Into the Muck..

May 19, 2007 - Manado, Indonesia

The N. Sulawesi Aggressor would be home for the next week. This is diving at its best! Terry and I had a private cabin with bath and hot-water shower. The linens on the bed, pillows, and shower mats were all embroidered with “N. Sulawesi Aggressor, Indonesia”. The boat had a TV room filled with CDs, DVDs, novels, and books of diving and field guides. The captain Niall and his brother Alan (the cook/photographer) showed a number of slide shows and videos on the large pull down screen in the TV room. The boat was also well setup for photographers with a huge camera table, and battery charging station. Basically, these would be some of the nicest accommodations we would have on the trip so far. Because we booked in person the week before we saved hundreds of dollars and paid a lower “walk-in” price. Terry and I really lucked out. The ship can accommodate 18 divers, but only took 10 divers on this trip. A small dive group is a diver’s dream. We still had the standard crew of 11 crew members including boat crew, galley crew, and dive guides. The crew did everything from handling our gear to cleaning our cabins every day leaving a small mint on our pillows to show they really cared :-) We setup our gear when we boarded and broke it down when the trip was over. In between, we only needed to touch our gear to don it and dive.

We boarded the boat at 5 pm our first night, ate dinner, had cheese cake for dessert, and a glass of wine. Liveaboard diving is all inclusive except for alcohol. On the Aggressor a couple glasses of wine were included once you were done diving for the day. We usually enjoyed these in the hot tub on the sun deck after the night dive. On the Aggressor it was dive, eat, and sleep; quite literally until I decided to do only 4 of the 5 dives a day. Every time we surfaced there was more food. Before the dive, cold breakfast. After the morning dive, hot breakfast. Then fresh baked cookies or fruit, lunch, dinner with deserts like cake, ice cream, banana fosters. Then finally the night dive, the final dive of the day. Sleep and repeat as necessary, which for us was 5.5 days (of diving). Terry and I became certified Nitrox divers during the trip and dove Nitrox for all our dives. For the non-divers: Nitrox is a gas with higher percent of Oxygen than the air we (and divers) normally breath. It allows longer dive times by reducing the Nitrogen divers absorb while diving.

Our voyage would take us from the Lembeh Straight on the East of N. Sulawesi, around to the Gulf of Manado on the West and include a day of wall diving at the Bunaken Islands. Other than a couple other reef dives, most of the diving was “muck diving”. This was my first experience with muck diving, but I am already hooked. In muck diving you look for small and strange creatures hiding in the muck. Our dive guide Harry showed us a plethora of bizarre creature including frog fish, Ornate Ghost and Banded pipe fish, tiny juvenile Lion fish, octopi, tiny Bobtail squid, eels, sea snakes, Stargazer, Thorny and Pygmy sea horses, Flamboyant cuttle fish, nudibranchs and flat worms of all shapes and colors. We wouldn't have found 1/2 of them on our own. Harry would skillfully used his dive pointer to point to some tiny blob of something stuck to the under side of a leaf in a huge patch of coral. If after much staring we didn't look completely excited, he would use an underwater hand sygnal or write the name on his underwater slate to let us know what we were looking at. I looked again and thought, "What, that little blob of snot?" The highlight was the poisonous and extremely deadly Blue Ring Octopus. And I was without my camera that dive! Then there were the Pygmy Seahorses. The (adult) Pygmy Seahorses are tiny; about a 1/2 an inch? See the photo where our guide pointed it out with his pointer. We saw frog fishes of all colors; white, black, yellow, orange, and green. The hairy frog fish was our favorite. See the video where a small orange frog fish clumsily “walks” across the black sand. I saw a free-swimming blue ribbon eel for the first time. Ranking #1 on cuteness was the juvenile Many-Spotted Sweetlips wiggling his entire body as he swam in place. The most beautiful were the dozens of Mandarin fish we watched for 20 minutes at 20 feet which doubled as a nice safety stop.


Pinic on the top deck
Alan cooking steaks
Thorny Seahorse


Wendy McIlroy:
May 21, 2007
Hairy Frogfish are my favorites, too!
May 21, 2007
all I can say is WOW!
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