After a mere 250 miles to windward our first stop was here. We joined the rally from Davao to Indonesia and they gave us all
a warm welcome here. We all got free moorings and some sort of a dingy dock that slowly fell apart. For sure it is a bit of a
bouncy place with the winds this time of year. Many of the monohulls had sleepless nights.
We had a lovely week here with a local festival happening as well. We had several day tours on an old bus around the
island. Many days we had free breakfast and dinners as well! We were treated like royalty and up on the stage on display
with each event. Everyone wanted to pose with us for photos and likely we are on a million facebook pages now. It gets a bit
old eventually after the first 100K or so times you pose with strangers... The interesting thing is that they all call you mister
even if you are female.
How can you beat free food, free tours, free entertainment, free moorings, free check in and out, and .... Basically we paid for
our visas and 200 for our CAIT (cruising permit) and that was it.
Indonesia is an interesting place with over 17,000 islands, 200,000,000 people, tons of mosques, money with too many zeros,
and at best one trash can for the whole country. Way too much junk (mostly plastic) is floating or sunk around here or more
likely just below the surface waiting to foul your prop. The money is hard to figure out when everything costs a fortune so it
seems. Try a beer for 20,000 local and 5,000 for a taxi and 355,000 for a visa extension. Ok now it is 13,000 to 14,000 local
to the US dollar and boy I love looking at my bank balance at the ATM machines... The problem is that the ATM only gives
1.2 to 2.5 million at a time and that goes fast. Now why the heck do they make 100, 200, and 500 coins? You can't buy
anything for 100. It must be that marketing strategy of every price ending in 99.
We stopped at several islands on the way to Lembeh, but none were that amazing for diving and many were bouncy
anchorages. The best stop was Siau island with an active volcano! Yes at night you could have a beer watching lava flows
and hear the occasional whoosh as the volcano vented. The diving did improve the farther south we went and the number of
FADs rose dramatically. Who is the idiot that invented FADs and where can I find him? For those that did not read the yap
log and don't know what a FAD is the technical name is Fish Attraction Device. The reality is some sort of floating crap
anchored by a tiny rope out in the middle of nowhere in very deep water. Some are long metal tubes about the diameter of a
55 gallon oil drum and 20 or so feet long, others are just rafts, some are small huts, and the most elaborate ones we saw
were like 2 story houses! Few are lighted up, most are almost impossible to spot, and they can all do major damage to your
boat. If that is not enough throw in trash, big trees, small limbs, etc and navigation here is day hops with someone of the deck
at all times.
Entering the top of Lembeh expect many rafts/FADs and if the south winds are pumping expect a wind tunnel effect. We had
35 knot headwinds for the last 5 miles and were happy as heck to get inside the straight and find a safe spot to anchor.
It was certainly worth the effort. The muck diving in Lembeh Straight just blew us away. Every dive was strange critters living
out on the black sand bottom. Many of these are ugly and seem straight out of science fiction. Some are way cool like the
flamboyant cuttlefish that lights up when scared or the mimic octopus that changes shapes. We found tons of new
nudibranchs and so far indonesia seems to be the capitol for this diversity. Heck in one dive we found 6 seahorses. Tons of
pipefish including the ornate and robust ghost pipefish. Basically this is the mecca for an experienced macro diver and we
stayed a month. After leaving here we were back into corals reefs and boy it is hard to find anything with all that coral.
We made various stops along the way testing the waters for good diving with some success. Mostly the water clarity was not
very good and there were few fish. There is just too many people in this country and too many fishermen. The great thing
about this area is you can make day hops to each diving area and work your way around the Raja Ampat area.
Misool at least is in the Raja Ampat marine park and more importantly parts of the east end are in another park that bans all
fishing. So far all we can tell about the Raja park is that they charge you 78 dollars each to visit and fish it to death, but there
is still tons of fish.
Diving the more restrictive park is hard. You are not allowed to anchor withing 200 metres of the dive site and it is all deep
anyway. We had to use a questionable mooring and a rope to shore to be secure and dingy out to the sites and tie the dingy
to two points on the rock islands. Most of the diving was low vis and high current and we can't drift dive. The best spot we
found was called Nudibranch rock, which really had very few of them. It did have schooling barracuda, tons of fish, lots of soft
corals and fans, pygmy seahorses, and one manta. Supposedly they sometimes see hammerhead sharks, but we only saw
one from the boat on a calm day passage.
Our last night here we never expected a local boat to enter our tiny spot and raft up to us at midnight! The were the supply
boat for the dive resort and said their dock was full and they would only stay the night. Not such a fun experience for us.
We had to pull in here, because it has the only immigration office in the area to extend our monthly visa. Basically this place
is hard to describe other than I am not sure if the water flushed out of our toilet was cleaner than the sea water coming into
the toilet. I am not joking at all. Diesel spills, fish guts, plastic, human waste, oil, etc was everywhere and the smell was
terrible. So of course the short stop to renew a visa took a week, because they dragged their feet. It is a good place to fuel
up at least. Of course they have local guys that buy the fuel for 6,000 a liter (oil producing country and subsides the price)
and sell it to us for 11,000 (the official non subsidy price) and make a nice profit. Make sure to filter the fuel or you will be very
sorry. It is also a great place to get provisions at the Saga store. 40 liveaboard dive boats run out of here and most supplies
can be found including beer, wine, and spirits. Only the beer is affordable. Food is pretty cheap in the local noodle shops,
but quite expensive in the few tourist places.
Beware of crime. Outboard motors have been taken and the locals are happy for a 15HP motor! Someone tried to steal the
fuel jug out of the dingy one night while it was raised in the davits. Luckily they could not cut the cable locking it. The boat
next to us had one taken off their deck. Who steals fuel when it is so cheap for them? The kids will have way too much fun in
your dingy if you tie up where we did and many of the raunchy fishermen will make calls to any white woman.
Luckily we escaped and only had to scrub lots of diesel and other junk off the waterline and toss back the second fishing boat
anchor we scored. Yes both us and the other boat managed to raise up one of the local grapple style anchors that some
fishing boats lost. With the current we had a lovely trash/tree dodging run to Batanta hitting up to 10 knots motoring! Not
sure how we will get back against that to sorong in a month to play the visa game again.
This island claims muck diving similar to lembeh and boy they must have great marketing folks... Ok we did find some cool
stuff saw a nicely posed wobbegong shark with an ornate ghost pipe fish next to it. Like many of the anchorages in this area
the bird calls and sightings were amazing.
This area is very popular with the liveaboard dive boats. We did the top 4 sites and all had significant current. There were
pretty tame fish at one spot, others had nice soft corals, and we saw a few sharks. What was missing was the serious fish
life. All around the raja area you see schools of fish hitting the surface, we saw dolphins, whales, mantas, sharks, and tons of
fish, but from the boat nor the dives. Still this area is good for pygmy seahorses and other macro life.
We found a lovely anchorage for only one boat in only 70 feet of water with great bird life. Around indonesia if you find
something shallower than 100 feet you are lucky! Get used to deeper anchorages and hopefully you have lots of chain. We
dove the pearl farm pier one morning, but they say it is only good at night and now I believe them. Apparently the local village
is causing a bit of a problem charging the dive boats extra fees, because they claim to be getting nothing from the 78 dollar
dive passes. Likely this is true, but can be an issue eventually for cruisers as well. The diving in the bay is pretty silty with
current, but good for finding nudies.