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chinacat46
12-09-2008, 07:39
I recently returned from a 3 week trip to Indonesia where I visited two very different and diverse areas. I spent 9 days in Lembeh Strait and then 11 days aboard the brand new Peter Hughes boat Paradise Dancer in the waters of Raja Ampat. I had visited both places before so I didn't expect any surprises but both places have incredible diving and I experienced a number of firsts including my 900th dive.

I left Denver on the morning of Nov. 8th and checked my luggage all the way to Manado, Indonesia. After a short stop in LA and Toyko I arrived in Singapore at about 1am Nov 10. Here I had a 8.5 hour layover so I checked into the Transit Hotel in Terminal 2 for 6 hours to get some sleep and get used to the time change. I then flew from Singapore to Manado where I was picked up by the staff of Lembeh Resort for the 1.5-2 hour transfer to the resort. My bag arrived with me and other then somebody removing the shoulder strap from my duffel all was well. After experiencing a bag delay on one trip and having my wing removed and not replaced on another this was a positive sign. It had been a bad year for me traveling but this trip everything went fairly smoothly.

This was my third trip to Lembeh Resort and a few of the staff recognized me and I them. It was nice to see some familar faces and I also got room #5 which I had requested. This room is centerally located and has a great view from the verandah out over Lembeh Strait looking back at Sulawesi. All the rooms there seem to be quite roomy with an outdoor but enclosed bathroom. The rooms are all air conditioned but with vents to the outside they never get cold but they do get comfortable. After checking in I talked with Tania the new dive manager and gave her my wish list. Lembeh is known for it's incredible critters and they ask the guests what they want to see and then while you are there they take you to the sites where the critters you have listed have been spotted recently. The dive guides are like none I've dived with anywhere and are truely amazing at finding stuff. I normally like to do my own thing but at Lembeh you would be a fool not to go with the guides.

Having been before I was quite familar with their house reef which they are actually working on to grow reef and they've also added a wreck down around 80'. You get one free(extra $5 for nitrox) house reef dive for every two boat dives you pay for. I had booked 22 boat dives in advanced as well as nitrox. The house reef dives are free if you go unguided and these were the only dives I did there where I didn't have a guide. Over my stay I did 7 dives on the house reef all by myself. One I did about an hour after arriving, one I did at night and the other 5 I did as dawn dives. I used nitrox on all but the first one since that was the only dive I was doing that day I didn't think nitrox would matter to me. The house reef is great to explore and over my 7 dives I found cuttle fish, octopus, frog fish, black ribbon eel, crocodile fish, finger dragonets, lobsters, crabs, spiny devilfish, numerous scorpionfish and many many nudibranchs to name a few things. I really enjoyed the early morning dives before breakfast and the peace and enjoyment of diving by myself and being able to sit in one spot for 15 mins and watch some of the critters go about there daily routines. It amazed me how few of the guests actually dive the house reef other then the evening guided Mandarin dive which by the way I skipped. I thing Mandarin fish are beautiful but having done Mandarin dives here as well as PNG, Yap, and Raja Ampat I found no need to do one again. Basically all you do is just hang out and watch and wait for the mating to begin. It's quite a site to see but I've done it enough that it's lost it's appeal to me. I'd rather poke around and look at other things.

I had given them an incredible list of critters to see and knew there was no way that I'd see them all in the short time I was there. Some are just luck when you find them like blue ring or hairy octopus and others are extremely rare or tough to find like tiger shrimp or boxer crabs. I knew though that the guides would do there best and that I would see a lot on my wish list. Some of my firsts for this trip were a Mototi Octopus(rarer then a blue ring), tiger shrimp, cockatoo flounder, boxer crab, whiteface waspfish, skeleton shrimp, xeno crabs and a few other things which I'm not even sure what they were. I also saw plenty of other things I wanted to see again but two things I didn't see which I really had hoped for were flamboyant cuttlefish and harlequin shrimp both are two of my favorites and I'd seen both my previous two trips. Luckily I'd seen a number of flamboyant cuttlefish earlier in the year at the Philippines but I really missed seeing harlequin shrimp. Of course I saw many types of octopus, frog fish, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs, seahoreses, cuttlefish, scorpion fish etc... to repeat I really missed seeing harlequin shrimp. In my earlier post I did before I left for this trip I posted my critter list as well as what I saw on the list so I won't repeat it all here. If you want the details see this thread: http://forum.scubatoys.com/trips-travel/18902-return-indo.html

While at Lembeh I did 31 dives, 24 of which were boat dives and 5 of which were night dives. Water temps at this time of the year were in the 82-84 degree range with one dive dipping to 81. I would have actually done more dives but I had to sit out a whole day with Montezuma's revenge and I missed two night dives because of that as well. The night dives at Lembeh are really special and should not be missed. Don't get me wrong the day dives are great but the night dives just blow me away. I think probably 5 or 6 of my top 10 dives of all time are night dives I've done in Lembeh Strait and this trip added one or two to the list. For those not familar with Lembeh they call it muck diving because you are diving on very sandy(mostly black) areas with little or no reef. There is garbage on some sites and some have more reef then others but for some reason you will find an abnormally high collection of the strangest critters in the world here. There are so many types and amounts of lionfish and puffers that you normally don't even look at them.

Overall the diving in Lembeh was incredible and I've now done 79 dives there and am looking forward to my next 79 :-). As I've told many other divers there are a lot of places I want to go back to but Lembeh is the only place I hate to leave. Muck diving might not be for everyone but for me I have to say it's number one and although I've done muck diving in PNG, Philippines and Komodo none comes close to Lembeh's diversity. The resort is also very nice. Big rooms, great staff, good food, and even a swiming pool and the best damn dive guides on the planet. If you are a photographer or just enjoy seeing strange underwater critters then Lembeh should be at the top of your list of places to check out. It's the only place I've been to 3 times and I didn't want to leave and look forward to returning.

I'll post some pics of some of the stuff I saw in Lembeh and Raja. I posted a number of pics in my Philippines report from earlier this year. Since I saw most of those critters again in Lembeh and Raja I will try and avoid reposting similar pics. Also many of the same nudibranchs although quite a few different ones too! Any way I took a gazillion pics so it will be a while before I get thru them. I'll also do a review of the Raja Ampat portion of the trip and the incredible boat I was on.

Travelnsj
12-09-2008, 10:20
As you know I am not a Muck diver....you and my TA talked me into going to Lembeh last December....knowing I was going to be bored....WRONG...I returned again this last October...I really have to say on my last day in October....I hated to leave. Love the diving and the resort.

You stated "You get one free(extra $5 for nitrox) house reef dive for every two boat dives you pay for" you mean a free guided dive? I did not get one???...I think I paid $25.00 (discounted) for my house reef dive.....Hmmmmm....I will have to go back and get some free dives owed me!...or did I misunderstand you?

jet126
12-09-2008, 10:56
Thanks for the great report, Chuck! I've already forwarded to Sandy. I'm looking forward to your pics and am more excited than ever.

chinacat46
12-09-2008, 11:32
As you know I am not a Muck diver....you and my TA talked me into going to Lembeh last December....knowing I was going to be bored....WRONG...I returned again this last October...I really have to say on my last day in October....I hated to leave. Love the diving and the resort.

You stated "You get one free(extra $5 for nitrox) house reef dive for every two boat dives you pay for" you mean a free guided dive? I did not get one???...I think I paid $25.00 (discounted) for my house reef dive.....Hmmmmm....I will have to go back and get some free dives owed me!...or did I misunderstand you?

No the free dive is not guided. If you want a guide you pay for that. But the tank is free or $5 extra if you want nitrox. That is also assuming you have booked the nitrox package. I believe if you haven't it's even more for a tank of nitrox. They do partial blending there and bringing over those big tanks of O2 from the main island is a hassle not to mention probably not the cheapest thing world. I asked Johan and Kat why they didn't have a membrane system on a previous trip and they said if it broke it would take months to get parts. So they would have to fall back to partial blending regardless. I was doing about 5 dives a day there at over 60 mins a dive so nitrox definitely was important to me.

CODMAN
12-09-2008, 13:19
That was truly an excellent trip report! Thanks so much! It definetly made me want to go!!! Maybe one day, who knows...:smilie40:

I used to be the type of dive you described... In a hurry to get there... Now when I find something cool, I could stare at it for hours! Usually, the thing that makes me get going again is knowing my dive buddy is loosing patience!!! :smilie39:

Thanks again for sharing!

CODMAN

Itsjustme0770
12-09-2008, 16:13
I'll second that this is a great trip report. We didn the Komodo Dancer in June and I am VERY interested in hearing a first hand trip report on the Paradise Dance. I'll be tuned in here.

Shenanigan
12-10-2008, 14:07
Thanks for the report. I'm heading that way the first of Jan. Typically I don't do the night dives, but based on your report I will definately reconsider! Looking forward to te report on part two of your trip.

mrm777
12-11-2008, 23:50
Great report...with all the important details...thanks.

neugierig
12-12-2008, 07:24
great report. I might be moving to singapore next year, and I'll definitely give lembeh a try once i'm there. much easier to fly to manado from SG.

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 12:54
I'm gonna post a lot of pics. Some good some okay but wanted to get a variety out there. I haven't got to the nudis, flatworms or plurobranchs yet gonna wait till I get thru the Raja pics. These pics are just from Lembeh

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 12:58
the next 10

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 13:01
and another 10

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 13:05
okay 10 more.

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 13:07
still another 10

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 13:09
last 10 till I do Raja report and go thru those pics. Nudi's will be last

Itsjustme0770
12-12-2008, 13:11
Chinacat-

Truly great photos. Can you tell me what sort of rig you were shooting? I'm particularly interested in the lens (lens diopter) you were using on the pygmy seahorse.

Great shots.

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 13:14
Don't laugh to hard but I was using a canon sd 900 in the canon underwater case. no strobe. most pics were done using macro mode and with the underwater scene. just your basic point and shoot.

Travelnsj
12-12-2008, 15:38
My favs are the Pygmy Seahorse and the best is the Mantis Shrimp. What were the two spotted shrimp on the other page?

chinacat46
12-12-2008, 15:46
My favs are the Pygmy Seahorse and the best is the Mantis Shrimp. What were the two spotted shrimp on the other page?

Those are tiger shrimp. Very small and very rare. One was taken at night and one during the day.

Did you notice one of the pygmy's is very pregnant.

jet126
12-13-2008, 05:30
Great pics Chuck! Thanks for sharing.

mrm777
12-13-2008, 22:09
What weird, colorful and cool critters. (Gotta, just gotta.......get to the Pacific.)

chinacat46
12-14-2008, 08:04
WARNING! Diving the pacific can be hazardous to your enjoyment of the Caribbean.

One trip is probably okay but after mulltiple trips you will become jaded.

chinacat46
12-14-2008, 11:24
On the morning of Nov 19th I left Lembeh Resort and retraced my steps to the Manado Airport where I met up with some friends who were gonna also be on the Paradise Dancer and we all flew to SoWrong(Sorong) on Wings(aka Lion Air) where we were met by some of the crew of the Paradise Dancer. It turned out that all 18 passengers on the liveaboard flew in on that flight. The crew took care of collecting our bags and then shuttled us over to the dock where we boarded a tender which took us to the Paradise Dancer(PD) our home for the next 11 nights. Two of my friends I had been to Wakatobi with twice. As we approached the PD there was a blonde woman at the top of the stairs greeting the boat. I said to my friends that looks like Wendy the head DM from Wakatobi. Turns out it was! The dive world is a very small world. I didn't mention it in my Lembeh report but I dove with a guy there that I had met on the Star Dancer in PNG the year before and another guy who knew the couple I dove with in Dumaguete earlier this year. Yes the dive world is a very small world. After my trip to Wakatobi last year Wendy had left Wakatobi and returned to England for a while before returning to Indonesia to work as the cruise director on the PD. It was great seeing her again and she also knew another couple onboard from Wakatobi as well. Well enough with the small world stuff but if you travel around you are bound to run into people you know or who know people you know.

The PD is one incredible boat. It was just built and started taking passengers in June of this year. They spent the earlier part of the year in Lembeh area and this was only their 3rd trip in the Raja Ampat area(turns out this was a bad thing). The overall length of the boat is 190 feet with 154 feet actually being useable and the beam(width) was an incredible 39 feet. This was one huge boat for 18 passengers and weights in at over 800 tons. This was my 24th live aboard but there was no doubt it was the nicest boat I'd ever been on. The rooms are 180 sq feet which might not sound like a lot but I've been on some which were about 60 sq feet and were so small you had to go out into the hall to change your mind. Instead of the usual bunk style where one person could stand at time this room had two seperate beds(pushed together for couples) and plenty of room to move around as well as storage space. I've been on some boats where the only storage space is under the bunk and you have to share that with the other person. The bathroom itself was a work of art and nicer then some hotels I've stayed in. I never met the whole crew at once but there was about 18 crew so it was about one to one to the passengers. The boat and crew were fantastic and I knew from a previous trip to Raja that the diving would be incredible.

We left from SoWrong and started our trip to the Misool area but had to make a delay when the crew saw how much beer was consumed in the first hour. They sent a tender back to SoWrong to make a beer run and came back with 18 cases of Bintang. It makes me wonder why a boat that size didn't keep more on hand but at least we had enough beer for the trip! They definitely had enough wine and hard liquor but they did run out of diet coke about half way thru the trip. Turns out that is one thing they can't easily get in that part of the world.

The food on board was nothing spectacular. First off you have to realize that SoWrong is almost the end of the earth so getting supplies really dictates what they can make. We were told the bread was flown in from Bali and the bread was definitely very good but some of the meals left a little to be desired. The day started with first Breakfast which was toast, fruit, juice, coffee, tea, ceral and croissants. Before the first dive you put in your breakfast order and after the first dive was second Breakfast(hot food). You could have eggs, pancakes, mie goreng, oatmeal and of course sides of ham, bacon or sausage(i.e. hot dog). I had omelets some days, pancakes(with different fruit inside-mango, banana, & pineapple), and mie goreng w/egg on top. Lunch was a buffet and was always Indonesian style food. It got a bit old with the same veggie dish almost every meal and the same fruit tray for desert. Dinners were more western style but were mostly fish, a few pasta meals and if I remember chicken twice. My last trip to Raja I was on a small boat run by Larry Smith and the owner was an Australian. That boat had stuff flown in from Oz and they had a true gourmet chef and the food was top shelf. The dinners and lunches on this trip were okay but I was really expecting more and compared to some of the live aboards I'd been on the food was a disappointment.

Now for the diving the real reason I was here. Raja Ampat is a relatively new area. Although people have been diving it for a number of years now it is just starting to get "discovered" by the main stream dive community. A couple of years ago National Geographic sent a few of there dive crew to the area and after doing a number of dives they said it was the most biodiverse area for diving on the planet. They said this because of two things one the number and variety of coral and the two the number and variety of fish and other creatures. More new stuff was being discovered on just about every dive and they were counting the number of types of fish they could see on an hour dive and both were records. Raja Ampat is a divers paradise.

The diving on the PD is done from two tenders and they put nine divers and at least one DM on each tender. Sometimes we had two DM's but mostly just one. My friends and I are very experienced divers and we go very slow and poke around so most of the time we never saw the DM's any way. There was 5 of us and the other 4 people on our tender usually swam faster and hung with the DM. We usually fell behind and occassionally they would find something incredible and we would catch up with them. Or even funnier the other tender would get in behind us and catch up to us and pass us. They offer 4 dives a day on the PD. Two morning dives, one afternoon dive and one night dive. Dive times are 60 mins but that is more a guide line then a rule and most dives were about 65-66 mins with a couple over 70 mins. They had planned to do 37 dives but one was canceled due to weather and currents so they only offered 36 dives. Myself and 5 others did them all. Water temps were mostly 84 degrees with some sites dipping to a bone chilling 82 :-). Between Lembeh and Raja I logged 67 dives.

As I stated earlier this was my second trip to Raja. My first trip was in Feb 2007 and I traveled with the late Larry Smith who had been spending quite some time in this area after leaving Lembeh Strait(Larry put Lembeh on the dive map and the dive world lost a great man when he passed away in March of 2007). In the time Larry spent in Raja he got to really know the area and I'm glad I got to meet and dive with him. He showed us some incredible diving when I was there on my first trip. Most of the dive sites didn't have names and he took us to one spot where we snorkeled with probably 30 manta rays. He knew the area very well the PD dive crew did NOT! I can't say the diving in Raja was bad because just about anywhere you jump in you will see incredible reefs and fish life but the PD crew didn't know the best sites and although we did dive a number of great spots having had the expertise of Larry Smith on my previous trip I knew I wasn't getting the best the area had. Other then this disappointment I'd still have to say the diving was world class. I saw lots and lots and lots of fish in huge schools as well as many wobbegongs(carpet sharks), epaulette sharks, bamboo sharks, black tip sharks, a few mantas, devil rays, huge stingrays and probably the hilight of the whole trip two blue ring octopus. Another kewl thing was a banded toadfish. There were was also quite a lot of macro and nudibranchs, flatworms and other little things I like to spend my time looking at. The first blue ring we had for over 25 mins and actually left it because we were running low on air. The second was two dives later and I'm sure it was the same one but others say it was a different one. We dove the same site on the 3rd dive we did on the 1st dive and the blue ring was in almost the same spot we saw the first one so I'm almost positive it was the same one. It didn't hang out as long the second time since there were people from the the other tender there as well and I think all the flashing and people freaked it out a bit. It finally said enough and went down a hole. Everybody but the guy with the huge camera on the other tender got to see it up close. By the time he got there it had climbed into the hole. The site we saw the blue ring at was Toblerone Tunnel(not to be confused with the Hershey Highway). The coral and beauty of the sites in Raja is another thing that always impresses me. The soft corals put Fiji to shame and the hard corals as well will rival any area in the world. The overgrowth of algae and just the general reef health is top notch. I've dove in Fiji, Philippines, Palau, GBR, PNG, other parts of Indonesia as well as numerous sites in the Caribbean(Little Cayman, Bonaire, Bahamas, T&C, Roatan, Cozumel, Belize, etc...) and the reefs in Raja Ampat blow them all awasy. After spending 9 days diving the barren Lembeh Strait it was a complete change diving the lush reefs of Raja.

The reason we picked the PD over other boats is because the couple from Dallas who were friends of my friends wanted to book the master and commander suite on the PD. This is a huge 450 square foot suite on the back of the main deck. While it is an incredible room you don't go on a live aboard because of the room you go because of the diving. I voiced this concern when we were talking about going at Wakatobi in Nov of 2007 but the PD was the boat we were going on. I could have opted not to go but I wanted to dive with my friends. When I return to Raja and lord knows I will I will most likely go with the Archipelago II that is where Ali and Made are the two incredible dive guides that worked for Larry Smith and that he trained. These guys are great and if you plan a trip to Raja I'd go with them. The boat isn't as nice as the PD but I'm willing to bet you get a better diving experience. It does look like a nice boat and the food will probably be as good or better then the PD. It's a long way to Raja Ampat so when I go again it will be based on the diving not whether my friends can have a big room. Who spends time in their room on a dive trip? When I'm asleep I don't care how big the room is do you?

The flight home was fairly painless but long. I had a flight on Express Air at 9:40AM to Jakarta with a layover in Makassar. The flight was about 30 mins late which is ontime for Indonesian airlines. Express air flies 737 with absolutely no leg room. I'm 5'9" and I was cramped if you are bigger you won't fit in the seat. In Indonesia the flight schedules are guide lines and should not be relied on for making a connection to an international flight. Allow plenty of extra time and you will be okay. The flight from Makassar also on Express was a little over 30 mins late as well but since I was booked on the last Singapore Air flight of the day out of Jakarta I was okay. In fact I got over to the international terminal early enough to get on an earlier flight to Singapore. So I got to Singapore roughly an hour earlier then I had planned and got to check out Terminal 3 which is brand new as of January and is an incredible place. I had a 6 hour block at the transit hotel in Terminal 3 and I have to say I like the Transit hotel in Terminal 2 better. More choices on the TV! I got up at 6AM and since I was traveling biz class(love ff miles) I went to the Singapore Air lounge to hangout and relax. Free food, booze, comfy chairs and free wifi. I hooked up with one of my friends who was traveling economy and since I'm star alliance gold I was able to get him in the lounge. We hung out there for about 3 hours getting crocked before the flight home. We had a layover in Toyko and then in LA we went our seperate ways me back to Denver and he back to Tucson. I had a 3 hour layover in LA and hung out in the Red Carpet lounge there before finally boarding my flight which turned out to be the longest delay(~45 mins late) of any of my flights. My bag was one of the first few off the belt and my ride picked me up right away(I was about 10 mins late on planned time) and off I went. Overall a great trip.

UPDATE: I'm about a third of my way thru the Raja pictures. Hope to have some up my mid week. After that I'll do a combo of the nudibranchs, flatworms and pleurobranchs from both areas.

NOTE to guests: If you want to view the pics you need to be a member of the board. Membership is free and you never have to post if all you want to do is lurk. BTW if you do post you can get gift certificates for equipment at Scuba Toys so in a sense you get paid to post.

Travelnsj
12-14-2008, 21:53
Sounds like you saw more than I did in Raja...although you had twice the dives than me....and I did some excursions that was wreck diving etc. Next year I'm pretty much going to hang out on Kri and Sardines reefs and in 2010 I'll do the Antares. That will be the boat to beat plus you will see many of the Larry Smith people working for Max.....Dr. Gerald Allen recorded 283 different species of fish during ONE dive on Cape Kri.

Did you see the epaulette sharks on a nite dive? have not seen one of those yet.

Talk about a small dive world....I failed to mention in my Lembeh report....I walked by this lady down near the dive lockers who looked familiar. I said hello continued to walk on...saw her husband....turned around and it was Nada and Alex from Moscow that I dove with in January at Sorido....it is a small world!

Although the PD did not know the area.....sounds like you had a great time.

You like terminal 2 rooms :smiley21: better than terminal 3 because of the TV? The T-3 rooms are much nicer and who goes to Singapore to watch TV?????:smiley29:

chinacat46
12-15-2008, 05:25
Sounds like you saw more than I did in Raja...although you had twice the dives than me....and I did some excursions that was wreck diving etc. Next year I'm pretty much going to hang out on Kri and Sardines reefs and in 2010 I'll do the Antares. That will be the boat to beat plus you will see many of the Larry Smith people working for Max.....Dr. Gerald Allen recorded 283 different species of fish during ONE dive on Cape Kri.

Yeah but they have seen more fish in some of the other areas since then. We dove cape kri it was a great dive.


Did you see the epaulette sharks on a nite dive? have not seen one of those yet.

Yep saw some on night dives. Got pics.


You like terminal 2 rooms :smiley21: better than terminal 3 because of the TV? The T-3 rooms are much nicer and who goes to Singapore to watch TV?????:smiley29:

After 3+ weeks it would have been nice to watch CNN but not in the terminal 3 rooms. I wasn't going to Singapore I was passing thru the airport. Also thought the terminal 2 rooms had a more comfortable bed. The rooms otherwise seemed about the same although terminal 3 rooms had nicer bathrooms.

Shenanigan
12-18-2008, 21:29
"When I return to Raja and lord knows I will I will most likely go with the Archipelago II "

I believe this is the boat I will be boarding in 16 days. Sounds like I will be in for quite the adventure! :smiley20:

Thanks for the trip report. First time to this area. Been to Fiji and RP, but you and Travelnsj give such kudos to Indo, I can't wait!!

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 01:01
"When I return to Raja and lord knows I will I will most likely go with the Archipelago II "

I believe this is the boat I will be boarding in 16 days. Sounds like I will be in for quite the adventure! :smiley20:

Thanks for the trip report. First time to this area. Been to Fiji and RP, but you and Travelnsj give such kudos to Indo, I can't wait!!

You will have a great time and Ali and Made are great guides. Ali has a laugh that will make you laugh. I hope you do a trip report when you get back and let us know how the boat and diving was, etc...

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:13
The next 60 pics are from Raja.

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:15
next 10

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:17
and another 10

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:19
still yet another 10

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:21
next to last 10 of this batch

Travelnsj
12-19-2008, 18:22
what is this http://forum.scubatoys.com/attachments/asian-diving/3638d1229732340t-lembeh-raja-trip-report-pics-pcutt2.jpg (http://forum.scubatoys.com/attachments/asian-diving/3638d1229732340-lembeh-raja-trip-report-pics-pcutt2.jpg)????....and no more big stuff? only Mantas??

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:23
the last 10. Might add some nudis in the future might not.

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 18:31
what is this http://forum.scubatoys.com/attachments/asian-diving/3638d1229732340t-lembeh-raja-trip-report-pics-pcutt2.jpg (http://forum.scubatoys.com/attachments/asian-diving/3638d1229732340-lembeh-raja-trip-report-pics-pcutt2.jpg)????....and no more big stuff? only Mantas??

That is a pygmy cuttlefish inside of a big clam.

Travelnsj
12-19-2008, 19:41
Wow that is way Kewl!!!....I would never of thought that....Now I can see it with the blue spots!

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 19:50
That pic was taken at night. My night pics are starting to improve. slowly...

Travelnsj
12-19-2008, 20:08
Not to Hijack your thread....here are some pics of the large schools of fish and the pics do not do Justice to what you are seeing. This can look like many other places we have been but people do not realize...everywhere you turn are large amounts of fish....and then when that school or two of thousands of fusiliers swim by!....Just about a year ago I was getting ready to leave:smiley19:.....now I will spend the Holidays is cold Socal!

chinacat46
12-19-2008, 20:32
Here are a few I took of lots of fish but they just don't do it justice. It deesn't give you that feeling you get when you're in the middle of thousands of fish. You know what I mean above below right left front back etc...

jet126
12-20-2008, 20:28
Great Raja trip report! So thorough. And great photos! It's not someplace I'd considered but now I'm rethinking ... Thanks so much for sharing.

We leave for USVI Tuesday. Someone just sent me a note that a lion fish was spotted at the Indians, a popular divesite in the BVI's. Not good!

Travelnsj
12-20-2008, 22:55
Great Raja trip report! So thorough. And great photos! It's not someplace I'd considered but now I'm rethinking ... Thanks so much for sharing.

We leave for USVI Tuesday. Someone just sent me a note that a lion fish was spotted at the Indians, a popular divesite in the BVI's. Not good!

Joanie....if ChinaCat says that it is the best overall diving he has done....I listen....he has been to a few more spots than me....I tend to keep going back to my favs....I never thought I would find something better than Palau....WRONG....twice within a year I have been to Lembeh and Raja....and I will be back in 09!

Sansho
12-20-2008, 23:22
Very nice trip report ... thanks for posting the pics.

jet126
12-21-2008, 21:10
if ChinaCat says that it is the best overall diving he has done....I listen....!

I am listening! I'm committed through 2009 but there's always 2010 to think about, right? Good to have goals. Heck I may even be ready for another live aboard by then.

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 08:26
Don't take my word everybody likes different things. All I'm doing is expressing my own opinion. As for the best I actually prefer Lembeh over Raja but the two are like night and day so both are world class in my book.

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:18
Well I thought about not doing a section on nudibranchs but figured that would make the report incomplete. So for completeness I'm adding 80 more pics. The first 30 or so are flatworms, pleurobranchs and slugs. The next 50 are just nudibranchs. Pics are from both Lembeh and Raja. Enjoy!

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:22
the next 10.

Travelnsj
12-23-2008, 20:25
have not seen some of those....you need a web site!

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:26
the next 10

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:27
Now some nudis

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:29
next 10 nudi's

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:31
another 10 nudi's

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:33
Yet more nudi's

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:34
The final 10 nudi's

chinacat46
12-23-2008, 20:38
Here are two final shots. The first is from Raja and is just perfect considering the date. The second is a parting shot from Lembeh of the rarest duck in Lembeh.

sandyyou
12-24-2008, 09:41
Great report and valuable information shared. Thanks chinacat.

I hope i have chance to get onabord the AAII.

chinacat46
12-27-2008, 11:48
Here are some tips if you plan to go dive in Indonesia and at Lembeh and Raja Ampat. I've been to Indonesia 5 times now and I've dove(259 dives in Indonesia) in Bali(2x), Wakatobi(2x), Komodo, Lembeh(3x), Bunaken, Raja Ampat(2x). Lembeh and Raja are my favorites but I love everywhere I've dove in Indonesia.

Upon arrival you can get a 30 day visa for $25 US dollars.

Current exchange rates are roughly $1 US = $12,000 Rupiah.

When flying domestic or international routes expect to pay departure fees. Payable in Rupiah. If you don't have rupiah expect to exchange some and get a lousy rate. International departure fees run around $100,000 Rupiah leaving Manado or Jakarta. I've heard it's $150,000 Rupiah leaving Bali(Depensar). Domestic flights are much cheaper.

To exchange money in Bali bring crisp clean new bills($100 and $50). Always count the money before leaving. Best exchange rates are usually found in Kuta/Legion shopping areas. Some stores will accept US funds but expect to get a terrible exchange rate. Best is to withdraw Rupiah from ATM machine usually get the best exchange rate. Be careful where you use your credit card. Some places will also add a service charge for using a credit card.

Try and avoid flying on Indonesian airlines if at all possible. Manado, Bali and Jakarta have international as well as domestic terminals. Some areas(Raja Ampat-Sorong) will require you to fly on Indonesian airlines. Indonesian airlines are known(not to mention safety issues) for being late. The earlier you fly in the day the better chance you have of being close to on time. Don't expect to check a bag from a domestic Indonesian airline thru to an International flight. Also expect strict limits on baggage weight. Usually like 20Kg total checked bag. If you think the Caribbean is third world then get ready for fourth world. Bring a good attitude it helps. Allow lots of time between domestic and international legs. If a domestic airline causes you to miss your international flight good luck trying to collect anything. Hopefully you will get rebooked for free. Hopefully.

Buying tickets for domestic Indonesian flights usually requires an Indonesian travel agent. When getting tickets to/from Manado there is Safari Tours. I'm not sure who my travel agent used in Bali but they delivered tickets to hotel as most good agents in Indonesia will do.

If you fly thru Manado you should repeat should stop and dive in Lembeh Strait don't just think of Manado as a jumping off point to Raja Ampat. Lembeh is world class diving. There is also good diving in Bunaken and other areas near to Manado. Also be aware that there aren't daily flights to/from Manado to Singapore or other areas, check flight schedules. Layovers may be required.

If you fly thru Makassar(Ujung Pandang) you are flying thru probably the main domestic hub in Indonesia. It's a new airport and very nice compared to most domestic and some international terminals in Indonesia. Looks can be deceiving remember it is a domestic airport and so that means Indonesia airlines(Garuda, Lion, Merpati, Xpress, etc...). Expect delays. Chances are if you fly into Makassar on one airline you will need to get your baggage and recheck it at other airline. If it is the same airline you are "probably" okay. The good thing if you are delayed is there are plenty of food/beer choices and it does have AC and western style toliets. Not as nice as Singapore or even the Bali airport but still nice for a domestic Indonesia hub.

If you fly thru/to Bali definitely spend time on Bali either before or after your main trip if it is not on Bali. Bali is safe but there are touts, pickpockets, swindlers, etc... so you need to pay attention or you could fall pray. Bali has great shopping, sight seeing as well as some great diving. Overall great place if you are not in the main tourist areas.

As a diver I try to avoid Jakarta but I have flown thru there once. Domestic to International. Got my bag no problem but you need to either take a free bus or pay a taxi to transfer between terminals. If people are trying to help you they are steering you to a taxi. The bus is free and they seem to come by quite often. Take the bus. The international terminal seemed nice at Jakarta. Domestic terminal is a zoo.

Depending on what areas of Indonesia you plan on visiting you may need to take an anti-Malaria drug. I recommend Malarone and I also recommend you check to make sure it's needed. In Raja Ampat if you are land based the answer is YES. Other areas you might not need to worry. Lembeh/Manado area, Wakatobi, and Bali are pretty much all Malaria free but that doesn't mean things can't change. Check the CDC, your doctor and talk with your travel agent as well.

Diving in Lembeh. Most of what I'm about to say applies to muck diving in other areas of the world not just to Lembeh.

1. Kicking. Most muck diving is sandy areas and other areas that can silt easily. Use a frog kick or stay far enough above the bottom to not kick things up. Good buoyancy as well as trying not to kick hard when close to the bottom as well as using the proper kicking technique is very important.

2. Get a muck stick. Most dive shops in Lembeh sell muck sticks. Get one right away you will be glad you did. Take my word on this get one right away don't wait. Muck sticks have a 1001 uses but they really are useful when doing this kind of diving.

3. If there is a house reef try and get a guided tour the first time you dive it. At Lembeh Resort they charge you for the guide but the air is free. After you have a tour dive the house reef whenever you want unguided for free. House reefs usually have some great diving so check them out don't overlook it.

4. Most muck sites don't have great viz. You aren't there for great viz you are there for the critters. Don't add to the bad viz watch your kicking! Enjoy what you are there for don't expect to see whale sharks.

5. Night dives at muck sites rock. If you are half interested in doing a night dive Lembeh will make you a full time convert.

6. Most places you muck dive and other areas around the world offer Mandarin dives. Mandarin fish are beautiful and they are horny buggers. Most Mandarin dives are around dusk as this is when the mating occurs. It can last from 20-60 mins. YMMV, Worth doing a couple of times after that I prefer just observing them when not mating.

7. Most of the dive guides at Lembeh(and most muck sites) are very good at finding the local critters. You will see a lot more by staying with your guides. The guides are very friendly towards photographers and will help you get the best shot. Sometimes to a fault. If you don't like a guide harassing the critters tell them. Sometimes they get carried away or might be doing it because another diver asked them to do it. Regardless express yourself if you think they are getting over zealous. You must also respect the critters and not harass them. Flashing a light in there face is not considered harassing. :-)

8. If you kneel/lay down in the sand or other areas LOOKOUT for critters. Many of the things in Lembeh and other muck areas can hurt you. Beaware what you are about to kneel on, a Spiny devilfish will go thru most wetsuits. Also if you do kneel,etc... be very careful to not stir things up when lifting off the bottom. Be careful of anything you might touch.

Diving Raja Ampat:

There are a few resorts where you can dive parts of Raja Ampat but to really experience the area you need to do a liveaboard.

Getting to and from Raja Ampat usually requires flying into Sorong. This requires using an Indonesian airline. Try and book the earliest flight of the day. Try to keep your gear as light as possible and be prepared with Rupiah if you are overweight. Don't argue with the baggage attendant it might get your bag left off the plane.

Sorong is not the kinda a place you want to hang out in. Try to minimize your time in Sorong. Fly in and out on the day you board/depart on your liveaboard or transfer to your resort.

The Sorong airport is another place you don't want to hang out in as well but sometimes you have no choice. Carry your own toliet paper(good idea when traveling anywhere).

Other areas to dive Bali, Komodo, Wakatobi, Flores, Alor, Ambon.

If you have been to Indonesia add your tips to help others. Or just add travel tips if you want.

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 12:18
Sorong and that Airport (love the lounge) is one of my favorite places to hang out!....OK I am lying....LOL

But the Makassar airport is as nice or nicer than a few here in the good old USA!....I do not think there is a much nicer Airport in the world than Singapore that is a class act!

I'm pretty happy to dive the Papua area of Raja....can never get enough of Cape Kri or Sadines reefs....I have heard if you do a LOB in Raja make sure they are experienced in the area to get the most out of your trip!

Today the IDR is 11,000 to 1 USD.....damn....I'd like to see that get back up there to 12,000 to 13,000 to the USD for next year!

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 15:47
You two have been a great help in getting me prepared for my trip in 6 DAYS! Thanks for all the info. How much did you convert to Rupiah? I just picked up some new $100's, but not sure how much I really need to exchange. Right now it appears to be raining there. Hopefully it will clear up.

chinacat46
12-27-2008, 16:08
I guess how much to convert really depends on what you have to pay for. Is your lodging and meals already payed for? What about diving? Will drinks be extra? What can you put on credit cards and what would you rather pay cash for? Tipping can be in Rupiah or US funds. The only thing you absolutely need Rupiah for is the departure fees. What other costs do you have?

zoey
12-27-2008, 16:23
Absolutely crazy great photos! Thank you VERY much for sharing. I know where I'm going before I die!

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 16:41
If my trip is pretty much pre-paid and the places I go take CC's...I convert only 100 USD, as you need that for departure fees, misc stuff at the Airport. And if you have extra Rupiah you can give that out in tips etc.

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 16:45
My trip is "all-inclusive" (except adult beverages, tips, shopping, etc). So I'll probably be in about the same position. Thanks!

chinacat46
12-27-2008, 17:08
Yeah $100 should cover your needs then. I like to come home with some rupiah as it gives me an excuse to go back to Indonesia.

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 17:53
I like to have a few extra coins/notes, if not for a return trip then to remember the last one.

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 17:54
My trip is "all-inclusive" (except adult beverages, tips, shopping, etc). So I'll probably be in about the same position. Thanks!

Another thing....I always bring around $50 in ones, $50 in fives, $50 in tens, couple of hundred in twentys, a couple of $50's and at least one one $100 bill other than the one you will change for Ruphiah.

The ones, fives, tens and twentys are good to give as tips....and that will save your Rupiah for taxes, local shopping etc.

And as China Cat says it is always good to have some Ruphiah on hand for when you go back.

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 17:57
I've been collecting small denominations and probably have around what you're recommending. Sounds like I should be in OK shape. I'm probably overly concerned about how much to take b/c on my first Int'l dive trip I severely under estimated ... thankfully found an ATM and avoided an embarassing moment.

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 18:01
I've been collecting small denominations and probably have around what you're recommending. Sounds like I should be in OK shape. I'm probably overly concerned about how much to take b/c on my first Int'l dive trip I severely under estimated ... thankfully found an ATM and avoided an embarassing moment.

Again as Chincat said....clean crisp bills.....I have given some old bills in the past when paying for something or changing $10 or a $20...they were handed back.

One year ago today I was diving in Lembeh:smiley13::smiley13::smiley13:

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 18:05
I've been collecting small denominations and probably have around what you're recommending. Sounds like I should be in OK shape. I'm probably overly concerned about how much to take b/c on my first Int'l dive trip I severely under estimated ... thankfully found an ATM and avoided an embarassing moment.

Again as Chincat said....clean crisp bills.....I have given some old bills in the past when paying for something or changing $10 or a $20...they were handed back.

One year ago today I was diving in Lembeh:smiley13::smiley13::smiley13:

I hadn't heard that about the smaller bills. I'll have to check what I've got.

I'll be thinking about you and chinacat while I'm there. You've both been very helpful and your trip reports are excellent! :smiley31:

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 18:19
I usually go to the bank before I go and make sure my ones, fives, tens and twentys are usually 2004 or better and the bills are not worn or torn....you can give old bills out in tips but it is better to have as clean and crisp bills as possible.

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 18:27
Now if I could just get packed. Already have dive bag (45lbs - screwed in SoWrong I know)/carry-ons done .. ... swimsuits and toothbrush ... and I'll have to wear something on the plane ... so I guess everything else is just extra! :smiley2:

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 18:35
45lbs....better than me!....are you going to Lembeh?

Remember Raja does not have the best vis or at least the Papua area doesn't...I remember on my first couple of dives.....I was very disappointed....then I started to look around up, down, side to side.....I could not count all the species of Marine life I saw....the finest diving I have done to date!

You are bringing a can of deet with you?

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 18:48
Well, I'm planning on carrying my batteries. That should save me a few pounds in my dive bag!

I'm doing Raja 7 days via LOB, so not sure how that will compare to your experience, but yes I'm also doing 4 days in Lambeh. My last trip was to Puerto Galera and Dumagete, also muck diving, but the vis was pretty good. From the pics and reports you've posted, I'm expecting large schools of fish and small critters. Not like Fiji with lots of soft coral.

EDIT: Oh and in answer to your last question ... yes plenty of Deep Woods Off, Cutters bite stick and malaria meds.

Travelnsj
12-27-2008, 20:42
You will be surprised by the amounts of coral in Raja. I've only been to one spot or dive in Wakatobi that had better coral than Raja and anywhere else I have dove. I'll be interested in your comparison of the diving between the Bligh waters in Fiji vs Raja.

I took Malaria Meds on my first trip this year and got very sick with Doxy and the Sun....in October I just made sure I covered myself in the AM and PM with deet....I do not think I had one bite in either Raja or Lembeh.

Shenanigan
12-27-2008, 20:57
I'll have to be sure to make daily notes so I can live up to the high bar you and chinacat have set with your trip reports. Good to know about the mosquitos ... got eaten alive by no-see-ums in RP last year. I just hope the weather cooperates. Bought a wind breaker/rain jacket today, just in case. Arrived in Puerto Galera in a down pour, no rain jacket, light colored t-shirt, tiny cover up ... c'est la vie ...

mrm777
12-27-2008, 22:46
We're looking forward to your on-the-scene-reports!

Travelnsj
12-28-2008, 11:30
ChinaCat....just remembered I owe you a bet. Just booked my ticket to Indonesia in November today.....How about a Remy XO at either Lembeh, Bali or if your boat pulls into Sorido in Raja?

namabiru
12-30-2008, 22:20
Chinacat, nice writeup on traveling Indonesia. Having just come back from Indonesia, I can readily agree with what you wrote.

--Do know that the Garuda checkin people were Carry-On Weight Nazis. For the first time ever, I had my carry-on weighed (It was 10 kilos) in Bali when I flew domestic to Manado. So I had to take my reg bag out, and stuff it with my camera housing, etc., and check my carry-on. Fortunately, though, with the bag plus carry-on weighing 26 kilos, they were at least kind enough to only charge me 5 kilos.

--I, too, can't emphasize that in Indonesia, or anywhere in SE Asia for that matter, that a good attitude (not to mention being peaced out), patience, and a smile will get you a lot further. Allow a LOT of time to do things, and take a book for the slack periods. Be understanding in situations. The service people are getting paid very little, and basically are simply doing what they are told to do so they can keep their jobs. American hissy fits complicate matters AND contribute to the spoiled rude Westerner stereotype.

--Overweight charges are not that much on budget airlines (Air Asia, etc.), and it was the same with Garuda. 5 kilos on Garuda cost me 150,000 rupiah. 5 on Air Asia was 60 ringgit. You've got a cheap ticket as it is-- don't stress, just check and pay.

namabiru
12-30-2008, 22:27
EDIT: Oh and in answer to your last question ... yes plenty of Deep Woods Off, Cutters bite stick and malaria meds.

YES. That's one thing I forgot. I should have taken bug spray and citronella candles to Lembeh. Fortunately the resort had both, but would have been better to have taken my own.

Oh. And batteries are not always available in Paradise. Or, if they are, they aren't the type that will last in torches and cameras. I had a torch, but no batteries. Ha! For longer trips, rechargables are good. (Indonesia = Europe 2-pin style).

Then again, for torches, if you're going on a night dive, chances are the cost includes a torch. Or, if not, hiring a torch is minimal.

chinacat46
12-31-2008, 08:38
Did you dive in Bali as well?

I never had Garuda weigh my carry on must be something new.

Didn't think the bugs in Lembeh were bad and when I was on the live aboard in Raja pretty much no bugs at all. I guess though if your landbased in Raja bug juice is important.

cutter77
01-01-2009, 01:06
Great detail on the trips...........very much appreciated!

namabiru
01-02-2009, 03:48
Did you dive in Bali as well?

I never had Garuda weigh my carry on must be something new.

Didn't think the bugs in Lembeh were bad and when I was on the live aboard in Raja pretty much no bugs at all. I guess though if your landbased in Raja bug juice is important.

Yep, I dived at Tulamben. I don't know if the carry-on weighing is new. On the other hand, the Garuda staff at Bali that day were being really nit-picky. Not just nit-picky for an airline in general, but nit-picky for an Asian airline.

There was a guy who had computer components who wanted to get on the airplane. The guy had navigated the Garuda ticket counter... security... nothing said at all. Obviously as this kind of stuff is a bit fragile, he didn't want to check it. I'd feel the same.

However, at the gate, the staff decided to actually use that carry-on size checker to check the size of the boxes. Never mind that heaps of other people had bulging handfuls of shopping bags (typical scene at SE Asia airport)-- they held up the entire boarding queue in scrutinizing this guy instead of pulling him aside, and delayed us for at least 20 minutes. In the end, they made him go all the way back downstairs to check his stuff. I don't know if he was able to make the flight or not. I'm guessing no...

Meanwhile, heh... there was this white guy having a hissy fit over all of this. He was shouting at the gate staff, demanding to see the airport manager because the gate staff were holding up the queue, and so on and so forth. As I learned, because he spoke loud enough for everyone in a 50-meter radius to hear, he lives in Bangkok, and works for an advertising firm. I thought to myself, 'you'd think he'd be used to this by now then'... He was freaking out, saying that they were making Bali look really bad with delaying everyone for one person as well as their attention to this one guy's carry-on items when other people *were* carrying armfuls of shopping bags.

The gate staff were all standing around, meanwhile, like they had no clue what to do. The perceived incompetence and the slow pace really annoyed this guy.

Mmm... maybe it depends on time of year, but the mosquitos drove me crazy. I was covered with bug bites. I guess, then, better to take a small can and leave it behind for the staff than to not have any at all.