travel blog

Indonesia with two small kids? Absolutely!!

September 5

It's Saturday morning and I have been up and running with my son since 6 o'clock. I am trying to pack the last of our bags before we head off to Indonesia. It will be myself (Heather), my husband (Henrik), Elinora (3) and Samuel (1) heading off for a two week adventure to Manado and Lembeh.

Thankfully our kids are used to being dragged across the globe. Elinora alone has clocked in more hours in an airplane then most adults I know (Canada, USA, Maldives, Tobago....). Good to get them used to it when they are young. Now they each have their own cabin bag with wheels that they pull along through the airports, a great way to wear off energy! Most people think that we are crazy, especially when I have travelled alone with them home to Canada, but I think that it is all in the attitude. If you stress, your kids will be stressed and vice versa.

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The only fall back this time is that we have to pack the travel high chair, a booster seat (transporting a one year old in a van with no car seat just didn't sound like something that I wanted to do), 40+ diapers, two strollers, dive equipment, clothes and toys. I have customers complain about the weight restrictions when they are only carrying dive equipment!! :)

Have brought snacks, fruit boxes, juice and loads of goodies for the kids in case the food is too spicy or if the kids just don't have energy to go out for lunch one day. Then there are life jackets for them so they can come on the dive boat with us, floaties for swimming... Have I forgotten anything? Oh well. It'll just have to do.

More reports will be sent while I am there and hopefully a few great pics. Oh and I promise not to forget to send some warm weather this way!!

September 10

Sitting in Nibong Restaurant at Kima Bajo Resort watching the sun set and my kids and husband playing in the pool. Samuel is currently soaking the staff with a bucket of water. The kids have been a bit confused as to why they get so much attention. Lets see... blonde and blue eyes in Indonesia... need I say more??

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The flight over went really well. Singapore Airlines has such high quality service and great food, that you don't mind being on the flight for 12 hours. Then there is Singapore Airport with a gym, swimming pool, playground and great shopping. We are actually looking forward to our eight hour layover there on the way home!

This resort is secluded from other resorts, but there is a neighbouring village and Bunaken Island takes less then 10 minutes by boat to get to. Even the third dive a day that we have been doing just around the corner has been beautiful.

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There are divers here from around the world. Japan, USA, England, Scotland, Germany and Jakarta for the moment. It is a very relaxed atmosphere, just what a holiday needs.

We do two dives in the morning. Leave at 8:15 and arrive back at around 13:00. The third dive is at 15:00 and the night dive goes off around 18:00 as the sun always sets then.

My first dive was at "the corner of love" and after 20 minutes of sand bottom (the photographers found all kinds of little things to shoot), I was seriously worried that Indonesia had been overrated. 28 minutes into the dive we finally came to a wall that blew me away. The colours and magnitude of corals and marine life was amazing! After 64 minutes in the water and 90 bar to go, my dive guide had to drag me out of the water. :(

This really is a mecca for photographers. As the groups have been small onboard the boat (always that way), there is plenty of space for cameras. The reef flats are teaming with fish. Huge schools of jacks, breem, sweet lips and sergeant majors swim over cushion sea stars (red and green ones), lettuce corals and plenty of little Indonesian Nemos. My highlight today was the turtles. I have a soft spot for them... :)

The food is good here, but spicy. I am glad that packed so many snacks and meal portions. Hipp makes meals to go for kids from 1 - 3 years and they have been excellent. Especially for lunch when the kids are too tired to go to a restaurant.

We are here for two more nights and then we are off to Lembeh. Looking forward to finding out what muck diving is all about. I am off for a dip in the pool with the family now. Only 28 degrees here today by the way. Hope that you aren't too cool at home!

September 14

Have spent the last few nights in Bitung on the Lembeh side of North Sulawesi. The ride over gave us a great view of Indonesian life, as we traveled on the back roads to get over here. Two parents and three kids on a motorcycle with no helmets and kids were actually talking and playing! Little kids (3 - 5 years old) playing on the road with traffic swerving around them, and the best was the guy on the motorcycle carrying a ten meter ladder... sideways... so that all the on-coming cars and bikes had to stop and move over for him to pass.

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The area is fairly poor. Homes are small shacks piled in on top of each other. There are a few small farms and plenty of roadside snack bars and local shops. The only difference between poor people here and poor people in other parts of the world (for the most part anyway), is that everyone seems happy here. People smile and laugh, and it isn't only when we are waving like idiots at them! It has again given me a good think about how materialistic our western lives are.

Our first two nights here have been at the Eco Divers Lembeh Cottages. On the hillside around Bitung we were driven to a row of small houses that would be our home for two nights. Each hose had three double bedrooms with an ensuite bathroom and shower (towels were provided, but there were no toiletries), a camera room with charging stations and a computer, a lounge area and a table to eat at. Each house has a fridge with drinks available (pay as you go), as well as free coffee, tea and hot chocolate, cereals and snacks. Great for jet lagged travellers that need food in the middle of the night!

Each morning we were picked up by a row of jeeps that drove us through Bitung to the police harbour where we were picked up by the dive boats and transported to the main, moored dive boat. Here we ate food, had dive briefings, sun bathed and chatted with the friendly staff and fellow divers. There were charging stations onboard this boat for cameras and enough space to get everything ready. Our equipment stayed on the smaller dive boats that we travelled with to the dive sites.

So, onwards to MUCK diving. I can admit that I was nervous about muck diving. Not because of the diving itself, but because I didn't think that I would like it. Searching a muddy bottom for small critters amidst garbage and strange critters (see below....)!!

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The conclusion to it is that I LOVE MUCK DIVING!! Talk about misfit creatures!! There are so many weird and amazing little critters out there. Last year researchers found 12 new species in Lembeh Straits and I can see why.

Diving here is on the black lava sands, on the white sands and coral or just the muck. There is a nice combination for anyone that is only going to dive in Lembeh and wants some variation.

I've seen pygmy seahorses (purple and brown), regular large seahorses (orange and brown), flamboyant cuttle fish (first they were brown, then bright yellow and orange with large white ovals and then they turned yellow with a blinking white and blank pattern running across their backs!!), electronic clams (neon pink with small lightening bolts flashing at the centre is the best description), giant cuttlefish, dragonets... the list is endless. And lest I forget to mention the nudibranchs. From as small as my little finger nail up to as large as my fist. The variety in colour and patterns was truly fantastic.

After two nights at Lembeh Cottages we have moved over to Kungkungan Bay Resort. A quiet resort nestled in on the banks of the Straits. I felt myself relaxing as soon as I walked into the large restaurant area that is built overtop of the water. A cool drink and a beautiful view suited us just perfect. Upstairs we found Captain Billy's Bar and danced the night away (ok, it was 20:00 when we left with the kids), chasing the laser lights around the floor.

The food is plenty and there is lots of variety. Try the local specialties like corn soup, spring rolls or the fish dishes.

Our cottage at the resort has a HUGE bathroom with a bathtub, separate shower, queen sized bed with an extra bed, TV, sofa, desk and minibar. We also have free internet. The veranda out front has a table and chairs where we can sit in the evenings and look out over the Straits.

The resort treated us each to a massage, foot scrub and milk bath. Heaven after travelling and diving over the last week and a half! Outside of the spa is the pool. Heaven for our kids!

Now it soon time to do our last dive here. Will do the housereef at Kungkungan Bay Resort. Have heard good things about it, so I am excited. Thank goodness for babysitters that can charm my kids so that I can dive with my husband and just relax.

NOT disappointed with the house reef! Purple pygmy seahorses, 5 giant cuttle fish, turtles and plenty of nudibranchs to just mention part of the dive. :o)

September 17

Today is the day we are off for home. Back to reality (cold, rainy weather) and work. From the time we leave the resort until we are home, we have calculated that it will take us 31 hours. Not so keen on that aspect.

We just spent 5 of our 8 hour layover in Singapore in the city. You can go into the city as long as you have a minimum 5 hour layover and that the customs officer accepts you. There is a train that runs from the airport and with only a half hour of travel and only six Singapore dollars each (return ticket), we took off for a little adventure. We got off at Bugis. It was a huge shopping center packed with people. The kids were tired and hungry and Sam just yelled at people "move out of the way". I stopped and asked Henrik what the hell we were thinking dragging these poor kids there, but we decided to make the most of it, as we were already there. We opted for the easy route and went to Burger King. French fries, burgers and ice cream can make most people happy, especially children!

With a new load of energy we toured Bugis Street Village, a tightly packed, vibrant and busy market that sold everything from shoes, clothes and watches to food from a variety of Asian destinations. Freshly pressed red grape juice for 1 Singapore dollar got me lots of mommy points. Everything was very cheap and I would love to wander the little alleyways (minus the kids) someday.

Had we had more time, we would have gone to the zoo to do the night safari. A train that takes you around to see the animals behaviours after dark. There is also the harbour front and the Orchard, a high end shopping strip that rivals New Yorks 5th Avenue.

September 18

Sitting in Copenhagen waiting for the final leg of our journey. The flight is delayed, but hopefully we won't be too late getting home. Right now 20 minutes extra seems a little too long to wait.

How can I sum up my trip? Bloody fantastic! Loads of quality dive and family time. Some great memories for life. :)

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