Mola Mola and other mythical creatures

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 We dived with Geko dive ( 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.

Dewi villas
Padangbai beach
The crew (photo credit Dewi Villa staff)

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 ( 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.

Louise showing off at the water palace en route (photo credit Shelley Bredin)
Liberty Dive Resort (if we weren’t diving, we were wallowing in this pool)
Louise making us drink Arak
Trucking to the dive site 
Dive gear being delivered to the beach by moto (photo credit Chris Bredin)
Current madness
Tiny frogfish
Spot the emperor shrimp on this Spanish dancer
Ornate ghost pipefish at a cleaning station

Captain Dave

Mantis shrimp
Harlequin shrimp
Pygmy seahorse (photo credit Chris Bredin)

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.

Interesting squat lobster
Interesting crab
Partner shrimp and goby
Spot the skeleton shrimps
Tiny squat lobsters (<5mm)
All the shrimp
These “ladybugs” are 1-2mm
Our guide went crazy over this nudi
Another interesting nudi
And another one
Hairy squat lobster plus goby
Crinoid shrimp (maybe 1cm)

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.

Sunrise on Batur (photo credit Louise Ivie)
Triumphant climbers (photo credit “some random guy”) 

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 (

Louise enjoying our rijsttafel at Poppies 
The famous Poppies pina colada 

Next up: going big in Japan


4 thoughts on “Mola Mola and other mythical creatures

  1. Nice one, didn’t realise you were in Bali. Miranda and I were there two weekends ago to run the Bali Tough Mudder.

    I think that place you stayed at in Tulamben is the same one Deni and I stayed at in 2010, or near it anyway. It was pretty much right opposite the Liberty – we just walked into the surf to dive.

    P On Fri, 14 Oct 2016 at 17:16, My very long weekend… wrote:

    > supermrmonkey posted: “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 / Octo” >

  2. Beautiful photos you had, seems Bali doing fun to all of you 🙂 Made me think the underwater world so beautifully insane, when I get the courage to try, hmmm maybe, I’ll try 🙂 Thank you for sharing this beautiful creature and photos.

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