Save a Trip

by Roger Roth

What do you do when you travel hours or even days to get to an exotic dive destination only to have your baggage not show up or you incur a slight injury that prohibits you from diving?  Unfortunately this has happened to me on a number of trips through the years.  Here is what happened on my most recent trip and how I dealt with it.

As much as I hate to admit it, on my two-week trip to Indonesia to dive around North Sulawesi with Tasik Ria Resort and Kungkungan Bay Resort, I blew a micro perforation in my eardrum on the very first dive of the trip!  I had inadvertently packed my decongestant in my checked luggage (bad mistake) and that piece of luggage took two extra days to catch up with me.  Knowing I didn’t have this decongestant, I probably over-equalized, then felt air bubbling out of my ear.  Water barely seeped in when I wasn’t using the valsalva technique to equalize, and I could taste the seawater in my throat.

To make matters worse in my mind, the wall I was diving on in Bunaken National Park is the most beautiful wall I’ve ever seen in almost 600 hours underwater.  After my ear was injured, fortunately without any pain, I spent the remainder of the dive searching the wall for even one dead place to put my finger for stability while filming.  I couldn’t find one place anywhere among the huge, healthy sponges, hard and soft corals.

This is the second time this injury has occurred in that ear and the third time overall since the late 80’s when I began diving, so I knew what had happened and knew my diving was probably over for this trip.  Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to rebooking my flights home the next day.  It was just too far to fly from Cincinnati to Indonesia to turn around in one day.  But I also couldn’t see myself sitting at the resorts drinking Long Island iced teas for the next two weeks.

Sitting on the boat while the rest of my group did their next two dives, I mulled over all of my options.  I finally decided to wait it out for the next 4 days until we went to Kungkungan in hopes that my eardrum would heal enough to do the shallow muck dives offered there.  I knew I did have a couple of books with me and maybe the resort needed a promo video which I could surely do for them which would get my foot in the door to return to shoot a diving promo.

While at dinner that evening, I had a relaxed conversation with the manager and owner of the resort who just happened to be there. Near the end of the evening I asked if they had any type of promo video.  Unfortunately, I found out that they had just had a promo video produced of their diving and of the resort. Then I asked if they had any land tours available to have something to do for the next few days.  To my delight they said they did have tours available and to my surprise I found out that they had nothing on their promo video about these tours.  I quickly offered to take as many tours as they could send me on so I could film them and create a short promo of these tours for their use.

Both of them seemed quite tickled at my suggestion and early the next morning I met with their guide Harry, along with the manager and one lady from my group who was to act as a model tourist.  (This lady, Bonnie Smith from Seattle, WA, was quite gracious to give up her diving day, and on the next day Bonnie’s sister Nancy did the same to promote our gracious hosts.)  We loaded up in their air-conditioned van and set out on an excursion we’ll never forget.  Having done this many times before for other promo videos I’ve completed I knew I’d be in for a couple of long, grueling 10-hour days.

During the next two days, I learned many things like why the people there build swallow (bird) houses because the regurgitated swallow spit in their nests is a biologically active protein used as a demulcent to the lungs to relieve phlegm and coughs, as well as an initiator in cell division promoting epidermal growth (useful to pregnant women and growing children).  I learned about their separate villages being named for the specialties those villagers had such as the wooden house village where everyone in the village worked on building wooden houses for sale, (making the village look more like a model home subdivision).  Others I visited included the furniture village, the pottery village, and the peanut village.

One of the most memorable stops for me was at the Manado open market which probably covered an area the size of 4 small city blocks.  The vendors were all friendly and sold everything you could imagine from the countless types of fruits and vegetables they grew, to live and slaughtered chickens as well as fresh and smoked fish.  There were also plenty of tables full of python, hog and dog, rat and bat; all foods the Indonesians relish, with some being delicacies.

I trekked 4 km. up a volcano and back down, toured through Japanese caves from WWII, looked around caves where the people were digging material that would be used for cement, ate at many different local diners tasting the local fares (except the rat, bat or dog which I couldn’t bring myself to try) including one restaurant that was built on a dock over Lake Tondano, the largest lake on North Sulawesi.  I learned how copra and coconut oil was made and visited Lake Linow also known as “Changing Color Lake” that changes colors before your eyes depending on the sun angles and wind currents across the lake.  I also learned how to identify many local plants like vanilla bean, clove, and cinnamon.

So as you can see, there can be an adventure made out of a bad luck situation and a trip such as this doesn’t have to be immediately cancelled just because you can’t dive on a dive trip.  When we went to Kungkungan, I again tried to dive but water seeped in on the first dive there as well.  Because of my love for muck diving, I went ahead and carefully did three dives on that first day then rebooked my flights home the next morning since there wasn’t much more I wanted to see and do nearby.  Sea Ya!

PS. If anyone is interested in seeing the land tour video, contact me via email.

Critter corner: The Gremlin-like Tarsius spectrum is one of North Sulawesi's most famous wild inhabitants that’s land-based.  It is one of the smallest of the primates and is essentially nocturnal, waking up at dusk then preening itself before going hunting for prey in the dark.

copyright © Roger Roth, 2002 - 2011

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Roger Roth is a roofer by trade and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. But his passion is underwater videography and after several decades of learning how to shoot and edit he has evolved into a teacher and a photographic philanthropist. Roger is the founder of the annual international Underwater Images Photo and Video Competition. You may contact Roger at