Sunday, February 24, 2013

Diving in Tolala, Like Never Before


“Scuba diving in Tolala, where?” was exactly my friend’s reaction that tickled me after she curiously asked what I’d be doing in my weekend. I genuinely understood if nobody would realize a place called Tolala even ever existed in Indonesia. And the weekend getaway to go scuba diving there is a little peculiar, yet appealing.

Located nearby the border of South Sulawesi and South East Sulawesi, Tolala subdistrict is apparently a little village in the coast of the Gulf of Bone. When you head to the south, the Gulf leads into the Banda Sea.
Tolala subdistrict is humid and sunny all day, despite the rainy day.

The rock hills surrounding the ocean of Gulf of Bone.

As a home to traditional fishermen, Tolala is mostly known as a stopover for people driving to Poso, Central Sulawesi. However, for some people who work at a mining company in Sorowako, South Sulawesi, visiting Tolala would refresh mind and soul. This is what I’ve been doing in the weekend with some other buddies from Sorowako.

There is no phone signal and internet connection in Tolala. So we can’t make a call and book katingting (traditional wooden boat) for the trip, nor twittering or instagramming pictures from there. We just have to go to Tolala and talk to the fisherman if their katingting is open for rent. Don’t worry, the boat rent is in good price and it is negotiable.

Does this show how crystal-clear enough the sea?
One of the Tolala private, white sandy beach.
Katingting boat parks nearby while we  do SIT in the beach.

Another side of the rock hill on the beach.

In Tolala, do anything you want, as nobody but us, the boat people and the sun are there. White sand beaches in Tolala are all over the place like a line of bungalow. Besides diving, we are free to go sunbathing, snorkeling, playing volleyball, or barbequing with fresh sea foods we buy directly in the fishing nets belong to the local fishermen straightforwardly in the sea.

The traditional fishing boat of Sulawesi fishermen, Baga, stays still on the sea.
To go scuba diving, this is very important to bring your own gear. It means not only your basic gears of mask, fins, wetsuits, BCDs and regulators; but also scuba tanks. Yes, you hear it right, scuba tank to keep you alive down there in the sea. Well, stay calm, go straight to Sorowako and contact the Sorowako Diving Club (SDC) to rent – and perhaps ask for their guidance to diving in Tolala.

Scuba dive in Tolala gave me an odd, one of a kind diving experience. Firstly, the katingting boat crew never ever had guests who dived. Nevertheless, now they’re getting used to it. Now they are quick to help us lifting and bringing the scuba tank from the shore to the katingting, as well as supporting us wear and take-off the BCD and tanks as the diving started and finished.

Secondly, the dive spots in Tolala are virgin, no divers before SDC rolled up the dive spot exploration. Even until now, the spots are still random and leaving nameless. Locals named the spots similar: The central coral reef (karang tengah). They name it so as innocently they catch fish in the coral reef which is situated in the midst of the sea; and the karang tengah are everywhere in the Gulf of Bone sea.

When the visibility's clear, it's really clear.
Third, the diving in Tolala has been surprising as well as baffling, I never know what I will find in the next diving. In some dives, I encountered around six sea turtles calmly swimming through and discovered nudibranches and sea lobsters with such bad visibility as the scatters around. The rain last night had seemingly brought the particles up.

In another dive, the visibility could be like this one above.
However, some group of fish are playfully swimming around.
A sea turtle is seen and captured this close. Somehow they don't move
and looks like they realize we take their pictures. Super awesome!
The coral reefs in Tolala are mostly healthy, with groups of fish draw together for foods and safeguard. Mostly hard corals can be seen all the way in the diving, although soft corals are also visible here and there. From Staghorn, Pillar to Table, Tube, Wire and Blue corals, and also the Gorgonians or Sea Fans, Toadstool, to the Bubble and Carnation corals make diving in Tolala more exciting. 

Clownfish appear with some other tropical coral reef fish like butterfly fish, angelfish, surgeonfish, and gobbies. Not to forget the astounding moray eel, blue tang, a little group of tuna, puffer and boxfish, sea snake, pipefish, stingray, mantis shrimp and more that is quite shy to come close.

A cuttlefish serenely swims in the undersea of Tolala.
A stingray hides under the coral of Tolala.
A group of Scorpion fish pose next to a coral.
A soft coral is filled with hundreds of shrimp.
A ghost shrimp on a sea anemone.
Hi, clownfish my dear!
Unfortunately, at some other spots, I would find the corals were dead and damaged by the bomb explosion of dirty fishing and several foreign mine vessels round the corner. This is the ugly truth because we realized those vessels are in a hurry dredging and selling the Earth to other countries before they are caught in the act. 


If you can see those vessels afar, that what I've been talking about.
The government has already implemented restrictions on raw mineral exports by 2014 that demanding that miners to obtain “clean-and-clear” status from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to export commodities. As long as the Earth digging keeps performing, no wonder if scatters will keep coming up and fish will be away.

When the visibility is all about scatters, this is how it looks like down there.
Diving in Tolala had made me perceived those dead corals and how irresponsible some people with the nature. This is what I mean as doing hobby or personal interest would then give me more than just an ecstasy of joyful and rejuvenated mind. Although coastal communities have long pulled out marine resources sustainably nowadays, population growth has put additional pressure on our coral reefs. As a scuba diver who enjoys the serene of undersea life experience, I always want to contribute everything I can do to sustain the sea for the sake of our grandchild and generation to come.

"Oops! You got me..."
An octopus is captured in the moment.
See, you can never guess what you'd see while diving in Tolala.

Moray eel even says hellou to us!
A nudibranch chooses to stick to a coral there...

Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking not to let them witnessing the beauty of Indonesia’s underwater in the future as we did? 





Photo Credit:
Levin Hidayat, Ichwan and Merrylin.



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