Blogged by Anne
Our trip to Bali was focused on one thing – finding the Mola Mola. Like the manatee, Dave and I have been trying to see the ocean’s largest bony fish on scuba for years and Bali is one of the best places to do it in September / October. Spoiler alert – we didn’t see one.
The Zekis, the Bredins, Tor, Louise and us started off at Padangbai, about 1.5 hours and $35 north of the Denpasar airport. Padangbai is a sleepy fishing village, and wouldn’t be at all touristy if it wasn’t for the 3000 or so people who travel through a day to catch the fast boat to the Gili islands. We stayed a bit out of town at a lovely, cheap guesthouse who offer a free shuttle service into town (Dewi Villa https://www.facebook.com/Dewi-Villa-Padangbai-795607677234891/). We dived with Geko dive (https://gekodivebali.com/) who took us out for two full days of unsuccessful Mola Mola hunting at Nusa Penida and Gili Biaha. Fortunately we enjoyed the diving despite the lack of Mola Mola and there were plenty of beautiful reefs and reef life to be seen including one of the best wall dives we have ever done. Thos was the group’s introduction to the famous Indonesian currents including a crazy upcurrent which tested our skills. Louise claimed to see a Mola Mola breach from the boat but the rest of us only saw a splash. On our last day, we were hoping to do the famous jetty dive but the visibility wasn’t cooperating so we enjoyed a macro dive at the Padangbai white sand beach instead.
Next up was Tulamben, a marine reserve on Bali’s north coast where we stayed and dived at an awesome spot called Liberty Dive Resort (http://www.libertydiveresort.com/). We were really impressed with the resort, especially the food and the quality of the guiding. Tulamben is all about muck diving which involves (carefully) cruising along sandy bottoms looking for interesting small things. Good buoyancy control and a modified finning technique is essential. The beaches are made of large pebbles which makes for tricky shore entries (all diving in the area is shore based), and there are very few non-diving tourists. Our first muck dive had crazy currents running in all directions and we were worried that the novice muck divers in our group might be put right off but after that we had some amazing dives. There is also a very famous wreck from World War 2 called the USAT Liberty which was towed onto the beach after being torpedoed by the Japanese and slipped under the water during a volcanic eruption in the sixties. It’s a fantastic dive, especially at night (I had to drag Dave away), although it can be very busy so it’s worth trying to dive it at unuasual times. The Liberty wreck is Liberty Dive Resort’s house reef and there is another wreck nearby which was deliberately sunk to entertain divers.
This trip I am still diving with our tiny no-housing-required waterproof-to-25m Canon D30 but this time I have brought an external strobe along. The set up is still small enough to fit into my hand-luggage size back pack. The strobe is taking a bit of getting used to but it improves the control I have over lighting massively. Unfortunately, much of the really interesting macro life is so small that it is beyond the capabilities of a compact camera without a magnifier but I have included a few bad pics of some of the cooler creatures.
Part of our group elected to climb Mount Batur, one of Bali’s active volcanoes (Dave and I did this hike on a previous trip). The idea is to see sunrise from the top so you get picked up from your hotel in the middle of the night. Ubud is the best base for this excursion because it’s close, from Tulamben you’re looking at a 2 hour drive which means a 1am pick up! The hike is strenuous and sweaty but reasonably short and you need something warm to wear while you wait for the sunrise and simple breakfast. A must do excursion in Bali.
We ended our trip with dinner at Poppies in Kuta before heading to the airport for a late night flight. Kuta is the vest capital of the world, full of dirty alleyways and drunk Australians getting tattoos. It has a large and popular beach, but there are much better beaches to be had elsewhere. Poppies, however, is a little oasis of calm and has a beautiful hotel (booked out months in advance) and a great restaurant (http://www.poppiesbali.com/)
Next up: going big in Japan