Geocaching the Emmenuferweg: 102 Caches in two days
A Geocaching Powertrail brought us to the canton of Lucerne to follow the Emmenuferweg.
We started Saturday morning 09:03am from the bus stop Sörenberg Rothornbahn. From there we hiked upwards to the Emmensprung, a fascinating place where water bubbles up out of the earth to form the river Emme.
From there we followed the Emme downriver, picking up all the Geocaches we found on the way. After walking downhill for a bit we heard a large ruckus from the other side of the valley. After looking around for a while we spotted a group of cows being led downhill. As luck would have it we crossed the group on the road and were able to observe the spectacle up close. Especially fascinating were the bikers who got caught in the middle of it.
Once we reached Sörenberg we did a small detour, taking the aerial cableway up to Rossweid where we walked along the Sonnentauweg, solving a multi cache. After a short lunch break we headed downhill again, with 11 Caches to break the monotony ;).
At 6pm we reached our destination for the day: Flühli. Where we rested our legs for a bit before heading out for a well deserved dinner. Since it was still early afterwards we went for a short stroll to PaK, a Cache located next to a small pond. We enjoyed the quiet and the lightness of traveling without a backpack :). This brought the total of Caches for the day to 43.
On Sunday, we started 8:55am after a hearty breakfast, hoping to find 57 Caches to break the magical 100 for the weekend.
We weren't the only ones up that early. Suddenly our way was blocked by a meadow and a group of cows watched us very interested.
On the way we encountered three wooden bridges with Geocaches on them. And every time we spent quite a bit of time until we finally had the prize in hand.
The way followed the Emme, sometimes closer, sometimes a bit farther away, but it regularly surprised us with stunning spots of nature, showing the river in a wide meandering way and then again in a thunderous tumult. However, we were so busy with just keeping going and looking for the Caches that we didn't find the time to take too many pictures.
Shortly after 5pm I reached a first milestone: 1500 Caches found! :)
At 6:29pm we reached the last Cache of the trail, number 1, since we were doing the trail in reverse order.
A short sprint later we just caught the bus which brought us back to civilisation.
On the second day we found 53 Caches, bringing the total for the weekend up to 102!
I had a fantastic time and can highly recommend this trail to everyone who is fit enough. We estimate the distance covered (including walking around looking for the Caches) to be close to 50 kilometers!
A couple of additional pictures can be found in my web album.
Labels: geocaching, hiking, pictures, Switzerland
Lembeh Strait: Muck Diving at its best!
I first heard about diving in Lembeh Strait ten years ago. Since then I spoke to many enthusiastic divers. From their descriptions I expected to find sandy patches covered in trash and in the middle of the trash all sorts of strange creatures. So it was a bit of a surprise, when I started diving how unpolluted the dive sites actually were. Of course there was a bit of trash here and there but no way the amount I expected. It took a couple of days of diving until I managed to snap a picture which represented my expectations ;)
Knowing what was possible to see at Lembeh, I arrived with a short list of creatures I'd like to encounter. On the very first dive we met two of them: A Flamboyant Cuttlefish and a Hairy Frogfish!
A couple of days later we encountered another Hairy Frogfish that wasn't just sitting around, but walking across the sand shaking its lure in hopes of attracting prey.
Some creatures were so abundant that we encountered them on most dives. I especially enjoyed seeing the Banggai Cardinalfish over and over again. They have such a peculiar shape and had formed a habit of living in Anemones, where strangely enough the Anemonefish tolerate them. On the other hand, when I got too close to take a picture an Anemonefish bit me in the finger!
One fish that I always enjoyed looking at in Fish Identification Guides was the Juvenile Many-Spotted Sweetlips, with its big white dots and it's bright coloring it looked so different from the adults. So I was extremely happy to encounter them in all sizes, from tiny (less than 1 centimeter) up to almost adult (15 centimeters).
The smaller ones were very difficult to photograph because they always moved around in a shaking pattern, probably trying to mimic a poisonous flatworm. After a dozen tries I managed to get one picture with the juvenile in focus :)
Night dives were a special highlight, there was even more going on than during the day. And on one night dive I encountered one of the strangest creatures I met so far, a pair of Dragon Sea Moths
The dive guides had excellent eyes and spotted the interesting creatures often from afar. Some of the creatures I had seen previously during this trip were present in Lembeh as well, but in much bigger variations, such as this Emperor Shrimp:
Or these two Harlequin Shrimps
Even though most crabs only came out during the night time, I spotted this strange looking Sea Urchin Carry Crab during an afternoon dive.
During my time at Blue Bay Divers two Bluering Octopi were seen, unfortunately for me I was always in the wrong spot. So I told my dive guide that I'd like to see a Bluering Octopus here. Two times we headed to dive sites where Bluerings normally were seen. The second time we got lucky :)
To round off a perfect Octopus day, we spotted a Poison Ocellate Octopus
and a Starry Night Octopus, which walked along the ocean floor in a very laid-back manner ;)
Another instance where we noticed that some critters just were bigger at Lembeh than elsewhere was when we did a dive at Police Pier, where we spotted very big Mandarinfish darting around the reef.
Or on another day when we spotted this Tryon's Risbecia
One day we were very lucky to spot a Wonderpus Octopus at the end of the dive. Since it was relaxed we ended up spending ten minutes with him :)
This meant that only one Octopus from my list was still missing. The Mimic Octopus. And so we went to a specific dive site to take a look. One of the groups spotted it early in the dive and tried to alert us. While I heard nothing I noticed our dive guide heading very directly back to where we started the dive and so we also got a good luck. Unfortunately, the Mimic Octopus was in a hurry and so we managed to snap only a few pictures.
Another creature we had many encounters with was the Mantis Shrimp. Two of those encounters stood out. One day our dive guide spotted a Peacock Mantis which had a large number of eggs under its belly
and during the last dive we encountered the beautiful Golden Mantis :)
To round up the Octopus Sextet we again had many encounters with Coconut Octopi. From one of those my favorite picture emerged
All in all my one-week stay at Lembeh was a phenomenal success and I can highly recommend it to divers who enjoy muck dives (even if it means staring at sand for ten minutes, without seeing anything) and want to see special creatures. If I get back to Indonesia, then I'll definitely try to dive in Lembeh Strait again :).
Labels: diving, pictures, traveling, vacation
Diving with Coconut Octopus and other cool creatures
Leaving Raja Ampat I took the plane to Manado in North Sulawesi and from there a car and boat to the beautiful small island Sahaung, just South of Bangka Island. Sahaung is home to Blue Bay Divers and offers a real small island feeling with nice beach side bungalows and a relaxed atmosphere.
The first dive already showed the potential of the area. We saw a small Harlequin Shrimp, several Giant Frogfish, a Pygmy Seahorse and much more.
The dive sites were very varied. Sandy areas for pure muck diving, walls with current for drift diving and nice corral fields. On one memorable wall dive we spotted two Painted Frogfish on a wall, one of them chased after my camera!
Whenever possible I joined the night dive, because there was even more going on than during the day. On one dive I encountered two Bobtail Squids and one showed off it's whole color palette. (You can also see the krill in the picture, which was plentiful and sometimes a bit annoying ;) ).
On another night we encountered multiple smaller Coconut Octopi. One of them found shelter in a small snail shell.
Another used two halves of a clam, which he carried with him when we got to close, to finally retreat in their middle.
On the last day we visited Batu Sahaung, a stony reef just around the corner, which is covered in Soft Coral in all colors! I have never seen so many differently colored Soft Coral in such a small space before. It was simply beautiful!
With so much diving one day merged into the next and then it was suddenly time to continue to the next spot. I had a great experience and am looking forward to return one day!
Labels: diving, pictures, traveling, vacation
Diving pristine Reefs with lots of marine life with Raja4Divers
Raja4Divers picked me up on their way from Sorong, which meant that I reached Pulau Pef in half the time :). I was greeted by the Pulau Pef Band and Joram, my former co-worker who now works on Pef as IT/Marketing specialist.
The resort is very relaxed and beautiful and the view from my Bungalow was simply stunning!
Since unlimited diving was included, we had many different options to choose from. In the morning there was a double tank boat dive. In the afternoon another boat dive. Sunset and Night Dives were also offered and there was a very nice house reef just in front of the island.
Most of the diving took place on pristine reefs where the corals were healthy and fish and other critters plentiful.
One of the highlights was diving under the jetty at Arborek where we encountered an enormous School of Scad. They were so relaxed, we could swim into their midst and they would close the circle and surround us.
Just behind Pulau Pef is an area where muck diving is offered. There we spotted a juvenile Sweetlips that wasn't pictured in the fish identification books!
On Tuesday we did a daytrip to Pulau Wofoh, there we again encountered lots of fish and in the wall we spotted a perfectly positioned Giant Frogfish!
I was very impressed with the huge Gorgonias we encountered in many different colors. The yellow ones being my favorite :).
And where there are Gorgonias the Pygmy Seahorses aren't far away!
In front of our bungalows is a shallow reef which currently houses a Blacktip Reef Shark Nursery. It was great seeing the young ones around and healthy! During my trip through Indonesia so far I had seen very few Reef Sharks, a sign of the long and intensive trade in Shark Fins. Up here around Pulau Pef the marine conversation area is slowly showing its benefits. We spotted Sharks on most dives. And at one time four very active Blacktip Reef Sharks who weren't afraid of the divers either :).
There was always so much going on, that I ended up only doing one Night Dive. There I encountered a pregnant Ornate Ghost Pipefish, a gigantic Star Puffer, a Tasseled Wobbegon a beautiful snail and much more. With 80 minutes this was our longest dive!
With so much fish around one can get easily distracted and miss the small things! But the dive guides know their turf and point out all the highlights.
One of the more special dives in Raja Ampat is also in easy reach of Pulau Pef: The Passage. This is a narrow shallow strait between two islands through which a fast paced drift dive is possible. When we were there, the current was very moderate and so we had more time to inspect the small caves and critters along the way. Visibility was a bit lower than normal, but this offered unique perspectives.
Just next to the Passage is an area called Hidden Bay. A huge inlet with many nooks and crannies and only one connection to the main ocean. Since we had some time we explored the area and were astonished by the stunning rock formations.
Pulau Pef has more to offer than just a nice resort and diving. The island also hosts a large number of wildlife. The most impressive being the large Monitor Lizards, which can be seen on the beach and sometimes even climbing the palm trees!
One of my personal goals while on the island was to place the first Geocache on Pulau Pef. With the generous help of Joram, we created an intriguing Multi-Cache, which takes you to three special places.
Amongst all this I managed to complete my 600th dive! For this achievment I earned original Papuan Diving Goggles. The field test wasn't too successfull, apparently a large amount of grease is normally also applied ;).
The week went by much too fast and by the time it was time to say goodbye, Pulau Pef had gained a special place in my heart and I will gladly return when I'm in Raja Ampat again.
Labels: diving, pictures, traveling, vacation