Last year I took first place in macro in Scuba Shooters’ Deep Vision contest and won a trip to YOS Dive Resort in Lembeh. I had been to Bali 3 times and was comfortable there.
The flight from the U.S. is always a killer, which caused me my usual trepidation.
Should I venture out of my comfort zone and endure a flight to someplace new? Sometimes, at age 63, I wonder if like tread on a tire how many more flights like this I have left before I wear out. But you’re an underwater photographer! my other voice said.
This is your job! So, get off your lazy rear and GO!!
I didn’t regret it for a minute.
The ride from Manado to Lembeh is 90 minutes, merciful compared to the 3-hour trip from Denpasar, Bali to Tulamben. Most of the roads are straight until you hit the roller coaster ride through the hills for the last 15 minutes.
We rolled into a small village where the hotel’s long thatched roof is prominent from the water.
The location reminded me of my youth. On the other side of the water was Lembeh island it felt like being in a lakeside cottage in middle America.
And herein lies one of the unique features of diving in Lembeh: it’s a compact area with many stunning dive sites no more than 10 minutes
away by boat. As a matter of fact, practically in front of the hotel is a small island surrounded by lush corals.
At times my guide was fighting for my attention because I was mesmerized by the beauty and diversity of what I was seeing.
This was a trip of firsts: my first coconut octopus, mandarin fish, hairy shrimp, and unusual nudibranchs. Shooting mandarin fish was a thrill. It was getting dark and my guide, Djangoan Parman, showed me the male on
There were plenty of suitors to choose from.
I moved in for the shot, my focus light blazing, and he pulled me back. He signaled to me to turn off my light and wait until they swam up above the corals. But how was I to illuminate them? Suddenly a pair went up; Parman shined his light on them. I moved in for the shot.
Too late! But now I understood the process and was able to shoot an image I was happy with.
Parman was an outstanding guide and knew how to accommodate photographers. He lived in a small village near Manado where they usually see cyerce nigras.
Say what?? My ears perked up. Can we go on a field trip? Sure, he said, and four ladies from Korea and I packed in a van and drove to Manado. I never expected to shoot these cyerces on this trip. What a bonus!
After each dive, you climb aboard, and the captain greets you with a fresh towel, a hot washcloth, ginger tea, and fresh fruit.
Take note boat captains in Florida! The staff prepares meals every day, and most of them being a tasty amount of fish, shrimp, and chicken. And, they are eager to please, and one day made me a grilled cheese at my request.
The rooms are spacious with plenty of narrow tables for cameras, batteries, and junk.
French-style doors swing out to the patio and provide a gorgeous view of sunrises.
This was a fabulous trip, the kind that you usually only find in dreams.
WORDS and PICTURES by Jerome Israel