The second day of whale shark action was much the same as the first except the sky was overcast all day, which ruined the idea of taking images with sun beams streaming through the afternoon light under the bagan. We still had a great time though and at the end of the day had five whale sharks coming up to feed. There is a certain point where one can’t think of any more ways to shoot the same scene and then that’s when the hilarity starts.
Down at the southern end of Cenderawasih Bay, is a collection of villages and scattered homes called Kwatisore, and it is there that the whale sharks come to feed off the floating fishing platforms called bagans. The fishermen have been feeding the whale sharks like this for many years; it was first discovered before WWII. The area is only visited by a handful of dive boats as it is quite remote, and the basic setup is that the dive boat pays a small fee to the pagan and allows the divers to swim under the platform whilst the fishermen feed the whale sharks.
We spent the whole day there today with an open dive deck as all the action is in the first ten meters from the surface, if that. Douglas spent over five hours in the water with them, only coming back every now and then to change tanks and have a swig of water. The whale sharks are totally ambivalent towards the divers and very gentle, almost languid in their movements. They jostle for a good feeding position, hang there for ten minutes or so gulping fish laden water and then stop and do a slow loop to digest a little bit before coming back for more; and they do this all day.
First dive of the day I forgot to put my camera in the tender, so I dived without it for the first time in ages. Quite a refreshing experience. The water is 30℃ and very clear, over 50m visibility. We dived a sunken atoll with a gentle sloping reef, quite fishy with nice hard and soft corals. I got myself into macro mode as I haven’t shot small creatures for three years or so, and then spent the next couple of dives with the 100mm lens on looking for likely subjects. It’s going to take me a few dives to get my eye in I think.
The flight to Biak in the north of Indonesia is at an inconvenient time: Jakarta to Biak via Makassar, two flights of two hours each with a forty minute stopover leaving at 9pm and arriving about six hours later after delays. Always difficult to get any sleep on a flight like that, but an adventure is something that sucks while you are doing it, so we all arrived sleep deprived but happy to be getting on The Damai dive boat and then to get in the water.
I am diving with a group of friends that I haven’t seen in ages and they are all people that I love to spend time with so the next few days will be fun. We set up our dive gear and then our camera gear whilst steaming to a small sand island called Half Island for a check out dive in the later afternoon. Most of us napped on the way. The dive was lovely, warm water, great corals and a glass calm sea which created some magical light as the sun set.
We have spent a few blissful days hanging around the bays of Menorca. The water has been flat calm in the mornings with the breeze picking up later in the afternoon. The mornings are perfect for water sports as the day boats don’t arrive until after lunch.
Now it is time to head back to Mallorca again so we are anchored off Illa de l’Aire for the night before making the crossing in the morning. Places to see, people to meet.
We crossed to Menorca yesterday and after stopping in a bay for a swim we proceeded down the coast looking for a place to stop for the night. There are many inlets and creeks along the southern coast but they are all quite small and full of day boats, so we went all the way up to Mahon, the capital, where Nelson based his fleet in the huge natural harbour.
This morning we went for a long walk all around the old town, doing a bit of shopping and stopping for a coffee and croissant at an artisanal bakery. After lunch with a decent breeze blowing, we set sail out of the harbour and on to find a bay for the evening.
We pulled into a bay at the north east of the island called Cala Guya. The water is crystal clear and a wonderful turquoise colour, very much reminiscent of the Caribbean. The afternoon was spent swimming and donutting (is that even a verb?)
Yesterday Khun Gai bought a new motorbike so we all went to the temple in Khok Kloy to have it blessed by the head monk. While we were there I asked him if I could come back in the morning and fly the Phantom over the temple to photograph it in the early morning light. He seemed thrilled with the idea so this morning I went down there and flew around with him standing next to me and looking over my shoulder. He had a huge grin on his face the whole time as he saw his temple from a totally different perspective.
I’m planning to have the photo printed up and framed and then I’ll give it to him. He is a lovely man and has been coming out to the house every year to perform the house blessing at Sonkram, the Thai New Year.
The morning dives were drift dives along the drop off at Cape Marshall; the only problem was the visibility was less than five metres and although we saw mantas I got pretty frustrated with the whole thing and decided to pass on the rest of the dives and clean up my dive gear instead.
This trip has been fantastic. Lots of big animals and great shark action, along with some very challenging diving. I have over thirteen hundred dives and there were a couple of times I was very uncomfortable down there. I can’t imagine why dive operators would even consider anyone with less than a hundred dives going in the water. This is certainly diving for grown ups but I loved it. Going with a great bunch of photographers, many of whom are now good friends who all respect the reef, has helped to make it a memorable trip.