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Diving on Bunaken Island
Manado (Indonesia), September 2nd 2008

It is finally going to happen. We are going to take a dive course! A dive course is already on our wish list for a very long time, but till now it never happened. In the past, we always found it a pity to take a dive course for several days during our short summer holidays. We always wanted to spend as much time as possible seeing a country or destination. And taking a dive course in one of the sterile and cold swimming pools in The Netherlands was not something we looked forward to. But we are now on the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi, we have plenty of time and we heard from many people that the small island of Bunaken is one of the best diving spots in the world. So, we think it’s a good choice to take a dive course.

From the harbour of Manado we take a chartered boat to the tiny island of Bunaken. The normal price is 200,000 Rupiah’s per boat, but we found a boatman who is willing to take us for the reduced amount of 100,000 Rupiah’s (€ 7,- / US$ 10.50). But that means that we have to be on our guard, because nothing comes for free in Indonesia. The boatman probably gets a commission from one of the resorts where he wants to bring us. However, we told him where we want to go, so we expected him to deliver us at the right spot. But as expected, he dropped us at a different resort with the argument that the resort of our choice was already fully booked. This is of course a lie, but we decided to let it happen. We inspect the Panorama resort and the cottages are small but clean. The price is also ok, so we decide to stay in this place. By the way, a resort in Indonesia is not the kind of resort you would expect in the west. A resort is like a (budget) hotel, with the only difference that the rooms are actually cottages. After we checked in, we found out quickly that the boatman dropped us at the ‘wrong’ side of the island. The ‘wrong’ side of the island is namely the island that has a lot of trouble from the garbage that is dumped into the sea by the nearby city of Manado. Because of the currents, this side of the island has a lot more trouble than the other side of the island. Especially when you also want to snorkel, this is a problem. So after lunch we decided to walk to the other side of the island to find a place to stay for our remaining stay on the island. Eventually we choose for the Two Fish Divers resort. We agreed with them that we will check in the following morning, and that we also will start the “PADI Open Water” course that day. After we arrived back at the Panorama resort we told them that we leave again tomorrow. We think that is respectable to tell them already because in that case they can take new booking for the room from tomorrow on. Afterwards we went back to our cottage, and sat down on our veranda to enjoy the beautiful views.

Edwin is ready to 'take off'

But after five minutes the rest is disturbed by the owner of the Panorama resort. She comes to tell us that we have to leave immediately. “Why?”, is our question of course. She tells us that we are not welcome anymore because we decided to do the diving course somewhere else. And because of that, she wants us to leave immediately so that she can keep the room available for a possible new arrival. We tell her of course that she did never mention during the check-in that she expects from her guests to dive at her resort. If she had mentioned that, we surely had chosen for a different place to stay. So we tell her again that we will stay tonight, and that we will leave tomorrow. The discussion goes on for several minutes more and at the end she says that we really have to leave because otherwise she will look for help to evacuate the room. She also mentions that we are the worst foreigners she ever met. Because we do not look forward to a confrontation and because the atmosphere is already spoiled, we decide to leave. We pack our backpacks again and say to each other, that again, this is a learning moment. Our good intentions to mention already in advance that we leave tomorrow, is used by her to kick us out of her resort immediately.

With our heavy backpacks we walk in a little bit more than forty-five minutes to the other side of the island. When we arrive at Two Fish Divers resort, we are welcomed with open arms. We are lucky; there is still one room available. Two Fish Divers is owned by an English couple, and you can see on everything that these persons know how to treat western travellers. We consciously choose for a resort like this because diving is a serious business. It is a sport with risks, but the risks can be eliminated almost entirely if the organisation is good and if you do not do stupid things under water. And because we are still beginners, we decided to choose for a professional and well organised resort. And that is what Two Fish Divers is. The next day we start with our Open Water course. A part of the course is theoretical knowledge, but fortunately the biggest part is learning practical skills. The theory is no problem for us as expected, and also the practical skills in the beautiful open waters of Bunaken go smoothly. We are mainly people from the land, but after a couple of days we also feel like a fish in the water. Breakfast, lunch and dinners are taken at long shared tables in the open air restaurant of the resort. It is great to chat with the other divers between the dives and course sessions. Most divers are very experienced, having done hundreds or even thousands of dives. They are a great knowledge base for all your questions about diving.

Ivonne together with Dewi, Mi-La, Carol and Erwin
After four days of hard work, we are eventually real divers. All compulsory skills, dives and theory exams are finished, so it is time to do some fun dives. The first fun dive is still a little bit uncomfortable. It is the first time going into the water without an instructor. It feels a little bit like the first time driving a car all by yourself, just after you got you driver license. But the dive guides are very experienced so after a couple of uncomfortable minutes, we are fully acclimatised. The world under water is really fabulous. Of course, we saw already some of the under water world during our diving course, but now we get the chance to see it in a relaxed way, without the skills we have to practice. It is like swimming in a big aquarium. The fishes have the most spectacular forms and colours. All kind of fish is available. From the smaller Anemone’s, Lion Fishes and Scorpion Fishes, to the big Green Turtles, Napoleon Fishes, Barracuda’s and even Sharks. Some fishes are so curious, that they swim just a couple of centimetres before your mask. Really fantastic! We are really glad that we decided to do the course. The diploma gives us the possibility to dive somewhere else in the world in the future, and the course itself gave us already an insight in the under water world that is really priceless. The course was worth it every cent.

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