From Tual, we had a rocky sail back east to Triton Bay, an up and coming diving area that offers gorgeous beaches, daily hornbill sightings, and diverse marine life. The best part about Triton Bay, in my opinion, is the shallow, sandy-bottomed bays whose calm waters have provided me with the best nights of sleep I’ve had in a long time.
Each morning, I’d awake refreshed, grab my coffee, and sit out on the deck watching the birds fly overhead in their daily migrations as the sun came up. Ahhh. What a sweet way to start my day!
|Field Trip 'On the Hard'|
The first place we anchored was near the mouth of a shallow lagoon where we’d later beach the boat to dry out the bottom. Lately, the nutrient rich waters that feed so much of Indonesia’s marine life had created a stubborn coating of flora and fauna below our waterline. The shallow (2.0 m) lagoon lowered to 1 meter at low tide, leaving the boat sitting up on its keels to dry out. Unfortunately, the sand wasn’t exactly level, so we were left feeling like we were walking through a fun house by the time the water level dropped. Due to the tilt, we decided to pull out of the lagoon when the tide rose again rather than staying overnight, but the drying out for only one tide cycle was enough to kill off much of the marine growth we’d accumulated. Mark was glad to stand as he scrubbed off the growth instead of swimming, and the kids thought it was very cool to be able to stand up in the shallow water next to Field Trip!
On shore in the lagoon, a family of five was living in temporary shelters as they worked on clearing a new garden plot. The father and daughter (about age 7) came out in their canoe to say hello. Unfortunately, our Indonesian is still pretty sparse, so it was a short conversation, but I think they might have been asking if we had any salt to spare (garam?). The father tried to converse with us, but we were absolutely hopeless. Our sign language and elaborate charades I’m sure gave him good stories to share around the family campfire that night, but in the end, we both gave up and smiled sheepishly as we waved goodbye.
As for the salt he might have requested, that was one thing we didn’t have to spare. While provisioning in Tual, we’d bought what we thought was table salt, but after tasting something not-quite-right in Mark’s Famous Apple Puff Pancake, we realized that we’d unknowingly bought two bags of MSG crystals! Yum! According to the USDA we’re all now going to be growing two heads and lose all brain function, so we’ve tossed out the toxic chemical additives. Luckily we found a jar of Himalayan Pink Rock Salt hiding in our spice storage box, surely from New Zealand’s luxurious grocery stores. Phew - our salt is good again (Luke 14:34-35) and we can enhance flavors with a clear conscience! Provisioning disaster averted. And, bonus, we have added the Indonesian word for salt to our vocabularies (which incidentally is not monosodium glutamate, funnily enough).
THE SCUBA FAMILY
Michael worked on his SCUBA skills with Mark in the shallow anchorage, and we finally got a chance to do a dive together as a family. The Brownie hookah system we had used for our first years cruising was a fantastic introduction to diving for us when the kids were younger. It taught the kids to breathe using a regulator attached to the long hose, and the limited hose length kept them within easy reach. Now that they are old enough not to “chase butterfly(fish)”, though, the tanks give them independence and the added responsibility of controlling their own bouyancy and diving safely.
I loved watching the kids share discoveries underwater - a sea urchin, a goby fish, a cushion starfish. They loved showing each other what they’d found, and when we surfaced, they chatted excitedly the entire way back to Field Trip, in that easy way that only siblings chat. Mark and I looked at each other and smiled, knowing that this was going to be a pasttime we’d share in together for years to come.
ACROSS THE BAY
|Triton Bay Diver Resort|
I didn’t want to leave our cozy little bay, but after a week, we decided we’d better get moving. In three weeks, we’d have to sail back to Tual again to renew our visa paperwork (required monthly) and there was still so much to see in Triton Bay!
It was a short motor over to the bay of the Triton Bay Dive Resort. Mark had emailed Leeza, one of the two owners, a few weeks prior to check their diving schedule and availability. We also wanted to see if they did SCUBA classes, so that perhaps Michael could get officially certified as a junior diver. She replied quickly with their guest schedule and a kind welcome for us to come dive with them. No kids SCUBA classes available, but a dinner at the resort could be arranged as well as some dives with their keen-sighted dive guides who knew just how to find those pygmy seahorses that had been eluding us!
|Playing on beach in Triton Bay|
The resort was nestled behind shady palm trees and had an inviting, easy-going vibe. Rangga came out to greet us as we pulled up to the beach in our dinghy - even calling us by name thanks to our email correspondence! The kids got right to building hermit crab habitats along the beach while Mark and I enjoyed a cold juice while chatting with Rangga and some of the guests staying there. We ended up joining them for dinner the following night, then had all the guests on board to get a glimpse into the cruising lifestyle. I loved the common bond of adventure we shared and wow - the stories they had to tell! Two of the divers had worked with BBC on the first Blue Planet series! One of our absolute favorite documentaries!!
Elizabeth and I decided to go together on a dive to see the Flasher Wrasse. This fish is the “bird of paradise” of the underwater world, whose courting dance presents quite a show for the females. At dusk, the small, non-descript orange female wrasses all come out of their burrows and hang above their rubble homes just in time to watch the males strut their stuff. In a blur, the males dart into the neighborhood and zip around in a jerky dance, exclamated by the sudden display of their bright white crown-shaped dorsal fin - like flashing out jazz hands (hence the name).
Leeza guided us to a spot in about 10 meters of water with coral rubble covering the sea floor. We both exhaled and adjusted our bouyancy to allow us to hover right above the bottom, then stuck our reef sticks down into the rubble to steady ourselves. (I’m sure there’s a fancy name for these poker things, but I have no clue - just think metal pointer like a teacher might use, only not retractable, to help hold divers off coral, to point out tiny creatures, or to tap on the tank to get your buddy’s attention).
Elizabeth persevered to get a video of this ‘flashy’ fish, but getting a photo was nearly impossible! We stuck around for almost 30 minutes before giving Leeza the new diving sign she’d taught us - the yawn - to let her know we were ready to move on. The next half hour proved to be nearly as exciting as the flasher wrasses! Leeza showed us an enormous octopus who not only changed color, but also changed the texture of its skin to match the surrounding coral! Then she pointed out a nudibranch we hadn’t seen before and a large box fish.
When we were all cold and running low on air, it was time to swim to shallower water for the decompression stop. While we were ‘decompressing’, Leeza peered below a table coral and spotted a wobbegong shark resting there!! Elizabeth went around behind it to get a close look at the patterns on the tail and then came back around to snap a few shots face-on. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing!! It was her first wobbegong shark sighting, and between the Flasher Wrasse, octopus, and now the shark, we were both brimming with excitement by the time we surfaced.
She looked at me with that mischievous glint in her eye and made me promise not to tell Mark and Michael about the shark. “We’ll keep it a secret until they download the photos onto the computer!” It was tough to hide our big news, but somehow we kept our shark sighting quiet until we were all crowded around Mark’s laptop, reviewing the photos and then - BAM!
“Aw,” Michael said, “I wish I’d have seen that!”
The following day, he’d get his chance! Mark and I did a recon dive and found yet another, even bigger, wobbegong that was in a great spot for a family dive. After lunch, we all donned our gear and crossed our finger that the beast was still in the same spot.
YES! I could hear Michael squeal with delight through his regulator! What else could Triton Bay offer that could possibly top this?? Surprisingly, it had a few more tricks up its sleeve...