[ home ]

[ photo gallery ]

[ locations ]

[ books ]

[ links ]

[ equipment ]

[ copyright info ]

[ comments ]

Scientists believe that the area within a traingle connecting Indonesia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea supports the greatest amount of marine species in the world. When I try to think of one phrase that best sums up my experience diving in Indonesia's Sulawesi Sea, the description that immediately comes to mind is "truly amazing diversity". No other place that I'd dived in the past could even come remotely close to matching the incredible variety of marine life that I found here.
Goniobranchus kuniei
Goniobranchus kuniei

I honestly believe that it is no exaggeration to say that in the first 25 feet of water of almost any given site, I encountered more species than on 10 dives in the Caribbean. From Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) to Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus) to Crocodile Fish (Cymbacephalus beauforti) to Pegasus Seamoths (Eurypegasus draconis), the diversity of species found in this region is simply mind-boggling.

During my three weeks in Indonesia, I spent time diving three different areas which each offered something unique. My first four days were spent at Murex Dive Resort diving the sheer walls of Bunaken Marine Park. Virtually every dive had a similar feel here. The reef would come out from shore a few hundred yards with virtually no sign of getting deeper, only to reach a near vertical wall that would drop off to hundreds of feet deep in the blink of an eye.
Ocellaris Clownfish
Amphiprion ocellaris

Undoubtedly, these were some of the most beautiful walls I've ever seen. Creatures commonly encountered here included Raggy Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis venosa), Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris), and Humphead Parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum). Also frequently found at most of Bunaken's sites were a cornucopia of crinoids coming in virtually every color imaginable.

After leaving Murex, I ventured on to Kungkungan Bay Resort (KBR). In the past year or so, KBR has received a ton of press in most of the American dive magazines. Hailed as the new mecca of "macro muck-diving", I had very high expectations for the diving and photo opportunities that I would find here. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed.

Hypselodoris iacula
Hypselodoris iacula

Texan Divemaster Larry Smith and his excellent group of Indonesian dive guides really have the system downpat here. They have approximately 15 or 20 dive sites that they regularly dive. Because of the fact that they spend so much time diving the same group of sites, they really begin to learn them like the backs of their hands. Additionally, most of the unusual creatures found here are territorial and rely on camouflage for survival which means more often than not, they can be found in virtually the same location dive after dive. When you combine these factors with the fact that Larry and his guides have some of the best eyes for hard-to-find creatures in the world, you have an underwater photographer's dream opportunity.

Larry encourages divers to come to KBR with "Top Ten" lists of their dream creatures. More often than not, divers will get 8 or 9 in a given week.

Black Clownfish
Amphiprion melanopus

"Giant Frogfish the size of a football?"

"Not a problem."

"How about the size of my thumbnail?"


"Ornate Ghostpipefish?"

"In what color?"

"How about yellow."

And so it goes.

Pygmy Seahorse
Hippocampus bargibanti

What really makes KBR so memorable is that after a few days, creatures that are extremely rare almost everywhere else become the norm. From Pegasus Seamoths to Fingered Dragonets (Dactylopus dactylopus) to Cockatoo Waspfish (Ablabys taenianotus), after a while, unless the animal is doing something unusual, you don't even bother photographing it. At the beginning of my stay at KBR, I marveled at how many of the other guests brought down 2 different camera set-ups on each dive. After a couple of dives, I understood. KBR is one of those special places where 36 frames simply aren't enough.

The final ten days of my trip to Indonesia were spent aboard the M/Y Crescent diving the Sangihe-Talaud Islands. Unfortunately, luck was not exactly on our side on this trip. We hit the windiest 10 days the crew of the Crescent had encountered in the entire time they had been diving this area.

Harlequin Crab
Lissocarcinus laevis

Because of this wind and the subsequent 6-8 foot seas it brought, we were unable to dive a number of the region's best sites. However, the diving that we did do wasn't totally disappointng. An unexpected encounter with a school of about 15-20 Scalloped Hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) while diving an active underwater volcano was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. Also, encounters with Crocodilefish, a school of at least 35 Humphead Parrotfish (Sphyrna lewini), and at least a dozen new (to me) species of nudibranchs topped my list.

Now that I've finally had the chance to dive the Western Pacific, diving the Caribbean will never be the same. While there certainly is worthwhile diving to be found there, I now understand why so many of the divers that I've spoken with call the diving in the Indo-Pacific the best in the world.