Black Sand Covid-19 Update

Black Sand Covid-19 Update

Black Sand Covid-19 Update

NEWS!! As we all continue to Stay Home & Stay Safe, we wanted to give you all an update on how things are at BSDR and in Indonesia. We also wanted to give an update on the progress of Scoot flights to Manado from Singapore.

At Black Sand, we have been shut down since mid-March, with just a skeleton crew of staff maintaining the resort. Our primary responsibility at this time is simply survival; making sure that our staff have food to eat while our operations have been suspended. The village of Kasawari beside us has even closed itself off to outsiders. The area has been divided into secure zones, with the road between Manado and Bitung blocked as well. The number of Covid-19 cases in North Sulawesi is now at 40, with 3 deaths and many more under observation at this time.

It is curious to note that the fear of Chinese tourists bringing infection to Bali and North Sulawesi never seemed to have happened. The Manado-China charter flights were all halted by the first week of February. True, this area had no testing facilities at that time, but a rise in deaths would have been duly noted on social media since many people here were afraid and vigilant. It is only over the past month that cases in our province began to show up, brought by locals returning overseas. The first case was someone returning from a religious visit to Saudi Arabia, then the next few cases were locals returning from Europe and last week brought cases brought up from a religious gathering in South Sulawesi (back in March). Of course these carriers infected others, but overall, it seems that the spread is much slower than in other countries we read about in the news.

We are told that the number of cases will peak at the end of May. The government has been quite active and the newest decree from the President came into effect yesterday, which is a total shutdown of domestic flights, trains and even ferries and buses in most of Java, chunks of Sumatra and Kalimantan and in South Sulawesi. This will last until the beginning of June. It is needed to stop the mass migration of people (called Mudik), which lasts for a month. This is like the Chinese New Year migration, but Indo-style. The main regions of Java wanted to seal their borders, but they feared that folks would still try to “pulang kampung” (go home), so stronger measures were enacted.

We hope that after Idul Fitri (the holiday marking the end of Ramadan), the country will be able to move out of the present state of lockdown.

We look forward to welcoming guests again as soon as safely possible. At this time, no visas for tourists are being issued for Indonesia. Most of the countries around us are in lockdown, with international flights out from Indonesia only going to Doha, Amsterdam, Seoul and Tokyo.

Before Corona reared its ugly head, there was stress and frustration here because of the slow transition from Silk Air to Scoot Airlines covering the route from/to Singapore. Silk Air was to cease operations on May 4th, but they have already stopped, back in March. Scoot did start selling tickets online starting March 10 (but only for flights from May through to the end of October), but everything is now on hold. When Singapore is open and Indonesia is open, they undoubtedly will immediately begin their service, flying the same schedule as Silk Air did: Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday.

That will be a very happy day!

Until then: stay healthy. These are challenging times, but we will get past it. We will all dive again, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Tripadvisor Reviews:

What Every Dive Resort Should Strive to Be

"This was a phenomenal dive trip and we will be back here on our next visit to Lembeh. Thanks again to Bruce, Fung, and all of the wonderful staff who made our vacation a fantastic one!"

Scallywag81 on TripAdvisor

Three times is not enough...

"In the 20+ years that we've been diving, in about the same number of different countries, there was only one other place where we went back a second time. But Black Sand? Oh we just couldn't stay away!"

Katrien V on TripAdvisor

Idyllic Resort Set in Middle of Lembeh’s Best Diving

"Bruce was often present at meal time, and he is a wealth of knowledge about all things diving, especially Lembeh and critter identification. We really enjoyed our discussions with him. The dive staff was outstanding."

Doug F on TripAdvisor

Missing it Already and Can't Wait to Return!

"We visited Black Sand for the second time because we could not have imagined having better hosts than Bruce and Fung as well the number and variety of great dive sites."

Brown C on TripAdvisor

Address:

Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel:
+62 (0)821-9969-5992
+62 (0)853-4043-3665
[email protected]

The Amazing Coconut Octopus

The Amazing Coconut Octopus

The Amazing Coconut Octopus

The most common octopus species to be found on the black sand sites of Lembeh Strait also happens to be one of the most interesting critters anywhere. The veined octopus, which is more commonly called the coconut octopus, is a firm crowd favourite. It is much larger than the bluering or hairy octopus and less shy than the mimic and wonderpus. Not poisonous, this octopus has developed remarkable building skills which help it to survive, creating portable fortifications that can be opened and closed using their powerful arms and suckers.

They are often found using discarded coconut shells as a home base, but will use whatever is at hand, including shells and bottles along with bits of plastic or wood. The home can be buried in the sand or sitting right out in the open. Once large enough, this clever species will even carry their mobile home with them as they move in order to find acceptable hunting grounds, with crabs being the preferred prey.

Like all octopus, the coconut octopus is curious and aggressive. They normally leave their home to hunt, often as far away as twenty meters, retreating to shelter if threatened. They can dig into the sand if necessary and often seek shelter on the prowl, so are not always found in a protective structure. I sometimes offer shells and watch as this intelligent critter tries out the new shelter, often leaving their existing home, or parts of it, for the upgrade.

Also like any octopus, the veined octopus can change colour and texture as well as mimic other creatures. The best bit of mimicry I have ever witnessed happened to be by one of this species, rather than the mimic octopus, which seems to have a better publicist. I came across one doing an excellent impression of a hermit crab, walking on arm tips, with the body copying an off-center shell of the type often used by bona fide hermit crabs. Once I was less than a meter away and still approaching with interest, it decided that the mimicry wasn’t working and abandoned that shape for the shapeless lump that this species often uses when out in the open; not offering any extending bit that may be bitten off by a passing opportunistic predator.

This fascinating cephalopod can be found throughout the year, day and night, but certain times seem to bring higher densities, where we not only see them every muck dive, but can find ten or more on a single jump at certain sites. When is the best time to see the coconut octo? It can vary, but October is always a good month for sightings and in 2020 they were seen in high numbers in early February, which was a bit odd.

So that’s the coconut octopus. When next critter-hunting on black sand, keep your eyes open for a pair of eyes watching you from the neck of a bottle or a structure partially buried in the sand. You may get lucky and meet one of our favourite and most interactive critters: the veined (coconut) octopus.

Tripadvisor Reviews:

What Every Dive Resort Should Strive to Be

"This was a phenomenal dive trip and we will be back here on our next visit to Lembeh. Thanks again to Bruce, Fung, and all of the wonderful staff who made our vacation a fantastic one!"

Scallywag81 on TripAdvisor

Three times is not enough...

"In the 20+ years that we've been diving, in about the same number of different countries, there was only one other place where we went back a second time. But Black Sand? Oh we just couldn't stay away!"

Katrien V on TripAdvisor

Idyllic Resort Set in Middle of Lembeh’s Best Diving

"Bruce was often present at meal time, and he is a wealth of knowledge about all things diving, especially Lembeh and critter identification. We really enjoyed our discussions with him. The dive staff was outstanding."

Doug F on TripAdvisor

Missing it Already and Can't Wait to Return!

"We visited Black Sand for the second time because we could not have imagined having better hosts than Bruce and Fung as well the number and variety of great dive sites."

Brown C on TripAdvisor

Address:

Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel:
+62 (0)821-9969-5992
+62 (0)853-4043-3665
[email protected]

The “New” Lembeh Frogfish

The “New” Lembeh Frogfish

The “New” Lembeh Frogfish

It is no secret the Lembeh Strait is the Frogfish Capital of Planet Earth. We really love our frogfish. Correctly identifying the numerous species we encounter can be challenging since some species look very alike, causing confusion. Antennatus nummifer  (Spotfin Frogfish) and A. coccineus (Scarlet Frogfish) are the worst offenders. But just a name can cause consternation, which brings me to the Lembeh Frogfish.

Last year I received word that the Ocellated Frogfish has been officially described. The new name is Lembeh Frogfish / Nudiantennarius subteres. But we already had what we called (unofficially) the Lembeh Frogfish, otherwise known as the Shaggy Frogfish. Some confusion is understandable.

In fairness, Teresa Zubi has always called the Ocellated frogfish the Lembeh Frogfish on her expansive and comprehensive web site www.frogfish.ch , which is very recommended to check out if you are into frogfish. So perhaps she had some influence with the name.

It is a very small frogfish and the main identifying feature is the orange / yellow / pale “O” eyespot (Ocellus) on the dorsal fin. Sometimes there is two on one side and only one on the other! Even three ocelli have been seen. I thought that we were finding them only in black until tan-coloured ones were seen from time to time. In the new description it seems that another identifying feature is the long “toes” and a prominent “fishing rod” (second dorsal spine). Using this description, I have attached the name to two rather different-looking specimens (below). Another feature (sometimes) is the presence of white skin shreds along the edge of the tail (look closely on the far bottom snapshot).

So now we must endeavor to apply this new name of Nudiantennarius subteres / Lembeh Frogfish and hopefully it will lead to more accurate identification of the myriad and messy variations within the numerous frogfish species we find in the strait.

Tripadvisor Reviews:

What Every Dive Resort Should Strive to Be

"This was a phenomenal dive trip and we will be back here on our next visit to Lembeh. Thanks again to Bruce, Fung, and all of the wonderful staff who made our vacation a fantastic one!"

Scallywag81 on TripAdvisor

Three times is not enough...

"In the 20+ years that we've been diving, in about the same number of different countries, there was only one other place where we went back a second time. But Black Sand? Oh we just couldn't stay away!"

Katrien V on TripAdvisor

Idyllic Resort Set in Middle of Lembeh’s Best Diving

"Bruce was often present at meal time, and he is a wealth of knowledge about all things diving, especially Lembeh and critter identification. We really enjoyed our discussions with him. The dive staff was outstanding."

Doug F on TripAdvisor

Missing it Already and Can't Wait to Return!

"We visited Black Sand for the second time because we could not have imagined having better hosts than Bruce and Fung as well the number and variety of great dive sites."

Brown C on TripAdvisor

Address:

Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel:
+62 (0)821-9969-5992
+62 (0)853-4043-3665
[email protected]

BSDR House Reef Is Recognized as One of the Best!

BSDR House Reef Is Recognized as One of the Best!

BSDR House Reef Is Recognized as One of the Best!

The latest issue of Tauchen Magazine (Germany) has named the Black Sand Dive Retreat House Reef as “One of the 40 Best House Reefs in the World”! We are very grateful for the recognition and thank Tauchen for thinking so highly of our “front yard”.

We look forward to continuing to provide high class shore dives for our guests day or night in calm and current-free conditions.

Tripadvisor Reviews:

What Every Dive Resort Should Strive to Be

"This was a phenomenal dive trip and we will be back here on our next visit to Lembeh. Thanks again to Bruce, Fung, and all of the wonderful staff who made our vacation a fantastic one!"

Scallywag81 on TripAdvisor

Three times is not enough...

"In the 20+ years that we've been diving, in about the same number of different countries, there was only one other place where we went back a second time. But Black Sand? Oh we just couldn't stay away!"

Katrien V on TripAdvisor

Idyllic Resort Set in Middle of Lembeh’s Best Diving

"Bruce was often present at meal time, and he is a wealth of knowledge about all things diving, especially Lembeh and critter identification. We really enjoyed our discussions with him. The dive staff was outstanding."

Doug F on TripAdvisor

Missing it Already and Can't Wait to Return!

"We visited Black Sand for the second time because we could not have imagined having better hosts than Bruce and Fung as well the number and variety of great dive sites."

Brown C on TripAdvisor

Address:

Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel:
+62 (0)821-9969-5992
+62 (0)853-4043-3665
[email protected]

New Camera, First Two Dives

New Camera, First Two Dives

New Camera, First Two Dives

I was finally back in the water, replacement camera in hand.

Flooding a camera is a terrible experience. I had avoided that feeling for over a decade, but when you dive with a camera in a plastic box under pressure, it is only a matter of time until the inevitable happens. Only a few drops of seawater into all those electronics and everything is fried: camera, lens and battery.

Aaaargh!! I didn’t even know how it happened, exactly, beyond the obvious salt water vs electronics thing.But you pick yourself up after grieving for a suitable period, take a deep breath, spend all those hard-earned dollars it takes to get back on that merry-go-round, get replacement gear (in my case, an Olympus E-PL7 and the 12-50 zoom macro lens), and rejoin the mass obsession / madness known as underwater photography.

I had missed great sightings; hearing of all these cool critter encounters day after day makes you happy for the guests, but I was missing some really special opportunities for great pictures. Once I was sorted and had tested my housing in the pool as well as on the House Reef, I was good to go.

I dragged Jek & Bobby along to Pantai Parigi, where they were seeing a pair of mototi octos along with a bluering. I also wanted to hunt for a larger mototi as well as another bluering at Air Prang. Octopus don’t stay in the same area for long, so I decided to concentrate on them over searches for known harlequin shrimp, frogfish, and other personal favorites in play at that time.

So we swam straight to the proper area and within a minute Bobby found the bluering. The very first shot I took with my new set-up is at the top of the page. Then within another minute or so, Jek spotted a small mototi only a meter or so away. I took some pictures as they both moved around. They even came within reach of each other at one point, but studiously ignored each other. Neither found any suitable prey, but I could not complain as it was a great start.

Next we popped over to Air Prang. I found some C. tenue nudis, Bobby spotted a brown painted frogfish, and there wasn’t much else. The site was already going “cold”. No mototi or bluering that were seen only days earlier. But while circling a bit deeper (10 m.), Jek beckoned me to come check something he found. He had found a pair of small spotfin frogfish and while he watched, one  turned and inhaled the other!

He immediately swam off to find me, but on returning we were presented with an odd sight: the butt-end of a rather round post-feeding frogfish sticking out of the sand, thrashing wildly.We surmised that a snake ell (a wee snake eel) had grabbed it and was dragging it under the sand. Jek gently used his stick to lever it free (we favor frogfish unashamedly). It sat there on the sand and as I took some pictures I noticed something sticking out of its lower jaw. Because of the small size, I wasn’t sure what is was, but on seeing my pictures later it was obvious what had happened.

The frogfish had a spearing appendage (“arm”) from a mantis shrimp stuck into it. A real pain-in-the-neck. Jek had somehow levered the arm off the mantis. The mantis undoubtedly noticed that he had a 2-for-1 opportunity above him and speared the sated frogfish ambitiously. Then we came along and ruined his dinner plans. We hope the crustacean survives. Just as we hope that the small froggie survives. Nature in action.

Tripadvisor Reviews:

What Every Dive Resort Should Strive to Be

"This was a phenomenal dive trip and we will be back here on our next visit to Lembeh. Thanks again to Bruce, Fung, and all of the wonderful staff who made our vacation a fantastic one!"

Scallywag81 on TripAdvisor

Three times is not enough...

"In the 20+ years that we've been diving, in about the same number of different countries, there was only one other place where we went back a second time. But Black Sand? Oh we just couldn't stay away!"

Katrien V on TripAdvisor

Idyllic Resort Set in Middle of Lembeh’s Best Diving

"Bruce was often present at meal time, and he is a wealth of knowledge about all things diving, especially Lembeh and critter identification. We really enjoyed our discussions with him. The dive staff was outstanding."

Doug F on TripAdvisor

Missing it Already and Can't Wait to Return!

"We visited Black Sand for the second time because we could not have imagined having better hosts than Bruce and Fung as well the number and variety of great dive sites."

Brown C on TripAdvisor

Address:

Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel:
+62 (0)821-9969-5992
+62 (0)853-4043-3665
[email protected]

Melibe Madness!

Melibe Madness!

Melibe Madness!

We had an noteworthy find recently: something from the genus Melibe, which has some very interesting members.

Over the past year all the resorts in Lembeh have received an increasing number of a single name on the wish lists: the Melibe colemani. We have found a few, but they are small, delicate and very hard to find, even when you know where to look. One of our guides thought he had found one recently and I went over to have a look.

The M. colemani is white, but this one had brownish markings, so after my initial excitement and a closer look at my photos, I did some research. I’m not 100% sure, but out of the known species, I do believe that this critter is the Melibe rangii, also known as the Melibe engeli. It’s a lovely slug, as you can see. Notice that he’s feeding in each photo… an active individual. I have yet to get snaps of the elusive M. colemani, but I’m not complaining.

Tripadvisor Reviews:

What Every Dive Resort Should Strive to Be

"This was a phenomenal dive trip and we will be back here on our next visit to Lembeh. Thanks again to Bruce, Fung, and all of the wonderful staff who made our vacation a fantastic one!"

Scallywag81 on TripAdvisor

Three times is not enough...

"In the 20+ years that we've been diving, in about the same number of different countries, there was only one other place where we went back a second time. But Black Sand? Oh we just couldn't stay away!"

Katrien V on TripAdvisor

Idyllic Resort Set in Middle of Lembeh’s Best Diving

"Bruce was often present at meal time, and he is a wealth of knowledge about all things diving, especially Lembeh and critter identification. We really enjoyed our discussions with him. The dive staff was outstanding."

Doug F on TripAdvisor

Missing it Already and Can't Wait to Return!

"We visited Black Sand for the second time because we could not have imagined having better hosts than Bruce and Fung as well the number and variety of great dive sites."

Brown C on TripAdvisor

Address:

Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel:
+62 (0)821-9969-5992
+62 (0)853-4043-3665
[email protected]