This is part two of a three-part writeup on the MV Nautica Spooktacular event. Part one can be found here. Stay tuned to find out what happened on the last day of diving that Halloween weekend!
Day 1 of diving at Riau Islands
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise in Riau with Nautica moored and our hearts pumping for adventure; apparently, none of the guests had ever dived in Riau before! After a short but thorough dive briefing from our cruise director, it was finally time to take the plunge!
Our first dive was around Laut Island, at the dive site known as “No More Beers”. There was a mild current when we entered the water, and visibility was about 7 meters or so as we did a relaxing drift dive along the reef. We were greeted with very lush coral life, such as sea fans, harps, robust stag horn and many funnel corals. As we drifted we were amazed to see the viz getting generally better and the corals and macro life was getting more vibrant.
Suddenly, we spotted something odd hiding under a coral, it was a bamboo shark! “No More Beers” turned out to be a really great site for macro marine life. All we needed to do was to stop finning, go with the current and open up our eyes. We managed to find lots of cool marine life such as the pipe fish, tube worms, nudibranchs, and even a sea snake!
We ended the dive after an hour, and upon surfacing, we were greeted with a yummy western style breakfast.
Dive 2 was at Pompong Island. The cruise director mentioned a WWII wreck around the area and with any luck, she would be able to lead us to it. Excited and eager to see the wreck, we descended into the blue waters of Pompong Island.
It was a challenging swim to find the wreck as we were going against the current for about 30 meters from where we descended. Finally after the short swim, we spotted a line connected to the wreck. We latched on to it and pulled ourselves towards the wreck. As it finally came into full view, we all halted to take in the awe-inspiring sight.
The wreck was about 30m long, lying perpendicular to the reef. It stretched out to the open sea, and as we cruised around it, we made sure to keep close so we didn’t get drifted away by the strong open sea currents. The wreck was heavily damaged, leaving only the skeleton of what was once a World War II battle ship.
As we slowly drifted around the wreck, we were amazed at nature’s ability to embrace something foreign and turn it into a living habitat. We left the wreck and continued down the reef, spotting even more macro life.
We were ready to end the dive as we did a mobile safety stop, when we suddenly spotted a juvenile green turtle swimming by carelessly. In our excitement, we swam after it. We weren’t able to follow it for long though, as everyone was already running low on air. Satisfied with this unexpected encounter, we ended the dive with big smiles all around.
Dive 3 was an exploration dive as well as our Halloween costume dive! Upon reaching the dive site we saw the red, rocky surface of the island. As this was the first time here, we weren’t sure what to expect. Still, our guests were thrilled do a bit of exploration.
Everyone brought their costume masks for this dive. Some carried tridents while others pumpkin lanterns and some even painted their faces for the dive. We had a blast taking silly photos in and out of the water. With the wacky antics of the crew and everyone’s eager participation, the costume dive was definitely memorable.
The reef gradually sloped down to a depth of about 14-16m, leading to a sandy bottom covered with beautiful healthy coral and rock formations. We had fun manoeuvring about the formations. There was almost no current for this dive, so all our budding photographers were able to hone their skills while observing the macro marine life such as nudibranchs, pipefish and porcelain crabs.
It was a pleasant change of pace, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves being paparazzied in our costumes. Eventually, we named the dive site “Little Red Dot” because of the reddish rock formation at the surface, and at the same time bringing a bit of Singapore to Riau.
Dive 4 had a whole different world in store for us because it was the night dive. We were going to dive at Saga Island at the dive site known as “What the Crab”, due to the excessive amount of crabs there. Night dives in Riau Islands are completely different from those in Tioman and other populated areas. The only visible light source was Nautica; besides that we were surrounded by inky darkness.
We did a short surface swim towards the bay area and descended as soon as we saw the reef. We cruised around the dive site, generally keeping the reef on our right side. We swam around some lovely coral heads that were almost maze-like in their complexity, which made the night dive much more exciting. We also spotted a few flounders hiding in the sand, which bolted as soon as we came close, as well as small cuttlefish that inked our cruise director when she came too close.
The site really lived up to its name as we saw many species of crabs like the porcelain crab, anemone crab and reef crabs in all shapes and sizes. We did a quick u-turn about 15 minutes into the dive and navigated back to the boat where we saw more sea creatures of the night like shrimps, cuttlefish, flounders and stingrays.
When we surfaced, we were expecting to be close to the boat, however we were actually much further as the current pushed us out a bit further than expected. None of us had a problem with that though, because we were dazzled by the shimmering cloak of stars in the night sky of Riau Islands. Eventually, the dinghy picked us up and we were brought back to Nautica where a surprise was awaiting us.
After the dive, we weren’t quite ready to go to bed. Thankfully, there was a Halloween BBQ dinner waiting for us, and we had games and contests lined up for our guests that night. The dinner had Halloween dishes like “bat wings”, “worm sausages” and “wrinkled potato-heads”, not forgetting candy!
The real fun however, began after dinner. A special Halloween drink was concocted for the guests – the “Blood Shot”. We had a toast and chugged it down like any vampire would. With our bellies filled and bloodthirst quenched, it was time for fun and games.
We started off with charades of popular Halloween movies and all the guests had a ball of a time acting out classic horror movies such as The Exorcist and Nightmare on Elm Street.
The next game we had after more “blood Shots” was the Halloween Scavenger Hunt. Guests had to go around the boat counting bats, reading tombstones, finding clues and remembering dive sites to complete it. It was a close race as many of the guests had completed most of the requirements on the list leaving to find the hidden message on the boat. Finally our youngest diver Jimmy emerged victorious and won himself and exclusive DiveJunkie T-shirt which isn’t even on sale yet.
The night continued on with more laughter and games till late. Both crew and guests were having a ball of a time playing silly games and making fun of each other doing charades, sculpturing, drawings and artist impersonations. It is safe to say the company for this trip was Spooktacularly awesome.
After all the fun and games, we headed to our respective “graves” for bedtime, eagerly anticipating the wonders the next day would bring.
About the writer:
Andhi is a divemaster at Eko Divers, and he was one of the executors of the MV Nautica Spooktacular event. When he’s not in the sea or keeping the shop open, he spends his time knitting and hugging cats.