3 Sixty Minute Dives: The Bangka House Reef
We have recently challenged our intrepid Blogger to dive the House Reef at each of our three resorts: Murex Manado, Murex Bangka and Lembeh Resort to see how they fair when they go head to head. With the Battle of the house reefs part 1 on Bangka House Reef now completed, read on to find out about the dive, the fish and critters AND for some top tips on how to maximise your dives at this one of our beautiful House Reefs.
Battle of the house reefs part 1 : Murex Bangka House Reef
Max depth of dive: 21 meters
Max depth of site: 25 meters
Tide: Dived at low tide
Visibility: 15 – 20 meters
Temperature: 28.4 degrees
Entry at the Bangka House Reef is a walk off the beach where the boats are moored – this is the only place where there is a sandy bottom rather than a shallow water coral reef so entry and exit must be in this spot. At low tide it can be a little awkward as there are some rocks and bommies which almost breach the surface – look out for them as you swim out. You don’t have to swim far before the reef top gives way to a 45 degree slope and here I made my descent to around 4 meters onto the top of the slope. Immediately I was not worried about navigation – such a steep slope is usually easy – just swim back up it to head to the shore. I planned to dive along the side of the slope, across the front of the resort and back. I had a good look around and noticed a big bommie at 10 meters – this would be what I would look for on my return. Mentally I was planning to turn the dive at either 35 minutes or at 120 bar – I decided this as when I started the dive there was no current but if it picked up I may have needed to swim back against it. Ok, I was good to go! I descended down the slope which is sand and coral with sporadic large bommies. As I hit 12 meters there were a group of huge bommies, encrusted with hard and soft corals and my first find of the dive – a huge crocodile flat head laid on the rubble next to the foot of the bommie! After taking a few pictures I headed along the slope (reef to my left shoulder) making my way deeper. I almost immediately saw a medium sized carpet anemone which looked worth investigating – it was! I found eight squat (sexy shrimps) around the base of it as well as commensal shrimp, anemone shrimp and a porcelain crab. As a continued along the bottom of the slope at around 20 meters my next find was a small black painted frogfish – around 10cm long. I spent a lot of time carefully checking around every bommie and coral and I found that the more I looked I started to see a lot of critters that I would have missed had I not looked harder. I checked my dive time and shallowed up a little to around 15 meters as I continued along, in the process of doing so I came across a beautiful clutch of 5 tiger cowries under a rocky ledge, an orangutan crab on an anemone and a peacock mantis shrimp that was hiding under a rock. The slope on the House Reef bottoms out at between 20 and 25 meters onto a sandy bottom with a few rocky formations – I spent a few minutes exploring this area early on but I didn’t get lucky on this dive. At other times the sand can be home to
octopus,flounders and all manner of shrimps and nudibranch – Murex guides are also excellent at finding Pontohi pygmy seahorses on the deeper bommies here. I found the slope really beautiful though with more abundant and colourful corals. The soft corals were open on this dive and just before my turning point I found a candy crab inside one of them! As I turned around the current had started to pick up a little – it was still very mild but I could feel it against me as I swam back. On the return section I was lucky enough to see a netted ceratosoma nudibranch and as I made my way shallower an ocellated phyllidia, two more crocodile fish (smaller this time but laid side by side), a juvenile harlequin sweetlips, small schools of yellow snappers and some dense schools of bait fish just beneath the surface which looked incredible in the sun light as they swooped and swerved in unison like a giant cloud. I found my bommie at 10 meters that I had picked out at the start of the dive and made my way up to the reef top, completed my safety stop and headed for the beach – back right where I started – easy navigation here as long as you find a marker at the start of the dive so you know where the exit point is.
A great dive with a lot of small stuff, some excellent critters, bright colours, good visibility and a very slight current on the way back. For coral fans this is a beautiful reef dive with a lot to offer. Beware of currents and big waves though. In the worst case you could always swim up the reef and exit over the shallow reef top if you couldn’t reach your exit point but it is best to check conditions before hand and check with a guide before diving or better still – take a guide with you!
Lembeh and Manado are going to have a tough job competing with this Battle of the house reefs part 1 dive – the variety of critter and fish action combined with the beautiful corals make it a text book, picture perfect coral reef dive – a tough one to beat!
So, one down and two to go – look out for “The Battle of the House Reefs is On – Part II” coming soon…….