Southeast Asia

Diving Indonesia’s Bunaken

Pygmy seahorse, Bunaken, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Clark
Pygmy seahorse, Bunaken, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Clark

We’re swimming fast. Too fast for my liking. I’m taking heaving gulps, and I know my tank won’t last very long if we don’t slow down soon. Just as I’m about to stop and risk losing my group, we hear a rapid series of bangs coming from our dive boat in the distance. Our guide, a lithe Indonesian with pistons for legs and bottomless iron lungs, points into the blue and somehow quickens his pace.

Fish-Eye for Critters

The apparently contradictory choice of adding teleconverters to fish-eye lenses to obtain arresting “wide-macro” images has long been adopted by many rainforest and insect specialists—notably Frans Lanting, the grand master of them all—while several Japanese authors have pioneered its use in underwater photography since the last decade.

North Sulawesi: Buyat Bay & Lembeh Strait

Mandarinfish, Bianca, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Clark
Mandarinfish, Bianca, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Clark

There are very few places in the world that remain unknown to the dive community. Let’s face it, scuba enthusiasts are nothing if not resourceful when it comes to finding new and uncharted waters to dive in. But chances are excellent that when you read the title of this article you asked yourself, “Buyat Bay? Where the heck is that?”

Beyond the Muck

Muck diving is a term used quite frequently these days that can be applied to either a dive site, a type of diving or even an entire region like Lembeh Strait in Indonesia or Anilao in the Philippines.

These areas of the Indo-Pacific have consistently ranked amongst the highest in terms of high coral counts, reef fish and of course the high impact Holy Grail of critters.

Lembeh Strait: Critter Central

Giant frogfish nestled in sponge

The world’s full of triangles. There’s the Love Triangle, the Golden Triangle, the Bermuda Triangle… and then of course, most relevant of all to us divers, there’s the Macrolife Triangle, that blissful figure made up by the Malaysian islands of Lankayan and Kapalai and—at the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi—the Strait of Lembeh.

Indonesia's Raja Ampat

Arus kencang are the words you need to listen out for—you will hear them in the rapid interchange between the dive guides and the boat boys, as they discuss the practicalities of safely immersing a group of “bule” (slang for foreigners) in the waters of Raja Ampat.

Arus kencang means strong current in Bahasa Indonesia, and the emphasis given to those two words will give you an instant insight into what awaits you below.

Thailand's Koh Tao

If anyone was to mention diving in Thailand to you, then you would most likely think of one of the west coast destinations. Hardly a thought would be given to the small island of Koh Tao, which lies off the east coast in the Gulf of Thailand. I live and dive here, so I find this lack of attention a little unfair.