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.

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