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Paul Woodburn

Manado, North Sulawesi is predominantly a Christian province. In my opinion it isn't much of a tourist town. The only shops catering for tourists in any way are the Mega Mall, KFC and a handful of seafood restaurants dotted around the coast nestled in between all the native homes. Even though we booked room only, the majority of our stay was at Tasik Ria, who I can say catered for our every need.

They picked us up at the airport and then we had a forty-five minute drive to the resort, it was hilarious to see four people on a moped, once I saw a child on the shoulders of the driver. All the drivers seem so dangerous in the way they drive, sometimes making four lanes out of two, but they seem so skilled at driving dangerously, if you get my drift.
Ralf Tech
Seahorse Tasik Ria had a somewhat rustic charm to it. They have a couple of pools and bars with a good averagely-priced food and drinks menu. We opted for the bungalow, which had a very comfortable bed and was close to the sea, handy for getting up last minute for the dive boat. At the Jetty Bar we brought the New Year in with a huge bang. While the rockets were whizzing by my feet I soon realised this would never have passed any UK health and safety requirements, all good fun though, I like a bit of danger. This was the busiest night of the holiday, most nights at the Jetty Bar were very quiet, such a shame.

One day a guest, who was more familiar with the area, took us to a local "bar" to taste the local nectar. Everyone was so friendly, alas, we didn't stay too long as their local tasty rocket fuel would have launched us a lot sooner than required to oblivion.

On a dive-free day we took the opportunity to go on a trip to the jungle to see the black crested macaque primates. It was amazing how close I could get to these guys, and how comfortable they are with humans. It was a wonder to see two young ones nearly starting a fight with each other, and watching the older ones calming one of them down, how human-like their behaviour is. We also saw the Tarsier monkey, which, at only a cute inches tall, is the smallest primate in the world. It lives inside a huge tree; there are about five groups like this around the jungle. It was a great trip and one I'd thoroughly recommend to anyone going this way. Just remember to wear full-length cotton clothing and plenty of insect repellent.
Crab This was my first trip with my new SLR set up, I chose the Nikon D90 with Aquatica housing and viewfinder, and Inon Z240 strobes, as the best compromise considering size, performance and cost. I also got some pinch clip lanyards made up recently from Simon at Bowstone, to hold my indie twin regs and camera altogether in one go off my Tekwing, which I must say, all worked in sync and did a great job. I managed to do thirty dives in fifteen 'diveable' days of our seventeen night stay. Two of these involved a day trip to Lembeh Straits, about a two hour drive away. Both days I saw similar species, a bit disappointing to be honest. It may be just dependent on what season you dive in Lembeh, or maybe this was because I never had a local dive guide? Tasik Ria's local dives were surprisingly pretty much on par with Lembeh, such a huge plethora of macro subjects.

Once I tried my set up with my Nikon 60mm macro and my Tokina 10-17 fisheye with 8" dome port locally, I went on a few day trips to Bunaken to do some wall dives with my fisheye. The boat was a good size, with a large sun deck. It was aptly named "Aquatica". As all the guides seemed insistent on setting your gear up, seeing as I had indie twins, I tried my best to keep with the same guide all the time, Irwan. As soon as he was out the water, he was changing my bottles as they were coming off my back. It didn't take long for him to become familiar with the way I set it up. Large fish seemed to be few and far between at Bunaken and Manado Tua, but the variety of fish and coral here is so diverse and colourful, so different from what I have ever seen before.
The Underwater Channel
I am your Father After a few day trips doing wall dives here I had taken my fair share of wide angle scenic photos and moved onto improving my macro shots. Macro is very new to me, so I was very excited to continue the rest of my dives with the 60mm lens. Local muck dives off Tasik Ria suited me best for this. Variety within a maximum of half an hour from the resort was so plentiful, it's so under-rated considering the amount of talk there is about Lembeh Straits. I also did two shore dives from Tasik Ria's jetty, they have a small shipwreck about a hundred yards away and tried my fisheye again here for my last dive. The largest fish I saw on all the dives was a great barracuda on a local dive at five metres. The best was a mantis shrimp carrying her eggs, they are such funny creatures, reminding me of the film I saw on the flight over, "District 9". I also did a mandarin fish dive, remaining in one spot for over an hour at dusk waiting for them to mate. Sad to say they must have been arguing that night.
Reef with Diver Adornment After this macro-predominant trip, I feel I have a redundant pot full of adrenalin left inside me. So much, that I cannot wait to take photos of Mantas and Whale sharks in the Maldives in August.

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