Where is Buyat Bay and Why Do YOU Need to Experience It???
Our roving dive traveler Steve Weaver talks about a NEW dive site he has just discovered:
On a recent trip to Lembeh Resort in Sulawesi, Indonesia, I was invited to explore a new area called Buyat Bay. The Lembeh Strait is one of my favorite places to dive so I was reluctant to give up 2 days of diving there to go to an unknown destination.
However, the owner of Lembeh Divers, Danny Charlton invited me and said, “Steve you really need to see this place,” so three of my group members and I decided to make the trip. Our guide was Erwin Filius, a New Zealander who manages the dive operation at Lembeh Resort. Erwin was one of the first to explore Buyat Bay diving and is very passionate about the sites they have discovered.
The boat ride took about 2 hours in a dive boat made especially for this trip. We were the first clients to christen the boat and found it to be a very comfortable ride. We stopped along the way and made our first dive and I immediately knew this was going to be something special. The visibility was 100 feet plus and the coral was in such good shape you could immediately see that not many others had dived here before. As a matter of fact, Erwin told us that we were among the first twenty people to dive these sites. There is nothing like the excitement of diving someplace new especially when it is essentially undiscovered.
After the dive we made our way to the place we were going to stay for the next two nights. Danny had warned us that the accommodations were “basic,” but said there was running water, air conditioning and HBO. (HBO was the clincher.) The boat pulled up to a concrete pier where we off loaded and made our way across a football field sized vacant lot. We then crossed a road and came to a locked and guarded eight foot high fenced compound. A pleasant greeting from Erwin and we were allowed into what had once been a gold mining camp which was now abandoned. There was a large mess hall where meals are served, an open air bar, a barracks of sorts and 5 wooden bungalows which was where we were to stay. The bungalows were adequate, complete with double bed, closet, bathroom and as promised HBO on the TV. The air conditioning worked pretty well, the water however did not. They had a pipe burst a day or two in advance of our visit so we had a large bucket of water to use for showering etc.
The rooms were actually more comfortable than the picture Danny painted of them although certainly not as comfortable as Lembeh Resort. Meals were served in the mess hall and the food was interesting to say the least. There was always an Indonesian dish or two and usually something more recognizable for the pickier eaters. The food was nothing to write home about but we did not go hungry. There was plenty of bottled water, soft drinks and cold beer to go around.
That evening we made a night dive at a sight called Fifty-Fifty. Erwin said that this was a dive similar to the muck diving in Lembeh Strait. The first 5 minutes of the dive was spent on a shallow sandy slope with almost nothing to see. I thought that this was nothing like Lembeh and was ready to abort the dive. Then Erwin found a sea horse and another and another, then there was a ghost pipefish and a snake eel and a juvenile guinea fowl puffer the size of a pea. The non-stop action continued including finding a coconut octopus that had made a home in a perfect nautilus shell. He put on a show for us that had him climbing in and out of the shell and all over it, burying himself in the sand then completely disappearing into the shell. After 90 minutes we ended the dive with all of us stating that this was one of the best dives we had ever done!
The next day we did two more dives, both phenomenal. It was like visiting a coral reef untouched since prehistoric time. The hard corals were huge and went on forever. There were fields of stag horn coral that was pristine. We saw fans that were ten to twelve feet across and sea whips that were 6 feet long. On one of the dives there were monkey tail sea whips as far as the eye could see each measuring four to six feet in height, it was like swimming through a forest. The beautiful coral formation is definitely the calling card for Buyat Bay but there were also large schools of fish and enough rare critters sighting to please everyone.
How did Buyat Bay become such a bubble of undisturbed pristine coral? Ironically it was the abandoned mining company that hired patrol boats to keep illegal fishing out of the area. Later reports of pollution from the mines surfaced making it undesirable for fisherman to return, the result a little slice of diving paradise. As for pollution we saw no signs of it, quite the contrary. The water and surrounding land areas were very clean and well kept. We did a little driving tour of the area and found the people to be friendly and welcoming. There were lots of smiling faced kids eager to have their pictures taken and picturesque villages and landscapes throughout the area.
Danny has plans to create a full service dive resort in the area catering to the standards of recreational divers. In the mean time if you are in the area it is well worth a visit. Don’t expect too much from the accommodations but the diving is unbelievable. The area is not large and the sights that they have discovered are few right now so I would recommend 2 to 3 days as an add on to Lembeh or Bunaken.
Dream Weaver Travel can help you plan a trip to Buyat Bay as well as anywhere else you might like to visit. We can be reached at 800-767-DIVE (3483) or you can check us out online at www.DreamWeaverDiveTravel.com.