MANADO was my first ever overseas diving trip back in 2010. Back then, there was still so much hype about the huge walls of Bunaken in the west and the world famous macro haven, the Lembeh Strait in the east.
I couldn’t believe my eyes: There were so much action in the water when I got there – each and every dive was exciting, not knowing what would appear right before me in the next moment. Armed with only a small pocket camera then, I was busy capturing many photographs, but in my heart, I knew I had to return… and I did.
Manado became my second home for the next four years. Travelling back and forth numerous times for different seasons, I thought to myself, if I could stay for longer periods, it would be extremely exciting. Then slowly but surely, trips that started from six days would sometimes be extended to 10 days and recently, for almost three weeks!
There was just too much to see at the sites just off the coast. And because the waters off the mainland are vast, you seldom get another operator sending divers down at the same spot, unless you were diving at a particularly popular site in Bunaken. Back closer to the mainland coast, I knew I could have the dive site all to myself, with experienced dive guides pointing me to where they last saw that favourite candy crab I wanted to photograph. With dive sites relatively untouched by many, it’s almost possible to revisit and re-photograph the same critter within the same trip!
Did I even mention that Manado’s dive masters are world famous for their sharp and keen eye, locating tiny little critters? Sometimes, I wonder how they even spot that little shrimp that’s barely half a centimetre long!