LOVING LEMBEH!

It had been nearly a decade since I got my head underwater in the macro abundant waters of Lembeh Straight…and I was gearing up to take a group of 10 divers on expedition to Lembeh Resort this past November. Once again I wondered if I would be wowed as much as the last time I had been there. And the answer was a definitive YES! I was definitely wowed…even more than ever as this place never disappoints!

Lembeh Resort sits in the lush, green, peaceful hills of Lembeh Straight surrounded by nutrient rich waters, making it the perfect backdrop for an epic yet relaxing dive adventure.

Lembeh Resort sits in the lush, green, peaceful hills of Lembeh Straight surrounded by nutrient rich waters, making it the perfect backdrop for an epic yet relaxing dive adventure.

Mating Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Mating Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Located in Northern Sulawesi in Indonesia, Lembeh Straight is a true mecca for macro lovers. These nutrient rich waters are home to a never-ending list of all the hottest and rarest finds…and you often see many of them in just one dive!

Minutes tick by like seconds and memory cards fill at a rapid pace as your guide points out wonderpus, flamboyant cluttlefish (mating!), pygmy squid, hairy shrimp, frogfish of every shape and color and variety…and the list goes on and on!

But don’t just take my word for it…check out this awesome video that our guest, Matti Oikarinen, shot during our trip. You will be dancing in your seat!

Wonderpus…so mesmerizing to watch as they move through the water and change colors!

Wonderpus…so mesmerizing to watch as they move through the water and change colors!

For this group adventure, I chose Lembeh Resort, home of the reputable dive operation…Critters @ Lembeh (very aptly named). And from the diving to the food to the accommodation…it truly exceeded every expectation and then some. While the resort and dive center have been operational for a very long time, the resort has been recently renovated offering the perfect combination of comfort and style.

Our group stayed in the luxury cottages, which were sublime….and very spacious. The rest of the resort facilities were also amazing. The stylish yet casual restaurant offers fresh, abundant buffets for breakfast and lunch and a multi-course a-la-carte dinner. And the food is out of this world! There are loads of healthy choices but everything is so delicious it is hard to say no to anything on offer — you will definitely not leave hungry! It is also a wonderful place to relax and chat…and have a coffee or a cocktail.

The diving and camera facilities are spacious and well set-up, offering a comfortable and easy experience. There is a large camera room with individual stations and charging facilities conveniently located steps from the dive center, making it very easy to switch lenses and batteries in between dives. The dive sites are so close that you can come back to resort for surface intervals, which means you can charge batteries, grab a coffee, or even take a dip in the pool while you enjoy the view of the volcanoes in the distance. The boats are covered and spacious and have water and fresh towels on board for every guest.

When you are not diving, there are so many places to relax and enjoy the lovely views from the resort. The pool area has tons of comfortable seating and a bar that serves specialty coffees, snacks and cocktails. And there is a full service spa with divine treatments (perfect for your no-fly day!).

Ok I know, I know….enough about the resort and time to hear more about the diving! Well, Lembeh is best know for its volcanic black sandy slope muck diving. These gentle sandy slopes are a literal hotbed of activity and any underwater photographer’s dream (even a self-confessed wide angle addict such as myself!). Since there are only 3-4 divers per dive group, your guide is able to point out hot find after hot find after hot find. Sometimes they even puts sticks in the sand to mark where the cool critters are so you can move on to find the next critter and the next after you get your shots…making for an exceptionally fun underwater scavenger hunt! With so many awesome finds, every person in the group has a chance to work on their shots until you are ready to switch subjects. Heaven!

Hairy Frogish are one of the hottest and most favorite finds in Lembeh.

Hairy Frogish are one of the hottest and most favorite finds in Lembeh.

A Donald Duck shrimp (get it?) is one of the endless species of shrimp to be found in Lembeh.

A Donald Duck shrimp (get it?) is one of the endless species of shrimp to be found in Lembeh.

Dives are long and fruitful…and pass by in the blink of an eye. There is just so much to see and shoot. And they also have a resident Marine Biologist on hand to answer any of your questions and help you ID these crazy cool critters.

But it is worth pointing out that there are also some beautiful surrounding reefs and options for some great day trips. Our group opted to take a full day trip to Bangka Island — we did two reef dives on the way, had an amazing lunch at Bankga Resort and then did another reef dive on the way back. It was an awesome day and a fun break from the muck.

The biodiverse waters of northern Sulawesi also provide some exceptional reef dive and wide angle opportunities.

The biodiverse waters of northern Sulawesi also provide some exceptional reef dive and wide angle opportunities.

Our group enjoying an awesome full day trip to Bangka Island including 3 dives and lunch at Bangka Resort.

Our group enjoying an awesome full day trip to Bangka Island including 3 dives and lunch at Bangka Resort.

In the end our group had a fabulous stay at Lembeh Resort…so much so that we are the process of finalizing our next group expedition to Lembeh Resort in Nov 2020! It will run directly after our next Raja Ampat Expedition on the Indo Siren…making it an epic back-to-back trip extravaganza! As soon as we have the details finalized, it will be listed on our Expedition page and in our Newsletters.

Fisheye Expedition’s 2018 Lembeh Adventure Team!

Fisheye Expedition’s 2018 Lembeh Adventure Team!

And if you can’t join our group trip, it is also really great to know that we are booking agents for Lembeh Resort…and many other top rated resorts and liveaboards and can help you plan the perfect trip when it suits your schedule.

Please contact me with your dates and diving wish list and I will be happy to help you Capture Your Next Adventure!!

Also be sure sign up for the newsletter, which will keep you up to date on all of on all of our latest trip offerings, photo tip and great gear deals!

Best wishes and lots of fishes,

Francesca

REUNITED WITH RAJA AMPAT

I had the great pleasure of working on a liveaboard in Indonesia from 2008-2010 and was lucky enough to dive the hottest areas in the region on a daily basis, including Raja Ampat. To say that I fell in love with Raja would be the greatest understatement of my ocean-loving life. Home to over 1711 species of fish and 600 species of coral, Raja Ampat has been dubbed the global epicenter of marine biodiversity and is arguably the best diving on earth. Both the topside and underwater worlds are so breathtaking, you can’t help but wonder if this is what the world, and ocean, looked like centuries ago.

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When I was planning Fisheye Expedition’s 2018 trip to Raja, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself if I was hyping it up too much in mind. Was I remembering it too fondly after an 8 year absence? Was I over-promising in my declarations of “the best diving on earth” and “jaw-dropping beauty”?! Well I am very pleased to report that it was just the opposite — the diving, which brought tears of joy to my eyes (and other’s on the trip), was better than ever! It was like living every diver’s fantasy dive after dive!

Don’t just take my word for it… please check out this video created by one of our extremely talented guests, Matti Oikarinen, during our recent trip to Raja. It’s magic!

Our group gearing up for a dive on the Indo Siren with all kinds of cameras big and small!!

Our group gearing up for a dive on the Indo Siren with all kinds of cameras big and small!!

This past November, myself and 15 fellow ocean lovers from the US, UK, the Netherlands and Sweden, boarded the lovely Indo Siren for a ten night liveaboard dive adventure. Our trip was scheduled at the perfect time of year, especially because it was silverside season in the south. So when we embarked the Siren in Sorong, Ed (one of the cruise directors) and I conferred about the trip plan and made a great decision to steam straight to Misool to see all the action right away.

The Indo Siren, our floating home for our ten night cruise through Raja Ampat.

The Indo Siren, our floating home for our ten night cruise through Raja Ampat.

And boy was that a great call because the sliversides were putting on a spectacular show! And when I say silversides…I am not just talking about a few groups of them in a creavase or cavern. Oh no…there were sun-eclipsing tornadoes of them almost everywhere you looked. They literally lit up the colorful corals and made the entire reef come to life…as if it was dancing. Then the predatory fish would swoop in with a heart-pumping swooshing sound causing the formations to split and change shape as we all hovered there torn between watching the spectacular show or trying to capture images of this incredible beauty.

A massive school of fish cascading down the reef like a waterfall at Wedding Cake in Misool.

A massive school of fish cascading down the reef like a waterfall at Wedding Cake in Misool.

We spent 5 glorious days in Misool diving all the legendary sites. When you drop in on any given dive you don’t know where to look first — it is like a reef on steroids. And the abundance of fish is just overwhelming. There are a rainbow of colorful soft corals, gorgonian sea fans the size of walls, an amazing diversity of coral and soooooooo many fish of all shapes, sizes and varieties…it just blows the mind. Add in some sharks and mantas…and you have all the elements of a wide angle paradise. It is no wonder how dive sites like Candy Store, Magic Mountain, Andiamo, Love Potion and Gorgonian Passage got their names.

But wait! If you can pry your eyes off the wide angle fish action and look more closely at the reef, you will also find a delightful variety of macro life — including loads of pygmy seahorses…in a variety of species! You can spot some really cool nudibranchs, crustaceans, octopus, and more. So every lens you own should be in your bag, even though it will be hard to pry off your fisheye lens (it was impossible for me!!).

From Misool we steamed north to the island of Batanta for a change of pace and some black sand muck diving — a full day of forced macro with no wide angle distractions:) It was so much fun! We found loads of great critters such as ornate ghostpipefish, cuttlefish, ghost gobies, a crazy variety of nudibranchs and shrimp…and a wonderpus to top it all off!

A pair of ornate ghostpipefish float around the halimeda algae in unison at Algae Patch in Batanta.

A pair of ornate ghostpipefish float around the halimeda algae in unison at Algae Patch in Batanta.

Next we were off to Piaynemo to dive some more world famous sites such as Keruo Channel, My Reef and (my personal favorite) Melissa’s Garden. As you move north you start to see a amazing diversity of hard corals, truly massive schools of fish including fusiliers and barracuda, wobbegongs, black tip sharks and massive as-far-as-the-eye-can-see fields of anthias dancing in staghorn coral.

Anthias dancing in fields of staghorn coral as far as the eye can see at Melissa’s Garden.

Anthias dancing in fields of staghorn coral as far as the eye can see at Melissa’s Garden.

A wobbegong shark sits perfectly posed on a hard coral at Melissa’s Garden.

A wobbegong shark sits perfectly posed on a hard coral at Melissa’s Garden.

We also went on a fabulous land tour a couple of hours before sunset in Piaynemo. First we climbed up the lookout to see the amazing arial view of the emerald colored islands and get some awesome (although sweaty) photos. Then we boarded the dingies for a tour of the lagoons. Afterwards, we went to lovely quiet beach for a sunset picnic and drinks. And to top it all off…on our way back to the Siren, a pod of dolphins swam around our dingy and jumped through the pink tinged water right at sunset. What a perfect day!!

Our entire group enjoying the spectacular view at the lookout at Piaynemo.

Our entire group enjoying the spectacular view at the lookout at Piaynemo.

The last two days of our trip were spent at the iconic dive sites (some of the first discovered in Raja) in the Dampier Straight. We hit all the classics such as Sardine Reef, Mike’s Point, Mioskon and Cape Kri …and they did not disappoint! The Dampier Straight delivered on diversity (fish, coral, species), an abundance of fish (are you sick of me saying that yet?!), plenty of wobbegongs and great photo opportunities.

Chevron Barracuda are among the many species of schooling fish in Raja Ampat.

Chevron Barracuda are among the many species of schooling fish in Raja Ampat.

Schooling glass fish move in unison around the beautiful hard coral at Mike’s Point.

Schooling glass fish move in unison around the beautiful hard coral at Mike’s Point.

There is really not enough I can say about Raja Ampat …except you can be sure I won’t wait another 8 years to return. In fact, Fisheye Expeditions is planning on making it a rather regular occurrence…and we have just booked our next trip on the Indo Siren for November of 2020! Spaces are going fast!

To join our next trip in Raja, or another one of our exciting adventures, please contact Francesca. And be sure sign up for our newsletter, which will keep you up to date on all of on all of our latest trip offerings.

Best wishes and lots of fishes,

Francesca

Francesca in her happy place at the top of Piaynemo after an epic day of diving:)

Francesca in her happy place at the top of Piaynemo after an epic day of diving:)


Happy Diversions

Well sometimes the best laid plans get diverted….as was the case with this blog! But we are very happy to report that that it happened for all great reasons…like getting very busy with our amazing clients… and most notably the formation of a second business/sister company to Roatan Underwater Photography — Fisheye Expeditions & Photographic Services, LLC.

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Fisheye Expeditions, which is a US based virtual business operating since 2016, offers a range of exciting services including:

  • Customized camera gear advice and sales — we are a dealer for Fantasea Line, SEA&SEA, Kraken, iTorch, Weefine, Beneath then Surface and more coming soon. Francesca will recommend gear that fits your goals and budget and will give you room to grow in your underwater photography journey. All orders will be directly drop shipped to your door.

  • Customized dives and underwater photography expeditions to some of the world’s best and most exciting dive destinations. These trips, which are carefully curated and hosted by Francesca , are designed to offer the best, most rewarding and memorable dive and photography experience possible. Recent expeditions have taken us to some thrilling destinations including Anilao and Malaspaqua and the Visayas in the Philippines, Palau, Yap, and Lembeh and Raja Ampat in Indonesia. Next up…French Polynesia!

  • And if you can’t make it on of our exciting groups trips, we are also a booking agent for many of the best resorts and liveaboards in the most exciting dive destinations around the world. Just let us know when and where you want to go and we will help you plan a trip of a lifetime!

  • As of Jan 1, 2019, our Personalized Online Training Sessions are now offered through Fisheye Expeditions.

For now we have been sharing websites with Roatan Underwater Photography but soon that will change…in the mean time check our Expeditions page for our exciting trip lineup…and new trips are being added all the time. Also be sure to check the blog for exciting news and trip reports.

Best wishes…and many fishes!

And So It Begins...

A new business name, a new logo a new website and blog...and an expanded concept all aimed at serving the needs of underwater photography enthusiasts in Roatan, Honduras.

Let me give you a little background...I first visited Roatan in the fall of 2000 when I was backpacking through Central America. I stopped off for what I believed would be a week...and I stayed five (as the story so often goes on this island). A couple of months later I came back to do my Divemaster and Instructor course. Before you know I was working as an Instructor and happily ensconced in the island lifestyle. I hung around for 3 years and racked up a couple of thousand dives before wondering what else was out there in our big blue planet. 

Francesca Diaco, Owner & Professional Photographer

Francesca Diaco, Owner & Professional Photographer

So off I went...for 10 years...to travel, work and dive my way through loads of awesome places...including Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia and more. I loved seeing new places, dive sites, and marine creatures and I soaked up every experience. In 2005 I picked up an underwater camera and I was hooked. After shooting with a compact camera for a year I quickly upgraded to a DSLR...and soon after my diving career evolved into being a full time underwater photographer. I worked as a photo pro, taught underwater photography and was shooting constantly. Then I started writing and publishing in magazines. All up I spent 8 years and thousands of dives in Southeast Asia and Australia working as a photographer. But in the back of my mind I always thought about Roatan.

Overheat Reef, Roatan

Overheat Reef, Roatan

In 2014, I went back to Roatan for a visit and was hooked once again. Soon after that 2 week visit, I went back for 3 months...and finally moved back. This beautiful little island...and its community, diving culture and lifestyle...is like no place I've ever been (and I have been to quite a few). And the reef and the underwater photography opportunities are just amazing!! Since December, I have have been in Roatan working as an independent underwater photographer shooting, writing, publishing...but mainly focusing on teaching underwater photography which is a true passion of mine. I just love helping people develop their talent and love of underwater photography.  

So then...why the new business name, logo, etc? After spending a year in Roatan, I saw the need to develop a dedicated creative space and resource for underwater photographers.  By offering personalized training programs and a full range of professional services, the needs of underwater photographers of all levels can better be served. Whether you are interested in improving your skills, an underwater photo session, camera rentals, or need help planning a dive trip to Roatan...there's something for you. 

I am passionate about promoting Roatan as an underwater photography destination. Its calm, clear blue waters make Roatan one of the best places to learn underwater photography, hone your skills, tackle a new technique or experiment with new gear. Combine that with its topside charm and easy island lifestyle and you have the recipe for the perfect dive and photography vacation!

Follow the blog to read about the latest news and underwater photography highlights from Roatan such as workshop dates, travel deals, and photo competitions...and what is being spotted underwater.  Regular features will also include great underwater photography tips, equipment advice and behind-the-shot posts and highlight the work of photographers who work and train with us.  Hope to see you real soon!!   - Francesca