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Dive Sites - Gorontalo

1. Alleyways

Aside from going for P&O cruises or just swimming, one can have an extraordinary time in the beach by diving here. This is a weird but rewarding dive site and a favorite for patient underwater photographers. It features coral spurs protruding down steep white sand slopes, unusual for Sulawesi diving. These become gigantic wall spurs towards the point and plunge deeply into the channel. The shallow reef flat is much broader than at other Gorontalo dive sites and has scattered hard corals, rocks, and rocky substrate where Ridged Leather and Mushroom Leather corals (Lobophytum spp. and Sacrophyton spp.) grow. Below the reef flat is a slope, sometimes gentle, sometimes steep. Its coral cover becomes excellent toward the point. Damage to coral is more apparent here than at other dive sites. This has opened up habitat to marine life, such as large numbers of lionfish and Ribbon eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita), which prefer shallow rubble to pristine coral. Since substrate for coral and encrusting marine life is extremely limited in Gorontalo, openings in the coral thicket provide places for new life to grow, as this reef proves. Also, various nudibranchs are more commonly found here. Another reason to dive this site is to see the patches of Spotted garden eels (Heteroconger hassi) that are not present at most other sites in Gorontalo. No other dive site here has features similar to this one.
This site is about 400 meters long.
Depth: 3 - 30 meters
Highlights: lionfish, garden eels, ribbon eel, sea turtle, barracuda, large triggerfishes, numerous parrotfishes, dramatic spur-and-grove coral terrain
Conditions: Because of the sand bottom, visibility is rarely fantastic, typically runs 10 meters, but can range between three and 30 meters! Any wave action will stir up the sand, as will cold upwellings from the channel and careless fin kicks. Sometimes a light current will run at the point.
Special Note: The beautiful fins on those lionfish are extremely venomous; do not touch! Also, avoid resting body parts on the sand, especially your hands. Use your console gauge to anchor in the sand while watching the lionfish and garden eels.
Virtual Dive
The dive begins among scattered coral and sand. Almost immediately numerous lionfish come into view. Their long dorsal spines and pectoral fins quiver like banners in the breeze. Some of the fish are quite large; others clearly small juveniles. A large triggerfish rushes up the sand slope to look at the invading humans before quickly turning and disappearing down the slope. On cloudy days, sea pens will emerge from their homes in the sand to unfurl their feather-like polyps to feed.
After swimming along the boundary between coral rock and sand, divers slowly skirt a patch of garden eels that are poking their heads out of the sand. Numerous large parrotfish travel back and forth over the coral slope above. After crossing two small spurs of coral and past clumps of large branching Acropora, divers approach a line of blackness. Suddenly visibility clears and a wall of dense coral looms directly in front. This spur rises sharply from the sand bottom and plunges into the darkness below.
After rounding this spur, divers cruise the crest of a series of spurs poking down into the sand like giant toes. Rounding one tall spur, divers may encounter the shy resident Blue-spotted puffer (Arothron caeruleopunctatus). Given its large size, it is hard to believe that this species remained unnoticed until being named in 1994. Divers pass the first of several sand channels spilling down the slope, and then see a long strand of discarded cable draped from the top of a pinnacle to the slope, its length already decorated with sponges and tunicates.
When the dive gauge indicates time to ascend to a higher level, turn back and take the passage between a pinnacle and the slope. Enjoy the delightful shallow coral garden teeming with fish during the safety stop.

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2. Chimneys

Rarely dived because of its distance from Gorontalo City, this wall is gouged by about 20 deep, narrow, and straight cuts plunging down the wall face from its shallow reef crest. Only a few of these channels are wide enough for a diver to enter. Most are too narrow. Many of these "chimneys" are clogged with unidentified specie of gorgonian white fan. They obviously thrive in the protected environment inside the chimneys. This section of wall is also home to a noticeably higher number of large gorgonian sea fans than other sites in Gorontalo, including pale colored ones not found elsewhere. Another unique feature of this site is the lack of much intervening flat or slope between the upper wall and the next lower one. Humphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) as well as Pinnate batfish (Platax pinnatus) like this site and pass in large schools.
This site is about 550 meters long.
Depth: 0 - 40 meters
Highlights: a few caves, narrow chimneys clogged with white fans, deep lower wall, numerous gorgonians.
Conditions: Unfortunately because of past blast fishing on the reef crest, visibility at this site rarely exceeds 18 meters and sometimes is irritatingly cloudy after high winds or heavy surf. Owing to its proximity to the point jutting farthest into the sea, currents here can be unpredictable. Cold upwellings and down currents are most noticeable at new moon and full moon. Any wind will usually make this site unreachable.
Virtual Dive
Divers electing to dive at an 18-meter depth will begin noticing the wall's many narrow chimneys as they pass five bends. The wall straightens after the sixth bend. Divers notice a very narrow shelf below, edged in deep black water. Experienced divers may wish to start their dive here at the limit of no-decompression diving to peer down the dark face of the lower wall, to investigate the cavern tucked above the shelf, and to search for creatures of the deep.

On the wall's mid to upper levels, divers notice the high number of gorgonian sea fans before reaching one of the few chimneys large enough for a single diver to enter. The interior of this chimney is covered with tiny white fans. After another 100 meters, the wall is scarred by numerous fissures and a quick succession of ten chimneys, most crowded with tiny white fans. Only the first one is large enough to enter. Sunlight floods these fan-filled chimneys. This section of the wall also has some fine Dendronephthya soft coral. After your dive, ask the dive master to find the smurf blue coral. A single example of iridescent blue branching Acropora grows on the reef crest. This unusual coral is more typically found in coral gardens in west Gorontalo in Tomini Bay. Northern Sulawesi, including Gorontalo, is home to over 500 species of hard coral.

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3. City Limits

Sulawesi diving is famous for its incredible marine diversity and diving within the limits of Gorontalo City confirms this view. After only a brief boat ride, divers can explore a double coral wall. The first wall begins virtually at the surface and quickly becomes a steep slope with a sandy shelf or two, where the distinctive Celebes splendor wrasse (Cheilinus celebicus) is found. The second wall begins around 18 meters, falling to about 50 meters. More than 160 species of fish have been recorded here, including 15 butterflyfish species, a key indicator of a healthy reef. Our dive guides can show you Tomini Bay’s endemic Orange-back wrasse (Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis 1999). Although hard corals are dense and diverse here, this dive site also has areas of rubble, which provide habitat for different marine life.
Along with five types of anemonefish including Nemo, anemones here are crawling with Sarasvati commensal shrimp (Periclimenes sarasvati 2002). Another new specie, Coleman’s coral shrimp (Vir colemani), only named in December 2003, makes its home here. In addition to these new species, several yet unnamed ones are also commonly found here, such as the Yellowspot slingjaw wrasse (Ephibulus sp.), Hybrid flasher wrasse (Paracheilinus sp.), and a newly discovered endemic, the Yellow crown demoiselle (Chrysiptera sp.). A colony of rare Pinkeye gobies (Bryaniops natans) has proved a huge hit among underwater photographers. Because of its closeness to the boat dock, great marine diversity, and the chance to see many of our new species in one dive, this dive site has quickly become a favorite.
This site is about 550 meters long.
Depth: 0 - 40 meters
Highlights: double coral wall, new species, anemonefishes
Conditions: Visibility typically is about 15 meters. It can be adversely affected by waves or rain that stirs up the sand and by silt-laden water from the adjacent river. Currents are seldom an issue.
Special Note: This site has the only nice beach within Gorontalo City limits. The wide seagrass flat is usually too shallow to snorkel but Snowflake morays (Echidna nebulosa) and baby octopi love this area.
Virtual Dive
Divers descend to a small sandy ledge full of cauliflower soft coral where Celebes wrasse and the endemic Orange-back wrasse are easily spotted. Cruising just above the wall top, divers skirt a huge pinnacle where a school of up-side-down swimming Coral shrimpfish hover (Aeoliscus strigatus). After a swath of coral rubble tossed down from the reef flat above, the right angle of the upper wall looms ahead. While crossing a steep sand slope, watch for a White-spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) plowing the sand for mollusks.

After the surreal dimness of the wall bottom, divers enjoy more sunlight through a series of ridges and pinnacles sprinkled over a steep slope of coral and sand. After rounding a small point, divers traverse a section of wall gouged by steep coral-filled bowls. Midway is a massive coral point with a large crack. Beyond this point the curved wall is pitted with numerous large holes. Here a long length of shipping cable hangs from the wall down to a much deeper flat. Sponges and other marine life live in mid water on the surface of the cable. Just beyond this, the wall abruptly ends with a channel tumbling from the reef crest to the steep slope below. At the clumps of red whip coral on the adjacent point, divers turn back for a slow ascent to safety stop level over a gentle coral slope.

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4. Helicopter Bay

This tiny inlet measuring only six meters wide gets its name from a rock formation that resembles a helicopter. The inlet penetrates about 65 meters into the wall to a rocky beach rimmed with cliffs. The inside walls feature a shallow cavern or two, a skylight punched into the reef crest, and overhangs. Although not colorful like the coral growing on the ocean-facing wall, the sand and mud bottom is home for marine life not found elsewhere in this part of Gorontalo, including flounder, various types of large sand gobies, some amazing nudibranchs, and the spooky Estuarine stonefish (Synanceja horrida).
The exit to the wall features a deep cavern tucked under the bottom of the wall, as well as a unique double tunnel not yet large enough for divers to pass through.
This site is about 65 meters deep.
Depth: 0 - 40 meters
Highlights: interesting environment, a double tunnel
Conditions: Currents are seldom an issue. Visibility at this site rarely exceeds 15 meters since any wave action will stir up the silt bottom. Any wind will usually make this site unreachable.
Special Note: Be extremely cautious about walking around in the shallow waters of the inlet. It is home to Estuarine stonefish (Synanceja horrida). Its extremely venomous spines have caused death. Most marine venoms break down with heat, including that of this fish. Applying hot water compresses is a good first aid treatment.

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5. Hole in the Rock

This is the best example of coastal diving typical of Gorontalo, which features steep slopes and walls that have eroded into complex groups of points alternating with deep basins. The slopes and walls will usually have dense coral cover. The basins can have sand or coral. Shallow coral rubble is the environment of the dragon-faced Ribbon eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita). The shallow coral garden here is one of the widest and most spectacular in Gorontalo, making it one of the few places good for snorkeling. Unlike other sites where the coral is highly diverse, this site features numerous patches of single species coral. Several huge Acropora table corals grow here.
Marine life at this site is quite varied. A skittish Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) lives here, as well as a Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). The vertical points are good places to look for the elusive alligator-shaped Arrowhead soapfish (Belonopera chadanaudi) hovering in deep water. The bright yellow spot on its tail saddle is the first thing you will notice. A dive torch may be necessary to see the strikingly beautiful pattern on the dorsal fin, which it flexes before disappearing under an overhang. So far, 18 species of butterflyfish have been identified here. If you want the dive master to look for Pajama cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera) or Pinkeye gobies (Bryaniops natans), let him know before you begin diving, as your request will affect the way the site is dived.
This site is about 550 meters long.
Depth: 3 - 35 meters
Highlights: garden eels, ribbon eels, sea turtle, good variety of tropical fish, complex underwater geography, spectacular shallow coral garden
Conditions: Because of the amount of sand in the area, visibility is often only in the 15 - 18 meter range. At times, visibility is noticeably better at lower depths. Water clarity here can also be negatively affected during rainy season by floodwaters from the major river in the area. Often there is no current; other times only a slight one.
Virtual Dive
Divers descend along the vertical edge of a coral wall to an overhang at 18 meters where two unusual blue vase sponges grow. The wall forms two points in quick succession before becoming a steep slope. After rounding a vertical point, divers swim above the first basin, which is filled with scattered coral. The next 75 meters consists of extremely complex wall formations. Midway is a dramatic, pointed overhang. Look up the narrow chute that gouges the wall and see a line of spectacular red gorgonian sea fans whose contrasting white polyps open in the gentle current to feed.

The wall comes to an abrupt end at a large sand basin about 120 meters long. Above the basin, the gentle slope is covered with healthy coral. Midway divers cautiously approach a huge table coral, so as not to scare the Spotted garden eels (Heteroconger hassi) located nearby. Their heads sway rhythmically in search of food before retreating into their holes as you pass. The sand basin ends with another wall of coral. Ascending slightly after crossing a narrow sand channel, divers peer into a tiny cave where Vanicolo sweepers crowd (Pempheris vanicolensis). As you make a gradual ascent, the wall becomes a steep slope interrupted by several sand basins and huge intervening walls of coral. Cruise the flat top of the largest coral wall and climb the gentle slope to make your safety stop over a shallow coral garden.

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6. Honeycomb

This dive site follows a submerged point that juts into the long shore current. When the current is running, tight rolling waves pile up at the tip of the point. This phenomenon is all the more apparent at adjacent sites where the water is flat and calm. The dramatic wall is covered in dense coral growth with a heavy sprinkling of large sponges. As typical with walls here in Gorontalo, the limestone substrate shows evidence of the erosive forces of nature. In addition to numerous chutes carved into the wall top to bottom, this site features two collapsed caverns and a tunnel piercing one of the many buttresses that project from the ever-bending wall. In fact, the careful eye will detect numerous fish-sized tunnels and holes in the wall and its various buttresses.
This site is about 580 meters long.
Depth: 3 - 40 meters
Highlights: dramatic wall with dense coral growth, large sponges, a tunnel, sharks, eels, Maori wrasse, large groupers, Humphead parrotfish, worm snails, Sailfin shrimpgobies
Conditions: Typical visibility is 20 meters. Heavy rain can dramatically reduce the visibility, but the fish don't seem to care. Ripping currents bring out clouds of fish and schools of large trevally. Heavy surf can produce strong down currents; this typically happens on the day of the full moon when the normally negligible tide change can be around a meter. This is a great site for those with some experience in current diving.
Special Note: In the event of a strong current, the boat can NOT pick you up at the point because of the waves. Establish positive buoyancy, signal that you are OK or need help, and let the current carry you into deep water on either side of the point where the boat can get to you.
Virtual Dive
Depending on the direction of the current, the dive may be run west to east as follows:
Divers descend past a collapsed cave to follow a narrow ledge to its end. Here, at about 15 meters, a Grand worm snail (Serpulorbis grandis) casts its mucous net to gather plankton. Below the collapsed cavern is an large patch of giant Cigar sponges (Haliclona vanderlandi 2001), one of Gorontalo’s new species. Cruising depth is excellent at 18 meters. The steep slope becomes a wall with six deep chutes cut into its vertical surface. These cuts border dramatic buttresses that plunge into the depths. Turn around inside one of the chutes and look out into the deep blue at the fishes passing back and forth. Before a long section of bending wall, divers encounter another collapsed cavern at about 20 meters. A dive torch will help you visualize how deep the cavern must have been. Large groupers still hide in its depths.

The next section of wall is pitted by numerous holes. If the current is slack, take time to look in holes with sand bottoms. Typically a shrimpgoby and its crustacean pal will live here, including the distinctive Sailfin shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris randalli). After another chute-and-buttress grouping, the wall opens into a steep slope, flanked by a free-standing coral pyramic. At a depth of 15 meters is a tunnel filled with gorgonians and other corals. Because of the dense growth inside, a diver is not likely to make it through the tunnel without snagging coral with the back of his tank valve. Please resist the urge to enter. At the safety stop level, numerous tree corals (Siphonogorgia sp.) grow on the wall. Their white polyps contrast sharply with their wine-red trunks.

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7. Japanese Cargo Wreck

In 1942, the year of Gorontalo’s independence, a Japanese cargo vessel loaded with copra, wood, and rattan caught fire after sailing. The helmsman turned the ship around and tried to return to port. He intended to run aground in the sand but instead hit the coral wall. The impact immediately pushed the stern underwater and the entire ship quickly sank. All crew managed to swim ashore, but the ship and its cargo were a total loss.
The ship now rests upside down just off the wall in 50 meters of water, its propeller within 26 meters of the ocean surface. Two-thirds of the hull leans on a rocky outcrop, falling at a 14-degree angle, until the hull buckles horizontally with the stern resting on the ocean floor. The wreck is almost level, tilting only slightly seaward. The hull bottom of the stern is heavily sprinkled with gorgonian whips that look purple in ambient light. About midway a large tear in the ship’s port side provides access at 44 meters; light is visible underneath the wreck from tears in its starboard side. The ship’s bow is almost completely exposed with two decks clearly evident.
The wreck is 50 meters long, 7 meters wide, and about 5 meters high (hull to deck).
Depth: 26 - 45 meters
Highlights: large, deep wreck
Conditions: Visibility on the wreck is typically about 15 meters. Even when upper waters are cloudy from runoff, visibility is often better below. Currents are seldom an issue.
Special Note: This deep wreck is only offered to advanced divers. Each buddy pair is responsible for its dive planning. Miguel’s Diving does not offer decompression diving nor encourage wreck penetration. Remember: the nearest hyperbaric chamber is a long day’s overland journey to Manado.
Virtual Dive
Divers descend past the first wall to a sandy crater filled with branching coral, green rope sponge, and an encrusted anchor. Covered with corals, sponges and other marine life, huge metal beams hang off the top of the second wall at 18 meters. A large Yellow-mask angelfish (Pomacanthus xanthometopon) plays hide-and-seek among the beams. A Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) sails into the deep.
Following the dive master, divers approach a thin line in the gloom below. Suddenly, the wreck appears. Swimming down the wreck’s length, divers head towards the stern to inspect several sea fans near a patch of purple gorgonians. Goatfish scour the hull for food. Near the bend in the hull a clump of bubble coral hosts a Coleman’s coral shrimp (Vir colemani), a species named in December 2003. With a careful eye on the computer, some divers descend down the face of the wreck to peer inside a large tear in its hull. Dive torches illuminate a host of sweetlips, snapper, and other fish underneath. With everyone proceeding to the bow, divers slowly ascend to see a pair of Humphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) swimming loops around the propeller.
Slowly ascending along the coral wall, divers notice the wildly carved surfaces of several large Salvador Dali sponges (Petrosia lignosa), found only on deep Indonesian walls. As time and air allow, divers explore coral slope and walls that reach all the way to the surface.

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8. Jinn Caves

This dive site is a section of truly unique wall, which is split entirely down the middle. This site makes a lasting impression on even the most experienced of divers. Some call it “dramatic;” others say “hair-raising.” Patient divers can spend an entire dive probing its many secrets. The ocean-facing portion of the wall for this site measures less than 150 meters. A strange sunken cavern at the 18-meter depth range marks the beginning of this site. Next is a point riddled with holes, followed by a pair of narrow channels cut into the wall. One is filled with white fans. A ledge leads behind a point, under an overhang decorated with hanging rope sponge, then down the wall face to the split. The wall on the other side of the split turns sharply twice and features huge depressions and fish-sized tunnels.
The split backs 33 meters into the rock ending in a tiny cove. A cascading slope with huge drops at depths of ten, 17, and 20 meters form the back and bottom of the split. The back of this split and its steep bottom are covered with mud mixed with sand. At the split, the reef crest rises from the typical three-meter depth to the surface. The channel leading back to the cove is only five meters wide at its narrowest point. In fact, the narrowest part is where the two inner-facing walls form complementary overhangs. The cove marks the end of a drainage serving the mountains. In this arid section of Gorontalo, rain rarely produces runoff. The erosive force of water over time not only carved the split in the soft limestone rock but also created numerous caverns and caverns-in-the-making. At the mouth of the split, two deep points block access to the cavern eroded back into the eastern wall.
Marine life inside the split is different from that living on the ocean-facing, coral-rich wall. Look for three species of batfish, a Reticulated puffer (Arothron reticularis) lounging in the mud, and lionfish prowling dark shallow overhangs. Snowflake morays (Echidna nebulosa) are very common here. If you decide to walk in the shallows, be careful not to step on a scorpionfish or a sea horse.
The site is about 150 meters long and 33 meters deep.
Depth: 0 - 40 meters
Highlights: Snowflake morays, lionfish, seahorse, fascinating terrain, including shallow caverns, prominent overhangs, cracks, holes, tunnels, and ledges
Conditions: Because of the sand and mud bottom, visibility varies widely. A heavy rain can cause 20-meter clarity one day to plummet to five meters, but this adds to the mystery of the site.
Special Note: Jinn are the often-malevolent spirits created from fire mentioned in the Qur'an. Strong superstitions surround this area of coastline as a result of the number of deaths from currents. The largest Jinn cave is filled with bats and requires a stiff hike up the mountain.
Virtual Dive
Passing the vibrant reef crest, divers descend along the coral wall, studded with giant sponges. At fifteen meters, a wide ledge carved into the surface of the wall comes into view, its edges dotted with anemones sparkling in the sunlight. Following the ledge downward, the dive master signals our descent and sinks into the darkness below. Leaving the wall behind, divers now lack any visual reference as the dive gauge heads toward the 30-meter mark. Suddenly, a wall appears. Black coral trees and sea fans grow massive in the quiet gloom. Far below 40 meters and clearly visibly is the wall’s bottom edge, which ends in a sloping muck bottom. Flick on a dive torch, and Jinn Caves come alive with color.

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9. Sentinels

This is an unusual pinnacle dive. More than a dozen pinnacles of varying heights rise from the slope. Because they are scattered at various depths, visiting all of them is not possible during a single dive. Some pinnacles are stubby, others tall and needle-like. One looks like a Rastafarian because of a tangled octopus sponge growing on its top. Several host large anemones along with their associated fishes. Because of the combination of pinnacles and slope, this is one of the few sites in Gorontalo where divers have a bottom to observe. The slope is very gentle from the reef crest (at two to five meters) to about 15 meters. The mix of coral, sponges, and sand make this a relaxing shallow dive.
This site is about 300 meters long.
Depth: 2 - 35 meters
Highlights: multiple pinnacles, mixed coral garden, large angelfishes, Gilded triggerfish, various anemonefishes, shrimpgobies and their shrimp
Conditions: Because of the sandy bottom, visibility varies greatly depending on wave action, anywhere from ten to 30 meters. In poorer visibility divers may miss major pinnacles without a dive master familiar with the site. However, enjoying the shallow coral garden is not affected, except after days of heavy surf. In fact, the site is more mysterious in moderate visibility. Seeing pinnacle after pinnacle emerge then disappear from view, like sentinels stationed along a misty hillside, makes you wonder: against what danger lurking in the deep are they guarding . . ?
Virtual Dive
Descending past the rubble of a landslide, divers encounter the first massive pinnacle rising from the depths. After a swim around this sentinel of the deep, divers move to the next seven pillars, including one with a huge bushy black coral on top. Be on the look out for lionfish (especially Pterois volitans) prowling the pinnacle for careless fusiliers. Between pinnacles, scan the steep slope for the beautiful Gilded triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus). Usually found only at depth, here both males and females ascend to quite shallow waters. After the Rastafarian sentinel, the upper slope becomes very gentle. Because of the more open, sandy bottom, numerous large colonies of branching Acropora grow. Notice the striking Bicolor angelfish (Centropyge bicolor) not found in dense coral environments.
After passing a profusion of human-size guards and a deep double point, divers notice a large pinnacle rising from a steep sand and coral bowl. This sentinel is probably too deep for your current dive plan. The final three pillars are clustered in the twelve-meter depth range behind an arm that projects in front of this trio. Typically, divers turn around at this point to explore the gentle slope at shallower depths. The mixed coral garden here officially ranks in the top five most biodiverse reefs in Indonesia. The sand patches are full of shrimpgobies, including the spectacular Sailfin shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris randalli). Watch the goby's companion shrimp excavate sand and pebbles from the hole they share. One of the cutest sand gobies here is the almost transparent, green-eyed Signalfin goby (Coryphopterus signipinnis). It sits on the sand and flicks its dark spotted first dorsal fin up and down. Although common at this dive site, it is missing in most fish identification books.

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10. Shadowlands

This unique site rounds a cliff that juts into the sea. The shallow flat is at a depth of five to seven meters. It measures between zero meters from the cliff to twenty meters from the ancient coral rock bench fronting the beach. Because of the angle at which the cliff pushes into the sea and the closeness of the mountain above it, the wall rarely receives direct sunlight. In this twilight, the dense corals of neighboring sites are replaced with thick encrustations of dazzling color. The cliff directly faces the heavy surf from east winds. This has and continues to cause cavern formation and falling boulders.
This site is about 450 meters long.
Depth: 5 - 40 meters
Highlights: caverns, tropicals (fusiliers, 16 species of butterflyfish, 6 species of angelfish, 9 species of triggerfish), nudibranchs, thorny oysters
Conditions: The shallow flat can have a moderate to strong current. Strong currents at the top or heavy wave action can cause down currents. Heavy rains or days of heavy surf can reduce visibility to ten meters. Typical visibility is 20 meters.
Special Note: Bring your underwater torch to search the wall's many holes and enjoy its dramatic colors. But also remember to cast a glance away from the wall towards blue water. Pelagics often pass.
Virtual Dive
The dive typically begins with a descent along the eastern most corner of the wall (a sharp right angle), under that corner at a pointed overhang, to a pair of knobs at about a 30-meter depth. Several full-sized Dogtooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor) rush past. From here divers pass three round caverns, the largest of which is garage-sized. Above the "garage" is a roadway cut into the wall rising from 15 to about seven meters. The wall bends four times before divers encounter a startling cut in the wall that leads all the way back to the cliff edge. Inside the overhang of this cut hang long strands of blue rope sponge. Inside you can hear the pounding of any waves above. There are so many holes in this area that fish swim in and out of the wall! Curiously, sometimes there is more light inside the wall than in front of it. High concentrations of nudibranchs are found here, particularly Loch's nudibranch (Chromodoris lochi).

After this, the wall is marked by a large number of fissures and holes, followed by a complex series of buttresses and cuts. The top of the wall here forms a noticeable overhang, further restricting the light. The last sharp bend in the wall forms a bowl whose other side is marred by heavy sloughing of the wall.Within another 100 meters at a depth of 12 meters is a cave with a skylight punched into the top of the reef flat. A Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) likes to slumber here as fish enter and exit the cave through the roof. Enjoy the colorful tropical fishes during your rest stop.

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11. Silvertip Grounds

Diving this wall site pits the smallness of the human frame against an imposing wall, towering caverns, huge sponges, large marine life, and often ripping currents. The shallow shelf along this section of Gorontalo’s coastline is extremely narrow with many places measuring only about a meter wide! At several places boulders have fallen off the cliff face onto the reef crest where they cast shadows down the wall. The clearly defined wall begins at between three to five meters and bottoms out in the 30 to 40 meter range. A shelf hugs the bottom of the wall and descends sometimes gently and sometimes steeply to the second wall, which drops off into the deep. A Silvertip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus) routinely patrols this shelf. Several tall caverns tower above the shelf. The ever-bending wall lacks the complex series of buttresses and chutes common here in Gorontalo. Instead, the wall is much smoother. Along several lengths of wall, the current has deposited parallel bands of sand. Those with experience diving Sulawesi are sure to enjoy what this dive site offers.
This site is about 800 meters long.
Depth: 3 - 40 meters
Highlights: imposing wall, towering caverns, huge sponges, large marine life, excellent coral growth, and lots of fish
Conditions: Typical visibility is 20 meters. On occasion, that can double. Expect currents. Remember: the faster the current the more fish! Travel with a boat crew like the guys at Miguel’s Diving who know local conditions, as winds from certain directions can dramatically impact surface conditions and currents during the course of a dive. Heavy surf from sudden winds can cause significant down currents in some places.
Special Note: This is a site for advanced divers or those experienced in current diving. Make sure you have a clear alternate dive plan in case swimming against the current becomes too difficult. Because of the many sharp bends in the wall, divers may both ride the current and swim against it during a single dive. Currents here also ebb and flow. If possible, wait for five minutes in a protected spot, then try again to round the bend and swim against the current. If the current has not subsided within five to ten minutes, it is not likely to do so during the time you are diving.
Virtual Dive
Divers descend past a sloping point to peer into a small cavern wedged into a corner of the wall. The area at the beginning of the dive is the best place among all dive sites in Gorontalo to look for the beautifully colored Dendronephthya soft corals typical of Indo-Pacific waters and certain places in Sulawesi. The wall between the first corner and the next one hosts many sponges and gorgonians. After the second corner, divers encounter a steep ridge flanked by steep gullies and then more steep slope below 20 meters. Unbeknownst to divers, the land rounds a point here. Below the water line, the current usually speeds up here. The long section wall here is dusted with parallel deposits of sand and is relatively barren for Gorontalo. Below the 30-meter mark the wall becomes a gentle slope protruding into the current. The faster the current the more likely you are to see large Trevally (Caranx spp.) and large Emperors (Lethrinus spp.), which rise to feed. With time almost over, divers see the makings of a narrow cavern, a small divided point spilling down the lower wall onto the steep slope below, and finally a tall, narrow cavern. Ascending slowly for the rest stop, divers see dozens of vase sponges, many quite large. The reef crest here is right at five meters.
Since the site is so long, a second dive is required. Actually, Silvertip Grounds dive site is about the length of Leukan I, II, and III off Bunaken in North Sulawesi! Descending past the vase sponges, divers pass two tall, narrow caverns. The point flanking the second cavern is carved like a corkscrew. Be on the watch for any sharks cruising the shelf here. After a small section of pitted surface, the wall bends sharply to reveal a large, open cavern at the end of a flat wall with parallel dustings of sand. The cavern, swirling with Vanicolo sweepers (Pempheris vanicolensis), is tucked into another sharp bend in the wall. The cavern marks the end of the shelf. The other side of the bend faces a small point sprinkled with beautiful Dendronephthya soft corals. The upper section of wall is covered in blue rope sponges. After rounding another bend, divers encounter a deep cut with coral rubble tumbling down its steep surface. A buttress topped with large pipe sponges flanks this cut. Next, two parallel cuts join to form an overhang before divers round the final bend to ascend along a flat section of wall for the safety stop.

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12. Tjenderawashi Barge Wreck

On December 26, 1993 the dredging barge Tjenderawashi was tethered for an escavation job. However, rains and massive night waves sunk the barge. Workers tried to use 3,000 barrels to try to re-float it, to no avail. It currently rests along a steep slope, lodged firmly on four rocky outcroppings. It is almost up side down and tilts at a 20-degree angle. Cables and numerous barrels, now enveloped in marine life, hang in midwater down its ocean-facing side. Other wreckage and many barrels litter the rocky slope below the suspended wreck. The barge peaks at 4 meters and bottoms out at 26 meters.
The barge’s bottom is only sparsely encrusted. But everything that hangs below is a maze of sponges, encrusting corals, and oysters. A large soft coral grows up side down on the end of a hanging cable. As expected, the wreck has attracted much fish life in its ten years below, including lionfish, large sweetlips, various angelfishes, and batfish. So far, Miguel’s Diving staff has identified 140 species of fish alone here! The barge hosts an unusually large number of Raccoon butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula), countless Diana’s wrasse juveniles (Bodianus diana), a pair of large Mappa puffer (Arothron mappa), and mature Painted lobsters (Panulirus versicolor). There is even a giant clam living in the crane tower! The uncommon Twinspot chromis (Chromis elerae) thrives in its underbelly, as do many cardinalfish species. A Coleman’s coral shrimp, newly described in 2003, was photographed and collected from this site and sent to the researcher. This purple-jointed beauty is common in Gorontalo waters.
The barge is 32 meters long and 10 meters wide. The crane tower extends another 16 meters beyond the barge. Depth: 4 - 25 meters
Highlights: very interesting wreck
Conditions: Visibility can vary considerably. Floodwaters from the nearby river and heavy surf can render diving this wreck unadvisable. Cold upwellings can cut visibility during the course of a dive. Bubbles also disturb fine silt on the wreck.
Special Note: Although no penetration is involved, the most interesting part of this dive involves diving with the wreck overhead. Divers must be careful in ascending even slightly while underneath it. Lionfish cruise the underside of the wreck. You do not want to bump one with your head! Also, swim carefully around the hanging barrels and cable; these all move. Although it is possible to swim completely underneath the wreck to the other side, there is not much to see in the shallow rubble. A safer alternative is to explore the barge, then the dredging crane, and then proceed to the rocky slope on the other side.
Virtual Dive
Descending towards the shallowest point of the wreck, divers follow the dive master along the hull’s bottom edge to the gloom below where a Coleman’s coral shrimp (Vir colemani) awaits. Descending further, divers peer inside the cavity of the engine area where sweetlips swim. A large Dendronephthya soft coral grows in midwater up side down on the bottom of a cable that hangs off the wreck. Heading toward a pair of pylons, divers begin exploring the underside of the barge. Inside the rusted cavity of one pylon, a pair of pipefish hides from the dive light. An Anton Bruuni shrimp with its characteristic red and white spots jumps into the shadows. While inspecting a cluster of barrels, a diver touches one and the entire cluster sways. These barrels are entirely encrusted. Oysters growing on them quickly snap shut as divers approach. Another diver hangs up side down, trying to read the letters that spell out the barge’s name.
Down by the observation pole, the slope is littered by clamshells. Among them, strange shrimp with long claw arms jump around. Nearby small schools of the endemic Orangeback wrasse (Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis) circle in midwater while flasher wrasse prowl close to the rubble. Above, a pair of large Mappa puffers checks out the invading humans.
Now at shallower depths, divers explore the crane tower, which is full of fish and light. In fact, divers wave to each other through the open grid work. Circling back to the descent point, divers watch fish playing below them during the safety stop.

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13. Traffic Jam

On this spectacular wall site, divers are likely to overlook the amazing coral growth because of all the fish. The wall has ten deep vertical chutes cut into its surface from the three-meter reef crest to its bottom. These narrow cuts are only large enough for one diver at a time to enter. Below you, look for the shy and singular Vermicular grouper (Plectopomus oligocanthus) with its dark brown body splashed with blue scrawling, hovering in deep water. If you linger at a particular spot or swim close to the wall, carefully note your surroundings since Giant morays (Gymnothorax javanicus) are often sighted here. The wall also attracts large marine life, such as sharks, rays, Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and tuna. This is the favorite dive site of Gorontalo’s diving governor.
This site is about 400 meters long.
Depth: 3 - 40 meters
Highlights: millions of fish, wall cut by numerous chutes, dense coral growth, giant sponges
Conditions: Visibility is typically 20 meters. The current usually presents no problem but can be noticeably stiffer at the gentle slope.
Special Note: Northern Sulawesi has the highest marine biodiversity on the planet and this Gorontalo dive site provides dramatic proof. Take your time to enjoy the site and leave scuba aerobics for another time. You came here to see the fish and enjoy the coral, right?
Virtual Dive

Because of the height of the adjacent mountain, direct sunlight is late hitting the wall. About mid-dive, suddenly a sun-filled gentle slope spills down the wall. This slope is about 50 meters wide and is flanked by large inlets. Because this slope protrudes significantly from the wall, the current here is much stronger. But the stronger current also draws significantly higher numbers of fish, including five species of fusiliers, unicornfish, Schooling pyramid butterflyfish (Hemitaurichthys polylepis), chromis, damsels, and anthias. This is a good place to look for Orang-back wrasse (Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis), a species endemic to Tomini Bay and only named in 1999. The shallow reef crest has excellent coral growth to enjoy during your safety stop. During your surface interval, find out if the crew has seen dolphin or the shell of a Chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius).

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Dive Site by Miguel's Diving


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