Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 22 December 2010 • Itinerary
This was on one my reason to join the Bali trip, to dive with my crazy friends from Spermonde Dive Center, Makassar. It’s always fun and disturbing diving with them, and I love a little of that in my life. Irma, Rahmat, Tumas, Sita, and Dedi were the gang and all flew from Makassar. Irma had the camera so celebrate people for we have pictures of the underwater!
The plan was 3 dives in Tulamben and 3 dives the next day in Manta Point, Crystal Bay, and Ceningan. All organized by the Bali Scuba dive center located in Sanur.
Most divers would know all about this wreck. It’s the most famous of them all since it’s so easy to access. You walk out from the beach and swim up to the ship. The USS Liberty wreck wasn’t a shipwreck per say. It was an American ship bombed by the Japanese resulting the abandon ship on the shore. During the Mount Agung eruption, it slid down about 25 m in to the ocean. It has been there since, and now is home to so many creatures.
We were taken down by Mr. Chris, an Indonesian DM, and Barbara, a European DM-to-be. Let it be noted, I warned them that this bunch was crazy since I first met them that morning at the hotel. I think they took my advice for granted. Oh! And and and… we met Om Wally Siagian, a prominent diver, helped the book Dive Indonesia come true, and Pak Widana, a prominent underwater photographer having breakfast there. Meeting them already made my day.
The beach was a rocky one, hence quite hard to walk in to the clear waters. I gasped as soon as I saw the tail of the wreck itself! It was huge. Wrecks are cool! It was about 8 m high and corals were already attached to it. We dived from the back to the front just to avoid the mass moving the other way around. There were the grass eels, the school of jack fish, and so many other creatures down there. Of course the winner spot to take a picture was in the cargo area. I bet you almost every diver has a picture of themselves here. We were lucky (there was so many luck that morning), it was a weekday, still early, so not so many divers in the waters. I thought it was already crowded, but Mr. Chris assured me it was a very very pleasant sight seeing. I did see one of my biggest bump fish there.
One thing that took my interest was how the businesses and locals successfully organized the people to help tourism rather than gathering fish. Locals are now lifting the tanks of divers and working in local resorts. I did a little blog here. These men and women have extraordinary necks. They’re so strong. Until now, the women are used to such weight to lift the several stacks of fruit offerings for their Gods. But about 2 full tanks of oxygen is pretty heavy. I pray their Gods are protecting their necks.
Coral Garden and the Wall
This sub title really explains itself well. Both coral gardens and the Wall were accessible from the beach. The waters were a bit murky but still good enough for a sight seeing journey.
At the coral garden, or known as the Paradise reef, there were structures for coral rehabilitation. The rehab was working, there were many corals attached and fishes already sheltering in it. Saw my fist sweet lips and leaf fish up close, which had the grumpiest face of all.
During these two dives is when the guys started to ‘have fun’. The crazy Spermonde acted up including me… well there’s no point of following the rules when chaos is in order? They did the traditional masks-and-regulator-off picture, scattered around the place, stayed too long at one place, didn’t wanna go out from the water, I won’t go in to more details but we were kinder garden kids in a playground. Barbara, being my buddy, came up and immediately said ‘these guys are crazy’, can I get a witness? woop woop!!
Bali Scuba had doubts to take me along this dive. It’s really for advance divers or those that are already probably on their 5th log book. For me, that was about my 10th dive. But Mr. Chris and Barbara had assessed my diving skills to be sufficient enough, so I could tag along. OH HOW JOY! I get to see Manta Rays should we be lucky, fingers cross. The day before, Sita went out on her own with another dive center, and they saw none. She was so bored and disappointed on the trip, so I’m hoping all is better for us.
Minus Dedi and Sita, we headed out that morning on the speed boat rented by Bali Scuba to Manta Point. Pak Sabre, our DM was skeptical we could reach the point since the waves were really big when we crossed the strait to Nusa Penida. Thank God I have a strong spine to hold to that bumpy ride! It was raining and we were already soaked half way across the strait. But coming close to Nusa Penida, the rain subsided and Pak Sabre decided we can head out to Manta Point. Yippy Kayoyay!
Manta Point point is located on the south point of Nusa Penida. That morning, besides cloudy and wavy, we passed the jagged cliffs south of the island. It was as if we were going to another Jurassic Park. Suddenly we stopped at this little corner where there were about 10 other boats already standing by with or without divers. And this was not the high season. During high season, it can peak up to hundreds of divers in the water at one time. Phew! More elbow room for me then. It is one of the many Manta cleaning stations in Indonesia. They get cleaned here, just like a carwash. And as we were gearing up to see these beasts, somebody yelled out ‘See, there’s one there!’
We only dropped about 12 m in to the ocean. We missed the one close to the boat. So we headed to the spot where they usually see the Manta Rays. In excitement we floated around, swaying to the waves. The skill of advance is needed since this area is known for having waves taking you in and out of the bay-like area. If you don’t flow with it, you run out of air quickly or get too close or far from the safe spot. The water was a bit murky that day so one could easily get lost. The area isn’t this big coral garden but it did present some good looks. A 1 m fish sleeping on its side, a few nudibranches, and numerous divers passing by kept us awake during the wait.
Was it Rahmat or the DM that gave code that something was coming? I peed in my wetsuit of excitement. Well sorry… but I did. And there it was, just gliding through the waters, a huge Manta Ray about 3-4 m in width passed us. It was about less than 10 m from me and just gracefully swimming, being the star of the show as she was. Oh screw Nicole Kidman, this Manta wins by far. Divers were behind her. It swam away, with Irma struggling to keep up and take a picture.
After 15 minutes of boredom (can’t believe that we can be bored diving) another came and we were just on her track. Oh my God, how did I ever come to this point, seeing such a magnificent creature, so beautiful, graceful, and gentle. It suddenly took a turn and avoided us. Why should Irma forget that if they see your fins flap chasing them, they will straight away avoid you. Why??? And she’s off chasing the poor beast. During the whole dive, we saw about 3-4 Mantas, not as many as Tumas 20 Mantas sight a few days back, but so much more than disappointment. I couldn’t understand why we had little amount of pictures of the Manta, but turned out that Irma took a video of it. Almost peed again in my pants when I saw it while writing this. Almost…
Crystal Bay is the spot to see the Sunfish or Mola-Mola. A prehistoric fish that comes up in summer just to get cleaned. Once we got to this spot, there were even more boats standing by. The DM asked around to see if anyone had seen one that morning. All negative, so let’s try our luck.
Crystal Bay is also another spot for advance divers. It’s the down current that is feared because it could be pretty rough. Once you dive, the current will take you deeper than you realize. There’s even stories that people already launching sausages and almost on the surface, get sucked in again because of this current. This Sunfish is some extreme sport junkie. Pretty much explains the sightings in front of SD where there was a strong current.
So down we went, and what was feared started to happen. The current was pretty mean for a rookie like me. We were reaching 20 m in no time. The DM instructed us to stay at that level, but once we saw our depth was already almost to 30 m, he instructed us to head back up.
Climbing back the steep slope was a struggle. I could feel myself out of breath, using too much air. Most of the time I tried to hold on to Irma, since I wasn’t wearing gloves. Crystal Bay was much friendlier to the eyes compared to the Manta Ray. And so it wasn’t a loss especially since we found this little buddy. By the time we got to the surface, we were exhausted and looking for lunch.
The initial proposal for the last dive was to go to Ceningan. Since I’ve been there, I suggested somewhere else please. Pura was the destination, who knows I could do a second drift.
We did manage to catch a drift but it wasn’t as fun as SD. We were tired, and so full of diving. There wasn’t much else that can excite us, thus we just enjoyed a small drift and photographed through the dive. In the end, we saw this cuttlefish or sotong which was kindly enough to be a model. It was Rahmat’s idle hands that had to poke the poor thing making it turn to red and yellow before finally leaving.
That afternoon, when filling in our log book, Irma stated ‘Guys, we got Deco’ (as in we needed decompression). We burst in to laughter since were a bit naughty in the waters of Bali. It then kicked us in the ass the next morning as we were black and blue, barely moving. As I write for the 67th time on the chalk board beside Bart Simpson, I will never disobey diving calculations ever again.
After that late dinner, I separated from these beloved lunatics. I miss them already while writing this entry. It was because of their careless ambition I got to see a Manta Ray, an ancient creature that has been in the Indonesian water for all this time. And comparing to the dudes I met at Nusa Lembongan, they were really a joyride.
I had 2 more days in Bali before starting to work again. I was so tired because of diving but I thought better head out to that other alluring place. Better satisfied than curious I say. And this time, I’m heading to another ancient place… have a spoiler here.
Paradise Palm Beach Resort
Bali Scuba worked with this hotel to accommodate us the night we were to jump in to the USS Liberty. The resort was nice. It had a few dense bungalows and a few rooms distributed around within the complex. The plants and green luscious ambience really helped make this resort homier.
The restaurant was located beside the beach. It had great food and of course killer view. Especially since they had beach chairs. You can’t lose with them. We geared up just beside the restaurant to walk to the destination. The USS Liberty was about a few hundred meters from the hotel. A good warm up walk before diving!
The rooms were standard rooms with AC and bathrooms. We got a room with a balcony, perfect to enjoy the morning sun. It was clean and spacious should there had be only 2 girls on the trip 😛
According to their price list, we got the Double Room costing IDR 350,000 with IDR 70,000 for an extra bed, breakfast included.
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