Sumbawa
Diver|September 2017

It’s alway good to feel that you might be ahead of the pack – we often hear about Bali and Lombok on one hand, and Komodo and Flores on the other, but what lies in between? JOHN LIDDIARD finds out.

John Liddiard

AFTER POINTING OUT

A sizeable nudibranch with six clumps of bubblegum-pink broccoli growing from its back, dive-guide Semuel surfaces from the dive and tells us he has never seen that species before.

Let’s put this into context. Semuel was one of the first Indonesians to train as a dive-guide in Lembeh. He has subsequently worked in all the locations on any diver’s Indonesian bucket-list. He is an expert at finding weird and wonderful macro critters.

You could put him in the middle of the underwater equivalent of an empty concrete car-park, and he would find a loose chip with something small and  interesting underneath it to look at through a macro lens.

And he has just seen a slug that is new to him. Just slugging along on the shallow sand. It was definitely new to the rest of us.

Back ashore, I ask our Canadian host Eric McAskill, a self-confessed obsessive nudi-nut and not diving today. Eric has even published books about nudibranchs. I show him on my camera screen. “Allen’s Ceratosoma!” exclaims Eric. “It’s rare and number 3 on my want-to-see list.”

I ask Eric about numbers 1 and 2, but don’t take notes. Those Latin names go in one ear and out the other.

I look up Allen’s Ceratosoma in Paul Humann’s book and it is “known from Indonesia and Philippines”.

A bit of Googling and I discover that it is camouflaged to hide among soft coral, so sand is not its usual habitat. It is the only species of nudibranch with such long broccoli extensions.

Discovered in Mindanao in 1993, it has since been reported in West Papua and Timor. This is likely the point at which a reader writes to the Editor and tells us that it can be seen all over the place in Wotsit Unpronounceable, and there are 13 similar varieties, but it’s new for me, new for Semuel, and the kind of sighting that makes a trip.

That is one of the thrills I get from diving. To dive somewhere new and see something new, often of the macro variety. It doesn’t have to be exploring in the expedition sense, just somewhere that isn’t a mainstream destination, that has yet to feature in the magazines, and has the prospect of revealing creatures I haven’t seen before.

When Sarah at Dive Worldwide had suggested Kalimaya Dive resort, I needed no convincing. Kalimaya is located on the east side of the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, the next island to the east from Bali and Lombok, and the next island to the west from Komodo. Definitely the right part of the world for unusual creatures.

What’s more, the small resort has been open only for a few months, is the only dive-resort on the eastern half of Sumbawa and the only dive-centre covering an area previously accessible only by liveaboard. The idea ticked all my boxes.

The diving regime is to start the day with two guided boat-dives, then follow up with unlimited guide-yourself shoredives through the afternoon.

In practice, this works out comfortably as a leisurely lunch and a single shore-dive mid-afternoon, with a night-dive for those so inclined.

THE HOUSE-REEF HOLDS MY interest easily throughout the trip. It’s a long-enough stretch to need three dives to cover it all. While there are forests of spiny coral on the reef-crest and some larger coral-heads on the slope, it’s a muck-dive rather than a site for big-scene wonder.

Once I get to know it, the house-reef has the advantage of enabling me to plan a dive for specific subjects.

If I have the wrong lens for a subject one day, I can return to the same area the next day more suitably equipped.

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