Image: Diving In Sulawesi; Volcanic Island "Manado Tua" - Old Manado
Andrew geared up and ready to dive.I went diving yesterday which was an interesting venture on a variety of levels. The reef wall was not far off shore winding its way between the fresh water challenged island of Bunaken and Manado Tua, a perfectly cone shaped volcanic island. All the dives I have done in the past have been on the cautious side as far as mandatory gear checks, safety rules and regulations, certification documentation and the like. And rightly so as the risks of diving, most notably drowning in a wide array of interesting ways, are quite extreme. Our dive guy said he would check our certification later – and this was only after we asked if he needed them for insurance purposes or whatever. He said he would check them when we returned – which he never did. As we were pulling away from shore to go to the reef we noticed that the dive guy had not included a tank for himself. We had to do our own pre-dive checks – unprompted. And it was a good thing we bothered because when I went to inflate my BCD the air flow valve was stuck open and the vest inflated obscenely. I felt like I was a character in some ultra violent kids cartoon show about to explode only to rematerialize in some other even more grizzly scene involving our Key Stone Copesque dive crew. One of the characters came over and fiddled about with the valve and “fixed” the problem. No big deal except that I had lost a good bit of the air in my tank. A simple backward flop over the side and I was in the bath like waters of the Celebes Sea.
My descent was not without a bit of drama. I was attempting to adjust the pressure in my head while trying to remember all the things I was supposed to remember and trying to keep up with the instructor who was speeding off towards the reef like Tom Hanks in hot pursuit of Daryl Hannah in a mermaid suit. All this while trying to staunch the steady flow of water that was seeping into my mask - I always seem to select a faulty mask, or maybe my face is the problem. Eventually things began to settle down and we began to casually drift with the current along the brilliantly vibrant corral wall ... peace and tranquility ... until part of my mouthpiece broke and I desperately tried to reposition the respirator so I could continue to breath without holding the thing in my mouth. This happened just as our dive guy began gesticulating wildly the symbol for what I vaguely remembered was to indicate a shark. I peered in the direction he gestured towards and caught a glimpse of its silver body slinking along the sand at the bottom of the reef thinking bad ass shark stuff. Then the show really began as I managed to clear my mask, get a good grip on the mouthpiece with my teeth and relaxed a bit more. Rico the dive guy made the turtle sign as a giant cruised by only meters off the reef. I had only seen a few turtles on dives in the passed and none this large or this close so was quite excited. After the turtle siting, I took a peek at my depth and air supply gauges; 30 meters and already half of my air gone after about ten minutes due to the BCD inflating cartoon episode. I did not gesticulate this fact to Rico and he never did gesticulate to inquire.
Things settled down again and we began to peruse the reef wall. Again, Rico began clanging his tank and shaking his attention getting shaker device (usually a dive guy or girl will bang their tank with some sort of metal object – a SCUBA knife usually makes a good clanker and looks cool – some opt for a large heavy duty rubber band that has a plastic ball in the middle of it placed around their tank – when they “poing” the rubber band the plastic ball makes a very audible sound as it bangs against the tank. But I have noticed that many dive people come up with their own signature attention getting method, and it’s cool if you can come up with a good one. Rico’s shaker thing was pretty cool). He did the turtle sign as another giant cruised by. I kicked towards the turtle to get a close up look. She turned and came in my direction, veered off just a few feet from me and cruised on down the wall. We saw six turtles in all, hawksbill turtles. I touched one who was hanging out in a particularly vibrant patch of corral – something about coming in close contact with a wild creature in its own environment that is neat. Sounds rather Ranger Rickish or perhaps Jacque Cousteauish is more appropriate. She was just hanging out and did not skitter away as I approached. I reached out and touched her fin which she flapped. As she began to move away I ran my hand down the back of her shell – a nice diving memory. They were big, maybe 5 or 6 feet around. We saw lots of other things but the turtles definitely stole the show.
My air gauge was deep into the red zone by the end of the dive but Rico didn’t seem too concerned. He probably realized I had lost a lot of air in the BCD debacle and he did make sure we spent the last 10 minutes of our dive at about 10 ft. A remarkable time.