On our third morning in Manado, I finally felt refreshed and like my body was caught up and rested and ready for the task of diving. No more wimping out in the cold for me! We had the boat to ourselves, allowing us to make the longer trip over to Bunaken National Park. The previous days a German diver had joined us for only the second dive, meaning we had to stay close to the mainland so that we could make the trip back to the resort to pick her up between dives. We had figured out that the mainland was where the cold water was. But now she was finished diving and we had an entire boat to take us wherever we wanted to go. Diving in the off-season definitely had its perks.

The first dive of the morning was a steep wall, with some good current that brought in a crazy assortment of fish. We saw numerous dogtooth tuna, usually only one at a time, but spaced at regular intervals out in the blue. Bluefin trevallies with their electric blue fins hunted closer to the wall. Big schools of giant trevallies hovered just close enough to wow us, but stayed too far away to get a clear photo. And the entire dive, we were surrounded by millions of redtooth triggerfish. I estimate millions, because we were in a cloud of thousands throughout the entire hour drift down the wall. So either they were drifting along with us, or that was the largest school of redtooth triggerfish I had ever experienced.

Dogtooth Tuna, Bunaken National Park, Indonesia

Shoal of Redtooth Triggerfish, Bunaken National Park, Indonesia 

There were also plenty of titan triggerfish, a fish I learned to be wary of in Koh Tao. There is nothing scarier in the ocean than a Koh Tao titan triggerfish. If you look at one of those the wrong way, they will charge you like a bull chasing a matador. Here they were completely docile though. Not only were their triggers lowered, meaning they meant no aggression, but you could just sense that there was no need to be cautious. I never once felt the need to look and see if a trigger was raised in warning.

On the second dive I found a beautiful scorpionfish, the most colorful camouflaged fish I had ever seen. Usually I’m not a huge fan of scorpionfish. They’re fun to find, because doing so requires a practiced eye, but once you’ve seen one, they all more or less look the same: dark red or brown and like a continuation of their surroundings. This one most certainly did not look the same though. This one had bright yellow and purple blotches all over hismself and was really the most fabulous rainbow of a scorpionfish that I had ever seen. And yet, even with the obnoxiously bright colors, he was still perfectly blended in with his surroundings. I was quite proud of that find.

Tasseled Scorpionfish, Bunaken National Park, Indonesia 

Even though we had come to the Bunaken side of Manado for the pelagics, the dive guides were still fond of searching for all the macro life along the wall. I didn't spend too much time trying to capture the right shot, as I was so mesmerized by what was happening out in the blue, and the current made macro photography a tricky task, but I did manage a couple photos.

Whip coral shrimp, about the size of a grain of rice. Bunaken National Park, Indonesia. 

Hairy squat lobster, about the size of a small coin. Bunaken National Park, Indonesia. 

The 5.5mm wetsuit made a world of difference. It was impossible to get into, and made me waddle around like a penguin on the surface, but underwater it did its job of keeping me warm and cozy. I was back in my element, completely at peace in the water. What a mental relief it was too. My inability to tough out water a couple degrees colder than I had expected, had made me question a few things about myself.

There were two other groups at the resort. The first was the German couple; she was a diver and he was a snorkeler. They both struggled to adjust to the concept of "island time." She had done a refresher in the pool on day one and Tanja had said she had thought she was watching a Chinese DSD at first. Unfortunately, "Chinese DSD" has become a running joke in the dive industry because Chinese intro dives nearly always look the same, like you’re either trying to drown someone or save someone from drowning. Actually, that’s about what you’re doing when you teach one. There’s a lot of flailing around at the surface involved. I’m not trying to be mean, I’ve just taught enough courses to back up that claim, and have never met another dive professional who had a story to contradict the fact that the majority of Chinese people are about as comfortable in the water as your typical house cat. We all have horror stories. In fact I heard a few more while in Indonesia.

The other group at the resort was a large group of Japanese guests. Now it’s your turn to be mean, because you probably think that I'm about to say that their diving ability is on par with the Chinese guests. Not so; the majority of Japanese Divers I have met have been extremely proficient. Go figure. We knew this group could dive because one of them had a towel hanging outside her room, signed by all of her friends, in celebration of her 700th dive. (Or perhaps it belonged to a he, I just assumed she because the majority of them were women). They were all very jovial, older people, who didn’t speak a lick of English. One morning, one of them managed a good morning, to us in English, and Fletch managed an ohayou gozaimasu in Japanese, just like I taught him. I was so proud. The old woman was proud too. She beamed and her face lit up like a Christmas tree. I really wished that my Japanese was proficient enough to converse with them because they seemed like a lovely group of people.

Still to come: our experience with the sketchy local alcohol and a fleet of xylophones.