Lembeh Strait is a narrow channel separating the islands of Sulawesi and Lembeh.
There are lots of good resorts catering to divers. We chose to stay at the Bahari Family Hotel and rent a small boat. This gives us the flexibility needed for photography.
The strait is known for its critters and crawlers. It is mainly for photographers. The sites are not deep so you can take your time filming the critters, one by one. We were diving sometime over 90 mins.
There are a lot of sites, but best is a local guide who can take you to the species you want to record. It is here where I captured some of my best pygmy seahorse pics. On one of the dive sites, there is a very cooperative pygmy seahorse; I spent the whole hour with him. As well there is an interesting wreck which starts at about 20m going down to about 35m. It's upright and easy to penetrate.
Most of the diving is in the Bunaken National Marine Park where there are 5 islands: Bunaken, Siladen, Manado Tua, Montehage and Nain.
Oceanic currents sweep past Bunaken Island bringing a steady supply of nutrients, which means you get a wide variety of marine life from the macro commensal shrimp to wide angle black tip reef sharks and eagle rays. It's a bit tough for photographers because you never have the right lens at the right moment, but nice for fun divers.
Unlike Lembeh, there is something for everyone along with the diverse species, critters and reef fish. We explored the dive sites of Bunaken with Cocotinos.
Komodo is known for Manta rays and strong currents. But there are also a lot of interesting critters hiding on the hard and soft corals. Water temperature can be cool (25°C) and visibility is usually quite good.
Batu Bolong -perhaps the most famous site, Dense with marine life but often overcrowded with divers. Langkoi Rock-submerged pinnacle, lots of sharks. Castle Rock-pinnacle with very strong currents, schooling tuna, giant trevallies, Napoleon wrasse, manta rays, sharks, and sometimes dolphins. Tatawa Kecil-nice reef, rock formations and small caves. The water is full of pelagics and sharks, manta rays and sometimes dugong are also there. Manta Alley-usually more than 20 in one dive! many reef sharks, wrasses and schools of giant trevallies! Pillaarsteen-lots of small caves and big walls, turtles, reef sharks, giants trevallies, bamboo shark and giant barracudas.
Derawan is off the beaten track and hard to get to, but it's a real diver, snorkeler and adventurer paradise.
Sangalaki is well-known for manta ray and many turtles, which nest on the island. If you are lucky you can see turtles hatching at the ranger's station.
Kakaban features sharp drop-offs and strong currents and is well known for shark sightings, especially of leopard sharks, grey reef sharks and the occasional hammerhead. Diving among Kakaban’s sea fans is also a great opportunity to search for pygmy seahorses. The interior of Kakaban island has a lake filled with stingless jellyfish, gobies and sea snakes.
Maratua is dominated by currents and big schools of fish. At the mouth of the eastern channel is one of the largest schools of barracuda I have ever seen.
Raja Ampat is made up of four main islands, namely Waigeo in the north, Batanta and Salawati in the middle, and Misool in the south. We were on the Panunee Liveaboard on the sites south of Waigeo
Cape Kri - is known for its sheer number of fish species. 374 were once recorded in a single dive! you can expect to find: barracuda, jacks, snappers, rays, sharks, turtles, and grouper. Sardine Reef - underwater oval plateau, descending to about 30 meters below sea level. Arborek jetty is famous for the huge schools of fish that shelter beneath it, and also for the colourful soft corals that cover its piles.
It takes 3 flights and several boat rides to reach the Togians. Being so remote the Togeans is protected from global tourism; diving is excellent
B24 Bomber lies upright on a flat sandy bed. Explore the right-wing propeller, machine guns at the rear and cockpit.
Batu Gila - rocky ridge exposed to currents, great visibility and big fish action - schooling hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, silvertips, manta rays and barracuda. Dominic Rock - a drop-off into the black abyss. Eagle rays, grey reef sharks, and big-eye trevally. Pasir Tengah - a 3 KM wide coral atoll with vertical walls to depths of 400M. Sponges, gorgonians, pelagics – trevally, big eye, 6-banded, yellowfin and bluefin, wahoo and Spanish mackerel. Taipi Wall - overhangs, sea fans and gorgonians, cabbage corals, leaf scorpionfish, large crocodile fish, dwarf hawkfish, spottail dartfish, and blue dragon nudibranch. Una Una - a small volcanic island with fertile laval ash sand, teeming fish life: turtles, eagle rays, harlequin sweetlips, midnight snappers, bumphead parrotfish, redtooth triggerfish, red fire gobies, regal angelfish, orange anemonefish, dusky chromis, 8 banded butterflyfish, pink-tailed triggerfish, 6 banded angelfish.
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Madang at the top of the barrier Reef, is known for colorful reef and diverse marine life.
Perhaps the best spot is Bagbag Island, lying 32 nautical miles off the coast.
Closer to Madang everyone loves Planet Rock–strong ocean currents surge around and across the pinnicale with large schools of predatory, pelagic fish- Blue Fin Trevally and Jacks glide. Virtually all of the larger sharks that inhabit PNG waters-white tipped reef sharks - Silver Tips and Whalers-Hammerheads, and the awesome "Galeocerda Cuvieri" - the Tiger Shark, can be seen here.
Most popular of the passages - Magic Passage - On the change of tide this passage becomes a seething mass of schooling fish. This is one of the few remaining places divers can experience enormous schools of the "Garanx Sexfasciatus" - silvery jacks hang suspended in the passage. Clouds of Bannerfish and Rainbowfish intersperse with the jacks to give the passage colour.
The B25 Mitchell Bomber, lies in 60 feet of water near Wongat Island. The bomber lost an engine on impact, but apart from this, it is virtually intact. Penetrating through the cockpit of the aircraft you can peer down into the bomb bay, the doors of which were open on impact, and you can take a look at the rack of bombs still wired up and ready to offload as they were in 1943.
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Kimbe Bay coral reefs hold more than half of all species on Earth, more than 900 reef fish species. Kimbe Bay is located in the Bismarck Sea, Its marine life is remarkable: Kimbe Bay possesses 4 critically endangered, 11 endangered and 173 vulnerable species. These include the Largetooth Sawfish Pondicherry Shark, Olive Ridley and Leatherback Turtles, Scalloped Hammerhead and Sei Whale.
Agu Reef - schools of barracuda, batfish, rainbow-runner, big-eye trevally, Ann Sophie's Reef - Top of the reef is in about 5m slopes down to a sand bottom. Bradford Shoals - an isolated reef attracts large schools of Barracudas, Pinjaro, Big Eye Trevally, Tuna, Unicorn Fish, Fusiliers and Sharks Christine’s Reef - gorgonian fans, red whip gorgonians, barrel sponges with colourful crinoids North Ema- a deep bommie with gorgonian sea fans South Ema Reef –barrel sponges, red whip gorgonians, and a deep swim through Inglis Shoal - Schools of barracuda, batfish, trevally, fusiliers. Grey reef sharks and hammerheads cleaning stations Joelle’s Reef - schools of Barracuda, Big Eye Trevally, Red Pinjalo, Tuna and Surgeonfish, Hawksbill turtles. Otto’s Point - Schools of barracuda, trevally, sea perch, fusiliers, and unicornfish feed in the currents just beyond the reef, joined on occasions by sharks and tuna.
GAU ISLAND AND TAVEUNI
Nigali Passage - an exciting dive with just a 3-hour window for diving, otherwise the current to much and the visibility is low. The passage is full of barracuda and reef sharks. There is a coral ledge for spotting sharks, before letting go and flowing with the current into the lagoon where there is a large area of cabbage corals to explore.
The Great White Wall - The dive begins with a descent through a tubular cave starting at 15 m. This swim-through is coated in hard and soft corals and a few resident lionfish and morays. You will emerge at 25M on the great white wall blanketed with white soft coral (Dendronephthya). Between the white coral are little splashes of orange, green and red but the overall effect is that of a great, white wall. As you back off the wall, it becomes electric blue. Square-spot anthiases seem to be the pre-dominant fish on the wall as they dash around against the white backdrop.
THE CORNER - a great place to see a variety of marine life including clown triggerfish, unicorn fish, anemonefish, fusiliers, surgeonfish, sea whips, nudibranchs and flatworms like the Spanish dancer. Its aptly named the corner because once you pass the corner you are swept on by the current and the dive is over
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‘Pete’s’ Bi-plane, lies near the shore in 30m of water. Her three-pronged front propellor is still intact and is one of Rabaul’s most iconic images.
The star of Rabula is the Hakkai Maru - a Japanese support ship, considered to be one of the area’s very best wreck dives. We started the dive entering the hull through a hole rupture by a torpedo. Making our way up though the engine room along stairways, though the captains cabin, into the cargo hold full of machinery. drills, lathes, presses, welders, and out onto the stern where there is a coral encrusted anti-aircraft gun pointing vainly upwards. During the 1994 volcanic eruptions at Rabaul, the shipwreck was covered in ash, and is no longer able to be dived.
George's Wreck - The wreck remains unidentified. The story goes that the skipper ran her aground after being skip bombed or torpedoed on the port side. The bow of the vessel is in 12 metres of water, and the stern is at 60 metres. The bridge area is approximately 30 metres. It is littered with sea-fans and black coral at the deeper ends. It is also possible to see cowries, feather stars, nudibranchs, camouflaged fish - scorpionfish, stonefish, pipefish - and the odd pelagic.