A very exhausting Asia trip (3 of 6)

After Manado, we hopped into a mini van while the other pick up truck haul our still wet dive gear to a remote area of North Sulawesi, the world famous muck diving area call Lembeh to continue our second part of the Photo Expedition dive trip.

When I say remote, it’s really very remote! The van gone through many curves and hills, most of them are only one lane to accommodate one car passing at a time. It was raining a bit on that day, so some of the slope did get a bit challenge do climb.

Lembeh is an area that’s between islands, where it’s protected from current and wave from the sea. The bottom of the sea are mostly volcano ash and trash from the area resident, which some how become a nice habitat for some of the unique marine creature in the world.

After spent about 2 hours on the road, we finally arrive at our hotel, Kasawari Lembeh Resort.

The moment we step out of the minivan, we felt the sticky humidity right away since it was raining a bit that day. The resort manager met with our trip organizer and lead us to the main office building.

The front step of the main office building has very welcoming deco. We were served lemon grass tea, fill out our paper work, let them make copy of our passport, then out we go to our assigned room once they finish unload our luggage from the pick up truck.

The crew that do the heavy lifting at the resort are also dive master. One of them carried my luggage and lead me to my room, which from the outside look very inviting.

From the outside, the room building may look small, but once you get inside, it’s actually very roomy, thanks to the vaulted ceiling. What impress me the most is the deco and setting, it’s so contemporary and high end looking!

Each unit can accommodate two person. But I had the whole unit to myself since I don’t have a travel buddy. The frosted glass door actually lead to the bathroom area.

The bathroom is huge, it has separate toilet seat area, double sink, a shower, and door lead to backyard where there is an outdoor shower.

We arrived just a bit after lunch time, but we didn’t have plan to dive that day since by the time we settle in to the new place, it would be too late. Most of us spent our time to rearrange our stuffs, try to get on the internet, and for me, just walk around to take photos.

The resort pool is overlooking the sea, which is where we will be diving for the next couple days.

At the side of the office building is the diving area, where they have enough bench and hanger for large group of divers to hang wetsuit and get gear up.

On the wall at the diving area are dive schedule white board, and behind the wall is the dive masters’ office, compressor room etc.

At the opposite end of the dive schedule board are camera and wetsuit rinse tanks. The dive masters would rinse our camera and dive gear in these tanks. Before we jump on the boat, we also use these rinse tank to check for housing leak.

At the other end of the diving area are shower area that over look the boat deck.

Before reaching the boat, the dive briefing area is on the left side, inside a hut.

The map of the dive sites around the area is also displayed in the dive briefing hut.

The dock is actually not far away from the resort, just a short flight of stair and a couple yard of bridge.

At night, when the tide is high, divers can just jump off the step to do night dive at the resort reef.

The boat they use are simple, like a speed boat, but the dive sites are between 5 to 10 minutes away from the dock, so it’s not an issue. Besides, they don’t cramp big group of divers on the boat. For a boat that size, we only have 6 divers and 3 dive master on it at any time. Yup, the ratio is 1 dive master to 2 divers, nice!

The resort office building is pretty simple, from the second floor dining area, it just over look the sea and pool.

Across the resort is an island were the local residents stay.

The resort compound are room units arranged in a circular pattern.

The second floor of the office building is the restaurant and lounge area. The lounge is by the wet bar where we had our photos critique session during our last night of the trip.

The 13 of us basically occupied the whole resort. So they arranged the dinning tables into a big long table so we all and sit down together and enjoy the company.

The diving at Lembeh was very lay back and simple. There was no current, since it’s a muck dive area, we don’t have to worry about touching coral either. The dive guide I had was very good at spotting critters, so we just swim and wait for him to signal us over.

The second last night of our trip, I finally hit my 100th dive, which is also referred as “Century dive”. The dive master arranged to have the kitchen bake me a celebration cake and serve it during dinner, what a nice gesture!

Time flies when you have a good time. Kasawari resort is very comfortable, and the dive service is top notch, I basically don’t need to lift a finger and just jump into the water to have fun. The last day of our trip was quite hectic. We had to finish pack up our stuff by 10am so the resort crew can load them onto the pickup truck. We then take our group photo, got back on the curvy slope road to get to the airport and catch our flight to fly to Singapore.

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A very exhausting Asia trip (2 of 6)

Even though we had a very tiring journey to Manado the day before, I still got up early to stick with the schedule, how? Jet lag!!!!!!! I woke up at 3 am due to the time difference, and went back to bed about 4 am. Breakfast is served at 6:30am, diving photography workshop at about 7:30am and we get on the boat at about 8 am. The next couple days are just routine like this.

But the first morning we were there, I had plenty of time before my morning routine so I walked around the resort to check out the pools and amenities. The wet bar next to the pools is sure look inviting, but none of the divers actually hang out at the pool as everybody got dead tired at the end of the diving day.

The pool at the resort is very big.

All the rooms area actually around the pool, so each unit has and pool view balcony.

Every few hundred yard, you would see some local themed statue, this one look like the native drummer.

I have no idea what monkey has to do with Indonesia culture, oh well.

The sun gets bright very quick, and it get hot and humid in no time. Not sure if it’s because we are in South East Asia, or it’s because we’re very close to the ocean.

The resort do have very nice pool amenities, but too bad I don’t have anyone interested to want to hang out at the pool since everyone basically has their own couple to hang out with.

I never seen the pool actually being use as it gets very dark at night when people hangout at the pool, so I have no idea what those mini island is for.

So, back to the diving routine. Once it’s about 6:30 am, it’s time to head out to the jetty area for breakfast. It seems like there are some fishing boats in the area as well.

For next couple days, we see the same gorgeous blue sky, clear reflective ocean.

From a distance, you see mountain that resemble a volcano mountain.

As you get close to some beach, you can’t help but notice how clear the water is.

Even though the islands have beach, we never step foot on them because our diving schedule is very tight.

Almost every corner you look, you see green mountain, clear water, blue sky and fluffy white clouds!

One of the islands has more population than the rest.

The people on the islands are all Christian, and they have many churches!

Most of the people on the island are fisherman, duh!

Once in a while, even though our dive boat is moving, with enough patience I manage to get some post card quality photo.

The color on the fisherman boat add more interested to the blue and white scenery.

When the tide is low, the fisherman also come out to the shallow area to catch their food.

Every day we go out from 8 am until 5:30pm, at the end of the day, which is the scene we see on our way back to the resort, how great is that!

The diving at Manado area is quite diverse, we had a couple macro dive where I see frog fish for the first time.

One of the other cool thing I saw was hairy crab.

The photography workshop we have been having the past couple days were about wide angle photography.

I borrow a strobe for the trip organizer, and not having experience using one, this is as good as I can get when come to wide angle photography with strobe.

There are so many thing involve in underwater photography, but I would say composition is probably one of my strength.

Since I have a new camera for this trip, I had a lot of learning curve and didn’t have time to master the camera before bringing it into the water. At shallow depth, it was kind of hard to control the light, especially with a not so ergonomic camera housing.

Photographing school of fish is quite challenging, my mentality was wanting to fit as many fish into the frame as possible but don’t have a super wide angle lens. But with luck, the right balance of reef and fish actually make up a pretty good picture, I just with the color and the strobe was set right.

Shooting wide angle underwater is quite fun and very relaxing for sure. There were time I just drift along the flow of the ocean and facing the coral wall and looking for things to photography, I could have sleep under the water!

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