Sunday, November 09, 2014

Bintan Island Photos, November 2014

Here are some of the photos I took in Bintan last weekend.

Snooted spider crab (achaeus spinosus).  105mm & Subsee +5 diopter, 1/320s, f/32, ISO 100

Mating doto bella and eggs. 105mm & Subsee +5 diopter, 1/320s, f/32, ISO 100 

Rosy spindle cowrie (phenacovolva rosea).  105mm & Subsee +5 diopter, 1/320s, f/25, ISO 100

Bornella stellifer.  105mm, 1/320s, f/25, ISO 100

Monday, November 03, 2014

Diving Bintan Island, November 2014

This past weekend, I dove Bintan Island for the first time.  I have been looking for a a decent place to do weekend trips since I've outgrown the options of Aur or Tioman.  Aur is off limits these days and I've had enough of Tioman because of the awful travel logistics and the bad accommodations.

It is now the tail end of the diving season before the monsoon starts.  I did 2 dives each on Saturday and Sunday and wasn't able to do more because the winds pick up in the afternoon, making diving conditions unsafe.  I dove with Tasik Divers Bintan, which is affiliated with Tasik Ria Resort in Manado.  While it is a new operation, having just completed its first full season, some of its guides come from Manado and bring experience and high standards with them.  I thought the operation was quite well run and the guides know how to handle photographers well.

The diving itself is not bad.  All our dives were near Trikora Beach, where the diving is best described as white sand muck diving.  I saw lots of crabs, shrimp, and nudibranchs, including 2 rare bornella sp., a leaf with about 10 tiny costasiella kuroshimae, and what appeared to be hundreds of pairs of mating doto bella.  I saw also a beautiful zebra batfish, 2 cowries, and a coconut octopus.  Visibility averaged 5m, which is doable for macro photography but not wide angle.  There are quite a lot of suspended particles in the water, especially when the current picks up, and this makes it vital to use creative lighting techniques or a snoot to minimize backscatter.  I understand that currents can be very strong and it is important to check the tide tables before planning a trip.  I was told that night dives are spectacular but wasn't able to do any myself.

I stayed at Spa Villa Bintan, which was very clean and comfortable as a diving base.  The food is so so.  They have wifi but it can be spotty.

Logistics are indeed a lot better than Aur or Tioman.  The ferry to Bintan Island leaves from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and takes about 60 minutes.  And then a 60 min car ride takes you to Trikora Beach in the east, where the diving is.  The pace is also a lot more relaxed than at Aur or Tioman as travel times are short and there is no need to rush at any point.

Overall, Bintan makes for a good weekend diving trip.  I will be back.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Bali Photos August 2014

Here's a selection of photos from Bali:

Selfie on deco at Gili Tepekong.  Tokina 10-17mm @ 10mm, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 100 

Huge gorgonian sea fan on the USAT Liberty.  Tokina 10-17mm @ 10mm, 1/320s, f/13, ISO 100

School of bumphead parrotfish on a dawn dive an the USAT Liberty.  Tokina 10-17mm @ 11mm, 1/30s, f/4.5, ISO 100 

 Huge soft coral cluster on the USAT Liberty.  Tokina 10-17mm @ 14mm, 1/30s, f/10, ISO 100

Costasiella kuroshimae.  105mm & Subsee +5 diopter, 1/320s,  f/25, ISO 100

Stiliger ornatus.  105mm & Subsee +5 diopter, 1/320s,  f/20, ISO 100 

Doto sp. with eggs.  105mm & Subsee +10 diopter, 1/320s,  f/25, ISO 100 

 Doto bella.  105mm & Subsee +10 diopter, 1/200s,  f/20, ISO 100 

Bali Trip Report, August 2014

It’s now 2 months after my 9 day diving trip to Bali, but as they say, better late than never.  It was a fantastic trip indeed.  I spent the first half of the week tech diving with Leon and the second half focusing on photography in Tulamben.

It was a very interesting and varied week.  We started out diving in Lake Batur, a crater lake in northeast Bali.  Our mission was to take some video to help a local government geologist in his research on what’s going on in the lake.  Our video proved to him the existence of lava flowers at the bottom of the lake, which was something nobody knew or expected.  So the 1m vis and 22 degree water was worth it.

Leon and I then went on to do a few tech dives at Gili Tepekong and Padang Bai.  I had a catastrophic wing failure at our 60m dive at Gili Tepekong.  I’m thankful for my GUE training and good buddy, which made the consequences of the failure an inconvenience rather than a problem.  I managed my buoyancy with my drysuit and SMB and got through the dive and 30 min of deco stops.  At Padang Bai, I saw my first ceratosoma magnificum and janolus sp. just below 30m but could not get a decent shot of them as I had my wide angle lens on.

Then we did Nusa Penida, which was hugely disappointing as our dive boat refused to go to Crystal Bay or Manta Point.  Nusa Penida is completely overrated unless you see mola molas or mantas, which is the whole point of going there.

Then we went up to Tulamben to dive the USAT Liberty and surrounding area.  The Liberty is one of my favorite wrecks.  It is covered in soft coral and all manner of marine life have made it their home.  There are huge groupers, snappers, sweetlips, and lots of small critters all over the wreck.  With Leon, we dove the wreck on doubles and stages and did 2 very long deco dives, which gave us a lot of time to explore the wreck thoroughly.

Finally, my last dive with Leon was a 2.5 hour staged dive with a 75 min deco, which he calls the Traverse.  It starts at the Drop Off in Tulamben and ends at Macro Point.  We spent most of the dive at 45m and saw some very healthy reefs along the way that rarely get dived.  We saw a large reef shark, a whitetip shark, barracuda, snapper, and lots of cleaning action.

After Leon took off, I changed gears to focus on photography.  I checked in to the Liberty Dive Resort in Tulamben.  I had reached out to Jeff Mullins at to request a dive guide who was experienced in dealing with photographers, and I wasn’t disappointed with my guide Tisnu.  We would wake up at 5am each day to do a dawn dive on the Liberty and shoot the school of bumphead parrotfish as they left the wreck for the day, then spend the afternoon muck diving and looking for tiny critters.  He found me every critter on my list and more, and planned our diving schedule to maximize the photo ops and minimize running into other divers.

I am continually impressed by the diversity in the diving Bali has to offer.  From the deep sloping reefs of the southeast, to the black sandy critter hunt of the northeast, to the Liberty wreck, every dive in Bali is a totally different experience.  And now that there are legitimate technical diving options available with Living Seas, there are no limits on diving in Bali.