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Ambon Manise Marine Festival 1994

by Anthony Holley

Reproduced from in focus 54 (March 1995)

In October 1994 I was in Ambon, the capital of the Province of Malaku in Indonesia, to participate in the Ambon Manise Marine Festival '94. This is an International Underwater Photographic Competition, organized by the Ambon Dive Centre and the Department of Tourism.

Ambon is a small island, just 48km by 22km, in the 'Ring of Fire' in eastern Indonesia, at approximately 040S, 1280E. It was the capital of the Dutch 'Spice Islands' from the sixteenth century and has a superb natural harbour. This was also a major base for the Japanese navy in the last war. The island is dense jungle fringed with white sand beaches, and surrounded by pristine coral reef slopes and sheer walls, with abundant marine life.

The competition ran from Thursday 27th October to 3rd November, having been advertised in the Australian and American diving press, as well as 'Asian Diver' magazine, which is where I saw it when I started to plan a two month diving/photographic expedition to Indonesia.

I was glad to arrive several days early to settle in to the Dive Centre's ways and dive some of the sites we would be using. I had come from Bali where I had done ten dives, using my new camera and housing for the first time in anger; a big change from the Nikonos V. Several other competitors also arrived early, all of us staying near the Dive Centre at Namalatu Beach on the south west coast.

As part of the Festival package, we all had to stay at the Hotel Mutiara. in Ambon town, some 18km away. After a gentle morning dive, we moved there on the first afternoon to meet up with the rest of the entrants. Friday morning was Registration time with a briefing on the rules and the running of the Competition, including useful notes on the dive sites. A free afternoon was followed by the Opening Ceremony, hosted by the Vice-Governor, along with local musical groups, choir and dances.

There were nine Open entrants; the others being from America, Australia (including two novices), Japan, Malaysia and Canada. The judges were Kal Muller (Singapore), Becca Saunders (Australia) and Gerard Soury (France). A fourth judge (Michael Aw) and two more competitors were delayed for a couple of days by local flight problems and so unfortunately had to withdraw.

Nikon cameras predominated, in a variety of housings, along with Ikelite strobes and many different arms: f4 in Ikelite with twin Ikelite strobes, my F90 with SB25 in Subals, F90 with SB25 in Aquaticas, F801S in Subal with twin Ikelite strobes, F801S in Ikelite with twin Ikelite strobes, a pair of F801S in Tusseys with twin Ikelite strobes and Nikonos V's with SBI03, SBI04, or Sea and Sea strobes. The competitors' equipment was rounded off by a Canon A1 and a Minolta 7000 in Ikelite housings, both with twin Ikelite strobes. The judges used a Nikonos RS with twin SBI04's, a couple of Nikon F801S's in Subal housings with SBI04's and an F801S in Ikelite housing with Ikelite strobes. Favourite lenses were 60 mm and 105 mm macros, along with 20 mm and 16 mm wide-angles. Others used included zoom lenses like the 28-70 mm, and the Sigma l4 mm.

Ten Fuji films were provided, to be used over the 10 dives, with a choice of either Velvia or Provia. Processing was done overnight, so films handed in after the day's diving were waiting for us after breakfast next morning.

Saturday, the 29th, saw everyone raring to go and ready for the 8 a.m. bus down to the Dive Centre. Indonesian television was there to record our departure in two local fishing boats. Our dive gear was already loaded as the staff had learned whose was whose very early on. Unfortunately the boats were open so we were all careful to protect ourselves from the hot sun, with the pile of camera gear covered by towels. Luckily the rain and wind from the previous days had cleared up for us.

More than one and a half hot hours later we arrived off Pulau Tiga off the north west coast, for our first dive on the sloping wall, covered with good hard and soft corals. The two boats anchored on different sides of the island, so there were only nine divers, including the judges, on either site. Smaller boats were then used to pick us up wherever we surfaced. Dive time was only limited by our air consumption from the standard bottles, 70 or 80 minutes being common. Towels and bottled water were offered when we returned to the main boat, after which we all joined up on a beautiful beach for a welcome picnic lunch of rice, chicken, fish, vegetables, bananas, pineapple, etc. After films, lenses and ports were changed, the dive sites were switched for the afternoon.

Back at the Dive Centre around 5.30, all our gear was unloaded and washed for us, leaving us to unload films, have a cup of tea or coffee and discuss our dives. Then back to the hotel by 7 p.m. gave us time for a welcome shower before the excellent buffet dinner provided every evening.

Anticipation was high at breakfast next day as we all waited for our results; at least it confirmed that everything was working. This time the boat journey was much shorter as we dived on lovely vertical walls off the south coast around Lehari. Thus we were back earlier to give us time to relax over tea and cakes, and have a snooze after setting up macro lenses, spotting lights, etc, for the night dive at 7 p.m., out in the small boats close to the Dive Centre. A long, tiring day by the time we got back to the hotel.

Monday was similar, with one of the dives being at a large chimney cave at Hukurila. The top is at 5 metres, descending through gorgonians and other corals, sponges and numerous fish to twin arched exits at 25 metres. To give everyone a clear run at silhouettes, etc, we were put in at 15 minute intervals and trusted to leave after our allotted time. Surprisingly it all worked out well. Another night dive followed, several dropping out as they were too fired.

For the last day of diving, we headed back to Pulau Tiga, anchoring off the southern island of the group. Staying in the same place all day gave us a chance to adjust our use of the two tanks to our remaining film and picture requirements, returning to the boat as we wanted to change film or lens.

Everyone was tired after four hectic days and relieved it was all over. By 8 a.m. on Wednesday all films had been returned to us and we retired to our rooms to sweat over hot light boxes for the terrible decisions of what to enter, three slides in each of the four categories. The 11.00 deadline was an anticlimax, leaving us with nothing more to do but relax till 7 p.m. and the Gala buffet and Closing Ceremony. After a local fashion show, the Vice-Governor presented the cash prizes and plaques.

Unfortunately the projection facilities were appalling. Apart from some slides from the judges, only the winning slides were shown, unbelievably with the main lights left on. A disappointing finish to an excellent week, everyone enjoying the usual camaraderie of battling away at underwater photography.

Ambon Results:

Wide Angle:

1st Anthony Holley (England)
2nd Douglas Hoffman (America)
3rd Cory Williams (America)


1st Douglas Hoffman (America)
2nd Woody Mayhew (America)
3rd Woody Mayhew (America)

Animal Behaviour:

Ist Douglas Hoffman (America)
2nd Cory Williams (America)
3rd Woody Mayhew (America)

Big is Beautiful: Ist Yoji Kurakawa (Japan)

Best of Show and Governor's Cup: Douglas Hoffman (America)

Reproduced from in focus 54 (March 1995)

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