• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Category Archives: Sulawesi Diving

Travelers Choice 2020 Award for Miguel’s Diving

Travelers Choice 2020 has been given to Miguel’s Diving Gorontalo. This prestigious award goes to the top 10% of worldwide travel businesses on TripAdvisor.

Travelers Choice 2020

On July 28, 2020, TripAdvisor announced the winners of its 18th annual Travelers Choice Awards. This recognizes the best travel-related businesses worldwide. In addition to dive centers, like Miguel’s Diving, hotels, restaurants, and airlines are included. The Travelers Choice Award replaces the Certificate of Excellence given in previous years. Miguel’s Diving has earned the earlier Certificate of Excellence for five years in a row. The 2020 award marks the sixth year achieving recognition via TripAdvisor.

Travelers Choice 2020
Recent TripAdvisor Awards

Only 4,817 business worldwide achieved the Travelers Choice 2020 recognition. Over 8.7 million businesses have a listing on TripAdvisor. They consider millions of reviews left by the public. TripAdvisor evaluated reviews made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They analyzed reviews for quality and quantity to identify businesses with outstanding service.  

Passion for Excellence

Lindsay Nelson is the chief experience and brand officer for TripAdvisor. In announcing Travelers Choice 2020, Nelson said,

“This has been a tough year for our industry. But the global desire to go and explore, whether the destination is an hour away or across the world, remains strong. We’re passionate about guiding travelers to the good out there, especially the good found within these recognized hotels, restaurants and airlines that rise to the occasion in offering the best of the best.”

Rantje Allen extends the deepest gratitude to our guests who have reviewed Miguel’s Diving Gorontalo on TripAdvisor. “Without the support of our diving guests, we would not achieve this prestigious award,” he added.

About TripAdvisor

As the world’s largest tourism site, TripAdvisor contains more than 860 million reviews. Prior to the pandemic, 463 million travelers accessed the website each month. Considered the ultimate travel review site, TripAdvisor is available in 28 languages and 49 markets. Content includes travel planning, price comparison, and guest comments & pictures.  

For your chance to enjoy excellent service, please book your dive trip with Miguel’s Diving.

Pilot Whale Video

Pilot whale video from a calm day on Tomini Bay in Gorontalo made the rounds on social media. One of Miguel’s Diving staff shot the video as a large pod swam by his fishing boat.

Short-Finned Pilot Whales

The cetaceans seen in the video are Short-finned Pilot Whales. Their scientific name is Globicephala macrorhynchus. Distinguishing features include a rounded, bulbous head. Its fins are set forward on its body and point sharply back. The mouth slants upward. Mostly, its color is uniformly black. Some individuals exhibit a diagonal stripe from eye to dorsal fin and a cape. Sometimes, a lighter belly patch is visible. The body is slender but robust.

Short-finned pilot whales breaching

Short-finned Pilot Whales are among a group of marine life called blackfish. These cetaceans are mostly jet black in color. The Long-finned Pilot Whale is not found in our area, as it prefers the cold waters of the northern and southern oceans. In Gorontalo, Miguel’s Diving staff have seen other blackfish species. This includes Pygmy Killer Whale, Melon-Headed Whale and False Killer Whale. Surprisingly, Miguel’s Diving staff and guests also see Killer Whales or Orca. In addition to the pilot whale video, we have videos of orca in Gorontalo.

Human and Pilot Whale Encounters

On their days off, several of Miguel’s Diving staff venture into the deep waters off Gorontalo. Their goal is to catch Yellowfin tuna. They use traditional handline method. After a tuna is hooked, the fisherman will pull in this catch using only his skill and the strength of his arm. This will take over an hour. Typically, tuna will weigh between thirty and eighty kilos. The fisherman’s small outrigger canoe has room for only one fish at a time. This demonstrates the sustainability of their traditional method.

pilot whale video
Outrigger canoes in Gorontalo

If the fisherman pulls in his catch at sees only half a tuna, that means that a Mako shark has eaten the other half. The shark will purse the fisherman returning home with his catch to get the other half of the tuna. However, if the fisherman pulls in his tuna and sees only a string of bones, that means a Short-finned Pilot Whale has eaten the meat and eyes.

During tuna runs, after a few whales appear, they will call others. In the coming days, more and more pods of pilot whales appear in the fishing area. Numbers reach hundreds upon hundreds. When this occurs, the tuna will panic and flee the area. The fishermen are left behind, but the pilot whales will pursue. The name for his whale in Gorontalo language is paupau.

Pilot Whale Video

Recently, Boka, one of Miguel’s Diving staff, was at sea in his outrigger canoe when a pod of pilot whales began to pass. Using his cell phone, Boka shot this pilot whale video. Short-finned pilot whales do not breach often. So, the breaching seen is this video is remarkable. Also, viewers can hear the whales exhale as they breach the surface. Divers occasionally see them during surface intervals when we move the speed boat to the next dive site. For your chance to see cetaceans in Gorontalo, like pilot whales, please book your trip with us!

Who is Miguel?

Curious travelers sometimes ask this question. At other times, divers call the dive center and ask to speak with Miguel.

Who is Miguel: The Official Answer

He is the first son of the company’s founding director Mustafa Abulhajat. At the time of exploration work for the dive business in Gorontalo, he was only four years old. Now however, our dive center is ready to enter its eighteenth season. Miguel is now in his mid-twenties.

Arriving from a motorcycle trip

To understand who is Miguel, one must realize that he is not only a scuba diver. He also loves to sky dive. Another passion comes directly from his father. That is long distance motorcycle trips. Miguel has driven the mountainous Trans-Sulawesi highway from his home in Manado to Gorontalo. That trip took several days. Each trip he will stop by the dive center for a photo op.

The current answer to the question who is Miguel has a professional angle. He has a post with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Beside speaking Bahasa Indonesia and Manadonese, he speaks English, Dutch, and French. At the time of his appointment, he ranked number three out of one thousand candidates nationwide. Not doubt, the crew at Miguel’s Diving is very proud of him.

Pioneers in the Dive Industry

Miguel school boy
Miguel as a schoolboy

Who is Miguel also has a family answer. His grandfather was an influential figure in the early days of tourism in Manado. His father counts among the first Indonesians active in diving Bunaken. His grandfather also ran the first electrical lines to remote western Gorontalo. In those days, no bridges crossed the rivers there.

Originally, Mr. Mustafa created Miguel’s Dive Club to support diving activities around Bunaken Marine Park. After he made the decision to open diving in Gorontalo, the company name became Miguel’s Diving Center. We are the pioneer dive operator in Gorontalo. Other operators have come and gone. We have operated seasonally since opening in 2003.

Experience Counts

who is Miguel
Graduating with a law degree

Our business model is based on ecological sustainability and community development. To sail and dive Gorontalo waters requires experience of the area’s micro environments. So, we train Gorontalo fishermen as dive staff. Our guests benefit from their local knowledge.

Miguel’s Diving provided the push to create Olele Village Marine Park. Our staff are officially recognized as guardians of Gorontalo’s marine environment. This includes community education and input to government programs. They also report violations to marine patrol officers.

For your chance to dive with Gorontalo’s pioneer dive operator, please make your dive reservations with us.

DIVER Magazine Features Salvador Dali Sponges

DIVER magazine features Salvador Dali sponges and their distinctive swirls in an article by Steve Jones.

Swirled Surfaces

Salvador Dali sponge
One of Gorontalo’s Salvador Dali sponges

One of Gorontalo’s claim to fame is the discovery of Salvador Dali sponges. This morphology of Petrosia lignosa is unique to the northern coastline of Tomini Bay, Indonesia. The article found in DIVER magazine explains the discovery. Also, it explains the origin of these bizarre looking sponges. Rantje Allen christened this sponge after the famous Spanish painter. He is the diving pioneer in Gorontalo. The surreal style of Salvador Dali describes the appearance of these giant sponges.

Divers will usually find these sponges below 25 meters. At those depths, they are protected from seasonal high waves and storms. Additionally, they grow off the vertical coral walls in Gorontalo. There, ocean currents bring plankton to them. The article explains how they can break off in storms. When this happens, these ancient giants fall to the ocean bottom. They can no longer feed and soon die, turning to dust in a matter of weeks.

DIVER Magazine Spring 2020

DIVER magazine is the longest established dive magazine in North America. It is published in British Columbia, Canada. Moreover, DIVER magazine is available in print, mobile and on-line editions. This flexibility in format makes the magazine a favorite among divers.

DIVER Magazine cover
DIVER Magazine Spring 2020

Currently, divers are mostly staying at home because of the corona virus (Corvid-19). As a result, DIVER magazine is making its Spring 2020 edition free of charge. Interested divers simply click this link and then access magzter. Then they can open an account and enjoy free access to this edition and others for a seven-day period. What a great idea!

An Award Winning Photographer

This Spring edition of DIVER magazine contains an article on Salvador Dali sponges. Accompanying the article are incredible underwater photographs by Steve Jones. Mr. Jones is an award-winning underwater photographer and journalist. His travel and work spans the globe, including Antarctica.

During his worldwide travels, Mr. Jones visited Gorontalo during wave season. Ocean conditions are challenging during that time of year. However, he left with a sizeable archive of spectacular photos of Gorontalo’s marine environment.

The article also explains conservation efforts of Gorontalo’s marine environment. Specifically, Mr. Jones describes the great care that Olele villagers take of their home reefs. Additionally, the education campaigns that Miguel’s Diving promotes get a shout out.  

After enjoying the article consider becoming a subscriber to DIVER magazine. Then, please make your dive reservations with us to see those Salvador Dali sponges for yourselves!

Clownfish eggs delight scuba divers

Clownfish eggs delight divers who happen to spot them. The parents will lay a patch of eggs close to an anemone. That anemone serves as their protective residence.

Clownfish Eggs from Light to Dark

clownfish eggs guarded by parents
Clownfish tend their eggs

When mating time approaches, the male clownfish will select a place for the female to lay her eggs. Moreover, the place will be close to the protective cover of their host anemone. He will clean the area, removing debris and any algae there. When the female is ready, she will join the male and inspect the location. She will deposit from 400 to 1,000 eggs in a patch. The male will fertilize them immediately. Each egg will measure about three to four millimetres in length.

After that, the male will tend the clownfish eggs. He will fan the eggs with his fins and clean them with his mouth. Also, he will eat any infertile eggs. New eggs are brightly colored from yellow to red. This depends on the species. However, as the clownfish eggs mature, their color darkens noticeably. This process takes about six to eight days to mature. Prior to hatching, the eggs become transparent. At that time, divers can the eyes and mouth of the new Nemos inside the eggs.

Clownfish eggs will hatch a few hours after dark. Research shows that these eggs will not mature in the presence of light pollution. The new larvae or fries swim in the free ocean and eat plankton. Those that survive will seek an anemone to call home. As they grow, they gradually acquire immunity to the stings of their host anemone. Researchers disagree on how immunity is acquired.

Transgender Rules

clownfish eggs ready to hatch
Clownfish eggs ready to hatch

The largest clownfish in a colony will be the female. All nemo fries are male. If the female dies or is removed, the dominant male will become female. That means that clownfish are hermaphrodites.

Because these fish live with anemones, some people call them anemonefish. Also, many people call them Nemo, a name that people easily recognize.

Clownfish of Gorontalo

Clownfish live in Asia Pacific waters where the species number twenty-eight. The clownfish from the Nemo films is the False or Western clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). Almost identical is the Orange or Eastern Clownfish (Amphiprion percula). Sulawesi marks the transition area between western and eastern species. Both of these have been photographed in Tomini Bay where Miguel’s Diving operates.

The Eastern clownfish looks different than the western species. Its black edging is noticeably thicker. Also, the eastern species has an orange iris. This makes its eye look smaller.

For your chance to see clownfish eggs, please book your dive trip with us.

MIDE 2019 features Gorontalo Marine Environments

MIDE 2019, the Malaysia International Dive Expo, featured a presentation on Gorontalo’s marine environments. Staff from Miguel’s Diving delivered this full-color session from the stage of the Indonesia Pavilion.

MIDE 2019: the Malaysia International Dive Expo

The 14th Malaysia International Dive Expo took place 3 – 5 May 2019. It is also called MIDE 2019. Malaysia’s famous Putra World Trade Centre or PWTC provided the venue. The Exhibition opened daily to the public at 10 a.m. It closed nightly at 7 p.m.

Gorontalo’s Marine Environments

On Saturday, 4 May, Miguel’s Diving accepted the invitation from Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism to deliver a presentation about Gorontalo. We selected the topic of Gorontalo’s marine environments. Much variety in environments means much variety in diving. After introducing the team of Miguel’s Diving, our staff explained the nature of Gorontalo’s geography. Ancient coral uplifts form the rocky northern coastline of Tomini Bay. Moreover, the soft limestone erodes over time and forms dramatic underwater scenery. This also creates multiple environments within a short distance.

Gorontalo Marine Environments explained at MIDE 2019
Gorontalo Marine Environments explained at MIDE 2019

Gorontalo’s pristine coral walls actually form part of the continental wall of Sulawesi. On these deep walls, our famous Salvador Dali sponges grow in surreal shapes and super sizes. Each is unique in profile. Moreover, they come in a variety of colors. A top the coral walls lies a shallow ledge, sometimes measuring only a meter wide. Different marine life live here, giving divers another type of environment to experience in the same dive.

Another characteristic of Gorontalo’s geography is submerged points. These are frequent features found along the coastline. The bay’s longshore currents hits theses points, creating a swirl of activity. Schooling pelagic fish and strange creatures of the deep ocean can be seen in these locations.

In other places in the world, having a single coral pinnacle is considered special. However, in Gorontalo, multiple pinnacles compose several dive sites. Gorontalo’s famous whale shark sightings most often occur along a row of coral pinnacles.

Caverns also occur in Gorontalo. However, none of these are underwater caves. Cave diving requires technical skills, certification and preparation. Caverns offer a safe alternative, since the way out is always clearly visible.

Muck basins alternate with other marine environments. Like all of Gorontalo’s marine environments, these are actually quite small. As a result, this means that marine life is more crowded than in locations where muck diving is found in a large area.

Gorontalo even has a couple of artificial reefs. Specifically, these are historical wrecks.

Gorontalo for Malaysian Divers

MIDE presentation
Fans of Miguel’s Diving at MIDE presentation

Gorontalo is an excellent destination for Malaysian divers. Pristine dive destinations are often difficult to reach. Not so Gorontalo! Air Asia offers daily flights from Kuala Lumper’s KLIA2 airport to Makassar (UPG) four times weekly. The connecting flight to Gorontalo (GTO) lasts about one hour ten minutes. This is the route we recommend for Kuala Lumpur based divers.  

Additionally, Gorontalo’s diving season is the opposite of most peninsular Malaysian destinations. Our season runs mid October to mid May. Officially it is November to April. Now there is no reason to cry during monsoon-lah. Come dive in Gorontalo! For many Malaysians food can be an issue. Food in Gorontalo is halal.

Even if you missed our presentation at MIDE 2019, you can still book your dive trip with us.

ADEX 2019 Welcomes Back Miguel’s Diving

ADEX 2019 welcomes back Miguel’s Diving after an eleven year absence. Believe it or not, Miguel’s Diving last participated in this regional dive exhibition in 2008.

ADEX 2019 – Bigger by Far

This year’s Asia Dive Expo actually marked the event’s twenty-fifth outing. Back in the earlier years, the expo was much smaller. When Miguel’s Diving last participated, the square footage was under 2,500 with visitors totaling under 20,000. ADEX 2019 filled over 10,000 square feet at Suntec City Convention Center in Singapore. Last year’s expo gathered over 40,000 consumer visitors. About half that number of trade visitors came. In 2006, Miguel’s Diving sponsored a Lucky Draw.

As in previous years, Miguel’s Diving filled a regular three by three meter booth. This year’s location was K16. The booth included photos of Singapore-based divers who have dived with us in Gorontalo. Also, one panel of the booth displayed beautiful underwater photos. One of our Singaporean divers took these photos during his third trip to Gorontalo last December. 

Friends Old and New

One of the highlights of this and any exhibition is too meet many enthusiastic divers from around the world. Not only did Singapore divers visit the Miguel’s Diving booth. So did divers from Dubai to Taiwan.

Fadel Muhammad ADEX 2019
Member of Parliament Fadel Muhammad visits

Another great benefit of dive expos such as ADEX is the chance for reunion. Many who had previously dived Gorontalo with us, stopped by to say hello and catch up on the latest news. This included dive buddies from Malaysia and Indonesia.

We felt especially honored that Minister of Parliament from Gorontalo Prof. Dr. Ir. Fadel Muhammad attended two days of the expo.

Campaign against Single-Use Plastics

Each year ADEX highlights an important aspect of marine environment. ADEX 2019 launched a campaign against single-use plastics. Too many of these often end up in the world’s oceans.  In fact, people dump eight millions tons of plastics into the ocean annually. According to the World Bank, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam discard the most plastic into the ocean.

Singapore, the host of ADEX 2019, consumes 1.76 billion kilograms of plastics each year. This statistic comes from the Singapore Environment Council. Unfortunately, less than twenty per cent of that is recycled.

Anne the plastic queen
Plastic as Fashion

Indonesian ocean artist Anne K. Adijuwono staged a fashion show featuring 25 endangered species. She also created a mural using plastic waste. Mermaid Dewa designed outrageous costumes for a traveling troupe leading the cry against single-use-plastics. 

Miguel’s Diving has long had a plastics policy in place. It involves four actions. They are refuse, reduce, recycle and reclaim. For your chance to participate in our efforts to reduce single-used plastics bound for the ocean, please book your dive trip with us.

Whether or not you had a chance to see us at ADEX, we would love to have you show you the hidden paradise of Gorontalo. Please book your dive trip with us.

Deep Extreme Indonesia 2019 Features Miguel’s Diving Staff

Deep Extreme Indonesia 2019
Underwater Talks

Deep Extreme Indonesia 2019 features one of Miguel’s Diving staff as guest speaker. Our senior dive master and marketing assistant Yunis Amu participated in UW Talks. These talks featured various Indonesians well known in the dive industry. We are very proud that he received this invitation.

Manual UW Settings for Beginners

In his UW talk, Yunis targeted divers who use only automatic settings when photographing underwater. He challenged them to advance their skills and use manual settings. This would give much better results in underwater photography.

After introducing himself, he divided his UW Talk into several sections. First was Aperture or F-Stop, then Speed and then ISO. He included a section on Strobes and ended with cautions about Buoyancy. To support his UW Talk, he shot a variety of marine life common in Gorontalo. That included Salvador Dali sponge, red sea whips, Thorny seahorse, lionfish, Harlequin ghostpipefish and sea fan. These he shot at various settings to illustrate the impact a change of settings would have on a particular photo.

Yunis Amu in action

He completed this UW Talk for Deep Extreme Indonesia 2019 with several dramatic and excellent photos. These included a rare bell jellyfish, nemo and nemo eggs, whale shark in sunburst and seahorse shot with black background and bokeh style. All underwater photographs presented were original and without any computer editing.

DEEP Extreme Indonesia 2019

Miguel’s Diving has participated in this annual dive expo since its inception. Deep Extreme Indonesia certainly maintained its reputation as a well-run, regional dive expo this year. The variety of exhibitors is one of its hallmarks.

Two of Miguel’s Diving staff attended the expo and promoted diving in Gorontalo.

Meanwhile back in Gorontalo, our staff hosted international divers, providing great service and great diving. This included five whale sharks and 35 meter visibility!

For your chance to study underwater photography in Gorontalo with our staff, please book your dive trip with us!

Dogtooth Tuna Video

Dogtooth tuna video recently shot in Gorontalo is now available for viewing.

Tuna on the Reef Edge

Although Gorontalo is famous for its Yellowfin tuna, the tuna that divers will most likely see here is Dogtooth. This tuna is one of the apex predators like Giant trevally and large groupers.  They eat smaller schooling fish that thrive off Gorontalo’s coral walls. These include fusiliers, fairy wrasses, scads and rainbow runners. As evidenced in the Dogtooth tuna video, these fish are curious about divers. As a result, they will often make several passes, giving time for visitors to get cameras ready.

Lucky Dogtooth Tuna Video

A prime dive site for viewing larger schooling fish is Buffalo Head Point.  It numbers among Gorontalo’s many submerged points. These points jut away from the cliff above water and away from the underwater coral wall. Moreover, this position interrupts the smooth flow of the area’s longshore current. When a strong current is running, schooling fishes will congregate off these submerged points.

On the day this Dogtooth tuna video was shot, the current was moderately strong. Also, the plankton count was high. Notice all the backscatter in the video. That is living plankton. As a result, schooling fish that feed on plankton gathered in abundance. Notice the Blue-and-yellow fusiliers in the video. This is the kind of fish that fast swimming Dogtooth tuna love to eat.

Although dive staff often see large fish in these conditions, everyone was surprised with the close encounter with schooling Dogfish tuna.

Tuna without Scales

The scientific name for Dogtooth tuna is Gymnosarda unicolor. Unlike other sarda, this one lacks scales. Hence its official name, since gymno means “naked” in Greek. This silvery fish is considered unicolor, in contrast to other tunas like Yellowfin or Bluefin. It sports a single, undulating lateral line.

dogtooth tuna video
A Dogtooth tuna cruises in Gorontalo

Divers can easily recognize this streamlined fish. It has white tips on its upper and lower back fins. The caudal peduncle also shows a white area. These white markings are clearly visible in the Dogtooth tuna video. Also, notice that the fish’s upper jaw extends even with its eye. This fish swims with its mouth open, showing its many conical teeth.  

The average size of Dogtooth tuna that divers see swimming along Gorontalo’s coral walls is between 40 to 120 centimeters. Mature fish can measure up to two meters in length and weigh up to 120 kilograms. These swim in depths as deep as 300 meters. Miguel’s Diving staff estimate the larger ones seen in the Dogfish tuna video weighed about 50 kilos!

This tuna species lives in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region.

For your chance to see Dogtooth tuna in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us!

Drone Videos of Gorontalo’s Dramatic Coastline

Drone videos made in Gorontalo make for excellent memories.

Gorontalo’s Dramatic Coastline

The best locations for brilliant drone videos are in place with steep profiles and good color. That makes Gorontalo’s southern coastline an excellent choice. Steep mountains and cliffs plunge directly into the deep blue waters of Tomini Bay. Divers with drones get the best opportunities to visit coastal sites where land access is nearly impossible.

Drone Videos: The Latest Trend

Actually, a drone is a class of unmanned aerial vehicles. By the definition, clearly the human pilot is not on board. Someone on the ground – or on a dive boat – controls the craft. Sometimes, UAVs operate autonomously via computer programing. Clearly, there is a communication system between the hovering UAV and its remote controller.

Although initially made for military purposes, nowadays most UAVs are civilian owned. The name “drone” comes from the craft’s resemblance to a male bee. Listen to its sound and wing movements.

Classic Aerial Shots

Aerial shots have long been part of major films. With the emergence of commercially available UAVs, ordinary people can now make this type of video. In the three videos shot from a Miguel’s Diving speed boat, you can see classic aerial shots.

Pan shots are great for capturing dramatic scenery, such as the cliffs along Gorontalo’s coastline. The pan shot can be from left to right or right to left while the drone is hovering in a stationary position. Sometimes, this is called an aerial or high pan. For a more exciting shot, the pan can be done while the drone is in motion.

Skilled UAV users can also make an orbit shot. Notice how the camera makes a 360 degree spin above the dive boat in the Tjenderawashi Wreck video.

Flyer over shots bring a focus object into view while giving a clear context. Notice the flyer over shot of a Miguel’s Diving speed boat.

The Fly by shot is actually a bit different than the fly over. The focus object is parallel to the camera rather than below it. One shot of the dive boat on the Olele Marine Park video represents this type of shot.

Another great technique is the reverse shot. The drone pulls the camera in reverse and away from the focus object. This shot makes a great finish to the Buffalo Head Point video.

Additionally, Pedestal shots are great for capturing a towering object, such as a mountain. The shot usually moves from bottom to top. To achieve this effect, the drone rises in elevation.

Want to make your own drone video along Gorontalo’s coastline? Bring your UAV and have some fun above water during your dive surface intervals. To make arrangements, please book your dive trip with us.

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