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When I was asked if I was ready for cave diving, I immediately replied yes – knowing that the cave they were referring to was still within my limit. Loba-Loba Cave, or Goa Loba-Loba, is one of the underwater caves found at Buton Tengah (Buteng) in Southeast Sulawesi. It was one of the nominees that made it to the top five most popular destinations in the 2018 API Awards.
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It was raining hard the night before, and I thought the sky would be clear the next morning. However, it didn’t. It was cloudy for almost the whole day. We still proceed to dive at Goa Loba-Loba as we only had that day freed from any other activities. Only me and Ipin, the DM that I first met in Gili one year ago, dived that day. At the same time, the rest of my friends were snorkeling around at the same spot. Not all; a few were staying on the boat enjoying the breeze.
The team, especially I, were eager to get ourselves wet that day not only because we had traveled far all the way here to see what Buton Tengah has to offer. The water is so clear literally everywhere – no matter inside the cave, in the lake, even in the sea! We were so delighted when we knew that we would have one day for snorkeling and diving. Like seriously, do nothing else but just be having fun in the water!
How to Get to Loba-Loba Cave
Goa Loba-Loba dive spot is easily reached either from Katingting Port at Baubau or Wamengkoli Port at Buton Tengah. It is about the same distance from either port. We were staying at Buton Tengah. Hence, we started from Wamengkoli Port. There is no dive center yet in Buton Tengah, so all the dive and snorkel equipment came from Buton. The boat that we used was also considered spacious for ten of us, not including the boat crews and the Dive Master, and the snorkeling guide. It is the standard boat size in Buton.
We started at around 11 am. The ideal time is to start at around 10 to 11 am, to catch the right timing when the ray of light shines in through the underwater cave and creates a unique and beautiful view underwater. The tricky part is because we deal with nature, and we don’t know the “mood” of the weather or the sun – whether it is going to be sunny or whether it will be clear sky or covered by the clouds, or whether the timing is just right when we are inside the cave to get the view we want to see.
Diving at Loba-Loba Cave
It took me some time to gear up – wearing my wetsuit, dive boots, and the rest; meanwhile, Ipin just went with short pants and topless. The water wasn’t cold, so I think rashguard was actually enough for the dive. Ipin went into the water first, then I followed him closely. The descent was slow and smooth. The reef wall was on our left-hand side as we dived to the depth of about 21 m – where the entrance to the cave was. It was a bit dark even before entering the cave. It could be because we were shaded by the wall’s shape that like half of the letter “T”.
The entrance to the cave was rather big. Probably, it was big enough for three to four divers to go in at once. There weren’t any other divers except us. Without our dive torches, we totally couldn’t see anything. We spotted one lobster hanging on the wall of the cave. Ipin said that usually, we could see more lobsters hanging around the entrance, and sometimes, we could also see some sharks. However, that day wasn’t the day for us to see all those in the cave.
The Loba-Loba cave has three chambers. The first chamber is where the sun can shine through the hole on the top of the chamber, creating the dramatic underwater with light rays view. The distance from the entrance to the first chamber is less than 50 m, and from the first to the second chamber, it is also more or less about the same distance.
The contour and texture of the cave walls are the same as what we normally see in any other caves, although here we can see some corals have grown covering the wall. The visibility inside the cave was surprisingly so good. So, although it was dark, I didn’t have any difficulties seeing what was ahead of me with my dive torch.
At some point during the dive, I felt that I was in a different kind of world. Usually, we explore a cave on foot on the ground. This time, we were weightless – like flying in the middle of the air, looking at the stalactite and stalagmite, seeing the fish swimming around, it was beautiful. Especially when we were approaching the second chamber, with some lights shone through the hole from the second chamber in the background, the silhouette of the cave contour and fish swimming became dramatic. In the second chamber, we went up and took a break for a while. And the total dive time until that point was about 22 minutes.
Ipin showed me the entrance to the third chamber. It was smaller than the first twos. He said that he would have brought me in if he was in double tanks. Even if he was, I wasn’t quite confident that I could swim through, though. Haha…I was afraid that I might get stuck and the whole dramatic scene would turn into a comedy. When I told my instructor about this, he said that normally it is bigger than what we see it is. So, I should be able to swim through it. Perhaps, I should come back next time to complete the entire dive in Loba-Loba Cave. Really, I don’t mind diving in Loba-Loba Cave again.
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Diving in Loba-Loba Cave has given me a different kind of diving experience. As we understand that to dive into some underwater caves, we do need to acquire special skills beforehand. However, it doesn’t really necessary for Loba-Loba Cave although it is better if the divers have logged in several dives before diving in Loba-Loba Cave. Plus, the divers should not have any problems being in the dark and confined space for some time.
Loba-Loba Cave is just one of the underwater caves found in Buton Tengah. Many other underwater caves with various challenges in Buton Tengah have been found and mapped by the local divers. I heard some of the caves are even beyond 50 m depth. If you are into cave diving, Buton Tengah is really a place for you to go for it.
So, what do you think about diving in Loba-Loba Cave? Would you be keen to try to dive there? Let me know what you think in the comment box below. Happy diving and safe dive!