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#397644 Best photographer diving near Manila (or easy to get to from there)?

Posted by Luko on 22 July 2018 - 01:41 PM

Balicasag is quite good for fish schools and it's only 1hr morning flight from Manila to Tagbilaran, then 20min ride to Panglao where you would stay. A month ago they even had a whale shark roaming around the jackfish school for more than a week.

Moalboal is good for the sardines school and Pescador but IMO for a couple of days, otherwise the diving is tame, same goes for Malapascua where threshers anyway tend more to be and attraction than a real dive.


In a week stay in the Phils I would definitely couple a week in Anilao, which is for me the number one Macro destination then 3-4 days somewhere in the Visayas and taht would be Alona/Panglao for going to Balicasag (South Leyte is anotre option but requires too much ferry).


Here's what Balicasag can look like

















#394523 Macro Dive in Tulamben-Bali : where Dive Guide can make the difference .

Posted by Luko on 18 April 2018 - 05:54 AM

Hi Paolo

Very nice images, thanks for inspiring me with the RRM technique.

I pushed the vice to adding  a 21mm extension ring to a reversed 15-85mm and that is what you get with a hairy shrimp.




However let's keep our favorite dive guide Ajiex for ourselves and avoid spreading the word too much at the risk we won't be able to book him anymore.

Out of joke, Ajiex is also carrying snooting / multicolor light workshops with multi prize winners Lilian Koh and Mike Bartick.

#392126 Any tips for photography in Komodo Island..?

Posted by Luko on 07 February 2018 - 03:37 AM

Hello Tim,

Wide angle and fisheye lens certainly will be your best photo friends in Komodo, while there are a few macro ops in Wainilu, Pink Beach or Siaba Besar in teh north part some more like Cannibal in the south.


Personally I like those spots for wide angle :

- Batu Bolong that you wil certainly dive it more than once,

I think it's worthwhile staying one full dive in the shallows around 10AM or 4PM while the light is soft and nice. It's full of anthias and you get a wonderful surface effect in your image.

- Tatawa Besar some of the best coral colors in Komodo, incredible flashy orange!

- Tengah Kecil, also named Pengah, it's an emerged pinnacle that shows lots of coral diversity and beautiful gorgoninans, the mountlike topography of the site makes it great for backgrounds.

- There is an incredible bommie covered with glassfish at the end of Shotgun.

- Crystal Rock and Castle Rock may have lots of fish but the current is sometimes so violent you cannot get out your shelter to shoot them.


Afternoon light in Batu Bolong



Wrasse mayhem in shallow Batu Bolong



Shallows on Batu Bolong (look close and you'll find something interesting ;) )



Deeper Batu Bolong :



Colors on Tatawa Besar



Gorgonians on Pengah



Final bommie at Shotgun



Surgeonfish on Crystal Rock





You may have a look at my Komodo gallery clicking here : https://www.flickr.c...157625084671506

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#386180 My Anilao Photography Trip 2017 - PART 1

Posted by Luko on 26 July 2017 - 08:22 AM

Of course I'm jealous with the Melibe Colemani !

#385565 Tawali PNG macro and wide angle

Posted by Luko on 04 July 2017 - 07:44 AM

Then the wide angle shots, 10-17 tok+zen 4" dome.

If you enjoyed it, you can check out the rest of it (80 photos) my PNG Tawali Flickr gallery here . Pls comment if you feel.

Don't hesitate to PM me if you want any feedback on the trip, how to get to, etc. In any case i will HIGHLY recommend Tawali resort.


Deacon's reef to start with.








And some other coral wide angle sites :











#353127 Bali Trip Recommendations

Posted by Luko on 01 October 2014 - 08:30 AM

 personally will only do with a big rig is dive any site on the main Tulamben beach (where the Liberty Wreck is) on a boat. The Tulamben beach shoreline is lined with smooth rocks, some pretty large, which makes it difficult for ingress and egress for shore diving with a big rig and gear, especially when the waves get a little choppy. Moreover, with a boat diving the wreck etc, you can finish where you want and just surface, instead of having to swim back to a particular point on the beach.



Might be good for a dive around the wreck itself but I would rather start from the shore for a nightdive, the most interesting part is the wreck slope east of the wreck and the shallow beginning allows interesting encounters like blue ring octopus, cowries or various nudibranches you don't find on the black sand for instance.


More over when I end my nightdive at 8PM I'm quite sure I'm at my hotel already showered at 8:15PM, while it probably takes 20-30 minutes more from a boat.

#352976 Bali Trip Recommendations

Posted by Luko on 26 September 2014 - 02:35 PM

I love your pictures of Bali diving, especially the rhinopias, that's one I've never seen anywhere yet and I didn't think Bali had any. I know which site I'll be diving on my next trip. Can you recommend any dive resorts ( 3-4 star) in Padang Bai or Candi Dasa area?


Thanks, in Padang bai/Candi dasa area I defintely recommend diving with Gekodive, they know the rhinopias sites very well and will often go out of the usual spots if they moved and can't find them on the first dive. It seems their dive guides are intimate with the rhino habits. You'd be really cursed if you didn't spot at least one Rhino in Jetty area, some divers have seen up to 5 in one dive (yes I wrote FIVE, my personal best is 3).


Puri Rai is nearby Gekodive, 5 min walk, let's pretend it's a 3 star, but it's still the most comfortable and convenient in Padang Bai. Otherwise you'll have to settle in Candi dasa which is further away, 30 minutes drive from Padang Bai. Then Lotus Bungalows would probably be a good choice.    

#352906 Increase in Indonesian Visa on Arrival fee

Posted by Luko on 24 September 2014 - 10:35 PM

I was told that the rupiah must be in new condition, but another source told me that it must be in USD. I paid with USD and had no problems.


You can pay in rupiah, USD, AUD, £ or Euros, this is for sure. I don't care changing IDR before my stay 3 times a year.


Probably in other regional money like Ringgit and Sing$ as well.

#340668 Your Favourite/Best Image of 2013

Posted by Luko on 15 December 2013 - 10:17 AM

2013 has been a great Indonesian year for my part. Lots of rhinopias as well as my first dives discovering Raja Ampat and Alor.

Then I'll cheat like everyone and select three photos, one for each of these personal highlights.


Weedy rhinopias in Padang Bai. I specially organised one dive only to track this guy, I already had my image in mind, but as you know Murphy, it wasn't there on the specific spot where we expected to meet him, after 15 minutes we decided to cut the dive short and move to another place, very surprisingly, not only we found him but also a second rhinopias fellow. John Hannibal Smith would have said "I love it when a plan comes together"  :

Halloween rhinopias by Luko Gecko, on Flickr


Sweetlips in Raja Ampat :

Sweetlips on a shelf by Luko Gecko, on Flickr


Alor with Gilles from Alor Eco divers :

Bama Wall color explosion - Alor by Luko Gecko, on Flickr


#338865 Mixed bag of 2013 indonesian dives

Posted by Luko on 01 November 2013 - 03:45 AM

So you deliberately are planning your diving to avoid me Luko! I must have been in Lembongan just a few weeks after you.


True, Gavin! We've been diving the same waters in a few weeks span : maybe if you would forward a week your holidays, I 'll try to stretch mine one week, then manage to buddy up for a couple of days. I will be in Anilao at Xmas time then Alona afterwards, just in case...



I love your wide-angle scenes, but the Rhinopias is pretty exciting, too...


... thanks for sharing, and for reminding those of us who were in Lembeh last week (with the Wetpixel Workshop) that there are other places with cool critters!


Thanks for your comments, Tim.

I also had a great time last year at Lembeh Resort though I wanted to have a Rhinopias year for a change in 2013 (hence Ambon, Alor and Padang Bai), if I knew the Rhinos were back in Lembeh Strait I would have certainly put it on my "to dive" list. 

#338430 Mixed bag of 2013 indonesian dives

Posted by Luko on 21 October 2013 - 11:48 AM

Part 4.3 : Bali - Nusa Penida, cold blue water diving. August 2013


Lembongan and Nusa penida was my last stop in Indonesia, wishing I'd tick one more critter off my list : the Mola Mola. During our 4 days stay on Lembongan at TwoFish, manta rays were seen often, coral was as spectacular as we expected, , anthias were going crazy with the cold currents raging around colorful bommies, carrying incredible visibility with that stunning ice blue surface color that seems specific to Nusa Penida and especially Toyapakeh. What could we ask more?    

I eluded the mola mola for a while but lastly, I guess you know when it's a good dive. Imagine on my last dive I bet a BIntang against a boatload of divers we wouldn't see any manta on Manta Bay (tip : if you see a dolphin pod around there is a good chance all manta rays already fled). Nevertheless, we all decided than going for the dive was still better than staying on the boat, after a brief look we sank  deeper expecting the mantas coming from the blue but since the water temperature was dropping down to 21C, we stumbled on 3 Mola Mola. 

Unfortunately the photo opportunity was so obvious  that we managed to scare the most junior of the three fish and the party clumsily swam away before anyone could shoot a decent fisheye shot. No manta rays though : ultimately the score was 3 molamola plus beer for me. Ain't life great?









#337871 Mixed bag of 2013 indonesian dives

Posted by Luko on 07 October 2013 - 02:06 PM

Thanks everyone!

So now continuing to ...


Part 4.2 : Bali - Tulamben supermacro. august 2013

Tulamben is always a favorite each year, especially with Liberty Dive centre and Uji, another of my favorite dive guides. I didn't realize how bad were the waves that struck Tulamben around april/may until I had my first dive : Some of the best macro spots had their usual macro suspects completely gone and replaced with completely different critters on a supermacro scale, apart from the very common GPF;

One year ago a 1:1 magnification ratio was the norm, while it seems today you're better off with a larger than 2*size magnification tool ! everything has shrunk down to smaller, it seems. That said I still love the Liberty slope or Melasti for amazing finds.



Algae shrimp, a first one for me :

some kind of doto for a change to the now usual "donut doto" :

Elysia ornata on Melasti, there was a place in Melasti where in less than 1 sq. meter a thecacera, 2 elysia and probably 5 or 6 blue and yellow nudis were hanging around while being watched by a couple of GPF. That was a hard time especially when Uji called me for a tozeuma shrimp. 
















#337786 Mixed bag of 2013 indonesian dives

Posted by Luko on 05 October 2013 - 05:22 AM

Part 4.1 : Bali - Rhinopias safari in Padang Bai – august 2013


Coming back from Alor and Maumere, I then had Bali on my dive schedule. I usually dive Tulamben and Nusa Penida areas, but I slipped in Padang Bai for a change.

I had various heated discussions on many forums with Cedric from GekoDive Padangbai. He challenged me to come and witness how Padang Bai was a rich critter ground : I guess he found the right words to attract me in his lair. The word Rhinopias jumped immediately at me. I then asked him to arrange me a few Rhinopias aimed dive with one of his senior guides, something he did very well on a short notice.


Can’t say he wasn’t right about Padang Bai macro, I had a ball with rhinopias (3 specimens in 4 dives), frogfish or the odd stargazer : Jetty is an especially rich divespot, Jepun is not bad either.

It was also for me worth a try at a new lens/dome configuration I haven't seen any reports on. I was using a EFS60mm macro lens with a Zen minidome. I can now clearly state it is a perfect combo for midsized macro portraits like rhinopias, leaffish or bigger frogfish, even cuttlefish and GPF are doing fine with this combo easier to manage than my 100mm. The benefit is that the dome retains the original 60mm angle and also seems less frightening for the critter than the protruding flatport.


I simply regretted I couldn’t have an additional dive using a real wide angle lens on Jetty, the site is amazing on morning light on a day of good visibility. Lovely sunrays, lots of colorful gorgonians clinging to the pillars, plenty of interesting stuff like frogfish, sometimes small schools of various fish. 





#337768 Mixed bag of 2013 indonesian dives

Posted by Luko on 04 October 2013 - 05:23 AM

Part 3 : Alor – August 2013 :


For three years in a row I had been  lurking to Alor : Alor Eco divers sounded like the perfect getaway for me, sufficiently comfy and remote.... but each time out of luck, room availabilities failed to meet my fixed dates.

It’s a possibility that the worldwide economic crisis helped me book a firm week stay on Pantar island for this year.


Gilles, Alor Eco divers’ owner, had advised me to come and stay out of the full moon period, I still can say the wild currents in Alor don’t make photography that easy.  Oppositely, there  are so many great  benefits in the area it should certainly be elected as a prime UW photo location :  gin clear water with outstanding surface visibility, local fishermen, amazingly colorful coral and…  Rhinopias. Yaay!  


Gilles, my buddy on Bama Wall


Anemone city : more than just anemone fields.


Spearfishing around Pura island



Anthias shallows :





Alor is also great for macro :

Solar Powered Nudi :



Allied cowrie shell :



Paddleflap Rhinopias







#337740 Mixed bag of 2013 indonesian dives

Posted by Luko on 03 October 2013 - 01:27 PM

Still a few months before 2013 ends though I can already pretend it was quite an exciting Indonesian diving year for me.
Here's a photo summary so far.


Part 1 : December -January 13 - Ambon and Maluku
New year in Ambon and Lease islands in Maluku, diving with Blue Rose dive center, I'm a regular Ambon diver, my third
trip but I was expecting much diving Nusa Laut on a short safari. i wasn't disappointed.


Even though Twilight zonein Ambon  had been quite damaged with the summer floods, the South side of the bay was very promising, espcially rich with hairy frogfish, orange or white, and lots of Ghostpipefish.

ticked my first reptilian snake eel off my list as well.






but to be honest the highlight of my trip was the safari to Haruku, Molana and Nusa Laut where I suddenly forgot all the posts I had read talking about the lack of fish in certain parts of indonesia.

Nusa Laut :



Haruku cristaine waters :



Akoon Arch :



A wall of red tooth Triggerfish on Nusa Laut :



Fishlife in Molana :





I had one of my best new year's eve ever on Molana island, sharing the island with two other friends, on a private beach with our private chartered boat and a private grilled fish/grilled lobster dinner.