Travel and Leisure, Under the Sea — May 17, 2017 at 5:00 am

Dive An Underwater Volcano at Mahengetang, Indonesia

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©istockphoto/EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER

As experienced master scuba divers will attest, Indonesia offers some of the finest coral reef dive sites in the world. If that isn’t enough to motivate you, there’s a dive site to an active sub-marine volcano with a diversity of marine life like no other.

Situated in Mahengetang, the unique dive site commonly known as Banua WuHu is the only place in the world where brave divers can challenge their skills to a whole other level and experience a chance to safely dive one of the world’s rare underwater volcanoes. In fact, Banua WuHu is the only underwater volcanic dive site that divers can explore without the danger of active lava flows or toxic fumes.

Rising more than 1312 feet above the sea floor to form a narrow shoal less than 20-feet below the waves, the Mahengetang underwater volcano over time has created multiple isles that later disappeared beneath the waves. The shallow shoal is home to gigantic sea fans that wave in the currents like flowers in the wind.

Five new volcanic craters appeared in 1904, only to disappear by 1935. Located mid-way between Siau and Sangihe Islands, near the Island of Mehengetang, the active volcano lies completely below water with the most recent eruption occurring in 1968, with ongoing volcanic and shallow hydrothermal activity.

An incredibly rich and diverse underwater world awaits adventure seekers. At Banua WuHu, three separate cones rise from the sea floor. There is no distinct crater; rather divers discover a massive field of giant sulfur-covered boulders resembling a crater type formation. The boulders are home to impressive schools neon fusiliers and curious black-tipped reef sharks. One of the pinnacles presents a sheer drop off with waters beyond recreational diving depths.

From amongst the mammoth boulders, steam vents emit fire-fueled intermittent belches that dance as hot, colorful bubbles to the surface. Brilliant humphead parrotfish dart in and out of rising bubbles.

Recent marine research validates the opinion of marine biologists that have explored and surveyed the area that there are more marine species and types of coral formations in one square mile of Banua WuHu than in the entire Caribbean Sea.

Although the danger of eruption is not imminent, and there is no immediate volcanic threat, divers are advised to wear the right type of dive suit as protection from the sulfur content of the water, which can cause skin irritations. Dive suits also provide protection from the heat generated by steam vents and abrasions from fire coral.

Dive masters, experienced in providing underwater volcanic tours, describe the underwater experience as “a wild, psychedelic fantasy fulfilled, like swimming in a glass of warm champagne.” Delighted divers remark that the “sound effects” of the rumbling groans of the volcano add to the surreal quality of the dive experience.

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