“Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination.”

We all have childhood dreams. Some of these get fulfilled over the course of life, accidentally for the lucky ones, or with great resolve, intent and effort for the tenacious ones. Some get forgotten or lost in ?adulting?, and some we hold ourselves back from due to fear.

Last month, Wildfire Expeditions spoke with someone who never let fear or apparent impossibilities of those dreams stop her. Watching the live interview, even having known her half my life, I was caught by the matter of fact tone she uses to describe experiences beyond what most of us could even fathom. As if she rolled out of bed one day, decided to be a freediver and went straight to setting national records!

I decided to do a deeper dive with a fellow adventurer, whose exploration of life has led her to discover new worlds both within and without.

 

WF: Would you describe yourself as a fairly patient person?

*both of us burst out laughing even before I finished the question*.[Aside]?A Tunisian memory sprung to mind. Back in 2009, our very first trip overseas together, Anqi utilised her full arsenal of 3 French words to goad the hapless mini van driver to moving with a less than half-full van ? something that NEVER happens. You allez! Toute de suite! We allez! Now! Something in her resolve must have communicated itself to him, transcending language and protocol. This is clearly not someone who takes No for an answer.

Anqi: So no, I am not a patient person. I was caught by the beauty of watching a freediver in action, the freedom of moving without big chunky apparatus, the elegance of his fish-like movement through the water as he cut cleanly through all our scuba bubbles. Then and there, I decided I am going to freedive. I was actually intrigued by freediving and read the manual of freediving by Umberto Pellizari, but I didn?t think it was something I could do. But when I saw the Freediver in action in real life when I was breathing air out of my scuba tanks, I knew right away it was something I wanted to explore.

(Watch the Wildfire Expeditions live?interview?with Anqi?for more context into her story and how she transitioned to freediving.)

 

WF: So being impatient, how did you first learn breath hold? And subsequently, how did you train yourself to record breaking standards in freediving? ?

Anqi: I would say that my freediving progress was very gradual. The advantage I had was that I was a Scuba diving instructor already so was already very comfortable being in the water. When I started freediving I progressed in small baby steps, overcoming different barriers initially in breath hold, to the fear of the deep and the most difficult challenge was equalisation, especially advanced equalisation for deeper dives.

From Philippines to Greece to Mexico, I trained all over the world and competed in freediving events wherever and whenever I get the opportunity. I was very fortunate in being able to interact with the best freedivers in the world, train with them and learn from them.

WF: In my mind, there was always that dichotomy between letting go and relaxing to allow yourself to go deeper and the motivation, desire, effort needed to push your body to extreme levels of exertion. Isn?t one at odds with the other? How do you manage that?

AnqiπŸ˜• Yes I agree that this is very contradictory indeed. Besides the physical demands, freediving is mostly mental, which has been the biggest difference for me in experiencing freediving compared to other sports. Initially I had pushed myself with certain depth goals, but later I realised freediving was not such a sport like a 100m sprint where you can use brute strength to reach your goal. I learnt from many failures that this strategy does not work. Instead Freediving requires a lot of inner awareness, patience and adaptation. It is the kind of sport where you need to arrive at the goal without the expectation of arriving. Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination. The way I manage it is to not focus on the end goal but to cherish every moment that I am freediving, for example practising all different disciplines is one way to be an overall well-rounded diver rather than one just chasing for the deep.

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WF: You told me once about the adage: scuba divers dive to see the world, freedivers dive to look within. I thought that was a beautiful summation. Do you feel that freediving has changed you or affected your perspectives, and how you live life?

Anqi: Freediving is probably the purest way to connect and explore our oceans. It is also for me a form of meditation. When I dive into the deep, I feel all my worries fade away. You feel so small, like a tiny drop in the vast ocean. It gives me perspective in life. Many things I worry about seem insignificant in comparison. The ocean is beautiful, life is amazing, and connecting back to nature can make you feel alive. That?s all I need, not societal status, great wealth or endless diversions. Freediving helped me see that a simple life can be rich if it is lived fully.

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WF:?You are the first Singaporean to medal in Honduras last year, finishing third in the constant weight no fins discipline at the Carribean Cup. You also set 4 new national records in all depth disciplines at the CMAS World championships?right around Singapore?s National Day in fact.

Being born and bred in Singapore, we both know that Singapore does not give handouts. For a non-mainstream sport, what kind of support have you been able to get?

Anqi: It is my dream that Singapore will become a nation that supports Sport on a bigger scale. Sport is great avenue for youth development and community bonding.?Freediving is not in the Olympics or SEA games so it is not a supported sport in Singapore unfortunately. I have not been able to get any financial support for competing or training from the country or dive federation. Luckily most of the competitions I had joined were around the region in Philippines or Indonesia. I dug deep into my personal savings to fund my own training and competition. In order to compete at the world championships in Honduras last year, which was more expensive and further away, I reached out via crowdfunding and received enough support to join the competition. I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity. It inspired me to go all out to compete in 2 more competitions after the world championships and break more records. My hope is that the sport will be recognised internationally, so that future athletes can receive national or corporate support to pursue their depth dreams. For myself it may not be financially possible to be competing full time, but I know the depths of the ocean will be there for me and I will always dive for the love of it.

 

WF: Ever since I?ve known you, you have been pushing limits, in whichever sport or activity you choose to pursue. Running, touch rugby, ultimate frisbee, yoga, diving. You have either competed at national level or worked to achieve instructor certification in each of these sports. And they are so different. What motivates you?

AnqiπŸ˜• Sometimes I think I tried so many things that maybe I am a jack of all trades but master of none. I enjoy at different times in my life various activities and always try to do my best at them. I guess I am just motivated by a sense of adventure and the outdoors. I have always been active and love to be outdoors / in nature and I like to try different things!

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WF: What is occupying most of your time at the moment??

Anqi: I have started an ocean conservation project called the Sea Glass Project last year to bring awareness about keeping our oceans pollution free through making sustainable choices. This is a passion that has kept me very busy!

You can read about Anqi?s inspiration for the Sea Glass Project here:?bit.ly/seaglassproj, and purchase her amazing jewelry at:?Seaglassproject.etsy.com

Malaysia is open for diving for adventurers based in Malaysia! Explore the wonders of Pulau Sipadan, one of the top dive destinations in the world. Book now with Wildfire for the best availability and rates: wildfirexpeditions.com/tours/sipadan or contact us at info@wildfirexpeditions.com.

Accomplishing and completing an amazing trek is it’s own reward, but you want the amazing photos to prove it! At least as great memories and to show your friends and family of what you accomplished. So the need to be a world class photographer to capture that amazing moment, is in the back of our minds these days.? I know that when I’m trekking or climbing, I’m looking for that random shot that will stand out and spark memories of the day.

As the smartphones have better camera options these days, we no longer need to drag the 1kg DSL camera with the 2kg zoom lens to get a photo.? We have the power in our pocket.? Here’s a few simple tips to help capture the moment without adding extra weight on your next trek….

1)?Keep the Photos Simple

With digital photos you don’t need to capture everything with just one shot.? (If you do want this, you can use the panoramic option) Just focus on what caught your eye and snap a shot of the subject.??One interesting subject is all you need to take great pictures. It?s easier to create a strong composition when your picture only has one subject.

Mount Arjuna Sign Post

2)?Focus on the Golden and Blue Hours

Understand the position of the sun and the time of day. Bright sunlight is one of the best to capture snaps. So if you want a crisp snap, turn your subject such that the sun is shining on them. ?It is a fact well established that clicking during sunrise and sunset, which offers diffused light always results in striking snaps.?Think the first hour after the sun peaks in the morning, and the last hour or two before the sun drops over the horizon in the afternoon.?The Blue Hour is when the sun is now below the horizon and the sky gives off this beautiful blue hue.

3)?Rule of Thirds?

A simple rule to significantly improve the quality of your pictures is the ?Rule of Thirds?, according to which, put your horizon one-third or two-thirds from the bottom and your main subject one-third in from either side. This lends a certain dynamic nature to the picture quality and enhances the composition.?Place the subject on the intersecting lines/points (rather than in the center of the shot) to make it more natural-looking. Using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it.?

4)?Take Photos of the Locals

Don?t forget to take pictures of people during your travels, especially the locals such as the driver, or a waiter you might have met along the way. It is always advisable to ask their permission, before taking the picture.?Travel photography should also be about the people you meet.? How do you get those amazing portrait photos without feeling rude?Simple ? just ask for permission.

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5)? Shoot From A?Different Perspective

?For example, shooting from a low perspective you can get more sky behind your subject.? If you have a distracting background in your scene, shooting from a low angle is an easy way to eliminate those distractions by using the sky as your backdrop.

6)? Use Reflections

?Use reflections In Mirrors & Windows, lakes, streams and even puddles to transform an image from ordinary to a creative work of art by incorporating reflections. Because this kind of perspective involves adding layers it creates a feeling of depth. So, look for reflections in windows of a building, a puddle of water in the street or even a pair of mirrored sunglasses.

7)? Try Panning for Action Shots

Try panning which is freezing fast moving subjects while getting a gorgeous, background. Pick your subject up in the viewfinder well before it arrives where you intend to press the shutter button, and start following it.?Follow Your Subject?s Motion.?Keep following your subject?s motion smoothly, in a horizontal position. If the subject is also moving vertically ? e.g. jumping ? ignore the vertical motion, just follow the horizontal motion.?Another important aspect of the panning technique is a good, steady posture which supports your camera well, preventing it from bobbing up and down as you follow your subject.?

One Bonus Tip!

If you want to capture symmetrical reflections that include both the reflection and the surroundings like mountains reflecting off the lake, turn your phone upside down and get as close to the water as you can.? Turning your phone upside down gets the lens closer to the water.? (Just don’t drop your phone!)

We love trekking in places where the scenery makes for amazing shots.? A great weekend getaway to practice your photography skills is Mount Merapi, Indonesia.? If you are more of an underwater buff, then let’s make a big splash at Sipidan.

Check out our blog on New Zealand and some of the amazing photos we caught on that trip.

Grab your friends and your smartphone camera and let’s snap some photos!

A first aid kit is your best friend when you travel. No one can predict when an incident will happen. Oftentimes, a first aid kit is all that is needed to make things right.

Research indicates that a first aid kit is one of the essential items for outdoor travel. How many of us know what really goes into a first aid kit and what each item is used for?

You can find numerous kits in any adventure store but if you?re looking to optimize your kit, Here’s? a list you a list of 10 essential items that should go into your outdoor first aid kit.

  1. Adhesive Bandages

Travelling can result in cuts and bruises, which when left unattended can lead to infections. Adhesive bandages come in an assortment of shapes and sizes to cover these cuts and bruises. They are effective in closing the wound and weigh next to nothing. We recommend bringing various sizes.

  1. Tweezers

They are an important tool of any first aid kit. A pair of tweezers? can be used to remove foreign particles stuck in the skin, which includes thorns, splinters, debris, etc,.

  1. Antiseptic Creams

Treating an injury will be effective only if the area of the injury is clean with no dirt and germs. It is of utmost importance that before putting on a bandage that you clean the wound thoroughly. Apply ?antiseptic cream to clean the wound before treating ?the injury .

  1. Sterile Gauze Pads and Tape

In case of large wounds, gauze pads are essential to absorb fluids. First, clean the wound, dry it out, then apply the antiseptic cream, cover the wound with the gauze padding and secure it with tape.

  1. Pain Relievers

Headache and backache can be annoying on the trail but we don’t need to ?let that affect our ?trip. Pop some pain relievers such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen into your first aid kit and you are all set.

  1. Medical Gloves

Safety and cleanliness are most important when it comes to travelling. Be sure to pack disposable medical gloves in your kit as they are a shield against infection when administering first aid.

  1. Irrigating Syringe

In an outdoor environment, sand, soil and mud can trap bacteria, which hooks easily under your nails. Cutting nails might seem like very far-fetched for travel but ingrown nails or hanging nails can feel unpleasant, especially on a hike. Be sure to keep your nails short and clean and pack a nail clipper for the road.

  1. Blister Treatment

Travelling or trekking can sometimes cause abit of strain, especially when you are not used to carrying a load or walking long hours. Molefoam or other type of blister treatment in your first aid kit can provide ?you instant relief and make you more comfortable.

  1. Sewing Needles

In the event that you get a blister, it is best to drain it and let it dry (if possible).? ?A sewing needle, cleaned with alcohol, is the best way to drain a blister. If possible drain in the evening and place your foot in the open air if possible. Bandage in the morning before putting your socks on.

  1. First Aid Manual

Your customised first aid kit will be incomplete without a first aid manual. The manual will include directions on how to treat wounds, sprains, cramps and other common ailments. The manual should be studied by everyone who has access to the kit and get to know the basics of administering first aid.

Join us for our Taiwan Adventure, where we not only do the trek, but go thru pre trekking briefings and discuss the gear list in full detail.

You love diving and adventure travel, so you?re taking the plunge (excuse the pun) and booking yourself on your first liveaboard! With so many options, how can you possibly decide among all the available choices? Here are a few considerations when planning the ultimate dive holiday.

Island Diving Maldives Liveaboard

Location
Research how to reach your dive adventure destination. Some trips might have different start and end points, so consider travel time. When travelling to remote areas, give yourself enough time to get there. Consider flight delays, re-routing, and religious holidays. You might not always get connecting flights on the same day.

Also consider the season. Is it ?peak? season due to weather, diving conditions, or marine life migrations? If your dream is to see manta rays, hammerheads, or whale sharks, research whether they remain year round or are seasonal.

Type of Diving
Are you looking for crazy currents? Mindblowing macro? Pelagics? Or a little bit of everything. Make sure you do your research on the type of diving available. Also consider the time of the month you are going. In some places the currents are tied to the moon phase, often with the strongest currents being around new and full moon.

Be aware if your operator has a set daily/weekly plan for dive sites. If they have a set plan that does not deviate, and you are in an area where there can be strong currents, be confident that you can handle yourself in any conditions.

Group Size
Bigger isn?t always better?

When diving, especially if the conditions are challenging, smaller groups can be much better. Up to 8 divers per group is common, but on some boats, groups can be as small as 4 divers to one guide. That?s almost personal service!

liveaboard komodo

Cost
Much like bigger isn?t always better ? more expensive does not always equate to better service. There are ?flashpacker? style boats with shared toilets, cold showers, and sleeping on deck. Then there are the luxury boats with aircon, ensuite toilets, maybe even a jacuzzi on the sundeck! You are there to dive, but consider what level of comfort and service you want on the boat also. Some divers will love the phinisi style boats that have a pirate-like feel; others prefer the roomy modern boats with wifi service and a bar.

Dive Maldives Emperor Liveaboard??

Certification and Experience
Some operators expect a minimum level of certification ? generally advanced diver ? and some may require at least 100 logged dives. This could be because the majority of dive sites are deeper, or subject to more challenging conditions. Safety first. There are also liveaboards for the less experienced divers! Consider how comfortable you are in water and plan accordingly.

Dive Safely
Above all, pick a good operator. Like any other adventure sport, diving comes with skill requirements and safety measures. On a liveaboard, you will typically be exploring more far flung sites, possibly without any other means of transportation or ready access to medical facilities. Make sure you choose an operator who is experienced in the area, knows the site very well and has a good safety record.

Traveling and diving in places only accessible by boat, stunning sunsets, refreshing sunrises, friendships both old and new. Liveaboard diving has this to offer and so much more!

Although I?ve only been on two liveaboards in my diving lifetime, I can say that both of them had a profound impact on me. The first one was in Australia, as a brand-new diver (with only 8 dives under my belt), I took off on a 4-day dive liveaboard from Cairns. This was not only the first time I?d spent 4 days on a boat, it was also the first time in a long time that I?d traveled on my own. On this trip, I was able to do my advanced course and the 4 days went by in a blur of eating, sleeping and diving. By the end, I was mentally and physically exhausted, and it was so worth it. I had so many firsts on this dive holiday: my Advanced certification, my first shark, my first underwater somersault, my first night dive, my first unguided dive with just a buddy (and made it back to the boat!). The biggest achievement however was that I did it as a solo traveller and I loved it.

This experience was why I returned to Bali to continue my training and work as a scuba dive professional. This ultimately led to my second, much longer and far more challenging liveaboard – a 2 week crossing from Alor to Komodo on a small boat. Just 4 of us, close friends and partners in crime exploring some unknown parts of the Flores sea. It was an amazing, crazy, sometimes scary, out of this world and better experience than I could have ever imagined. From waters teeming with life, to intense currents, we sometimes got more than we expected from our adventure. We jumped into some unknown spots and found some gems?and some not so good ones! We pirated a small stretch of sand in the middle of the ocean and claimed it for our own. We laughed and we shared, and I grew.

Whether travelling alone or with friends or loved ones, dive liveaboards offer an experience unlike anything else you can get on land. Being the first one in the water as the sun rises, waking up with the ocean is such a magical experience. Seeing stunning scenery and visiting faraway places only accessible by boat. Rocking with the waves gently at night and watching the ocean light up from the bio luminescence. Even watching documentaries about the big blue while sailing along quietly in the night. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Not only will you have memories that last a lifetime, you?ll be left with a hunger that you can?t quite satisfy until the next time you?re sailing off into the unknown.

Ready to learn more about Scuba diving adventure holidays? See our dive liveaboard trips and more on our?website.

A holiday in the Maldives is high on many bucket lists. The most common associations that come to mind when Maldives comes up is exclusivity, classy resort living, crystal clear waters, a romantic honeymoon destination – all of which of course, comes with a hefty price tag. But as Wildfire has discovered, there’s plenty of adventures to be found in the Maldives as well. A dive safari in these majestic waters will excite anyone that’s a fan of island and sea life. And of course, diving.? Here’s why…

Wildfire Diving

Coral Atolls

Atolls are essentially giant rings of coral that developed around the shorelines of islands. Only found in the (sub)tropics, there giant natural structures grow slowly over time, offering a home to an insanely diverse range of ocean life. The Maldives are home to arguably the best 26 atolls in the world, spread out over an area of over 90,000 square kilometers.

source:?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atoll
Wildfire Adventure Diving

Sharks Everywhere

If you want a chance to swim up close and personal with sharks, the Maldives is your spot. Since 2010, there is a ban on shark fishing in the Maldives. As a result, the number of sharks are on the rise, and many different species are thriving here. It?s very common to spot hundreds of sharks on your dives, and more than 26 different species of shark have been identified in the waters of the Maldives.

Dive Maldives Emperor

Hospitality that’s out of this World

Luxury Liveaboards and resorts are synonymous with this paradise and?the Maldives have become known for extraordinarily personable hospitality unique to this small country.? Yet with this amazing? 7 star hospitality, the pricetag for this treatment is more than reasonable. There are dive resorts with all inclusive eat-sleep-dive packages for less than 200.00 USD a day.? And for the luxury liveaboards, there are all inclusive packages for around 260.00 USD a day.

Adventure Diving Feast

Delicious Cuisine

Being surrounded by the water, fresh ocean catch is everywhere. The typical? breakfast of the Maldives include shredded tuna mixed with fresh coconut, chillis, onion and lime. It’s a burst of flavours unique to this tropical paradise.? It’s not uncommon to finish the evening dive and be greeted by the aroma of tuna steaks being grilled on deck,? with a bit smoky, tangy incense. Beach BBQs? from lobster and turkey to all manner of fish, shellfish? and vegetables were grilled over an open fire. The meals are constant delights.?

Island Diving Maldives

A Disappearing Wonder

The Maldives is the world?s lowest-lying country. With maximum and average natural ground levels of only 2.4 metres and 1.5 metres above sea level, respectively, the Maldives as we know (and love) is in danger of disappearing. Construction cranes descend on islands like Hulumale and further beyond. None other than UN’s environmental panel has warned that, at current rates, the rise in sea level would render the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100. Catch it while you can.

Did you Know

  1. As Asia?s smallest country (yes that is not Singapore), Maldives comprises just under 300 square kilometres of land area.

  2. Also one of the world?s most dispersed countries with over 1,190 coral islands on 26 atolls spreading over approximately 90,000 square kilometres.

  3. The history of the Maldives began with Buddhism developing into an Islamic state when the last Buddha king converted to Islam in the 12th

Wildfire Diving

There’s never been a better time to explore the Maldives and we want to help you do it!? Book now for the Christmas and Chinese New Years holidays.? Special discounts for group bookings. Spaces are limited so contact us today to reserve your spot!?

Single Travellers Guarantee:?We guarantee same sex cabin share on Emperor Voyager. If we can’t ‘room you with someone of the same sex and a cabin is free then we will give you a cabin to yourself with no single supplement.

What is it about scuba diving that is so liberating?

Perhaps the fact that you are accessing a part of the 70% of Earth?s surface that is outside the realm of most people?s everyday thoughts?

Or perhaps swimming through the blue can feel abit like flying. Without the downward gravitional pull, you move up and down with breath as your steering wheel. Intuitive, weightless and free.

turtle

Or maybe the colours, the action, the life of the marine world is so fascinating, so different from being on land, that all your cares fade away and all that remains at the forefront of your thoughts is the present.

When diving I live in the moment. My concerns are immediate and specific. Is my equipment working well? What are the conditions like? Is my buoyancy ok? Do I have enough air? Is my buddy within reach? Is my buddy doing ok?

Nurse shark up close

When diving I appreciate my present just as I am living it. The wondrous creatures and their weird and wonderful ways; the shapes and colours of corals; the scale of the marine megafauna, the massive walls, the big gorgonian sea fans. Within each, a micro-ecosystem where the smaller creatures find shelter – and larger ones food.

When diving I find renewed wonder in life. Such vibrance teems below a placid looking surface, the deep blue hiding a world humans can only visit temporarily. How blessed we are, those privileged enough to be able to access this world. How much more we need to do to preserve this world for future explorers.

– Anonymous…

What’s your take on diving?? Ready to try something new?? Time to make a big splash and get back into the water with our upcoming Off the beaten path of diving in Pulau Weh!

Patrick

Wildfire Adventure Diving

Our amazing divers?Gwen and Yunwei, just got back from Sipadan with some exciting stories and amazing photos to share!? Hopefully more to come, but these few shots that were sent across, exemplifies the beauty and clarity of Sipadan!? Have you been?? Not too late in the season to go! Message us and we can make it happen…

Journey thru the waters

Underwater rush hour

In case you missed it, our trip from 2017 had some amazing shots as well.? Our Chief Fun Coordinator, Michael, got his drone out for some amazing footage of the dive rig as well…

 

Sign up today and get a scuba diving fin bag from us! Email us for details. Michael@wildfirexpeditions.com

It is already June and the year is moving quickly in 2018.? What have you been up to?? Kept your New Year?s resolution to get in shape and be more active? At Wildfire we have had quite the busy start of the year.

 

Trek the World

We opened the trekking season this year with an amazing trek across Rabbit Pass within the Mt Aspiring national park in Wanaka. Waterfalls, glaciers, cliff faces, and the most stupendous alpine scenery guided our steps ? with some weather shenanigans and creative route diversions. To learn our story, check out the Lessons of the Waterfall Blog. We are now in the midst of preparing for a horse trek through the Teredj National Park in the rugged heart of Mongolia.

 

Rock it out

During April and May, our climbers hit the walls hard rediscovering Wolgan Valley (we are now in Australia) with the epic adventure climbs around the former mining town of Newnes. Climbing at its best, trad with warm rock and beautiful weather. We have some incredible memories of the multi-pitch days!

 

Back in Singapore, our regular Intro to Rock climbing and Abseiling sessions (held outdoors of course) were once again sellouts. We are especially proud of Jasmine.? She followed her passion for rock from Dairy Farm to the sunflower fields of Lopburi, Thailand where she tackled 6a climbs! On the beautiful limestone cliffs of Khao Jeen Lai, our instructors held a climbing clinic for those who aspired to climb all day.

 

Sun, sea, sand

Moving to the ocean front, Michael, our Chief of Fun, stashed away with a group of island rats in a secret island, a short 2 hours from Singapore. A weekend of unwinding and unplugging. Swimming, frisbee and BBQ on the beach – sans wifi (gasp!) . Check out this awesome vid and be sure to join the next one!

 

Going underwater, as we write, our divers are enroute to Sipadan. The destination requires no introduction (it?s only one of CNN Travel?s Asia top 10 dive site) but if you want one anyway, check out the account of our maiden trip.

So 2018 got off to a rollicking start. What?s next you ask? Well, plenty?.. Dragon?s Spine, Holy ridge, Secret Islands, adventure climbing, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand. Excited yet? Check out our website for the latest offerings and continue to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Meetup and subscribe to our newsletter to live vicariously through us.

Live your life with passion!

Patrick and the Wildfire team!

A Scuba Divers Dream

 

Exploring and adventure take many forms. Trekking through remote wilderness, summiting mountains where few have gone, kayaking down unknown stretches of river, or diving uncharted locations to see what you may find. When I got the invitation to join a group of good friends going on such a dive trip in south Sulawesi, I jumped at the chance. Indonesia has some of the healthiest coral reef systems in the world, and those are the ones we know about ? I couldn?t imagine what was in store for us going to an island where almost no divers have ever been.

 

We began the adventure based in Bau Bau, on Buton Island, which many of my Indonesian friends had not heard of before. We were impressed when day 1 began on a beautiful reef wall and into a multi-chamber cave abundant with large lobsters. This was followed by a wreck dive with loads of macro, pipefish, and tiny jellies. The night dive at a jetty produced pleurobranchs moving about, robust ghost pipefish, and starry night octopus among the other strange species found around jetties at night. I remember thinking ?Wow, if this is how we begin on the first day, I can?t wait for tomorrow!?.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next two days did not disappoint! First, a 90-minute drive to Pasarwajo led us to a warung that would be our base for 3 dives that included mostly sandy bottoms where we could find lots of the small and camouflaged creatures we love as photographers, mixed with a large school of very big jellyfish and the occasional Great Barracuda. This was followed by another night dive, this time to see the mandarin fish as they came out of hiding at dusk looking for a mate. The next day we had a 2 hour boat trip to Siompu Island where an undersea ridge was teeming with Blacktip Reef Sharks, many species of nudibranchs we had never seen, and even a few Eagle Rays. In addition to the diving, we had our surface interval on a small, uninhabited beach, and after lunch climbed to the top of the cliffs where we had amazing vistas of the sea and surrounding islands.

 

After this incredible start, we were ready to embark on the adventure we had all come for ? a 6-hour boat trip to a remote island that held only 3 small, local villages on land, fishermen in their small canoes on the water, and unseen reefs and life under the sea. Excitement was growing to explore the unknown! A pre-dawn start meant setting up hammocks or mats on the boat and getting some much needed sleep to start the trip. When the sun came up, we were too intrigued by what lied ahead to sleep any longer. A brief stop in the open sea halfway through the trip gave us our first taste of what to expect ? a swim in the clearest water most of us had ever seen!

 

Arriving at our destination, the first thing we did was check our gear and choose the first dive site, one which our guide had seen a few weeks before on a recon trip. What we found left us speechless! Steep sloping reefs with massive old coral growth, huge schools of fusiliers, surgeons, and sweetlips along with several huge Napoleon Wrasse, and when we passed around a corner we found a wall with no bottom in sight?and the visibility was at least 50m. Minds were officially blown! Next dive was back on that wall to explore further, finding ledges and deep overhangs, sponges much larger than a person, and eagle rays passing in the blue. I now had a new favorite dive site!

 

Big wall

What I didn?t know was that I would have a new favorite dive site every day. Practically all of the sites we explored were drop-offs to the biggest walls I have experienced, with the healthiest and largest corals I have seen. What changed however was the topography ? some were relatively straight across and straight down into the blue, some had multiple layers of ledges and overhangs, and some were winding with deep recesses that captivated us as we looked for what lived inside. And the water clarity and visibility gave us good looks at the Bumpheads or Giant Trevally when they approached.

The second morning began with an interesting twist when our boat wouldn?t start. As it became apparent that it would take more than a day to fix the problem, our leader negotiated with a local boat captain to take us out for the day?s diving. We didn?t need a proper dive boat, we just needed transport to places we wanted to jump in! Improvisation is key to any adventure.

 

Meanwhile, the adventure was not only limited to exploring underwater. On land, our guide had arranged a home where most of us could sleep while the rest of the group slept on the boat. A large crowd of locals gathered on the jetty to look at the foreigners stepping onto their island; most were children, and the greeting mostly involved staring until someone was brave enough to say ?Hello Mister? (even to the ladies). And they all followed us to the house, where the staring continued until they were shocked by the flash from my camera, then awed when I showed them the photo.

 

Sleeping arrangements were thick mats on the floor or the hammocks we brought. The ladies of the house also prepared basic local meals of fish and rice?the catch was, we had to bring all the food. The island has no electricity for cooling and preserving food, and being rock and sand, there are no vegetables grown. The locals survive on chicken and fish they are able to catch, and a yearly supply of rice and dried cassava that is restocked when their husbands return from their annual 8-10 months of working in mainland Sulawesi or beyond. There is no market on the island to buy food ? the villagers fend for themselves and their families individually.

 

On our final day, we moved about 45 minutes offshore where a local fisherman had shown our guide a pinnacle. This so-called pinnacle turned out to be more of a massive sea mount, as we made 3 dives on it and couldn?t come close to seeing it all! The topography was more sloping reef, and more a more conducive environment for sharks, resulting in whitetips, one large Grey Reef, and (although only one of the group saw it) even a Tiger Shark on the final dive! No one was quite ready to leave, but we were out of food and needed showers and a full night?s sleep. The sights continued during the return trip a large pod of dolphins played just beyond the bow of the boat, and we witnessed a stunning red-orange sunset before darkness fell over the water.

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We were 8 divers from 7 different countries, all friends who came together to explore the unknown. After spending a week with good friends on a small boat, seeing reefs no one has ever seen, more turtles than one could count, various macro even the most experienced of us didn?t recognize and visibility that is difficult to imagine, we all agreed we will be exploring again in the not too distant future.