Indonesia October 2012 – Next Stop: Northwest Bali

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 12:14 pm

Back at the Denpasar airport, Wakatobi staff were on hand to help everyone gather their luggage and find their way to whatever was next. In our case, that meant helping to find our driver from AquaMarine Diving, who would be taking on us a customized ‘Dive Safari’ over the next 10 days.

AquaMarine had been recommended to us by friends who’ve been to Bali several times, and they seemed to fit the bill perfectly: a dive and travel agency that would take care of our transportation, hotel arrangements, and diving in multiple parts of Bali. I worked with their staff over the course of a few weeks last spring to put together the itinerary we wanted, which was basically a big loop around Bali: up to the northwest (Secret Bay, Menjangan Island), the north coast (Puri Jati), northeast (Tulamben and Amed) and southeast (Nusa Penida).

The phrase ‘custom dive safari’ had me seeing dollar signs – but to my amazement, booking through AquaMarine wound up being slightly cheaper than if we’d arranged everything on our own. And we had the added benefit of diving with the same dive guide for 8 days straight, usually all by ourselves and never with more than 2 other divers.

The excellent service I’d come to expect after my email dealings continued at the airport, where we were scooped up into a roomy van stocked with information about Bali diving and AquaMarine. The 20 minute drive to our Kuta hotel gave me a chance to read up on all the dive sites we’d soon be seeing in person!

We only ventured down one street in Kuta (street vendor OVERLOAD), then decided to just take it easy in the hotel. This one had a pool bar, too – we were on a roll!

At 6am Thursday morning, the AquaMarine van rolled up to our hotel, and we met Janri, our dive guide for the week. We loaded up the van and headed north through the interior of the island, passing by some beautiful scenery that we both completely failed to capture on camera. Sorry!

First Leg: Kuta to Secret Bay

Three hours later, we reached the north coast and picked up our dive buddies for the next few days, an easygoing British couple. The four of us (actually 6 counting Janri and our driver) continued around the northwest tip of Bali to a shore dive site known as Secret Bay.  There was a nice little facility set up with rinse tanks, bathrooms, and a small restaurant. We didn’t waste any time suiting up and jumping in.

You guys….


I think I can let some of the pictures and video speak for themselves:

Yellow frogfish shows off his lure

Schooling catfish

Cockatoo Waspfish

The highlight of our first dive here was a tiny yellow frogfish who just loved to swim. After years of shooting footage of frogfish just SITTING there doing very little, I had a blast playing with this little dude.

After 5 days of diving on beautiful reefs, it was really fun to switch gears and poke around for weird little creatures in the sand. Plus, I finally got to use my tripod!

There were no time limits here, except those imposed on us by the amount of air in our tanks. After a nearly 90-minute dive, we surfaced and were treated to a lunch of grilled fish overlooking the bay. (I always feel a little weird eating fish while diving….)

Side note on food: part of the AquaMarine service is that lunch is provided on all diving days. What you get depends on where you are – at Secret Bay it was fresh fish, but usually we were offered a selection from a restaurant near the dive site. Most days we had fried rice or noodles, which it turns out are still pretty darned tasty after being packed up to go and eaten hours later on a dive boat! Between AquaMarine providing lunch, and hotels including breakfast, dinner was the only time we had to fend for ourselves – and all the hotels had their own restaurants for nights we felt like staying put.

Our second dive was much like the first, and I had even more opportunities to mess with the tripod.

We headed back to our home base for the next three nights: Adi Assri Hotel in Pemuteran, about a 15-minute drive from the Menjangan crossing and less than an hour from Secret Bay. I really liked this hotel – the rooms were spacious, the restaurant was on the beach, and once again there was a pool bar!

There was also a mosquito net around our bed, which our dive buddies warned us was NOT FOR SHOW. They weren’t kidding: Jeff must’ve squashed half a dozen mozzies in our room that evening! They didn’t seem terribly bite-y though – I usually get chewed to bits, but in three days I only got 2 or 3 bites which barely itched. Conclusion: Bali mosquitos are awesome.

On Friday, we headed out to Menjangan Island for the day.

Lots of dive boats for hire at the Menjangan Crossing:


Menjangan is known for beautiful wall diving, though I’d read that it wasn’t as nice as in years past. You could have fooled me! Although not as lush and healthy as Wakatobi, I would still rate it pretty high on my list of reef dives! We had excellent visibility and just enough current to bring out the fish without kicking our butts. My favorite part of this dive was a titan triggerfish who let me get surprisingly close!

Triggerfish video is best with sound:

For lunch, we pulled up to a little pier next to a temple made of white stone. After scarfing down our fried rice, we took a stroll up onto the island to look at the ruins of an even older temple just up the hill. It was worth a little sweat for the view (did I mention Bali gets freaking HOT?).

Dive #2 was another wall dive in a pleasant amount of current. I had camera issues, so concentrated on modeling for Jeff.

Back on the mainland, we bid goodbye (temporarily) to our buddies, who we wouldn’t see again until our last day of diving. For the next few days, it would be just Janri and us.

We kicked off our “solo” diving that evening, with a night dive in Mimpi Channel in pursuit of mating mandarinfish. The mandarinfish weren’t feeling frisky, unfortunately, but we managed to find other things to look at for an hour and a half! Jeff tried out the red mode on a Sola light one of our friends had loaned him for this trip, and it seemed to especially help when shooting crabs and shrimps.

The next day, we’d be packing up and heading east….

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I think Ben and I are on a decade-long babysitting diving hiatus, so it’s nice to live vicariously through you. Keep posting! =)

    Comment by Kathy — 11/19/2012 @ 8:27 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.