Sunny weather in the edge of Halmahera Island. You must be wandering at which edge of the small ‘K’ shape island I am at.
Located at Weda, Central Halmahera of North Maluku province, I am enjoying the peaceful of nature. The real actual world where you directly involve with nature objects such as the sea, mountain, jungle and its wild life surrounding it. I had sort of came back before the age of sophisticated technology. Listening to the sound of the jungle wrapped on a hill behind my bungalow’s back, wild birds chirping, leaves swaying by the playful breezy wind, waves rolling without interruption, and the sun is just ‘being’ what is; It is a perfect therapy to infuse our body and mind with the Mother Nature.
In several days, I have been indulging the nature of Weda with activities such as endemic bird watching, snorkelling, fishing, diving, chillaxing, trekking and eating simply delicious food cooked by the locals. I am accompanied by my adventure buddies; Feri Anwar and Muhdi Anto. Our good friend – Rob Sinke is the owner of a number of delicate bungalows that stands by the beach of a primary forest. The bungalows are made out of local sago palm tree. The roofs are made from pinnate Sago palm leafs and its wall from dried sago palm ribs.
Rob who wholeheartedly guide’s us in the adventure activities; is strong, determined, friendly and an adventurous person; originally from Dutch who fell in love with Indonesia for years and had decided to be a proud Indonesian. Noble in his deeds and actions to help conserve and maintain his surrounding environment in Weda bay, he makes sure that the sea and jungle habitats are where it is supposed to be. Together with his wife,he also supports the local communities in the villages of Kobe and Sawai Itepo especially in education and welfare. The main point of the action was to support the cause of a sustainable living. His wife is a cheerful lady, strong with pretty long black hair that falls beautifully over her back waist, originally born and raised from Halmahera Island; she is eager to develop her place with eagerness and full of optimism. I am very happy and blessed to have met the friendly couple in Lembeh Island. A small Island situated at the North of Sulawesi Island – the rather big ‘K’ shape island – during my previous adventure where I had my left arm accidentally stung by a sea creature or ‘something that was unseen’ on the sand underwater during my muck dive there. My arm had grown swollen. It felt and looked like I have been stung by a jellyfish – which I am sure that it wasn’t – and luckily Rob gave me an anti infection cream that had magically heal my arm slowly afterwards.
To get to Weda, we have travelled from Jakarta, took an airplane to Ternate Island. After the arrival, we were picked up by Rob then we went to the local port not far from the airport and took a speedboat to Sofifi town – Capital of North Maluku Province that was relocated from Ternate City by the Government because of the lack infrastructure around the district in Sofifi. It took us around 35 minutes to cross to Halmahera Island. There was a double cabin car waiting for us that was arranged by Rob, and then we ride together to Weda town. Normally, it took around 3 hours to arrive in Weda but since we were having lots of stops enjoying the nature along the way, such as having picnic lunch by the seashore accompanied by the splashing waves, traditional villages, and Desa Payahe where we captured the moment of sunset and the exotic view of Halmahera landscape. It took us 6 hours to arrive to Weda. After letting the orange yellowish of ray light penetrating our body and our gadgets has been filled with its beauty moments, we went inside the car and continued our ride until the sky turns dark. Being the only car driving along the rocky road, no longer Rob had stopped the car. He said there is a python snake crossing the road and we have to wait for it. Feeling impressed with it, we all went out of the car to see the creature. Well, we took more pictures with the nonchalant snake gliding slowly, peacefully and undisturbed. I braved myself to get close to it and ask Feri to snap shot the moment.
One day, after we finished diving, on our way back to the cottage, I remembered Rob saying to me at the dive boat, “If you like adventure, I will take you for an adventure dive!’ It sounded more like a semi challenge slash invitation slash FUN! to me. He was very confident in his voice about making the invitation. I immediately answered, “Yes! Let’s do it!” without further ado thinking where and what spot that he was telling me about, I was already imagining myself diving through a roughly sea current expecting to see the ‘unexpected’ of the underwater sea world. I felt a tingle of my adventurous soul jumping inside my skin. I felt alive! “Since you haven’t seen sharks yet, I will take you to a shark habitat at Shark Mountain” he said. I woke up from my daydream straight away. I wasn’t lucky yet during those days when I dived. I had hope to see a shark swimming in a distance or caught them sleeping somewhere around the corals. Once I have expected it, it just didn’t happen. Oh well, that’s what nature is. It’s never the same and they keep on living, they keep on moving, never stop and they always grow forward. To be quite frankly speaking, I used to have – I would say a slight phobia with sharks, even way back before I did scuba diving. My minds were just playing tricks on me so that I would grow fear for the underwater world. I used to have thoughts like what will happen if I have encounter a shark, what should I do, and then scary films like Jaws entered my mind, what is my self defence, and a lot of horrible imagination about sharks just feeds my fear more. I want to fight it! Someone had said that to erase a certain phobia, oneself must face the phobia object itself bravely until it slowly disappears. I need this! I want to see a shark and let my shark phobia drifts away. I just wasn’t lucky yet to see one. I felt that this is quite strange, I thought maybe the more I want to see one the more the universe isn’t allowing me yet. Or maybe it was just my feelings. Somehow, this emotion has turned into curiosity. Well, I learnt to let go of it and let the universe gives what is best for me. So, Rob has definitely lighted up my wish to see a shark. “Tomorrow we will go” that’s what he said.
I asked Feri about the dive, “Rob had invited us for a diving adventure. Do you want to do it? He offers us to see sharks” then I smiled proudly. After some seconds I realised that he didn’t respond to it. I examined his expression. Travelling together for years, I understand what his face expression exactly meant straight away. He was afraid. I sense his thoughts are swimming among the wild imagination of that adventure dive. I asked him again with a playful annoying tone, “Mau nggak?” – “Do you want to go?” because I know he couldn’t answer it yet. I asked Muhdi as well, he had the same reaction; quiet. He wanted to say something which ended up saying nothing. Oh well, I said to myself.
At the resort, there were also a friendly middle aged couple who stayed and are enjoying their retirement life. They had decided to stay a couple of weeks at a natural remote island in Indonesia among all the other islands and lands in the world. They use to work at the film industries. Now, they have been travelling around the world and dived at many seas. During one time at the dive boat together, we had the same dive plan. I spent my time asking about their diving experiences and especially about sharks – As you may had guess, sharks were my first topic with them. I shared my bewilderment about it. “I haven’t experience seeing a shark yet, so I don’t know what I should be expecting”. And then they started sharing about their dive experiences. What I remember the most about their tips was this: Sharks rarely attack you. What usually freaks people the most are mostly because they were doctrine by films until they get the wrong suggestion about sharks. Indonesia’s sharks are very shy. Once they see you they usually swim away. But just incase for self-defence, when you felt that the situation is uncomfortable; go and stay near a reef wall or coral; look at its eyes directly in a brave expression, and if in a very poor situation punch its nose. But hopefully we don’t have to do this. As long as we respect them and we don’t disturb their habitat, we should be alright. “I will send you a website link if you are interested in studying about sharks later”, said the middle aged lady to me. After receiving more insights about sharks and their diving experiences, I felt assured. Also another very good tip from them about diving is “When you feel that your heart is not right or not comfortable diving at the moment, better cancel it and follow what your heart says. That is important because diving is not really a fun sport. It contains risk especially lives. So, don’t be afraid to say no when you are in doubt diving”. I thanked a lot for sharing their tips and experiences to us. Such nice people they are!
The day was sunny in the morning. “Perfect weather” I thought. We are about to go to the Shark Mountain today. It is located 12 km from the Weda reef and rainforest Resort. We gently rode the speedboat. The waves were nice and the next 20-25 minutes with my amazement we were already far away from land. Not a tiny weenie land to be seen. After that Rob instructed us, “Now we have to look for a white plastic bottle”. I was sceptic. We had to look for a plastic bottle in the middle of the ocean?! Although the sun was bright, the sea looks dark. This means it is super deep water. Previously, Rob had surveyed the dive spot. After he discovered the Shark Mountain, he uses a mark by tying up the white plastic bottle leaving it floating on the surface and tied the other end of the rope at the underwater mountain. I could not imagine him diving with his buddies in the middle of the ocean during the survey to found out the spot that he find was actually a shark habitat! We put on our eagle eye, looking for that white plastic bottle. The waves were rocking our boat while the driver slows down the engine. I could not find it. After a couple of minutes or so, Rob pointed a direction and the dive boat driver drove towards the spot. And there it was the white plastic bottle floating on the surface following the wave’s movement.
Rob gave us a brief dive plan for Shark Mountain. We had to follow the rope that was tied around the white plastic bottle down to the ground of the underwater mountain because the poor visibility causing from the sea depth might get us disoriented. Our dive plan was to dive until 31 meters deep. We have to go slowly and as we can’t stay long at that level of depth, we have to ascend after 5 – 10 minutes.
We got ready instantly. Rob told his dive guide to stay at the boat. The dive guide told us that he saw a hammerhead shark one time down there. Wow! I said to myself. The feeling of being here now at the moment was hard to express. I felt overwhelmed. Then suddenly Rob showed us a medium plastic bottle that was halved filled with water. “This is to call the sharks”, he informed us. “How?” I asked. He squeezed the bottle with his fingers, making a crunch sound. “Usually the sharks like it” he adds up. My head was filled with ‘jaws – film – kind – of – shark’. I shivered. I had that one instant negative feeling emerging at the surface of my heart. Fear. It continued by the scene of heavy load of rocks showered from out of nowhere into my heart. So, the heavy and fear feeling bursts from my chest outwards. My body filled with heavy gas of negative energy. “Okay!” I thought aloud. I inhaled much air supply for my blood circulation to make me feel relaxed. I pushed away my thoughts and meditate quickly, putting a mute numb feeling programmed for my body.
Anyways, I felt much calmer. I look at the dark deep blue colour ocean and sort of shivered again a little bit. I tried to shake all the negative feelings away from my body. Rob already entered the sea, checking on the sea condition. He wore his favourite brown jacket and a boxer as his diving suit. We thought he was joking around at first when we first dived with him before. He had told us how comfortable the jacket was plus the water temperature around Weda bay is just nice and warm. So, now he is wearing his favourite dive suit again. Well, we are use to this eccentric sight already. I wore my scuba equipment on board and when Rob signalled the sea was clear, we three went into the sea. I did my back roll entry.
I felt so small at this wide blue ocean. I looked through my mask underwater. “Eeeks! Dark!”, my heart screamed. “We might get lost” I thought to myself, no wonder Rob wanted us to follow and hold the rope during the descending. I checked out my left and right just in case there might be a shark coming. Phew… I tried calming myself. I went close to Rob and the others.
Feri and Muhdi started to descend. Me? I tried to take some few breaths to ease myself and prepare for a nice entry. Well, not until I inhaled for the last third time, the unseen Rob who had deflated his BCD earlier has pulled my left arm downwards leaving me no choice but to deflate my BCD right away. “Aaaaaargh” my heart said out loud. I was trying to normalize my breathing technique while assuring my own self that everything was going to be okay. Muhdi saw me having that panic eyes inside my scuba mask. I wasn’t aware holding Rob’s arm so tight during the descending because I was focused on trying to breathe normally and kept on motivating myself. Rob guided me to hold on to the rope that was already covered with slippery thick dark green moss. After we were gathered, we descended slowly together. Noticing my surrounding, the only light that I saw was the blinking shiny tiny planktons that were spread everywhere in front of my sight. The vision was like twinkling stars at the dark sky except this was at the real deep sea. Well, nothing else that I can see of other than that. Oh actually, half way through I saw a tiny crab that I nearly squash with my own hand. It went away freely, following the seawater gravity as if jumping looking for another nice spot at the rope to stay. Peace began to start controling my body and mind.
The more we go down, the deeper we get and the darker it goes. Finally we have reached the bottom which is actually the peak of the Shark Mountain. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere except holding on tight towards the rope. 31 metres deep – I checked my dive com. I was looking around the area expecting to see a glimpse of a shark. Or maybe actuallyI was just starting to feel a little bit paranoid. My head was already playing imagination of me seeing a white visual of a body shark swimming or circling around the mountain peak. Feri and Muhdi were concentrated on having a look on whats on the shark mountain ground not far from the rope while waiting for Rob’s instruction. There were healthy corals and colourful fishes around the area. We also saw a lion fish and schooling Jackfish. But don’t expect that we were seeing it in a bright visibility. The water temperature is definitely cooler – or maybe me, Muhdi and Feri were struggling with our own fears. Since the time is ticking, Rob started to take his ‘shark caller’ device…. – The half water filled plastic bottle….
He bravely squashed the bottle into a crunch sound. I look around straight away, realising I was holding other Rob’s arm tightly. Me, Muhdi and Feri acted as we were having a peaceful dive. I sensed they were both in a frequency of having an adventure feeling at this very second as their adrenaline starting to pump more. After couple of seconds, there was no view of a shark; Rob dived further away a little bit out from the rope. He still makes the crunch sound and went back again with no result. He then pulled my hand away from the rope in the meaning of also instructing the others to follow him circling the peak. I half looked at what’s in front of me because I wouldn’t dare to struggle and see over the dark scene around us and rather rely on Rob’s vision. It was definitely black dark in front and underneath us. Especially the sides of the peak going down, aaahhh thinking of it makes me shiver. It’s like reading a book of adventure series full of mystery, risk and adrenaline pumping story. Anyways, every second of the time I try to make peace with my wild thoughts. I just wanted to get back at the centre of the peak and hold the rope instead. Without any luck in seeing a slight body of a shark, we get back to the rope. We waited again for couple of minutes. Rob finally gave us a signal to start ascending. I am not sure whether it was a relief feeling or a feeling of disappointment. Or I guess it was a mix feeling of relief, happy, disappointment, regret, and grateful. The more we went up slowly, the more I felt my heart lightens. Once we reached the surface. Feri told me eagerly that if we had the chance to get back into there again, he would be more ready and confident. Rob told us that maybe it wasn’t our luck yet and also maybe we were in a group while Rob had tried to call the sharks. They noticed our presence, so they weren’t eager to approach the sound. “Usually we could see blacktip, whitetip, grey reef sharks, and sometimes hammerheads” he informed. So, next time again he said, maybe it’s going to be our fortunate and at least we have tried. After the adventure dive session, I felt more ready and definitely another adventure experience that adds up my life journey.
The lesson that I have learnt from this adventure is the same from my previous ones, practicing all kinds of adventure, the process of doing it is much more important rather than expecting good results already at the start because we cannot control the nature. The nature is a great web of living things and we humans are a part of it. Enjoy the process of venture, trust the nature and rely on the universe. It will give you its best along the way. Never get disappointed. Since adventure likes to surprise us in many ways just to make us happy. Be grateful of any kind of adventure situations.