after lunch, I did a little bit of modelling for Dan (of the flooded camera). He needed to grab some surface shots for the promo video, the kit being assembled etc. so I was happy to oblige. He showed me the clips on the back of the camera - I definitely have a face for radio!

    Good news too for Dan, he has managed to locate a housing for his 1DX Mk2, that should be with him in Bali next week. Not cheap, but when you make your living with it, then needs must.


    Day 11 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    The plan for today was for two day-dives, then a night dive. We have neglected night diving on many recent trips, so we agreed that we must do at least one whilst out here.

    The first dive was Pantai Parigi, a typical Lembeh site - patchy coral in the shallows, giving way to a gentle sandy slope. This is a grey slope, a mix of black and yellow sand. Quite a lot of small/juvenile stuff here - devil scorpionfish, frogfish, nudibranchs. Also found a large Melibe nudibranch and a pair of Inimicus. A pleasant enough dive, bimbling from one find to the next. The star of the show was the Mototi octopus (alas I didn't get a nice image of that, but wifey got a nice shot).


    Devil scorpionfish



    Mototi octopus


    The second dive was at Labuan Bajo 2. Claire found the tiniest frogfish I have ever seen, even the +25 macro lens struggled with it - it was smaller than a pygmy seahorse. Added to this were a couple of octopus, including a coconut shell octopus, many different shrimps, and a couple of different orang-utan crabs


    Squat lobster in crinoid


    We descended in glorious sunshine, yet when we surfaced 70 minutes later, we were greeted with rain so intense we couldn't see more than 50 m or so. It took us over an hour to get back to the resort.


    It was a bit wet!


    The night dive was 'somewhere', and was packed full of critters. We had harlequin shrimp (one of my favourites), bobtail squid, Donald Duck Shrimp, many nudis, a sea hare, and one of the holy grails of Lembeh - a Rhinopias (Paddle-flap scorpionfish, Rhinopias eschmeyeri).

    It was a juvenile, but the guides were absolutely over the moon when they found it. The reason for the undisclosed location is the Rhinopias - generally, when they are found, they are mobbed, then move away. The last one I saw was also in Lembeh, in 2008, a pink/purple adult. Multiple dives at Rhino City in Ambon produced some lacey Rhinopias, but not the paddle-flap.


    One of my favourite shrimps - a Harlequin. The eye is a little soft as the camera focussed on the body, and missed the eye.



    Tiny, juvenile Rhinopias - a prized find!

    Continued below...
    Sean

    A few more pics - www.arrowpix.com

  3. #3
    Bacon fiend londonsean69's Avatar
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    Day 12 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Three day-dives today. First up, Madidir 2. Mixed but mainly muck slope. We were looking for octopus, and we found them. The most notable was a very cooperative mimic. Relaxed enough in our presence that I could shoot details of his almost liquid movements with a +10 macro lens at full zoom. The usual assortment of crabs, shrimps, nudis, nudis with shrimps etc. made for a very pleasant dive.


    Mimic octopus detail


    The second dive was Pulau Abadi, which I had dived a couple of days ago. The dive kicked off with a cracker of a frogfish, beautifully positioned. I wished for my wide-angle lens! A good few nudis, plus some robust ghost pipefish provided more targets.
    Overall a relatively quiet dive, although Claire's spanking new D4i decided it didn't like communicating with its transmitter. So, we based our nitrox use on mine, plus a margin, and ended the dive early as well. We've been using roughly the same amount of gas all week, so not knowing exactly what she had wasn't a major drama.


    Frogfish


    Coconut garden was our final dive of the day, just a few minutes run from the dive centre, this was a steep muck slope with a few coral outcrops in the shallows. It was reasonably productive, leaf scorpionfish on the corals, ornate ghost pipefish down deep, plus the usual nudis, seahorse, crabs and shrimps.


    Ornate ghost pipefish detail



    Thorny seahorse


    When we surfaced from the third dive, it was to torrential rain, again!


    It's a bit wet out there…


    Day 13 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Claire decided to take the morning off and lounge around for a bit. As such, I had our guide Rinko to myself.
    We went to Air Bajo and Monument. Air Bajo was a little slow, but I managed to find a massive Phyllodesmium solar-powered nudibranch. An assortment of other nudis, plus a tiny 'Shaun the sheep' (no decent photo) gave me a few more photos, and we finished up with a rather aggressive coconut octopus.



    Phyllodesmium


    Monument also turned out to be rather slow. There were a lot of strong winds today, and the current is pulling in a lot of places, so I imagine a lot of the critters are in hiding.


    Whip coral goby


    Claire joined me for the afternoon dive. We returned to Batu Lubang Besar. There was quite a current running, and we spent a fair amount of time below 20 m, so it was a relatively short dive (56 mins). On the way back up, I attempted to photograph the Lembeh Sea Dragon, that was seriously hard work - constantly moving, tiny, and camouflaged. I didn't manage a good shot. Thankfully, there were plenty of nudis and a couple of seahorses to keep us sane.


    A poor shot of the Lembeh Sea Dragon



    Chromodoris


    Day 14 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Three day-dives today: Jahir, Kareko Batu, and a new site to me, Paudean.
    Jahir was very quiet. A few nudis, some crabs, a couple of different types of shrimps. There were loads of active Inimicus and an absolutely minute frogfish.


    Tiny frogfish at Jahir, note the finger for scale.


    Kareko Batu was also slow. I wonder if the high winds and currents yesterday have pushed everything around. We were here to find a hairy frogfish as one has been seen. The other group found it, but due to a communication error, we didn't get to see it. We saw a couple of nudis, a couple of orang-utan crabs, a slipper lobster, and a feeding flamboyant cuttlefish in the shallows.


    Orang-utan crab


    Our final site, Paudean, was a typical combination slope. It too was very quiet. Other than a leaf scorpionfish and a devil scorpionfish, there was barely anything worth writing down.


    Leaf scorpionfish



    Pygmy cuttlefish


    All in all, it was a rather disappointing day. Claire isn't bothering with the morning dives tomorrow, she is bored of similar looking sites with similar critters.
    No rain today, not much cloud or wind either. It was bloody scorching!


    Day 15 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Just myself on the boat today, the other boats have their regular groups, and the Canadians have now left, so our boat is down to two, and as wifey isn't diving this morning, it's just me and Rinko (the guide). As I was by myself, I thought I would try out a new (to me) lens.

    We dived Candy (Jandy), and Monument. Naturally, after choosing a 'special' lens, I was going to want my macro lenses, as the target at Candy was a 'Shaun the Sheep' nudi. We also found quite a few nudis, a frogfish, orang-utan crab, Inimicus .


    Finally, a reasonable shot of many people's current favourite critter

    You can notice, in the image above, a horrible soft spot between the two nudis. This is the result of a manufacturing defect in the lens. Not f**king impressed.


    At Monument, I decided it was time to have a play with my new lens - a macro fisheye. Lighting is a total pig! You can focus when a subject is touching the lens, so where the hell do the strobes go? It also has horrific corners!


    Harlequin shrimp shot with Inon UFL-M150 ZM80


    Claire was back on board for the afternoon dive. Two Swiss have arrived, so they have joined our boat with their guide. We went to Kapal Indah. There used to be a wreck here, but time has seen that disintegrate. A mixed site, sand/rubble slope down deeper, and coral in the shallows. I persevered with the macro fisheye, finding a reasonable strobe position. We saw quite a few different nudis, some of them laying eggs. Also, some shrimps and crabs. I put the +10 macro lens on Claire's camera, she much prefers that to the Inon close-up lens.


    Chromodoris nudibranch shot with Inon UFL-M150 ZM80



    Glossodoris


    Absolutely scorching again today!

    Day 16 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    Three dives today, Monument, Air Bajo, and Batu Lubang Kecil.

    We went back to Monument as I wanted another play with the macro fisheye. It's a strange lens, not amazing, but can offer a different view of a regular critter. Today we had the usual assortment of nudis, shrimps (including the lovely Harlequin), and crabs.


    Bubble coral shot with a macro fisheye - note wifey in the background



    Glossodoris


    Air Bajo was very mucky, even for a muck dive, but we dropped straight in on an Ambon scorpionfish, which is a great find. We also had a few different nudis, shrimps and crabs, and at the end, there were a few seahorses. There were Cockatoo waspfish everywhere. The problem with going to Air Bajo from Divers Lodge is the 40 minute boat ride back. It just seems to go on forever.


    Ambon scorpionfish, the eye is a little soft as the camera focused on the amazing eyebrows



    shrimp


    Batu Lubang Kecil was a new site for us and a full-on nudi-fest. They were everywhere, and ranged in size from 5 mm to 150 mm - the biggest nudibranch I have ever seen! Too big for the macro lens I had on.


    Hypselodoris Bullocki



    Chromodoris


    Day 17 - Divers Lodge Lembeh
    My last days diving, so I am only doing the two morning dives. Claire has had enough so is lounging around. To ensure my kit dries, I have borrowed a wetsuit and boots, as these take the longest to dry out.
    The first dive was at Tanjung Lampu (Goby a crab), where we saw lots of nudis and a flamboyant cuttlefish.


    Flamboyant cuttlefish



    Pair of Chromodoris


    Jahir was the destination for our second dive, with a specific target in mind - hairy frogfish. We found that, another froggie, plus a couple of Ambon scorpionfish (one of which was a reddish/pink colour, which I've not seen before), nudis and shrimps, and an ornate ghost pipefish. All in all, a good, productive dive.


    Hairy frogfish



    Pink Ambon scorpionfish


    So, that's the Lembeh diving done. I did 29 in total, Claire did 20. All were on Nitrox, with computers set to air for a bit of added conservatism. According to my Excel logbook, deepest / shallowest / average depths were 27.4 m / 15.9 m / 22.6 m. Longest / shortest / average dive times were 0:44 / 1:27 / 1:01.

    Continued below...
    Sean

    A few more pics - www.arrowpix.com

  4. #4
    Bacon fiend londonsean69's Avatar
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    Day 18 - Divers Lodge Lembeh to Manado
    Another early flight, combined with the fact that the resort is around 2h 30 from the airport, including a short sea-crossing, meant we would spend tonight in yet another airport hotel. It was that, or a 0330 departure to catch the flight. That's too much like hard work, I would rather chill in a hotel pool with a few beers.

    We left Divers Lodge at around 0900 and were at the Manado Novotel Golf Resort by about 1100. Decent view from the pool bar, but our 'suite' is a suite in name only. No mini-bar, towels for 1, kettle but no coffee etc. Also, they had put us in a smoking room, when a non-smoking was specifically requested. She even asked again at check-in. If there were no non-smoking available, say so, don't put us in one as a surprise.


    View from the pool bar


    Day 19 - Manado to Nusa Lembongan
    Alas - Garuda had struck again., Our 2hr 30 direct flight to Bali had been cancelled, and we were put on a connecting service via Jakarta, meaning the journey would take over 6 hours. This also meant we would miss our boat connection at the other end.

    So, Garuda was swapped for Lion Air - it was mostly direct, with just a technical stop in Makassar. The weight allowance was 20 kg, but at 22 kg and 23 kg for our bags, they didn't bat an eyelid.

    On arrival at Denpasar airport, we were met by a driver from Scoot cruises, who took us to Sanur for the short 'ferry' ride over to Lembongan. Unfortunately, our bags had taken an age to come through, and the traffic was mental, so we missed the 1215 ferry and had to wait for the 1345 boat, which eventually left at around 1415. From the beach where the boat moors, it was just minutes to our new home for the next few nights - Gecko bungalows.


    The 'ferries.'



    Gecko bungalows


    We went next door for dinner, to a Spanish tapas place - there is only so much rice with chicken and fish that one can eat. The Spanish place, Planet Nomadas (add link) is a restaurant, accommodation, and dive centre. So, whilst we were there, we booked for a couple of days diving. We want specifically to do the manta dives, but the winds have picked up, so it is touch and go on those.

    A small word on their restaurant, whilst the food was fine, the outside tables are only lit by candlelight, and the menus are black text on a blue background, so they give you a torch to read the menu. I'm sure there is some logic there.


    Day 20 - Nusa Lembongan
    The only real downside with Gecko is that they don't do breakfast. So, we went next door to Planet Nomadas.
    No diving today as it is the boat captains day off, so we did bugger all. A bit of chilling in, and by, the pool. Lunch. A few Bintangs. A nice, lazy, day.


    Bintang!


    Day 21 - Nusa Lembongan - Last of the diving pics
    We had pencilled ourselves in for two days of diving, but after today, we decided we wouldn't bother diving again.
    The boat was to leave at 0800, so we were told to order one of the 'express' breakfasts at 0715, which we did. 0740 and breakfast finally turns up - people who had ordered 'normal' breakfast after us were already finished. Not exactly 'express', and set the tone for the day, particularly when the boat didn't leave until 0830.
    The boat was a bit of a disaster zone, nowhere to put cameras, a bit of loose mesh overhead for dry stuff, not enough room to assemble equipment, no boxes for anything, so the deck was a mess of fins and boots, and the only seating was on the edge, in the direct sun.

    A 30 minute bounce through increasingly choppy seas, and it was evident we weren't going to make it out to Manta point, so we headed for crystal bay, where there is the outside chance (at this time of year) of a Mola mola.
    Then came the dive briefing. Bear in mind, Claire and I had just finished the thick end of a fortnight diving in Lembeh, and in terms of certification, I'm a lapsed IDC staff instructor, all of which they knew. We were treated to the full 10 minute long PADI dive briefing, including ALL of the various hand signals, plus reminders to add air to jackets as we descended, and to watch our fin tips on the coral. Ho hum, I've not been treated like a freshly qualified Open-Water diver for some time, but understand that they are checking us out as much as we are checking them out.

    Eventually, we enter the water, to be greeted with a lot of surge, and visibility that was anything but crystal. Rounding the corner onto the reef, there was a little current, apparently a lot less than usual, so we went deepish in case there was a Mola mola. Nothing, unfortunately, so we pottered back, working our way up the reef.
    It was a nice enough reef, but just drifting over corals with a few fish is a little boring.


    Bluefin trevally, I think



    Chromodoris nudibranch


    The second dive was at Toya Pakeh. We were once again treated to the full PADI briefing, including ALL the hand signals, and the Open-Water level reminders to not do something stupid, just in case we had forgotten them in the two hours since he last gave us his sermon. During the surface interval, it turns out one of the snorkeler's cameras had gone missing. Quite possibly down to the fact that there was nowhere secure for anything to be stored, so kit was balanced on top of more kit.

    Dive-wise, the visibility was better, but it was much of the same, inanely drifting over reasonable coral coverage. Watching the guide give his buddy (a competent diver) a bollocking for being 10 m away from his side, I decided that he was on a bit of a power trip. The PADI potions had gone to his head.


    Soft coral


    Once back at the beach, we discovered Claire's shorts had gone walkies. They were stored in the 'dry area' mesh overhead on the boat, which turned out to be loose as anything, so they must have blown away.
    The whole day with them felt very disorganised, yet at the same time, it felt like our guide wanted to control every single aspect of everyone's dive - treating everybody as incompetent. Considering this, the piss poor boat layout, and the kit losses, we decided to skip the second day we were pencilled in to do.


    Day 22 - Nusa Lembongan
    We spent the day eating, drinking, and splashing around in the pool. On the way to eating we went and saw the mangroves and a temple. It was a nice, relaxing day.


    Temple


    Day 23 - Nusa Lembongan to Bali
    Another early-ish flight meant another hotel stay to make the journey easier. We booked into the Kupu Kupu Jimboran. It was a nice enough suite, but the hotel itself felt very disjointed. They had a reasonable sushi restaurant onsite, but for dinner, we headed down to the beach for a feast of grilled seafood. Once again, we had Scoot deal with the transfers and boat ride, they were OK, but the boats have no room for Westerners plus luggage, my knees got stuck under the table!


    Kupu-Kupu Jimbaran



    The beach at Jimbaran


    Day 24 - Bali to Bangkok
    0800 departure on Air Asia. We had booked extra luggage allowance, it didn't cost much and takes away the worries of doing battle over the scales. It's a four hour flight, so I also paid for front row seats (for the legroom, and priority boarding). Air Asia is the Asian equivalent of Easyjet, but with better food and nicer looking cabin crew. Unfortunately, the seats were pretty bloody uncomfortable after a few hours.

    Once in Bangkok, we checked ourselves back into the Pullman G, staying in our old exec suite again. Of course, the exec suite meant cocktails and canapes every evening in the lounge.

    In the afternoon, we headed over to the tailors for a second fitting of the clothes. Almost everything was spot on, but they are making a couple of adjustments to a couple of pieces. We are happy enough we have told them to make a few extra pieces, just in different fabrics/patterns, so the turnaround will be under 48 hours.


    Random sculpture on the way back to the hotel


    Day 25 -Bangkok
    This morning we booked ourselves onto a river tour. It was a pleasant way to spend a morning, pottering about on the backwaters, between temples and markets.


    9 shot panorama of the insides of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen temple



    Lady selling food from her boat



    Whizzing along made for a nice, cooling, breeze

    In the afternoon, I collected my suits and shirts. Claire is having issues with one of her shirts, so they are correcting it (hopefully) overnight.


    Day 26 -Bangkok
    Not much on today, other than pulling everything out of the bags, and repacking it.
    In the afternoon, we went to the tailors to collect Claire's wayward shirt, which needed a final tweak to be good enough. A bit of a shame it took so many goes to get it sorted when the majority of our clothing was pretty bang on at the first attempt.


    Typical Bangkok traffic light GP start



    Random elephant sculpture in the central reservation


    Day 27 -Bangkok to Heathrow
    Knowing what the Bangkok traffic is like, we made an early start for the airport, but traffic was pretty light, so we were there in about 35 minutes. We had fast-track security, fast-track immigration, and lounge access, so it's quite easy to while away a couple of hours before a flight.

    The 12hr flight home was marred by some utter prick who took issue with Claire and I talking to each other. The first we knew of his issue, he was stood next to us and had put a portable stereo on full volume, rambling something about "I can do that too". Naturally, we told him where to go, and let the cabin crew know as well. I don't fancy being the headline in a rag - "Air rage fight causes emergency landing", so had to work quite hard to restrain myself from giving him both barrels.

    Summing up
    Lembeh
    Whilst we mostly enjoyed our time at Divers Lodge Lembeh, I doubt we would use them again when we return to Lembeh. The resort just didn't 'click' with us. It's a nice enough resort for the money, but just not our sort of place. Being situated at the end of the strait, I'm also not that keen on the 20-25 minute boat rides to the popular sites, whereas the resorts in the strait can be there in 10 minutes or less. Some of the sites were 40+ minutes. I know it doesn't sound like a huge issue, but when you must get back, get fed, change and charge batteries etc. then time seems to go very quickly.

    The food was great, very tasty, and loads of it. It was all too easy to gorge oneself 3 times a day, and there are snacks and cakes available as well. There are some foods they don't serve, pork being one of them. The list is available on the website if that sort of thing bothers you.
    The staff were as helpful as could be, nothing was too much trouble. Our guide, Rinto, was excellent, finding us pretty much anything we asked for.

    The worst thing, without a doubt, was the rubbish. It has been bad every time I have gone, but this time seemed especially bad. The beach at Divers Lodge bears the full brunt of it, as the tides seem to dump everything there. The staff do their best to clean it up, but the next tide brings in a fresh batch of (mostly) plastic. As you are stepping off the boats into this, it's not nice. Raking a path as the boats come in would go some way to making this a bit more bearable.


    What the tide brings in, sitting just below the water


    The critters seemed to be a bit thin on the ground. I know it's not an aquarium, but looking back over the images I took in 2008, 2013, and 2018, there seems to be a lot less variety this time around. Some of this might be different guides taking us to different sites, although on all 3 trips I have been very impressed with our guide, especially when in conversation with other people - as their guides don't seem to discover half what ours has done. That said, he has had to work very hard to find us what he has. It could of course also just be seasonal fluctuations in the animal populations. I can only say what I've seen.

    I know that earlier I mentioned seeing lots of critters, so the above somewhat contradicts that. It's quite simple, the last time I saw cool critters UW was 2013. So, over the first few dives, everything is 'new'. When, after 10 or so dives you start to think "Oh great, another cockatoo waspfish", you start to realise that the variety of critters isn't there, and the guides are doing their best to show you 'something'.

    Claire has said next time we come back to Lembeh, it's going to be for a week at most. The combination of pretty much pure critter diving, along with being stuck on a resort, just isn't floating her boat. I have to agree with her, after a week or so I was pretty bored of the diving myself (bear in mind last time we were here we did 3 solid weeks). I think for our next time in Indo, we will head to Bali and stay in a few different places there.
    Divers Lodge is a very quiet resort, after dinner, we would chill in the lounge with a few Bintang, and have a read. Going up to the room, we would bring two or three Bintang each. For some reason, they didn't clear the empty cans, so we had a small collection after our 12 nights here.


    2 people, 2 or 3 beers per night for the room. No idea why they didn't clear away the cans.


    I would recommend this resort to those who want somewhere quiet, with secluded accommodations. If you like a bit of life in the evenings, then I would suggest looking elsewhere.

    Nusa Lembongan
    We went for mantas, but we were skunked by the wind. It's a nice, quiet little island. Unfortunately, Planet Nomadas was a very poor choice of dive centre. Most of the time, it seemed like amateur hour. They weren't particularly busy, so there wasn't much excuse for them being so disorganised.

    Gecko bungalows, on the other hand, were nigh on perfect. Simple accommodation, clean, well-kept, and the nicest housekeeper I have ever met.

    Underwater photography
    We came home with around 3500 images, of which 1500 were marked for deletion whilst we were out there as they were soft, duplicates etc. On land, I would often shoot a burst of 3 images, and select the sharpest. (I don't physically delete them until a good few months down the line).

    I used to take it a lot more seriously, but, after schlepping 17 kg of DSLR rig around, it all got a bit tiring. It was the same with my land photography, I had a pair of DSLR bodies, multiple lenses etc. Then I realised that I do fuck all with the majority of my photos - I have a few hosted with Getty, and get a small payment from them every few months, but, other than that, I put a load on FaceAche, some on my website, we make a photobook of each trip, and that's it. I realised there was little point in me using so much kit.

    So, I downsized. My land photo kit is now an Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 3 lenses (2 primes and a zoom). The UW kit is a compact (Sony RX100) with accessories. All told, it makes travelling with it much easier, the quality is more than enough for what I do with them, and I have started to enjoy UW photography again, without feeling I need to be the next David Doubillet or Alex Mustard.

    Go down, swim around, take a few snaps, come up. Much simpler.

    Well, I hope you enjoyed my ropey photos and inane ramblings, typed out in between beers, whilst revising for an upcoming exam. If you have any questions, fire away.


    Obligatory dive selfie of me and the wife - the fisheye lens really forces perspective!
    Sean

    A few more pics - www.arrowpix.com

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    Established TDF Member
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    Thanks for a great read and sharing your ropey photos

    Sharon

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    Not short, just concentrated awesome ;) smileydiver's Avatar
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    Loved reading all of that! Thanks for sharing. Indonesia is still on my list and I still haven't decided where to go first, so definitely some food for thought!
    The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever - Jacques Cousteau

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    Established TDF Member Nickpicks's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great write up, the anything but ropey photos, and welcome back to the forum!
    The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

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    Cheeky Monkey... Paul Evans's Avatar
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    Fooking Epic M8

    Nuff said.
    “Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
    Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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    Established TDF Member Georgina's Avatar
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    Loved reading this and enjoying your totally awesome photos. Thank you!!
    ..........o ><)))*>
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    Georgina

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    Fabulous Thank you.


 
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