Oct 31, 2012

Hari Raya Haji weekend 25-28 Oct 2012

Bon Voyage Singapore! Here we are at the end of October and our Singapore season is over, after four fantastic months offering dive trips around local Indonesian and Malaysian divesites, it is once again time for us to bid farewell to the City Island and head north to Thailand. Before sailing for those exotic waters, we did have time for one more farewell trip, The Hari Raya long weekend to Anambas islands, Seven Skies and Igara Wrecks, which turned out to be the perfect way to say goodbye to our friends here in Singapore.

As it was to be the final trip of the season it was appropriate that we should have a lot of familiar faces onboard this weekend, obviously keen to wave us goodbye. DM Glenn brought along his lovely wife Jill, they dived with Cedric & Patrycja and Peter & Katy Downs, the latter were on their fourth trip this season! Glenn wasn’t the only White Manta dive-master bringing his partner along. Thomas Knudsen was with his wife Joyce. In their group were John, Alda, Michael and Philip. They didn’t have to worry about losing their guide at any point as a seven foot bald eagle of a diver, dressed in a florescent yellow wetsuit is kind of hard to miss! DM Daniel Kwok was with his girlfriend Khai Yan and his sister Michelle too. Dan was also looking after Nicole and Terry from Australia along with Karen and Roger, friends of one of our favourite customers, May Tan – who sent along a very much appreciated bottle of peach vodka! Thanks May, it went down a treat!

Pictured: DM Glenn Wright

Amongst the guests this time; were a couple of our regular DM’s: Chris v M-C and his wife: Bea; Brian and his wife: Penny. They get their own personal DM and a nice room to themselves.  The Ahlgren brothers: Niklas & Kristian from Finland; also like to dive independently. Relevant experience and a familiar buddy make this extra worthwhile.

Pictured: Christopher von Mitschke-Collande and Beatrice Tang


DM Rob (whose wife Renate doesn’t dive but cooks wonderful lamb) took care of Tom, Anton, TW, Peter and Achim. During the trip Achim studied ceaselessly to complete the PADI Enriched Air Nitrox course, congrats Achim!

This weekend Chris H enlisted the help of DM Marcus as he had his hands full looking after the Zorilla family, all of whom were taking some diving courses. Fernanda, completed her junior AOW, whilst mum and dad: Rodrigo and Mina, completed their Nitrox courses, congratulations to all three of you! Also diving with Chris was Rachel, who finally managed to complete her Wreck speciality after starting the course way back in July! Congratulations Rachel, we hope the wait was worth it! (It was).

Pictured: Cruise Director; Christopher Hutton and Junior Advanced Open Water student: Fernanda Zorilla

Finally I had a group of friends to dive with who managed to keep me entertained throughout the weekend, Janne and Christoph completed their AOW course whilst Melisse, Imke and Christoffer came along to make sure there was no slacking and the course work was completed on time!

Pictured (left to right, main): Imke Maas & Janne Jensen

With such a great bunch of divers onboard we were pretty much guaranteed a lively weekend and happily the diving proved as enjoyable as the company. The weekends’ underwater activities began with a check out dive at Damar reef. Incredible visibility given the crystal clear blue water revealed a palette of colours with plenty of schooling fusiliers, snapper and curious batfish - against the backdrop of some of the healthiest hard corals in the region – a lovely way to start the weekend!

Dive two we ventured further East to Margesson Shoal, a beautiful, submerged seamount which provides the chance for a great drift dive. Schools of small glass fish formed dancing bait balls that were constantly attacked by large barracuda and trevally, whilst giant moray eels peered out of their hiding places to watch the divers glide by, some of our divers were even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one or two large black-tip reef sharks! The day was brought to a close with a nice relaxing night dive back at Damar, where multitudes of crustaceans brought the reef to life!

Day Two and onward to the Seven Skies wreck Chris and I headed down to tie off. Wow! What a current! The current was so strong we failed in our first attempt to tie-on (Chris couldn’t equalise past 10m); luckily our second attempt was more successful. As the divers started to descend down the line it became clear that this would be an ‘extreme’ current, most of us decided to stay on the line rather than fight the current and enjoy the schooling rainbow runner, barracuda, tuna and trevally, that swarmed over the wreck.  It was a great reminder that in the open ocean conditions can often demand the upmost respect and consideration from divers! After surfacing the general consensus was to move on, as the current was showing no sign of diminishing it seemed like the smart move and so we headed on to Kataoka Rock for another laid back and relaxing drift dive over another submerged seamount.

Malangbiru was the next destination; as soon as we arrived it was clear the conditions were perfect for diving. As Chris headed down the reef slope to tie on, those of us onboard could see the reef in all its detail, that’s how good the viz was! Flat, calm surface conditions, clear sunlit sky and friendly current.  Masses of schooling fish, all clearly visible from the deck of the boat, the perfect tonic for some great diving! Everyone was keen to jump in and experience these ‘aquarium like’ conditions.

Pictured (left to right): Guillermina Gonzalez; DM Marcus Royce; Rachel Hyde and Rodrigo Zorilla

Afterwards everyone reported back that the dive was simply stunning, and so a sunset dive on the same reef was a popular choice to end the day! Before that final dive however, our resident South African shark whisperer, Glenn, led a snorkelling tour to ‘black-tip bay’ where a number of black-tips (including a baby) could be seen hunting for small fish in the shallow waters surrounding the island. This dive featured a lot of macro finds including: giant mantis shrimp (pictured, courtesy of DM Daniel Kwok); a devil scorpionfish (found by Fernanda); juvenile harlequin sweetlips and small lionfishes.


Picture courtesy of Beatrice Tang

The final day was to be spent with two dives at the Igara Wreck. As Chris and I prepared to descend and tie on to the wreck, memories of the previous weeks’ less than ideal conditions, had us preparing for the worst, particularly after the hostile current at Seven Skies the previous morning. However as we hit the water we were pleased to find almost perfect conditions: only a slight current and good visibility made the job of tying on pretty straight forward and allowed all of our divers to enjoy two spectacular dives around this incredible divesite. Although there was no whale shark this time, there was some great schooling fish action, with the ever popular batfish buddying up with our dive groups throughout the morning!

It was back to Singapore via the Indonesian check point at Nongsa, allowing time for a few drinks, a good book and a movie along with some more of the spectacular food provided by our excellent Thai chef. Sadly our 'Igara like' new potential divesite: the ‘Itaperuna’ (not Smit Lynx) was looking much healthier than the previous week.

Pictured (right to left): DM's: Glenn Wright and Rob Eijkholt

Before we leave Singapore we would like to make sure we offer a huge and sincere THANK YOU to all of our hardworking and loyal divemasters and instructors who give up their valuable weekends to help make diving with the White Manta such an enjoyable experience. We really couldn’t do it without you and I know I speak for all of the crew when I say we really appreciate how much time and effort you put into the operation. From a personal point of view, this being my first season here in Singapore, it has been a real pleasure to meet and work with you guys, I look forward to seeing you back on the boat ASAP!                                                                Pictured White Manta Diving Instructor: Michael Thomas

Chris and I would also like to extend our thanks to the Thai crew, from our captain, all the deck hands, the kitchen staff and the maids. I’m sure anyone who has experienced their hospitality, incredible service and welcoming smiles will attest to their continuing professionalism and service to the White Manta, they are the heart and soul of the boat and their support makes our job so much easier! Thanks guys!

Pictured (left to right): Brothers; Reuangsak (Toi, ass. engineer) and Udomsak (Taew, Captain) Saenbodo

Finally of course to all of you who have joined us this season, THANK YOU, we hope you had a great experience on your dive trip, we really appreciate you choosing the White Manta for your diving adventures and sincerely hope we have repaid your trust with some truly memorable diving! We look forward to having you onboard again either back here in Singapore next year or perhaps further afield in Layang Layang or Sangalaki, or over the next few months in Thailand even! Take care and see you all soon!

Added thanks to Christopher von Mitschke-Collande: for his magnificent underwater pictures in this report (except giant mantis shrimp courtesy of Daniel Kwok).

Report written by WM's Michael Thomas, edited and arranged by WM's Christopher Hutton