A magnificent gorgon "overflown" by a cloud of anthias. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A magnificent gorgon "overflown" by a cloud of anthias. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

Sali Kecil, another part of the world in Indonesia

#Indonesia #Moluccas

  Indonesia: Alor + Halmahera + Sumbawa - July 2018

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 


Fancy Indonesia? I take you to dive in the waters of Sali Kecil, a small island far from everything located on the west coast of Halmahera. It's a beautiful place!

COVID-19. Can we travel to Indonesia from France? As of this writing (June 7, 2022), foreign travelers are again allowed to enter Indonesia without quarantine. There is no need to present a PCR test upon arrival if one is vaccinated. The 30-day tourist Visa on Arrival (VoA) is reinstated at all airports (500,000 IDR, about 35 €, renewable once), the B211A-tourism visa is also valid again. The following are still required: a certificate of vaccination with two or three doses for at least 14 days (one dose for the Johnson & Johnson), an insurance covering Covid-19 (for an amount of at least 13 400 €), as well as the registration on the application PeduliLindungi for smartphone (iOS or Android). For regularly updated information on the health situation and tourism in Indonesia, I invite you to visit this page of BaliAutrement agency.

Head to Halmahera

July 2018, Indonesia. I know, I am very late in my stories... 😜 That summer, after the Alor archipelago (see previous articles: All to the water in Alor! and A Strange Mermaid Called Dugong), I set course for Halmahera, located in North Maluku Islands (Maluku Utara, in Indonesian).

HalmaheraThe island of Sulawesi is a large, twisted island located between the huge Sulawesi, also called Sulawesi Island (to the west) and the huge Papua (to the east). It is usually reached via Ternatea movie island-volcano, flanked by an airport at water level.

The arrival at Ternate, the volcano island, is always spectacular ... We can see the runway of the airport, at the water's edge, at the bottom right. (Indonesia, North Maluku, July 2018)
The arrival at Ternate, the island-volcano that the Portuguese and Spanish fought over in the early 16th century, is always spectacular... The airport runway can be seen, low over the water, on the lower right (Indonesia, North Moluccas, July 2018).
Pulau Tidore, another impressive island-volcano, neighbor of Ternate. (North Maluku, Indonesia, July 2018)
Pulau Tidore, another impressive island-volcano, neighbor of Ternate. (North Maluku, Indonesia, July 2018)

I don't have much to say about Ternate, as I'm just passing through (with a brief cab ride between planes from the airport to the big central pharmacy to buy antibiotics to cure a nasty infected palm blister... 😱 #nocomment). To learn more about Ternate and its region, I refer you to on the excellent blog One Chai.

For this new Indonesian trip dedicated to diving, I chose to stay for a week a little further south, in Sali Kecil, a tiny island located in the Strait of Bacan.

I did not come here by chance. A hotel with divers, Sali Bay ResortA new restaurant has recently opened on this island far from everything. It is here:

Luxury, calm and pleasure in Sali Kecil

I made the crossing between Bacan Island and Sali Kecil at dusk. So I arrive on the island at night and discover my new environment only the next day: a dozen huge bungalows facing the sea in a beautiful garden shaded by coconut trees, all in length, at the foot of a hill covered with jungle. 😲

The manager of Sali Bay ResortI was greeted in French by a very nice Swiss-Italian multilingual man. He tells me that the work is not finished in the building of the resort at the end of the beach called Divers Lodge, where I had booked a room (smaller and less expensive than a Beach Front Villa).

Result: I was graciously upgraded for the duration of my stay in one of these huge bungalows!

Great class... I'm really lucky. But it's not the first time that it happens to me, to benefit from a room of superior category, without having asked anything. Once a princess, always a princess? 😂 (Some examples: My princess boat in Komodo and Live my life as a princess in Raja Ampat.)

The small coconut grove that houses the Sali Bay Resort, seen from the sea. (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The small coconut grove that houses the Sali Bay Resort, seen from the sea. (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
We are not disturbed by the crowd, on the beautiful beach of Sali Bay Resort ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
We are not bothered by the crowd, on the pretty beach of Sali Bay Resort... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
My "home" for a week ... (Sali Bay Resort, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
My "home" for a week... (Sali Bay Resort, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Panoramic view of Sali Kecil from the Sali Bay Resort dock. (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Panoramic view of Sali Kecil from the Sali Bay Resort dock. (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The Sali Bay Resort dock side by side ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The Sali Bay Resort dock side by side ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The Sali Bay Resort pontoon facing the ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The Sali Bay Resort pontoon facing the ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Dense vegetation covers most of the island. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Dense vegetation covers most of the island (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

This time, I'm not the only one privileged. An Italian, who solo trip like me and who will be my dive buddy for the duration of my stay, received the same special treatment, for the same reason. In short, we can say that we fell at the right time... There is even wifi (intermittent) and a small pool. I confess: I am blissfully enjoying this incredible luxury in such an isolated place.

The few tourists who decided to make the long trip to Sali Kecil are mostly divers who already know Indonesia. As the days go by, I am chatting with the other sub photographers in the Camera Room, installed in front of the pontoon that spans the coral.

But there are not many of us in this mid-July and almost all my little bubble buddies only dive in the morning, so I often have the boat and my guide all to myself in the afternoon... A little extra luxury, which is very welcome.

We are thus in small committee, which makes the atmosphere very nice, almost family. In the evening, we meet before the meal around a drink in the room of the restaurant opened on the beach.

There is even a pocket pool ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
There is even a pocket pool ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The Camera Room at Sali Bay Resort. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The Camera Room at Sali Bay Resort. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Surface interval. The pile, on the left, is a 5mm combi, a 2.5mm mouse and a small turtleneck lycra ... Guess who needs all this to be comfortable in water at 27-28 ° C? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Surface Interval. The pile, on the left, is a 5mm wetsuit, a 2.5mm mouse, and a little turtleneck fleece lycra... Guess who needs all that to be comfortable in 27-28°C water? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

This so far World Soccer 2018

A little parenthesis football, before you talk about coral and fish ... the World Cup final falls on July 15th, at the end of my stay, the day before my departure from Sali Kecil.

I'm the only French person and my lack of passion for football makes everyone laugh. The Indonesians who, in the past years, talked to me about Zidane as if he was my friend every time I declined my nationality, now adore Mbappé!

But with the time difference, around 11:30 pm, the game still hasn't started. We go to bed and get up early here. Only a few soccer fans (Indonesian employees of the resort and a German diver) are waiting around the only TV near the staff's lodgings.

As I have to get up before dawn to catch my flight from Labuha to Ternate, I just take the predictions of some and others before going to my princess bed one last time...

23:30 ... Only five soccer fans at Sali Bay Resort, ready to watch after midnight to watch the World Cup final on the night of July 15-16. (Halmahera, Indonesia, 2018)
23:30 ... Only five soccer fans at Sali Bay Resort, ready to watch after midnight to watch the World Cup final on the night of July 15-16. (Halmahera, Indonesia, 2018)

So I will only learn about the victory of the Blues the next day! 🇫🇷 😂

I will discover some pictures of it on the Indonesian TV, during my stopover at Ternate airport, where I have to wait several hours before the next flight. There is plenty of room to wait, in a great little jewelery and souvenir store, with TV, wifi, big sofas to wallow on and (very) spicy food served by an adorable staff.

It's on Indonesian TV: the French (Perancis) celebrate their victory at the 2018 World Cup! (Ternate, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
It's on Indonesian TV: the French (Perancis) celebrate their victory in the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament! (Ternate, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Wifi, pancake, kopi ... Perfect for waiting at Ternate airport. (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Wifi, pancake, kopi... Perfect for waiting at the Ternate airport (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The small pile of peppers that I removed from my "nasi goreng" (fried rice), excellent by the way, to the small restaurant of the airport of Ternate ... (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The small pile of chilies I pulled from my otherwise excellent "nasi goreng" (fried rice) at the little airport restaurant in Ternate... (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

Impressive currents

Let's go back to Sali Kecil... Underwater, it is sumptuous. But on some sites, the current is not a joke and the diving can become quite drifty...

The islands of Sali Kecil (the small one) and Sali Besar (the big one) are indeed in the middle of the strait between Bacan and Halmahera (see the Google Maps above). Depending on the tides and the sites, the "juice" propels our group from one "corner" of the reef to the other, like pinballs... Sometimes, it becomes mission impossible to stop for pictures!

The profile of the reef against the light, with, in the foreground, the photogenic "grove" of a red gorgonian Ellisella cercidia, sometimes nicknamed "whip of the sea". (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The profile of the reef against the light, with, in the foreground, the photogenic red "grove" of a gorgonian Ellisella cercidia, sometimes referred to as the "whip of the sea". (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

These powerful currents are typical of the Indonesian archipelago. Well known by divers in Komodo, Lombok, Bali and Raja Ampat, they are particularly related to the phenomenon called Indonesian Throughflow or ITF (see this article in English on the BirdsHeadSeascape website → The Indonesian Throughflow: Fitfteenth Thousand Rivers).

To put it simply, the ITF is a mega-current generated by the huge masses of water from the Pacific Ocean that flow into the Indian Ocean, via the straits between the islands of the Indonesian archipelago...

Indonesian Throughflow (Source: by ehackert, own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17445468)
Diagram representing the current called Indonesian Throughflow or ITF (Source : Wikimedia, by ehackert, own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The dive sites accessible from Sali Kecil (the small island in the middle). (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The dive sites accessible from Sali Kecil (the small island in the middle). (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Islands still unspoiled by mass tourism ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Islands still unspoiled by mass tourism ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

Here, in this strait on the southwest coast of Halmahera, the currents that can be observed from the surface at the mercy of the tides are indeed very impressive: it looks like a torrent in flood, but in the middle of the sea... 😱 The boat that transports me with the other divers between Sali Kecil and the surrounding sites (a large fishing boat fitted out for diving and equipped with powerful engines) sometimes struggles to cross these impetuous waves!

Thanks to the Indonesian Throughflow, Indonesia (along with the Philippines and Papua New Guinea) is the region of the planet richest in marine biodiversity. The area holds the record number of coral species, which is why it is called the Coral Triangle.

But these powerful feeding currents also have a downside: they carry innumerable plastic wastesThis has become a common sight in Indonesia.

The solution to this problem? In Asia, as everywhere else in the world, it is mainly on land: it is the flow of our waste that we must dry up (avoid, reduce, recycle) to reduce the volume that ends up in the ocean. Once at sea, plastics degrade into tiny particles that are impossible to "clean" and end up in the food chain... The Tara Ocean Foundationwho welcomed me at the beginning of 2018 aboard his schooner scientist for a report in the Philippines, is launching a new mission on this theme in 2019. To learn more, it's here → At the origins of plastic pollution.

Diversity of coral species in the world. (Source: WWF Australia report, May 2009)
Diversity of coral species in the world. (Source: WWF Australia report, May 2009)
The coral at water level, under the pontoon, at low tide. Between two dives ... (Sali Bay Resort, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Coral flush with water, under the pontoon, at low tide. Between two dives... (Sali Bay Resort, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The tide of the day brought together natural waste and plastic waste ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The tide of the day brought together natural waste and plastic waste ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Back to Sali Kecil after a dive in the afternoon. Fortunately, the captain is familiar with the currents around the island. (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Back to Sali Kecil after an afternoon dive. Fortunately, the captain knows the currents around the island well (Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018).
Some mornings, the sea is incredibly calm. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Some mornings, the sea can also be incredibly calm ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

Explosion of life under the surface

But the underwater sites around Sali Kecil are splendid. Everywhere, there are reefs full of coral and fish. The area seems to have escaped the dynamite fishing that has destroyed so many other coasts in Indonesia.

So much life! How beautiful it is! 😲 As soon as we go back under the surface, I marvel.

The reefs are teeming with life. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The reefs are teeming with life. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

Overall, in this season, we had quite good visibility. On almost every dive, we saw harmless white-tip coral sharks (Triaenodon obesus)They are snoozing on the bottom or wandering in the current, indifferent to our vibrating regulators and our bubbles. Impressive giant gorgonians, bright orange or fuchsia pink, are arched against the current. Swarms of anthias and schools of wriggling glass fish are constantly being made and unmade...

There are also small sheltered bays, slopes and drop offs protected from the current, for quieter dives, as well as sites to muck-dive (diving at the level of the substratum, to observe the very small fauna which hides there).

The locals don't see many tourists passing by. So, when at the foot of the pontoon of a nearby village, I put myself in the water for a muck-dive with my guide "eagle eye" Jemmy, they observe me with curiosity.

Under a gray sky, the guys from the neighboring village watch me with a smile wedge draw my iPhone for a souvenir photo. Today it's muck-dive under their pontoon. (Sali Islands, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Under a gray sky, the guys from the neighboring village are watching me with a smile on their faces as I pull out my iPhone for a souvenir photo. Today, it is muck-dive under their pontoon. (Sali Islands, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
My super dive guide Jemy is posing with me. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
My super Jemmy dive guide is posing with me. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
My guide went to pose in the "window" formed by the reef where swarms of glass fish move. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
My guide went to pose in the "window" formed by the reef where swarms of glass fish are moving around (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

Indonesian from Manado (Sulawesi), Jemmy is a very experienced dive guide, who knows well the expectations of underwater photographers like me. And I am able to let myself be fascinated for a long time by a huge gorgonian as well as by a tiny nudibranch... Patient, attentive, he spares no effort underwater to help me to succeed in my images. He leads me to strategic places when I am using the wide angle lens and finds small curiosities that are worth the detour when I have switched to the macro lens.

I owe it to him to have managed to photograph my first nudibranch "Shaun The Sheep", Shaun the sheep : this tiny sea slug (Costasiella kuroshimae of its scientific name) is so nicknamed because of its resemblance to the character of the cartoon ...

I leave you with some underwater images brought back from there, that it was about time I got out of my hard drive... 😉 👌

Shaun the sheep, aka "Costasiella kuroshimae" is a tiny nudibranch just a few millimeters, very difficult to spot. Particularity of this sea slug: it is capable of photosynthesis, like a plant. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Shaun the sheep, aka "Costasiella kuroshimae" is a tiny nudibranch barely a few milimeters long, very difficult to spot. A special feature of this sea slug: it is capable of photosynthesis, like a plant (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018).
A magnificent gorgon "overflown" by a cloud of anthias. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A beautiful gorgonian "flown over" by a cloud of anthias (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
This giant gorgon rose unfolds like a dome facing the current, to catch in its interweaving of polyps nutrients suspended in water. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
This giant pink gorgonian spreads out like a dome in front of the current, to catch nutrients suspended in the water in its interlacing polyps (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
An adorable Pygmy Seahorse Bargibanti .. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
An adorable pygmy hippocampus Bargibanti .. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Another mini-sea horse, the Pontohi seahorse. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Another mini seahorse, the Pontohi seahorse. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Always on the watch, Mr. Gobie ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Always on the watch, Mr. Gobie ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A large thorny hippocampus (Hippocampus histrix) timidly takes the pose on the bottom of black sand. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A large thorny hippocampus (Hippocampus histrix) timidly takes the pose on the bottom of black sand. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Too cute, this miniature limefish (Rudarius minutus). (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Too cute, this miniature limefish (Rudarius minutus). (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Yes, this little orange ball is a fish ... A juvenile starfish Arothron stellatus? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Yes, this little orange ball is a fish... A juvenile starfish "Arothron stellatus"? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The white light of my flashes reveals the beautiful red orange of the sea fans. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
The white light of my flashes reveals the beautiful red orange of the sea fans. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
How many different species on this coral "potato"? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
How many different species on this coral "potato" (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
It quivers ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
It quivers ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A colored jewel in the substrate: a sea slug (nudibranch) of the family Flabellinidae. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A colored jewel in the substrate: a sea slug (nudibranch) of the family Flabellinidae. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A nudibranch "Chromodoris magnifica" rather common, in the Indo-Pacific area, but still very photogenic. Note the "Neptune lace" next ... His meal? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
A rather common nudibranch "Chromodoris magnifica", in the Indo-Pacific area, but still very photogenic. Note the "Neptune's lace" next to it... Its meal? (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Flabellina exoptata, delicate small sea slug. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Flabellina exoptata, delicate small sea slug. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
"Gymnodoris Broome", an orange electric nudibranch! (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
"Gymnodoris sp. Broome", an electric orange nudibranch! (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
In the Pokemon family, here is the "Thecacera picta". (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
In the Pokemon family, meet the "Thecacera picta". (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Orange and blue are colors that go so well together ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Orange and blue are colors that go so well together ... (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Another beautiful bright orange gorgon and its cloud of anthias. (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)
Another beautiful bright orange gorgonian and its cloud of anthias (Sali Kecil, Halmahera, Indonesia, July 2018)

  Indonesia: Alor + Halmahera + Sumbawa - July 2018

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  1. Pleasure of reading and feast for the eyes; a beautiful terrestrial and underwater getaway in the beauty of the world (except plastic!). Thank you.

  2. I think I vote for the electric orange nudibranch. I don't know why, but I find in its attitude an ultra snobbish and self-confident air really extra 🙂 But the rest is not bad either. Amazing what you can find underwater (and that I don't explore more than that) in this part of the world.
    Thanks for the link to my article on Ternate. I would definitely go back to the Moluccas! What a wonderful, and in every way, place.

    1. @Laurent: 😀 Yes, what a snob, this nudi!!! For travelers who would like to wander around, you are a much better source of info than I am... I have to arbitrate between my insatiable desire to dive and the time at my disposal, which leaves less room for purely terrestrial travel... Yes, the Moluccas, at least the little I know of it, I love it! I will go back there this summer, in another corner, north of Halmahera... 😉

  3. Great photos that make you want to be there!
    Are the surface currents as strong as those at depth? Is snorkeling possible? 🙂

    1. @Marine : some currents are very impressive when seen from the surface... Just don't get into them! Yes, snorkeling is obviously possible, in sheltered places and at the right time (beware of the tides), provided of course that you do not swim alone in your corner for safety reasons. One person, a friend of a family of German divers present when I was there, sometimes accompanied us on the boat to do snorkeling.

  4. Did he seem as thrilled as you were while diving? I guess he didn't see the same things! The big pink gorgonian, or the nudibranches for example! What a beauty!

    1. @Marine : He seemed happy, but that's all I can say. I don't practice snorkeling, so I don't realize at all, during our dives, what can be nice for swimmers near the surface... The pictures I posted here are all at depths too deep for snorkelers...

  5. You mention very quickly the logistics to get there... Can you tell me from which airport we reach Ternate? Thanks in advance

    1. @Nadia: From memory, with a direct domestic flight, you can reach Ternate from Jakarta (the capital) or from Makassar (the big city in South Sulawesi, where I went), maybe also Manado (North Sulawesi) I did not check. But with domestic flights with stopovers and/or plane changes, there are ways to reach Ternate from most Indonesian airports.

      The best is to explore the websites of the two big Indonesian airlines Garuda (and its subsidiary Citilink which took over Sriwijaya and Nam Air) and Lion Air (which also manages the subsidiaries Wings and Batik) to see the possible destinations and connections, depending on where you are in Indonesia.

  6. Thank you Corinne for making us travel again, superb...! A new destination to explore for us, but this year in July, direction Raja Ampat at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge that you had mentioned in a previous article, then Siladen / Onong Resort! Can't wait to be there and thanks for all these tips, it really helps me every time I plan a trip!

    1. @Pascal: and thank you for this nice little message! Glad to inspire you for your travels! Feel free to email me your thoughts on RADL and Siladan when you get back. Enjoy it 🙂

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