Trip report to Sulawesi and Singapore

The plan

In early october ago I left on a wednesday evening for a 3.5 weks vacation in Asia. My thoughts when planning had been that it was easier to use miles for a business flight to Singapore as this would mean as well that I wouldn't have problems with overweight on luggage since my dive gear is heavy. From Singapore I bought a second ticket to Manado in Sulawesi/Indonesia with Silk Air. Silk Air is a daughter company of Singapore Airlines and I preferred that to the indonesian airlines that have been on the european black list of airlines....

Had planned the trip in February and found that that was already late for october. In the end I found a small resort that still had a cottage available for 2 weeks. I really wanted to go to Lembeh. Lembeh is a small island in northern Sulawesi and the Lembeh Strait (between Lembeh and the Sulawesi mainland) is known among underwater photographers for it's strange underwater world (which partly consists of VERY small things).

After the two weeks in Lembeh I was supposed to go on the Sulawesi mainland and stay in a much more expensive resort. On the way back I had two days in Singapore.

That was the plan and when I finally was on the train to Frankfurt I had a glass of champagne celebrating the fact that I was finally on vacation.

The trip

Flight to Singapore was uneventful. I was lucky enough to fly business class but that doesn't necessarily mean that you can sleep comfortably. Still better than economy class though... 13 hours after departure we landed in Singapore. Arrived in Singapore - went through imigration in a heartbeat, found my bags and took the skytrain to the other terminal where my hotel was located. Since my flight arrived in the afternoon and the flight to Sulawesi was only the next morning I had chosen to book a hotel at the airport. After checking in I walked around the airport terminals checking out shops but didn't really find a lot that interested me. Was too tired anyway for doing anything interesting... During the night I got thirsty but when I saw that the hotel wanted 10 bucks for a 1 liter bottle of water I found the price too high and didn't buy it.

Got up early the next morning as my flight was to leave at 9:30 AM and I knew that my luggage was too heavy. When checking in I was surprised that my luggage was heavier by 3 kg although I hadn't bought anything. Don't have to understand everything, do I? Of course I had to pay overweight but had known that beforehand...

Once we were in the air we were offered orange juice or beer. Strange combination as I was waiting for plain and simple water... Got a snack afterwards and after about 3 hours we landed in Manado/Sulawesi. There we had to pay arrival tax first, then go through immigration and then get our luggage. When finally I had done the first two steps I got my luggage and went outside. Found the guy with the sign 'Two fish divers' who was waiting for me. Asked him if I could use the toilet for a moment and go to the ATM. Of course I could. Closest toilet was closed (why does that ALWAYS happen to me whereever I go???????) and I had to walk over to the other end of the airport. Got money afterwards and bought a bottle of water before I was finally ready to go.

It was hot and humid and I was glad to be finally in the car to Bitung from where I had to take a boat to go over to Lembeh...

So here are the pics from the trip to Lembeh.

This was my room at the airport. Like I found already in two hotels in Bangkok you can see into the room out of the bathroom... :) There are shades though that you can use if you don't want anyone seeing you in there... ;)

The airport (in the background you can see the islands around Singapore).

This is one of the first impressions that I had on the way from the airport in Manado to Lembeh. Along the road there were these coke bottles everywhere. I had no clue what their meaning was so in the end I asked the driver. He told me that these were used for fuel for the moto bikes as there not that many gas stations... (and stupid me had thought that these bottles had really something to do with coke... :joker:)

A few more impressions along the way....

These decorations were everywhere...

And my first glimpse of the harbour of Bitung from where I had to take the boat over to the Two Fish divers resort.

Not sure I would trust that ferry....

That was one of the first times I saw just how friendly the people in Sulawesi are.... they just saw me on the boat and started waving.


Two Fish Divers Lembeh and Lembeh Strait

When I arrived Helen and Gizmo, who manage the Two Fish Lembeh Resort, were already waiting for me and they explained me how everything worked. After we went through the paperwork they showed me to my cottage which was VERY spacious. Two Fish Divers Lembeh is a very basic resort without aircon and Minibar in the rooms but I didn't miss anything (except maybe a good cup of coffee in the morning ). They are a very good value for the money that you pay. Food was always very good (the cook is a local).

Unfortunately I didn't spent my first day in the water diving but in bed. I probably should have paid those 10 bucks for the water in Singapore as I think I didn't drink enough water during the trip to Manado. And when I don't drink enough water I get a headache. Bad luck that I had left the painkillers for strong headache at home... so there was no way I could have gone diving that day. Only in the evening I was able to get up to have something to eat. That was not how I had imagined my first day of vacation...

Doesn't make sense to write a day by day report for the rest of the stay since the days were mostly the same for two weeks. Get up around 7, have breakfast, 8 AM departure for the two morning dives. After we got back lunch, short break and at 2:30 or 3 PM we would go diving again. After that time for a shower and then we would sit together to check the pictures and find out what we had seen. The guides often helped us when checking the pics so we didn't have to search in the books for the names of the fish. After dinner we either continued or went to sleep. Sounds boring but it was all but... the guides and boatcrews would sing together so we had evening entertainment as well. I have to say that I loved them all. They were laughing a lot together (and with us ) and seemed all so good humoured all the time although they are working long days. And they were as friendly as I found all the people in Sulawesi. When we were out diving they were very attentive and helped us with our gear. The staff at the restaurant were the same. So I was perfectly happy at Two Fish divers....

Saw that family passing by one evening from my deck.

'Leisure room'

The dive boat

Compressor room

The resort

Chris singing and I am not sure if this instrument is called guitar as well...

View from my deck one sunny afternoon. You can see how dirty the water is with waste that is swimming in it.

They do have garbage collection though.

Resort seen from the water

In between dives...

Bitung seen from the resort

And the only evening that we had a spectacular sunset...

Frontdesk with the standard rooms

Leisure room seen from the restaurant

The dive sites of Lembeh strait

Sem, my guide, who found so many spectacular things for me.

Lembeh strait

Jet Ski sulawesi style...

Handry, who saved my feet from the sea snake, with indonesian food.

One of the few beaches with white sand.

And I think this pic of Hendro, Handry and Yusuf shows exactly how they are.


Tangkoko National Park

Before I went on that trip I had already decided that I wanted to go to Tangkoko National Park and to the Minahasa Highlands. Since Tangkoko is closer to Two Fish than it is to Minahasa Lagoon I decided to do that tour while being in Lembeh. When the days got by I got more and more reluctant to miss a day of diving so I was really happy when Gizmo told me that most people are not going the whole day but say that half a day is enough. So I went diving in the morning and started to Tangkoko after lunch.

As the windows of the car were very dark it didn't make sense to take pictures along the way. Just grabbed this one. Not sure what Mona Lisa and cigarettes have in common... :disbelief:

The drive to Tangkoko National Park was about 1.5 hours and towards the end there was not really a road any more. At the entrance I had to pay the ticket and when asked if I wanted a guide I said 'yes'. Didn't know that they don't give you any info about the park and it is just jungle. Without guide you can't do anything as you will get lost.

Not sure I had the best guide though as I had expected that he would explain some things to me. Started well when at the beginning of the walk we found this millepiede.

But that was about all he showed me except the black makakis...


... banjan trees... and later the tarsiers.

Found that thing myself. ;)

Loved the umbrellas--

And this is how you look like during a jog through the jungle with a 500 % humidity. Can't count how many times I wished I'd gone diving instead...

The tarsiers

And this pic is for Torsten (someone who loves mushrooms).

Finally we reached the beach on the northern tip of Sulawesi. The guide told me that on good days you can see the Philippines from there.

And the ranger station

I have to say that this was the only afternoon in Sulawesi that I didn't enjoy. For me this was not fun and I think the guide didn't speak english. He was able to tell me a few things about the makakis but when I asked him something he just smiled and said 'yes, yes.' but my question had not been a yes/no-question...

Part 2