Ben and I just finished reading an article in Discover Diving written by Al & Beth Bruton about Kungkungan Bay. It occurred to me we haven't let you know what an absolutely fabulous trip we had. We can't believe how much we saw...and are trying to figure out when we can go back!
Singapore was fun; The Phoenix Hotel room you arranged for us was great (they upgraded us into a suite), the flights were timely, and we were picked up at Manado Airport before we knew what hit us. The resort was wonderful.
Maurine Shimlock and Burt Jones were outstanding. Not only did they provide entertainment in the form of their fabulous slide shows, not only did they give helpful tips on photography, not only did they point out all kinds of critters, but Maurine lent me some very soothing bug bite medicine after I was accosted by a hord of marauding mosquitos.
Although we were expecting good dives, with the exception of one dive, we came out of the water talking a mile a minute and saturated with excitement (I think I read that line in a romance novel once -- at least now I know what it means).
Speaking of novels, Larry Smith is like the hero in a grand novel about SCUBA diving. It is unreal how excited he can get before, during and after a dive. He's like Gidget on surfing, he's like Walt about Disneyland, he's like me about Tom Cruise -- very, very excited, can't get enough. After all, he must see this stuff all the time. I loved having him grab my hand and having him put my face into the space of some weird creature, who I would never have seen had he not grabbed me.
Having had friends previously at KBR, we were expecting muck diving, and knew to bring a magnifying glass, which we used on our first dive to Nudie Falls. Leading us on our first dive was Larry Smith and Maurine Shimlock. The first thing Larry shows us is skeleton shrimp. On a sea whip, we've got a party of about 150 minute shrimp either having a party, or possibly they are part of an underwater Cirque du Soleil. Some are standing up, some are down, but all of them are having a great time. There are obviously leaders, because they are the ones standing up, with their arms (??) spread out, leading the show or conducting the band. Larry got one to jump to his finger, do a little dance, then jump back. We saw a tiny cuttlefish, about 1-1/2 inches long, an ornate ghost pipe fish, an Orangutan crab (furry guy whose arms very much resemble an Orangutan -- with the exception that it's about an inch in diameter), and nudibranchs, some of which are obviously having unsafe sex. After our first dive we were very, very excited.
Our dives are awesome. On a daily basis we see several ornate ghost pipe fish (8 on one dive), robust pipe fish, sea snakes, leaf fish, wasp leaf fish, mantis shrimp, dozens of lion fish (from 1 inch to 8 inch), free swimming eels, inimicus (devil) fish, frog fish, cuttlefish, tiny cuttlefish, scorpion fish, blue ribbon and black ribbon eels. The adorable, and hard to see, pygmy seahorses were also spotted on several of our dives. Man are they cute. While Ben and I aren't mega-divers, we have been to some great destinations, including a prior trip to Indonesia, the Solomon's, and Papua New Guinea. However, this was our first time to see some of these creatures. I remember the one dive in New Guinea where we found the inimicus fish and two ornate ghost pipe fish. It made our whole trip. So here we are at KBR where we find them on almost every dive. It was truly incredible.
It would be hard to pinpoint, but I think our favorite dives were Nudie Falls and Magic Rock (also known as Mermaid's Manicure). Nikonos and housed cameras ran out of film, and my video ran out of battery. If you dove nothing but those two sites (OK, you'd be doing yourself an injustice, but) you'd be ecstatic and never bored. In fact, on one dive to Magic Rock, after we all had run out of film and/or battery, we started a large pile of camers on the ocean floor. We left them there while we continued to look and discover. We were having way too much fun just looking to leave a dive just because we were out of film. Most of us spent 80 minutes on that dive.
The two night dives we took were "over the top" (as we all learned to say after spending a week with Larry). Besides the throng of decorator crabs, that were wearing everything from anemones, to sponges, to something that looked like a blue hat, we saw a Spanish Dancer, Pegasus fish, octopus, coral cat shark, mating sea slugs, sea snakes, orangutan crab, and much more. I went to sleep dreaming about the dive.
We had an extra special 9 days of diving as far as critters are concerned; Maurine found a flamboyant cuttlefish (later they found another one) which had never been spotted here before, and a guest found a Rhinopias fish, also never seen here up to this time. The flamboyant cuttlefish (about 8" long) went from looking like sand to turning into shades of brown, to maroon, to a bright blood red with a yellow and black outline that moved up and down his body. The Rhinopias, sitting beside a rock of a similar color, was a more elegant shade of purple.
The dive guides were great too, especially Paulus and Samuel. Not only great guides, they automatically came to our room (the last one down path) to pick up my heavy video camera for every dive. All of the guides, however, must have 20/20 or better vision. They spot the critters for you and either come and get you or signal you. Without them, we would have missed many of the smaller creatures (and for me, probably all of the frog fish, one of which was not quite 2 inches long).
The staff is a friendly bunch and seem happy to be serving you. Ben and Maurine cooked up a birthday celebration for me. After dinner the kitchen crew came out with a birthday cake and sang the Indonesian version of Happy Birthday. As I was cutting that cake, they came out again. This time with a cake decorated like an American flag (it was, after all, July 4th). Once we downed that, we went outside and shot off Chinese bottle rockets. It's certainly a birthday I'll remember for a long time.
We had a large menu to choose from, covering your basic American cuisine (ham and cheese sandwich, fried chicken) to Indonesian fare, which you could request to be mild or spicy. They have a delicious bread pudding! We found the best trick was to order your lunch as soon as you got off the boat from your morning dive. Then by the time you rinsed your wetsuit and got your camera ready for the next dive (or did a mid-morning dive off the beach), your meal was served the second you sat down. That also worked out for night diving too.
The resort is beautiful with a huge main building made out of local wood. It has windows covering about 3/4 of the building which look out on the scenic and busy Lembeh Strait. We'd always grab seats that had a view of the strait. One day we saw a small, uncovered boat pulling about 12 smaller boats. Each of the 12 boats had a colored tarp, and it almost looked like a ride Disney dreamed up. It turned out the smaller boats pay the owner of the big boat to take them out, overnight, for fishing. As we slept snugly in our beautiful room, while it poured rain, I wondered how much the colored tarp would shield the fisherman. The next morning we saw the caravan returning from their night fishing.
Our accommodations were beautiful. Set up like a duplex, it seemed to be made entirely of coconut wood. We had two queen size beds in one room, a living room (both rooms had ceiling fans), and a large bathroom with a separate shower and tub. It had a large, beautiful verandah that looked out to the Lembeh Strait. There was a storage area and a nice size table located in the bathroom which had more than enough room for all of our clothing and toiletries. And, great news, the shower water was plentiful and always hot. They asked us not to drink the water in the room, so they provided plenty of bottled water every day, along with flowers for decoration, mosquito coils, and even soap, shampoo, and body lotion.
Anyway, thanks for the great dive package. I'm wondering why Ben and I are going to Papua New Guinea in September (98), when KBR has everything we need (might have something to do with the $2,000 we've already put down on the trip - oh well, live and learn).
Beverly (and Ben) Petty
Island Dreams has a good color brochure and additional information for KBR. You are invited to call or e-mail for additional information, advice, or assistance with resort bookings and discount airfares.
Please follow these links for information about travel to Komodo, Alor, Indonesia, and beyond:
Read "Exploring Indonesia" -- Ken Knezick's comprehensive dive report
Read "Wakatobi Found" -- Report from Wakatobi, Indonesia
Link to Itinerary for Ken Knezick's September 6 - 20, 2003 Wakatobi Group
Link to Kararu Dive Voyages - Excellent New Indonesia Live-Aboard
Link to Komodo Island Index Page
Link to Komodo Photo Gallery by Secret Sea Visions
Link to Beneath the Dragon's Realm - Exploring Komodo National Park
Link to Excerpt from an upcoming book on Komodo National Park
Link to Lisa Crosby's First-Hand Alor Report
Link to Political Concerns? - An Insider's Report from Indonesia
For more information, call, fax, write, or email us at:
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