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Everything posted by wudai

  1. Definitely. I would probably stay on a liveaboard next time though.
  2. On April 23, eight of us from Hong Kong travelled from Hong Kong to Cenderawasih Bay, Papua, Indonesia is search of a newly discovered hotspot where whale sharks congregate for hours in shallow waters searching for food. Months before the trip, we read trip reports about divers swimming with up to five whale sharks over a two-hour timeframe. I’ve gone diving for whale sharks in the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia; Wolf/Darwin Islands in the Galapagos Islands; the Maldives; and the Philippines but at these world renowned dive destinations you would be lucky if you saw one whale shark on a dive for a few minutes. I was really excited about Cenderawasih Bay and couldn’t wait to get there. Although Indonesia is located within the region, there are no direct international flights from Hong Kong or any large international city serving Papua. We flew from Hong Kong to Jakarta and then took three other domestic flights before arriving in Nabire, Papua twenty-four hours later. Our resort, Ahe Dive Resort, is located about 30 minutes by boat from Nabire. Ahe is a small island which mainly served as a rest stop for fisherman until the local government built a dive resort in 2010. Ahe Resort is managed by a Dutch sales manager and an experienced Indonesian divemaster from Manado. The resort is very basic, there is no running water but they provide western-style toilets and solar shower bags. Electricity is powered by generator but you only get a few hours of electricity in the evening. The resort meals are very basic with daily offerings of fish, rice, chicken, vegetables and fried noodles. There is only one point on the island where you can get access to a mobile telephone signal. The dive crew and resort housekeeping staff are former fisherman from the nearby islands who have recently given up fishing to work for the operation. The dive crew and housekeeping staff speak very little English and we all had to either ask the divemaster to translate or make do with my Indonesian phrasebook. Apart from shore diving in the house reef we travelled in a perahu (dugout canoe) with side riggers to the dive sites. The dive sites around Ahe are largely unexplored because divers started coming to this area only about a year ago. On the afternoon of our arrival we completed a check dive in the house reef. The reef seemed healthy and there was very little trash you would normally find in a house reef near a resort. On our second and third days we explored Here Island and Roine Island and found large healthy gorgonian sea fans dotted along the reef. Some areas were dotted with hard table or staghorn coral but the reefs were devoid of large schools of fish. We also completed a couple of dives in the house reef in the afternoon and found a small school of bat fish, a frogfish and nudibranchs underneath the jetty. On our fourth day we left the resort at 5am and travelled three hours by perahu to a concentration of fourteen floats frequented by whale sharks. The trip was quite uncomfortable because although the perahu was sheltered with a small hut all eight of us were crammed inside and it got either really windy or sweltering hot inside. The floats house fishing nets holding the fishermen’s catch of the day. The whale sharks are attracted to small fish trapped in the fishing nets. Once we arrived at our first float, we got in the water with our dive gear and found two whale sharks. Since the whale sharks were busy eating the small fish near the nets they would swim in a circle around us and return for more fish. The two whale sharks stayed with us for over an hour! I was really excited and took photos close up, something you couldn’t do at other world class dive destinations frequented by whale sharks. On the fifth day half of us stayed near Ahe while the other half travelled the distance out to the floats. Those of us who stayed near Ahe continued to explore the reefs as well as the mangroves of Hariti Island. On the sixth day my group travelled the long distance out to the floats in search of the whale sharks again. We spent an hour diving with four whale sharks who couldn’t get enough fish for their meal. The largest of the four whale sharks was over fifteen feet long and there was even a smaller whale shark that followed the three adult ones along to the float! On the final day of diving our whole group returned to the floats and spent two hours diving with the whale sharks. We swam first with two whale sharks, when they were done with their meal one of them suddenly twisted and turned its body. Suddenly, we realized it was having a big poo! After the two whale sharks left the float two new ones arrived and the fisherman manning the float frantically fed them from the surface with small finger sized fish. Now that I’m back in Hong Kong, with running water, constant electricity, air-conditioning and internet connection, my trip seems surreal. I hope that due to the remoteness of this location the whale sharks will remain relatively untouched. If you’re interested in my photos, they have been uploaded at www.flickr.com/wudai.
  3. Cool I am so excited, we're leaving for Nabire this Saturday!
  4. We are a group of 6 Hong Kong-based divers who travelled to Vava'u this year. Two members of the group went whale watching last year in July but felt there wasn't enough mother/calf interaction and so we decided to organize a visit this year. We stayed at Mystic Sands, a resort located 15 minutes by car from Vava'u town. Al and Claudia of Dolphin Pacific organized everything for us, and Kjell/Mosi/Maka of Mystic Sands was very welcoming and made our stay smooth and comfortable. Claudia of Dolphin Pacific picked us up on their "small boat" (C'Scape) each morning at the Mystic Sands pier, and we spent 6 days whale watching. The first day was a bit of a bummer, because we spent 4 hours searching for whales but didn't find any. I was beginning to worry that the whole week would be a big waste but after lunch Claudia decided to ask one of the other boats if they would "share" a whale with us and we had a good intro whale watching. There were a couple in the group who had been to Niue in 2009 and they found the visibility to be less clear but the water temp was warmer. We spent the beginning of the second day searching again but we got lucky and found some whales (which we shared with another boat). There was a mother, calf and escort who had become accustomed to whale watchers and didn't swim away so we spent around two hours, taking turns and shot some good photos. We also saw humpbacks mating, but at the time when it was happening I was really confused because I had no idea why two whales were rubbing against each other! It wasn't until we swam back to the boat when we all realized what we had just witnessed! The best part about this day was the whales didn't really move except when they came up to breathe, and we were able to spread out around them like a round table. We really didn't want to go! The third day was also a mother/calf/escort interaction day. We found several groups of whales but they didn't stay as long as the ones from the day before and we had to chase a little but it was a good day in the water. The fourth day the wind and rain started to pick up and the water visibility declined. We saw our first breaching whale but didn't see much action in the water so we spent a good part of the day taking surface photos. Claudia took us to Mariner's Cave for a relaxing swim towards the end of the day. Al joined us on the fifth day. We were in and out of the water quickly because the whales we found didn't stay too long but we found some dolphins who swam with us quite a while. The sixth and final day we had windy weather in the morning. We found lots of whales but none of them stayed too long for us to swim with and so we didn't get to swim with any whales. However, we saw whales breaching and spent a good hour chasing after one whale that breached, breached and breached. The conditions were rough and the seas were choppy but who would complain with so much action? According to the couple who went to Niue last year, if you prefer warmer waters and if you enjoy both swimming with whales and taking photos of them from the surface, then Tonga is the way to go. On my way back home I stopped in Auckland for a few hours to catch my flight back to HK. My flight was delayed due to the big earthquake in Christchurch and I later discovered an aftershock hit Tonga. I hope it didn't affect the whales or the people of Tonga. If you're interested in my photos they're at www.flickr.com/wudai. Enjoy!!
  5. I just came back from 6 days of whale watching in Vava'u, Tonga. If you would like to check out my photos, here's the link: www.flickr.com/wudai. Enjoy!!
  6. Over Easter, I travelled together with a group of 12 other Hong Kong-based divers to Ambon, Indonesia for a week of great diving. Flights The trip began with a 4 hour flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta, followed by a midnight flight from Jakarta to Ambon (arriving at 6:30am). The worst part about the flights was the midnight flight (no/little sleep) and arriving at 6:30am in the morning but we took a 2 hour power nap when we arrived at the resort and we started diving in the afternoon so it wasn't that bad. Diving The divemasters were very experienced. I discovered Samuel was the same divemaster who showed us the Lembeh Straits on the MV Serenade 9 years ago. Djamal was very experienced as he had worked in Komodo, Sangalakki, Lembeh and Bali. Ambon offers world class muck diving and is basically a macro photographer’s haven. Every dive site offers something exceptional, such as the rhinopias, psychedelic frogfish (newly rediscovered), mimic octopus, mandarin fish, nudibranches, etc. I would say the dive sites are comparable to the Lembeh Straits of Indonesia or Anilao of the Philippines. Most of the dives sites were 5 – 15 minutes away by speedboat and we would go out on the speedboat for 2 dives and then go back to the resort for lunch. For those who are also interested in pelagic, Pulau Tiga (west of Ambon) offers big fish action. Resort Most of the resort, from the cook/wait staff/furniture comes from Bali. The cuisine was a mix of European/Indonesian cuisine and I personally thought the food was very good. We ate all meals at the resort and the chef made sure we had a variety of food, ranging from BBQ dinners to pancakes to nasi/mee goreng. All guests were served by the dish, ie., no buffet. We gave the chef our dietary preferences and the chef did a great job meeting those preferences. We were told that although the resort was near the airport the chef had to purchase provisions from the local markets everyday. Considering the limited variety of meats/produce offered in the local markets the chef did an excellent job ensuring that he did not repeat dishes. The waitstaff were very attentive and trained at the Bali Hotel school. One of the waiters had even spent time training in Singapore and spoke excellent English. Non-dive day We spent the afternoon of our last day in Ambon in the village of Larike. One of the boat boys was from this village where they have large sized eels swimming up to the local river during the daytime. The villagers were delighted to meet a group of Hong Kong divers and escorted us throughout our stay. I think they had a great time watching us lie in knee deep water trying to take photos of the eels! Trip photos For those of you who are interested in my trip photos, they have been uploaded on www.flickr.com/wudai. Enjoy!!
  7. Here are more photos: http://www.divethoughts.com/juvenile-whale...in-philippines/
  8. I spent the last week of December in Anilao, Philippines. We stayed 5 nights at the Acacia Dive Resort and had a very nice time. The resort manager, Chito, is very hospitable... he's a real character with tons of experience in the dive travel industry. I recommend Anilao to divers regardless of experience, there's so much to offer you'll never get bored there! Here are my trip photos: www.flickr.com/wudai
  9. I just returned from a 10-day trip to Vava'u, Tonga. Here's the link to my photos: www.flickr.com/wudai and trip report. I travelled with a group of 15 from Hong Kong. We flew from Hong Kong to Sydney, and then from Sydney to Nuku'alofa and from Nuku'alofa to Vava'u. The first day in Vava'u was pretty relaxing, we spent the day roaming around the island and sorting out our gear. We then spent 6 days whale watching (snorkeling). We had 15 people in our group so they split us into 2 boats. The way it works is that you go out on the boat from 9am - 4:30pm and you basically have to be ready to dive in for a "whale swim" the whole day. On the first day we were spent some time getting used to slipping quietly in the water and climbing back in the boat. While we were snorkeling with the whales we heard them singing! For those of you who have not heard whales singing, they sound like pigs screaming or kids crying (LOUD). One the of the guides who had been running the whale watching operation for 5 years had only gone swimming with whales while they were singing once in 5 years! So on our first day we witnessed the incredible... and the trip became quite promising!! We spent most of the second day watching the whales from our boat. We only went swimming with the whales a few times but I was glad we spent time a lot of time on the boat because it gave us a chance to figure out how to balance ourselves in a good position whilst holding onto our cameras (complete w/ telephoto lenses). On the third day we spent most of the day swimming with two humpacks who were the same size. We were incredibly lucky that they didn't swim away (even after we left to give the other boat a chance to swim with them). The fourth day was the best day out of the whole trip. We must have gone into the water for 6 - 7 swims!! We saw whales breaching, tails twisting and turning... the seas were super calm and it seemed there were so many whales in the seas we couldn't pick which one to swim with! For some reason I had been unlucky the whole day and didn't catch a photo of a whale breaching. To make it an absolutely great day I finally took a photo of a whale breaching just before the last whale swim. The fifth day was pretty choppy, the winds had picked up overnight and the seas were rough. We did, however, manage to do a few swims. On the final (6th) day the winds had died down but it was slightly choppy. I had been wearing a 1mm wetsuit for the past 5 days and because the water temperature was a lot colder the day before I decided to put on my 3mm wetsuit. We finished the day with several whale swims. We spent Day 7 scuba diving, 2 day dives and 1 night dive. The winds were still there and it was mighty cold getting out of the water! We spent a dive in a series of caverns (pretty cool stuff). We spent Day 8 on a kart safari and I must admit it was super super wet. It rained the whole day but now that I think about it was actually more fun that way. Most of us drove on the off road splashing through muddy puddles and slippery roads. It was my first time but I think I'll go again. On the last day we hired a car for an island tour and hiked up to Mount Talau (the highest point) to check the view. I really enjoyed this trip but I think next time I'll go back during the peak season (August/September).
  10. I'm going to Tonga with a group of friends in mid-July 2009. Some of my friends will need visas to enter Tonga but I can't figure out where they can apply for visas. 1. Is it true that citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, UK & USA (and others) do NOT require visas to enter Tonga? 2. If my friends require a visa where (email? website?) can I apply for one? I would really appreciate your advice. Thanks!!
  11. We went diving with Christmas Island Divers and stayed at the Sunset. We had an excellent time!
  12. We didn't see any whalesharks during our trip but during our week there a kid who was snorkeling near the Settlement (beach/boat ramp/pier area) saw a whaleshark, it swam up towards him and freaked him out! My understanding is whalesharks do live around the area and they usually appear when the baby crabs are born. (Whalesharks feed on baby sharks.) As for the cost/flights, Christmas Island is a 2.5 hour filght from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia so actually it's not a long flight for those who live in Asia (ie., HK, Malaysia, Singapore, etc). The residents told us it would cost them less to fly from CI to Perth through KL rather than taking a direct flight. I think it's a longer flight from Perth to CI. Finally, since the Aussie dollar has weakened against the US dollar, those of us who live in countries where we can capitalize on the weak AUD will have significant cost savings visiting places where they spend the AUD these days.
  13. Over Chinese New Year (last week of January 2009), I spent a week diving on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). For those of you who are not familiar with the island, Christmas Island is a territory of Australia located 2600km northwest of Perth, Western Australia and 500km south of Jakarta, Indonesia. In other words, it’s only a 2.5 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has a population of 1500 and 70% of the population are ethnic Chinese. So why is this island so famous? Every year from November to early January, around 100 million red crabs migrate from the forest to the ocean to mate and to spawn. This migration has been called one of the wonders of the natural world. The island is also a focal point for other land crabs (robber/coconut crab, blue crab) and sea birds (ie., red-footed boobie, frigates, etc.) I would like to share the highlights of my trip with you at www.flickr.com/wudai. We missed the crab migration season but we ventured into the forest to see the red crabs. Enjoy!
  14. The pliers worked! It's not actually the plastic cap, I circled it in the attached photo.
  15. Yes, it's the protector cap. So I guess I have to try 10x harder and use pliers. Thanks. How about tips on how to protect the cap so I won't need pliers next time? Some people suggest WD40, some suggest silicone spray. What works for everyone?
  16. It's been 3 months since my last dive trip and I discovered that I can not remove the connector cap to plug the synch cord into my housing. Do you have any advice on 1. How I can remove the connector cap? 2. How to store my housing so that this doesn't happen again?
  17. Yes, I tried Egypt Air's own website. In fact I just tried booking through their website 5 minutes ago but no flights are available. I guess I'll try Amex and hope I'll have better luck. Thanks.
  18. I'm planning a trip to the Christmas Islands (www.christmas.net.au) at the end of January 2009, post crab migration season. Has anyone been there at this time of the year and if so what should I expect the diving to be like? What was the water temperature (is a 3mm ok)? What were the highlights underwater? Should I concentrate on wide angle or macro photos?
  19. I'm also travelling to the Red Sea (going onboard the Royal Evolution) in July 2009. We've been told to board the boat at Marsa Alam. I understand that Egypt Air flies from Cairo to Marsa Alam but I couldn't find flights online. Has anyone flown from Cairo to Marsa Alam? The charter flights by Thomas Cook don't operate everyday and since I'm based in Hong Kong it's a pain organizing flights.
  20. I just came back from Fiji, 2 days of shark diving at Beqa and 1 week onboard the Fiji Aggressor II. Here's our Aggressor trip report: http://www.aggressor.com/capt_log.php?log_id=1623 ...and my photos: www.flickr.com/wudai
  21. I'm going to the Brothers Is at the end of June 2009. We've booked the Royal Evolution through Peter Hughes. Has anyone been on the Royal Evolution and would you know what the diving is like there? The boat departs from Hurghada and returns to Port Ghaleb and my buddies are telling me I should fly to Marsa Alam. I'm based in Hong Kong so I suspect I'll have to fly to Dubai or somewhere in Europe to get to Marsa Alam. If you have any advice on which airline frequents Marsa Alam I would really appreciate it.
  22. I just came back from 11 days in Fiji (3 days at Beqa Lagoon's shark diving and a week on board the MV Fiji Aggressor II). For those of you who are considering to travel to Fiji, you are advised to spend 2 - 3 days in Nadi or Suva at the beginning of your trip in case your bags don't arrive with you. I travelled on Singapore Airlines from Hong Kong to Singapore to Sydney, then caught a connecting flight on Air Pacific from Sydney to Nadi. My 2 bags (clothes and dive gear) did not arrive with me. Air Pacific later informed me the bags arrived in Sydney but somehow did not get on the flight to Nadi even though I had a 3 hour layover. Lucky I had my camera, housing, friends who had an extra swimsuit and a dive shop I could rent gear from. The bags arrived 2 days later. For some strange reason Air Pacific delivered a 3 package to me (together with my bags) that belonged to someone who had checked in the package on September 20! When we arrived on the MV Fiji Aggressor II to meet the rest of our group there were 2 other people out of 18 divers who lost their luggage. One person travelled from Hong Kong to Sydney (on Cathay Pacific) and from Sydney to Nadi (on Air Pacific). The other travelled from Hong Kong to Auckland (on Cathay Pacific) and from Auckland to Nadi (on Air Pacific). Air Pacific found my buddies bags but the Aggressor had to leave port and Air Pacific did not have the means to deliver my buddies' bags to our dive site. In the end Air Pacific delivered the bags to the Aggressor's Suva office (free of charge) but the owner of the Aggressor had to fly the bags on his personal airplane out to a remote island where we were diving (for a charge). Lucky my buddies only missed 2 dives but it could have been worse. If Air Pacific is the only airline that will take you to your dive destination, there's a 16% chance you could lose your bags (just look at us, 3 out of 18 divers lost their bags).
  23. I'm going to Fiji, first Beqa shark dive then I'm going onboard the Aggressor next week (early October). For those of you who have been to Fiji at this time of the year what is the water temperature and do you recommend wearing a 3mm or 5mm wetsuit?
  24. I'm also trying to figure whether I should purchase the LED or halogen version. I heard from a buddy of mine that that he's experienced problems on the LED version with creatures sensitive to LED light. Is the narrower beam on the LED a big deal? I have a Nikon D80 + 60mm macro lens. For those of you who have the same equipment what would you recommend? I am tempted by the long battery time and more economical price tag.
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