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Everything posted by frogfish

  1. Hi. I'm about to post another Olympus E-M1 body + housing for sale today or tomorrow. Just checking to make sure that my account is working correctly.
  2. I have another Olympus OM-D E-M1 housing with the Nauticam NA-EM1 housing to sell. The housing comes with the Inon 45° viewfinder, together with the back-window fitted to the NA-E-M1 housing. Plus 2 hot-shoe flashes (1 spare) to trigger the strobe, two battery chargers (1 spare) and three batteries (2 spare). There is also a Panasonic Lumix G-Vario 7-14mm wide-angle zoom lens together with the Zen DP-170 port for the Panasonic 7-14, including the necessary extension ring and zoom gear needed use the port and this lens on this camera and housing. Prices: E-M1 camera body $ 450 NA-EM1 housing, $ 1100 Inon 45° viewfinder $ 450 2,000 Batteries (3), flashes (2) and chargers (2) included. Pana 7-14mm lens $580 ($800 new, tested in Singapore and found to meet specs earlier this year). Zen DPP-170 Port $720 ($1000 new). Extension ring $200 ($290 new) Zoom gear $150 ($200 new). If the housing and camera body are bought together, I will include an extra (spare) hot-shoe flash, extra (spare) charger, and two extra (spare) batteries.
  3. I also carry a spare FL-LM2 flash. Haven't needed it yet, but I've no doubt I will. Not so expensive if you buy it from an Olympus dealer over the counter.
  4. Hi Dovechoko, Any news yet on the problem with your YS-D2s? Or about getting the malfunctioning new strobe repaired? I fried my YS-D1s in December (I still don't want to talk about it), so I'm interested in replacing them with YS-D2s instead of just getting the YS-D1s repaired. But your experience is a serious concern. I don't know anybody with Sea&Sea Japan, but I plan to visit Andrew Yeo, the Sea & Sea distributor in Singapore when I am there next week. Robert
  5. Dovechoko, I'm also very sorry to hear you have experienced these problems, and hope you were still able to get some good shots using one strobe. Please do let us know whether and how this was resolved. I was about to purchase a pair of the new Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes, but I've decided to hold off until we learn more about the problem you experienced and how things worked out. Robert
  6. I have just acquired the E-M1 and Nauticam housing, and now I'm about to get the housing wet for the first time. I'd be interested if anyone has further refined the settings presets for underwater shooting (wide-angle, macro) since the earlier posts on this thread and for the E-M5? Thanks!
  7. The dive liveaboard "MV Blue Dragon 2" sank during the early morning hours of 14 Sep 2010 "after being pushed onto a shallow reef near Manta Alley (Loh Sera) in South Komodo" according to a statement by the owners on their Facebook site. "There was no lost of live [sic] and no injuries," the statement continued. "All guests and crew were safely evacuated to Labuan Bajo, then back to Bali and are now on their way home." A report in the Bali Times, however, said that two persons, a divemaster and a cook, were injured as the sinking forced "a dozen panicked foreigners to scramble to safety", citing Dody Donatus, reservations and ticketing clerk with Blue Dragon Indonesia, which operated the vessel and a sister-ship, Blue Dragon 1. The report said there were 12 guests aboard the stricken craft "from Japan, the United States, Taiwan and Singapore [who] were taken to Labuan Baju before flying to Bali on Thursday morning. The injured crew were to receive further medical attention in Bali. Blue Dragon Indonesia owner Emil Bei, from Flores, was with the guests at Ngurah Rai International Airport as his company attempted to secure accommodation for them. “We have been trying to book accommodation for them since yesterday,” Donatus said. See: "Two injured as dive boat sinks off Komodo". The vessel was a Phinisi schooner, 28 m, built in 2009, and began operations in April this year. The company, which has a sales office in Bali but apparently is based in Malaysia, also operates another Phinisi live-aboard, the 26 m MV Blue Dragon I, which was built in 2008. Manta Alley has been a popular dive site in South Komodo for many years. R.
  8. Mike is right, Matt, but I'd also urge you to consider whether you really need to do the molas. The situation at Crystal Bay in particular is now completely out of hand, but I'm not sure publicizing the names of other sites online is the best way to go either. The few molas that still show up at Crystal Bay get mobbed by so many divers that it's hard to imagine they will keep coming back much longer. It would be great if it were possible to limit the number of boats and divers through a licensing or lottery system, but that's probably just a fantasy. If you've never seen molas before, then I can well understand the draw - they are magnificent animals. But we're approaching the point where one has to think about the likely effects of one's participation in this phenomenon. Frogfish
  9. Simon, The bleaching of anemones seems to have been going on for some time. I took this photo a year ago (July 2009) at P. Banta, just outside the park boundaries, but there were lots of bleached Entacmaea quadricolor anemones in the same condition inside the park as well. This seemed to be the only anemone species affected. Bleaching of Acropora corals in the same area that I noticed at that time (July) appeared to be mainly the result of Crown-of-Thorns damage. Stew, Corals in the Red Sea and other locations appear to be more tolerant of high ocean temperatures because of differences in their zooxanthellae (photosynthesizing symbiotic algae). Steve Palumbi (Stanford University and Hopkins Marine Station) is studying Pacific reefs that exhibited high thermal resilience, and have found healthy corals on reefs in lagoon areas where ocean temperatures are as hot now as the oceans are likely to get in 100 years. Scientists find heat tolerant coral reefs that may resist climate change The key is not the corals themselves but the heat tolerance of the (Symbiodinium sp algal symbionts. Scientists have now identified at least two different clades, one with the ability to tolerate much higher sea water temperatures. In some locations, the symbionts of corals exhibiting higher resistance to thermal stress turn out to be "clade D" symbionts, while the tissues of corals which have not been regularly exposed to thermal stress tend to have more symbionts of clade type C. Ray Berkelmans and Madeleine van Oppen (Australian Institute of Marine Science) have showed that for adult Acropora millepora can acquire increased thermal tolerance if the dominant zooxanthellae symbiont changes from Symbiodinium of clade type "C" to type "D". Role of zooxanthellae in coral thermal resilience - a nugget of hope There's a lot more research and information out there. Of course, this doesn't mean that algal symbionts of Indo-Pacific corals will change or evolve naturally to more heat tolerant types quickly enough to avert major die-offs if there is another ENSO event like 1998. Nor do we know whether it would be possible or safe to introduce "Type D" or other heat tolerant algal symbionts to vulnerable corals in order to increase their resilience in the face of thermal stress. But scientists are looking at these questions, and this research certainly offers a breath of hope, particularly the indication that it may be possible for mature corals to acquire new, more heat-resistant algal symbionts. I'll be back in Komodo in about a week and will try to hit some of the same places. "Frogfish" (Robert Delfs)
  10. Thanks, Mike. I saw a lot of bad bleaching here in Indonesia and in the Philippines in 1998. In and around Bali, the beautiful acropora corals at Menjangan Island in the shallows were completely taken out. People who dive there now mostly don't realize that the corals they see in the shallows are all just 10-11 years old, and are growing on the dead remains of the large coral structures that once surrounded most of that island. The Gilis were hit very hard too. Komodo, on the other hand, wasn't really affected much by bleaching, presumably because of the cold water upwellings from the south kept ocean temperatures in the park within a reasonable range. And the powerful currents flowing through the Lembeh Strait and around the northeast tip of Sulawesi apparently protected those reefs from serious damage in 1998 too. (If memory serves, the Maldives and other locations in the Indian Ocean were the places that were hit hardest that year.) I'm no meteorologist, but my understanding is that we just had the beginnings of a shift from El Nino (warming) to La Nina (cooling) conditions in the Pacific in May/June, and that La Nina conditions are expected to continue to develop over July-August and may extend out until 2011. If so, then the worst of this ENSO event may be over and reefs may not be affected as seriously as they were in 1998. But it's not time to relax. Although the El Nino/La Nino cycle is a natural phenomenon; ocean temperature fluctuations associated with ENSO events are now combined with global warming effects, which may mean mass die-offs like 1998 will now happen more frequently. The oceans are the biggest and most important carbon sink on the entire planet, sequestering about 2 gigatonnes of carbon every year. About a third of that total is taken up as calcium carbonate and locked into coral reefs that currently cover about 1.55 million sq. km (600,000 sq. mi) of the earth's surface. (Oceanic carbon sequestration is also carried out by foraminifers, marine shells and other organisms.) So die-offs on the scale of 1998 could dramatically affect the ocean's ability to continue to absorb carbon dioxide emissions generated by fossil fuels, deforestation, and other factors. Robert
  11. WWF Coral Triangle Programme Media Release For Immediate Release: 29 July 2010 Mass coral bleaching closes dive sites, threatens future of world’s most diverse marine region – WWF Mass coral bleaching caused by global warming is threatening the health of the Coral Triangle, a vast marine region that is home to 76% of all known corals in the world. The Malaysian government recently closed portions of world-renowned dive sties on the tropical islands of Tioman and Redang, saying they would be off limits until October to give the fragile coral reef ecosystems time to heal. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, bleaching has been reported in Anilao and Nasugbu, as well as off the cost of the western municipality of Taytay, Palawan. The latter saw corals, which usually exhibit a green and brown hue, temporarily turn unusual shades of pink, orange and yellow—a precursor to complete bleaching. Numerous other Philippine reefs are likely to have been affected as well, exacerbated by localized outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns Seastars. Widespread bleaching has also been recorded in Indonesia, with areas near Sabang, Aceh, Padang, Thousand Island Jakarta, Bali, and many other locations. “This widespread bleaching is alarming because it directly affects the health of our oceans and their ability to nurture fish stocks and other marine resources on which millions of people depend for food and income” says Richard Leck, Climate Change Strategy Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Programme. Coral Bleaching in Philippines - WWF Philippines Coral bleaching is a phenomenon caused by global warming. Increased seawater temperatures, which in some regions have grown as much as 2°C above the long-term average maximum, can push the algae living inside corals beyond the brink, causing reefs to eventually turn white and die. Aside from increased sea temperatures, other causes of stress include disease, pollution, sedimentation, cyanide fishing, changes in salinity, and storms. The Coral Triangle region covers the seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. This nursery of the seas contains over 600 species of reef-building coral. Since March this year, about 50 different organizations and individuals have reported signs of coral bleaching in the Coral Triangle region. Up to 100% bleaching on susceptible coral species have been reported, and in some areas, severe bleaching has also affected the more resistant species. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch stated that the current incident is the worst of it kind since 1997-1998, which decimated 16% of the world’s coral reefs. With many areas showing signs of mass bleaching, it has become apparent that more weight needs to be put behind long-term conservation strategies, such as marine protected area management, preventing coastal and marine pollution, as well as promoting sustainable fisheries. “Well-designed and appropriately-managed networks of marine protected areas and locally managed marine areas are essential to enhance resilience against climate change, and prevent further loss of biodiversity, including fisheries collapse” Leck also added. Through new sustainable finance mechanisms and investments in climate adaptation, WWF plans to support networks of marine sanctuaries and locally managed conservation areas across the Coral Triangle. Better fisheries management is also key to alleviating the impacts of coral bleaching, ensuring that only viable sites are given access to fishing and that the more sensitive ones are given time to recuperate via strong regulations, enforcement and awareness. In Malaysia, for instance, WWF is promoting the conservation of herbivorous reef fish, which plays a critical role of keeping algae populations lower, allowing room for coral recruits to settle on the potentially newly-dead coral skeletons. Only a year ago, WWF launched The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk, a report based on a thorough consideration of the climate biology, economics and social characteristics of the region, showing how unchecked climate change will ultimately undermine and destroy ecosystems and livelihoods in the Coral Triangle. ENDS ----------------- Editors note: • The Coral Triangle—the nursery of the seas—is the most diverse marine region on the planet, matched in its importance to life on Earth only by the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin. Defined by marine areas containing more than 500 species of reef-building coral, it covers around 6 million square kilometres of ocean across six countries in the Indo-Pacific – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste. • It is home to 3,000 species of reef fish and commercially-valuable species such as tuna, whales, dolphins, rays, sharks, and 6 of the 7 known species of marine turtles. • The Coral Triangle also directly sustains the lives of more than 120 million people and contains key spawning and nursery grounds for tuna, while healthy reef and coastal systems underpin a growing tourism sector. WWF is working with other NGOs, multilateral agencies and governments around the world to support conservation efforts in the Coral Triangle for the benefit of all. • For information on Coral Triangle go to: www.panda.org/coraltriangle • To download the Coral Triangle and Climate Change report go to: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/the_cora..._document_1.pdf For further information: Paolo Mangahas, WWF Coral Triangle Programme Communications Manager, Email: pmangahas@wwf.org.my, Tel: +60 3 7803 3772, Mobile: +60136730413 Richard Leck, WWF Coral Triangle Programme Climate Change Strategy Leader, Email: rleck@wwf.org.au, Mobile +61439814847 Santelmo Bleaching in Philippines - Lory Tan/WWF Philippines
  12. Well, news to the BBC, maybe. The freshwater Yangtze finless porpoise has been considered a separate sub-species (Neophocaena phocaenoides ssp. asiaorientalis) endemic to the middle and lower reaches of the Changjiang and genetically distinct from marine relatives since 1992 or 1998 (sources disagree), and a number of experts assume that this and another sub-species (N. p. sunameri) should be classified as a new species distinct from the global population of N. phocaenoides. Whether this population is considered a separate species or sub-species taxanomically has important implications for its conservation status. The global N. phocaenoides is ranked "Vulnerable" (A2cde) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but the Yangtze finless porpoise, as a sub-species, is ranked separately by the IUCN as "threatened". Higher threat ranking can help justify and mobilize more governmental, NGO, community and other resources to protect this endangered mammal. One of the most important current threats to Yangtze finless porpoises is the practice of installing large numbers of fixed nets on the lake bottoms of expansion/flood lakes on both northern and southern banks of the river. Finless porpoises become entangled in these untended, sturdily-built, nets and drown. RARE and WWF are working with Chinese wetlands nature reserves and community groups to try to induce local fishermen to reduce or eliminate this practice. (The photograph was taken at East Dongting Lake near the channel to the Yangtze in November 2009, during the winter low-water, so the nets are exposed.) See: Xiujiang Zhao et al "Abundance and conservation status of the Yangtze finless porpoise in the Yangtze River, China," Biological Conservation 141:12, Dec 2008 pp 3006-3018.) See also http://www.iucnredlist.org. (The IUCN's Red List is a very important conservation site with extensive, carefully compiled, highly credible and up-to-date information about threatened species.)
  13. Hi Andrejs, I have a "Subal FP-FC105VR Focus Port" for the Nikon 105 f/2.8 G ED-IF AF-S VR for sale. Purchased in January 2008, this port has never been used and is in perfect new condition. If you're interested, send me an email at <rdelfs@mac.com> or <uwphoto@tabula-international.com>. Robert
  14. Seesharky, I don't want to get into recommendations about who to dive with in Bali except to warn you to be very cautious of people confidently recommending the "best" operator in Bali "hands-down!" - someone who happens to be the only operator they ever used on their single visit to the island. But enough about my peeves. I can tell you that the best time is basically now - most people probably would say the mola season in Bali starts in July (or perhaps earlier) and extends through September, perhaps through October. But I need to warn you that the number of boats taking divers to see molas at Nusa Penida is reaching plague proportions. I happened to visit BIDP (a Bali dive operator) today, where I spoke with one of the dive guides. He told me they had just seen seven mola molas at Crystal Bay. Unfortunately, there were twenty (!) dive boats there at the same time, each with as many as 10 or even 12 divers. If you don't already know, there are only two moorings for dive boats in Crystal Bay. Some of the other boats tied on to boats already on the moorings, but others were dropping anchors, including onto the coral areas as well as the sandy parts of the bay. And today is a Monday - apparently the weekend was worse. Earlier today, Marthen Welly, the new coordinator for marine conservation programs at Nusa Penida for The Nature Conservancy, told me there had been fourteen boats in Crystal Bay at the same time one day last week. Marthen also said that operators are reporting that some divers are harassing molas by approaching too closely, touching, etc. This is not good at all. Of course it is good for Bali that there are more visitor arrivals this year. Unfortunately, however, Nusa Penida is not currently a protected area, and there is no legal mechanism by which the number of boats or divers at Crystal Bay or other mola cleaning sites can be controlled. Although some far-sighted operators have adopted a code of conduct for diving around molas, not all the operators are distributing copies or requiring their clients to observe the rules. The upshot is that Nusa Penida is becoming a sort of free-for-all in which it is the molas are the ones most at risk. Sadly, we won't know what the ultimate limit in terms of how much harassment and excessive contact molas can tolerate is until it is already too late. Please keep this in mind when you plan your trip. There is a real danger that your chances of getting a good filming opportunity will be compromised by the swarms of other divers in the water, and there is also a risk that the number of molas coming to Nusa Penida reefs in months and years to come may be negatively affected by the excessive numbers of divers crowding around these strange and wonderful animals. You might have better odds of getting a good filming opportunity early or late in the season, when the number of fish coming in for cleaning may be fewer, but the number of divers in the water will also be less than at the height of the season, which is right now. Frogfish
  15. Shawn, I did read your reply carefully the first time - "actually read it". I didn't respond to your "apology" (except to say that "nobody needs to apologize to me") because I genuinely feel that apologizing to me is irrelevant and inappropriate - your comments didn't denigrate me in any way. But never mind. I'll plead nolo contendere to Eric's charge that my response to your post was "riddled with sarcasm". Perhaps so, but I had no intent to do injury to you. I'll also concede that my post was not "productive". Regrettably, I don't know how to respond to a post like this in a "productive" way. I thought I did apologize to you, Shawn. Wasn't that what I wrote in the second line of my second post? Or are you looking for something more .. what? As I said, I certainly did not intend to condemn or attack you personally, Shawn. My comments were directed strictly toward your words. I can hardly retract my observation that those words were (as I perceived them) insensitive and offensive, if that's what you would like me to do, though it's obvious you did not intend them that way. Actually, that was sort of my point. (If only intentional hurtful slurs were wounding and damaging, this would be a nicer world.) I do appreciate the opportunity to say so in this forum and to explain why I reacted to your post as I did, even if I failed to persuade anyone here that important issues may be at stake. I'll add another apology now for wrongly implying that you are an American. Personally I don't consider that a slur, but others might. And I do think stepping back would be a good idea. Perhaps after you've added another re-rejoinder to this, we could consider the exchange closed? If there is more to say (though I don't think there is), I would prefer to continue this off-line. Robert
  16. I wasn't personally offended by anything anyone said, and nobody needs to apologize to me. I will apologize to Shawn if he thinks that I intended to insult him personally, since there seems to be a consensus here that my remarks could be taken personally. That wasn't my intent. As Eric knows very well, I'm an American too. Since I live in Indonesia most of the time, I might react more sensitively when other Americans make "casual" remarks that seem to lightly condemn an entire country and its people, implicitly devaluing the hard work of many Indonesians working in marine conservation for the Indonesian government, international and local NGOs, even if such a comment was ostensibly meant "in jest". My own take is that as Americans, we don't have a lot to brag about when it comes to protecting fisheries. That certainly made me feel that Shawn's remarks were all the more inappropriate, but Shawn and Eric and UnderwaterColors may not share my perception of the failures of fishery management policy and enforcement in the US. Eric is also correct that I don't know Shawn personally. I don't know why that would be relevant. If I did know Shawn, then I could say that there are comments about Indonesia and Indonesians he could make in the context of a private conversation among a group of American friends that I might find insensitive and ill-informed, but which I would not - in such a private context - find grossly objectionable. My point here would be that the internet is not a dive shop or a bar or somebody's living room, and this is not a private conversation among friends. Indonesians read wetpixel too. I'm personally confused why Eric would find my remarks in response to Shawn's post to be "incredibly rude", but is apparently not bothered by Shawn's casual slamming Indonesia, its people and their legal system. But there you go, I guess. But to make my position very clear, I did not intend to defend the Indonesian legal system, nor do I intend to do so now. What I said was that comments like Shawn's (whether "casual" or "in jest", or whatever) are not helpful in addressing the very real problems of enforcement of marine conservation and fishery management rules. The reason I said that is because comments like Shawn's really aren't helpful at all. Of course I do realize that many people simply wouldn't care about this, nor would they worry for an instant about offending Indonesian conservationists or fishery management officials. But I confess that I was surprised to see that sort of insensitivity displayed by the moderator of the "Conservation and the Environment" section of this website. The fact that neither Shawn nor Eric, nor Underwatercolors, appears to have even a glimmer of understanding why I might have found Shawn's "casual" comments about Indonesia so offensive, or that they suspect I have some ulterior or secret message to deliver (what? let me check my code ring!) probably simply reflects how truly inarticulate I am, for which I do humbly apologize. Or else it may suggests the true breadth of the problem. Robert Delfs
  17. Simon, I don't think anyone is suggesting that liveaboard operators ever enjoyed direct government fuel subsidies. Rather, everyone buying fuel (including you and me for our autos or motorbikes) have indeed been the beneficiaries of the Indonesian fuel subsidies, which have applied to all automotive petrol/gasoline, diesel, as well as "elpiji" (LPG gas) and kerosene used for cooking sold in the country). The list of beneficiaries has included liveaboard operators (and passengers) as well. The 30% across-the-board increase in retail fuel prices in May, the first since the last big jump in 2005, was actually just a cut in the level of subsidy from completely unsustainable levels to the merely insane. Indonesia will still spend somewhere between US$20-30 billion on fuel subsidies this year, almost a third of the national budget, more than any other country in the world except China. However, fuel is still subsidised. The new official price for diesel, Rp 5,500 / liter (about US$0.60) is still well below world market prices. How much Jakarta's fuel final total fuel subsidy bill will finally end up at depends on where the price of crude goes over the next five months - the price was around US$117 a barrel when Jakarta cut the fuel subsidy in May. Boats bunkering (taking on fuel) in the outlying islands have often had to pay higher prices than the official numbers. Distribution and sale of fuels down to the depot level is controlled by the state-owned monopoly corporation Pertamina, but the Pertamina system of distribution throughout the archipelago is "a failure", as an article in today's Jakarta Post put it. Local distributors in outlying places like Sorong are allowed to add on their own surcharges on top of the Pertamina base price ostensibly to cover the costs of transporting fuel from Pertamina's central depots. People have been complaining about this for years, but it hardly matters. In the worst case, the price of diesel and kerosene sold on the farthest outlying islands can be double the price in Java or here on Bali. In reality, moreover, what seems to be happening now is that fuel distributors are simply holding fuel off the market or imposing much bigger "local surcharges" because almost everyone believes that the government will be forced to reduce subsidies by raising fuel prices again, possibly soon. This practice is prevalent in the outlying parts of the archipelago, but it isn't unknown even here in Bali. You may have noticed, Simon, as did I and many other drivers, that many Pertamina petrol stations suddenly and mysteriously "closed" or "ran out of fuel" the week before the subsidy cut and price hike last May. This seems to be happening again. When I was in Komodo in July, two liveaboards (no names!) were about to be forced to shut down operations and shift their guests (who had already arrived in Bali or Labuanbajo) to other operators because they were unable to purchase fuel in Flores at any price. Other boats with better connections to dealers were getting fuel, but my understanding was that everyone who did get fuel was being forced to pay a hefty surcharge on top of the new prices. Nothing I've written her should imply that tolerance of operators who use rumors of fuel price increases as a pretext to impose an unnecessary surcharge on guests. I also agree with Simon (and Drew) that costs need to be shared fairly among the all the guests, including those who booked early and late. Personally, however, I also believe people who booked and paid for their trips in advance with the understanding that they had paid in full should be given the choice of paying the surcharge or else backing out, with a full refund of all monies paid. I can also see that this may not always be possible. This is a difficult situation, things probably need to be approached case-by-case. It's very important to be dealing with people you trust. Robert Delfs
  18. Spectacular find, Graham! Care to tell us (even roughly) where this was? Frogfish
  19. I just to make sure everyone reading this thread realizes that Drew and Graham are absolutely correct about the seasons in Raja Empat, which are more or less inverted relative to Bali / Komodo / Flores, etc. The "dry" season starts in October and ends in April, which this season is without question the best time to dive. The source of Reefseeker's confusion might be that - unlike Bali and Komodo - it can and does rain a lot even during Raja Empat's so-called "dry season", including the months of December and January. Welcome to the tropics, welcome to New Guinea, welcome to nature and chaotic systems! However, I've never heard of it raining non-stop from the end of November through March, as Reefseeker suggests. I've been to Raja Empat several times between the end of November and March during each of the past four years, though perhaps not as often as Graham has. Not one of my trips in that period was completely rained out, though a couple were wetter than I would have liked. If you want a 95% guarantee of sunny weather almost every day, forget R4 and just book your trip to Komodo in July or August. I've seen the Indonesian meterological data for average volume and the number of days of precipitation at Raja Empat throughout the year. I can assure Reefseeker that the differences are quite marked. There is also a much higher likelihood of strong winds (and therefore very bumpy seas - and I mean very bumpy seas) in the Banda Sea and Raja Empat during the rainy season. Again, that does not mean that the seas will always be flat in the "dry" season, any more than it means you will necessarily have blue skies every day in Raja Empat in December. You probably won't. But it still makes sense to play the best odds. Incidentally, recent cuts in fuel price subsidies here in Indonesia (and another is almost certainly on the way) are forcing some liveaboard operators to impose new fuel surcharges just to cover their operating costs. The increased costs, as well as general economic uncertainty around the globe, is leading to cancellations, and some believe this trend is likely to continue. As Drew suggests, it makes good sense to keep in touch with the operators regarding late cancellations of bookings even during the peak season, or to sign up for the waitlists. Frogfish
  20. Not really a very helpful attitude, Shawn. You did read the piece Graham linked, didn't you - including the part that said that the shop that washed up with a hold full of (almostly certainly illegally-caught) sharks was a Taiwanese vessel, not Indonesian? Yes, there are very serious problems with enforcement of fishery regulations in Indonesia - nobody is going to give you a prize for figuring that out. Different pieces of the Indonesian government often work at cross purposes, and there are severe resource limits. Shockingly, some people even believe cracking down on illegal fishing shouldn't necessarily be the highest spending priority in a country with one of the world's highest rates of childhood blindness, where 30% of children don't receive basic immunizations, and total per capita health expenditures of less than US$80 per capita - less than 25% the figure for Thailand (WHO data, 2005, purchasing power parity corrected). It's hard to understand, I know - you'd think the government would take the needs and interests of visiting surfers and divers more seriously, but some people just have unreasonable priorities. Of course, casting slurs is always easier than supporting real conservation work, or doing it. People working to try to solve these problems love to be slammed by self-regarding, condescending Americans - especially in light of the wonderful job the US has done protecting its northeast cod banks, west coast sardine fisheries, and the great job it is today protecting the West Coast fisheries for wild salmon. And it was great that no Americans joined in the free-for-all consumption frenzy that has nearly wiped out the Patagonian toothfish - it's so impressive that no restaurants in Denver ever served Chilean seabass. Third worlders who just can't get their act together can only stand in admiration, Shawn - so keep up the good work! R.
  21. Thanks, Alex. That's exactly right, which is probably why I reacted a bit strongly to the suggestion that either mode is the "best" way to dive Raja Empat (or anywhere else for that matter), or the statement that one particular land-based operator is only minutes away from "all the best and most famous dive sites" in the area. It takes nothing away from Max Ammer's excellent operation to say that simply isn't so - R4 is a big place. But it did occur to me after I posted the msg above that it might have made more sense for me to take a very different tack. The top tier R4 live-aboards that L&C were dissing are mostly booked out during their R4 seasons for the next two years - which is seriously complicating my life - planning ahead was never my strong point. What I should have written is that live-aboard diving in Raja Empat sucks big-time, the diving is rotten, there are no fish, no photo opps, so please stay away, don't even consider it. Honest, you'll have a terrible time! Much better to go land-based only, and preferably somewhere on the GBR. Or the Red Sea. No good diving here, nossirree! Robert
  22. Hey, moderators, don't these posts belong in the commercial advertising ghetto? I think it's great that "Leon and Claudia" enjoyed their stay at Max Ammer's resort so much, as many have before. But I really have to wonder how many liveaboards trips in Raja Empat this couple from South Africa have done. Yes, staying on Kri Island, you will be minutes away from many wonderful dive sites ... that happen to be close to Kri Island. There is nothing wrong with that, except perhaps the implication that you will also be able to dive all the best sites in Raja Empat. Not so. (Yes, Max does arrange trips to more distant sites.) The new Misool Eco resort is very close (too close? oh wel!) to some of my own favorite dive sites in R4, like P. Boo, P. Fiabacet. On the whole, I'd prefer to dive Misool than the sites around P. Kri, but that's just my personal preference. But let's get real - Raja Empat has a total area of roughly 43,000 km2. Think about that - these are big distances. Not to be argumentative with "Leon and Claudia", but there are wonderful dive sites all over R4. Nobody can offer access to all the great sites in an area that size from a land-based resort using day boats (would you really like to try a 200 km ride to your morning dive site?), and of course nobody in their right mind would ever try. Not very many people staying at Andy's new resort in Misool (and I will definitely be one of them!) will see P. Kofiau while they are staying in East Misool, not to mention sites further north such as Waigeo or P. Wayag. The excellent existing and new land-based resorts in Raja Empat hardly need to resort to deception to attract enthusiastic clients! IMHO, to say that "the best way to go [in R4] is with the only land-based resorts (on Kri Island)" is as misleading (absurd, and silly) as it would be to to say that a live-aboard is the only way to go. There are "pluses" and "minuses" associated with both resort-based and liveaboard based diving in R4, just like anywhere else in the world. But there is no single "best" way to dive Raja Empat applicable to all divers, or all photographers, all the time. I'm giving "Leon_and_Claudia" the benefit of the doubt here by assuming that the one-sided advice they are pushing is driven mainly by ignorance, not commercial motivations. Max's resort on Kri and the spectacular dive sites he has developed in that area are justly renowned, and I'm sure the new Misool Eco Resort will offer a wonderful opportunities for divers and photographers to concentrate on the world-class dive sites of eastern Misool. Live-aboards offer access to these sites and also to more remote locations. Different strokes not just for different folks, but also for the same folks at different times. But those seeking advice and help that will "point them in the right direction" might want to keep looking - "Leon and Claudia" may not be exactly the last word on diving R4. Frogfish (Robert Delfs) [For the record, I've done six trips to R4. Each time I go back, I realize all the more how little I know or understand about this wonderful place.]
  23. Just to endorse Drew's comments re: Menjangan and Gilimanuk. I also can't remember the name of the hotel/motel near Gilimanuk, but it is convenient and cheap. If you want to combine multiple days diving at Menjangan Island and Secret Bay, you might want to stay closer to Menjangan. A new option is to stay with Linda and Karl, whom many here know from their days running the Kararu live-aboard and latterly as managers of Lembeh Resort. They have recently built a lovely house near Lovina, which they have opened to accomodate groups of up to six divers. Their place is only a few minutes away from Puri Jadi, and about an hour's drive away from Menjangan. All their main villa rooms have ocean views. Breakfast is included, and lunches and dinners can be arranged. They only accept one booking at a time. Check out the notice in the current issue of UwP (p. 43), or email tem at <lindadiverjohnston@hotmail.com>. Do keep in mind that email communications to north bali can be tricky. I also use BIDP for most of my diving here in in Bali, but I'll certainly be staying with Karl and Linda the next time I am diving in that corner of the island. Regarding dengue fever, Mike Veitch surely knows what he is talking about. Unfortunately, Sanur seems to have become one of the easiest places in Bali to contract this virus. The high risk period is from December through April - I have never heard of anyone here coming down with dengue outside that time frame, but (as usual) I may be mis- or under-informed. Part of the problem is that the Aedes aegypti. mosquito (the vector for dengue) is mainly active during daylight hours, when people are least likely to have applied DEET or be protected behind permethrin-treated mosquito nets. A. aegypti likes to live inside houses and buidings, where it may lurk under furniture. Applications of persistent insecticide sprays (such as those intended to kill roaches) on walls, curtains, and the undersides of wooden tables and chairs, etc. may help. February-March in Indonesia (or Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, for that matter) may not be the best time to worry overly about the long-term effects of DEET. Frogfish (Robert Delfs)
  24. I'm glad to hear that DiveRite is clearing this matter up for you. It's surprising to me how much seams have become a problem on wings from what have in the past been considered reliable sources of top quality diving gear. Perhaps it is because companies are outsourcing more of the manufacturing on items like this than before. In 2006, I dumped two fairly new Halcyon Eclipse wings after the seams began to fall apart on the one I was using the most - the material on the inner side of the cover wasn't glued or taped, so it had frayed back to the stitching - invisible and unsuspected until the cover started to fall apart! Ironically, I still have an old Halcyon Pioneer wing (now discontinued?) on which the seam is simply heat-sealed - no inner bladder, no stitching. That wing must be 8 years old, with hundreds of dies on it, but it turned out to be by far better manufactured and more robust than the supposedly superior Eclipse which replaced it - an inspection quickly that the inner seams on my other Eclipse wing were also already starting to fray. As it happened, the wing fell apart in the middle of a long live-aboard trip in the Banda Sea/Raja Empat. The boat operator was able to get my old Pioneer wing from my home and send it out to the boat with other supplies, but I had to rely on emergency repairs holding the damaged wing together for almost two weeks. Kudos to SevenSeas for getting the replacement wing to me, and to Steve Chan at ProDive in HongKong for giving me a new OMS wing to replace the Halcyon that fell apart, even though I didn't consider them responsible for the problem. I'm now a happy convert to OMS wings - the design of their single tank wing is very similar to the Halcyon Eclipse (elongated donut, with an inner bladder and outer cover) but all the materials used appear to be of higher quality. Most important, the inner seams inside the cover have been carefully taped and double-sewn. I have two OMS wings, each with several hundred dives, and no sign of any problem whatsoever - at least so far. Frogfish
  25. I really like the YS-250 strobes for macro, for many reasons, including the same one that Steve W. cited above. The recycle time is amazing. The specifications say 1 second for a full power dump, but I have found I can do short bursts of several shots. At Seraya a few weeks ago, I was approached after a night dive by a couple (both shooters) oohing and aah-ing after watching my strobes light up the reef in rapid-fire mode while they were eating dinner. I had a feeling that major purchases might be in the offing. Much the same a few weeks later at Lembeh. The fast recycle time is great for fast-moving subjects like boxer crabs. Many people prefer smaller strobes for macro, but I also like the additional aperture range for situations when I want to maximize depth of field. And there's no law saying that you always have to use the strobes on full power, when you want to blur the background. I am concerned that strobes as powerful as these used close up at 3/4 or full power might be more damaging to marine wildlife, even if it is only a matter of temporarily disrupting vision or disorienting the animal. At the very least, I think it's worthwhile hanging around for a while after shooting to make sure that a temporarily blinded and vulnerable subject isn't picked off by a trevally or some other opportunistic predator. Frogfish
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