Lembeh, North Sulawesi, Manado. You often hear about these places especially if you are following a few of the underwater photography pages on social media or looking through the latest diving magazine. The reason these places create such a buzz for divers and underwater photographers is the diverse range of sought-after critters that are quite abundant to this region.
This trip was a year in planning and was organised by Ken Thongpila from Macro Mode. Ken had the task of selecting 10 Australian underwater photographers and videographers to participate, all with their unique style and skills, and in doing so created the 2019 Australia U/W Photography Master Class which was hosted by the beautiful Cocotinos Hotels and Resorts Indonesia.
Some of the main focus points of this trip was about learning, sharing knowledge and experiences while also showing the world how amazing this place truly is. The Masterclass would enable the photography team to provide daily presentations on their speciality subjects with each presentation being unique in their own way by providing a different point of view on a variety of subjects.
Cocotinos was always going to be the perfect choice to host this type of event. Cocotinos boasts boutique dive resorts in Lembeh, Monado and also in Sekotong, Lombok. We had the pleasure of experiencing two of the three amazing destinations, staying at both Lembeh and Manado.
Cocotinos resorts also have the added benefit of an in-house dive operator, Odyssea Divers . With multiple dives planned for each day, Odyssea Divers easily catered to our large group. They were able to prepare our scuba gear while carefully handling camera equipment and also providing warm towels and refreshments after each dives.
Most of the dive sites at Cocotinos Lembeh & Manado are located within just a short boat ride away from the resorts. So whether you are pulling up to a secluded beach or anchoring out the front of small village it always gave you that feeling that you are somewhere special.
With anticipation building, we were not disappointed as we slowly descended through the warm clear waters of the Lembeh Straight. Once at depth our dive guides directing us to a mass of flamboyant Cuttlefish eggs that just happened to be starting to hatch. To watch something so small and extravagant enter the world was a real treat. This proved to be just one of the many highlights of the trip.
What a great way to start a diving trip and to explain just how diverse this area is, on the same day we also spotted Phyllodesmium longicirrum (solar powered nudibranchs), Hairy Frog Fish, Mimic Octopus and another favourite Coleman shrimp. Over the next few days we encountered one critter to the next by following the sound of our experienced dive guides lightly tapping their tanks to alert us to the next discovery.
We would follow this pattern of diving and tick off the majority of subjects on our bucket lists, critters such as Wonderpus and Blue – Ringed Octopus, Pygmy and Pohonti seahorses, Boxer crabs, Harlequin and Bumble Bee shrimp, Hairy shrimp, Butterfly nudibranchs and the list goes on.
We had the privilege to try out some of the latest underwater photography equipment supplied by Weefine and Macro Mode such as close-up lenses, with the +23 proving popular by enabling us to capture the finest details from the smallest of critters such as the Lembeh Seadragon.
We also had access to the range of Weefine Smart Focus lights and constant light snoots. This was a great way to test out products and equipment in a real time scenario. As a added bonus Weefine also gifted each of the participant a dive torch engraved with their names which added a nice personal touch.
The night dives were amazing. We were given a couple options including Blackwater and Bonfire dives. With many of us not having tried blackwater/bonfire diving it seemed to be everyone’s favourite choice and rightly so, with the experience of the dive crew they were able to find the perfect spot to see the array of weird and wonderful creatures that would come from the depths of the ocean attracted by our lights. We were also lucky enough to do some great night dives on the nearby reefs.
DIVING AT A GLANCE
- Both resorts have large dry rooms for setting up camera equipment.
- Nitrox is available on request
- Boats have large covered dry areas, toilets and safety gear.
- Water is a warm 27-29 degrees
- Sea is calm most of the year
- Blackwater/Bonfire diving is available on request
RESORTS AT A GLANCE
COCOTINOS MANADO is a boutique dive resort and spa located in the heart of Kim Bajo a fishing village overlooking the Bunaken national marine park. World famous for its outstanding wall and macro scuba diving. The resort has 20 semi detached rooms and two suites. Besides scuba diving guest can also enjoy crab fishing at a nearby River mouth and visit local villages where they can experience the culture of everyday village life. For those who wish to venture further the resort organisers tours to Manado city Lake Tondano a volcanic Crater Lake in the Tangkoko National Park.
COCOTINOS LEMBEH is a boutique dive lodge located in Makawidey village besides the Lembah straight. With 12 beautifully appointed rooms perfect for underwater photographers looking for unique critters which are abundant on the black sand sea bed, or just sit back and relax and enjoy the local or international cuisine from the Wild Mango restaurant and bar besides the infinity pool overlooking the scenic Lembeh straight.
Special thanks to
Martinus Wawanda and all the staff at Cocotinos Hotels and Resort Indonesia