Indonesia October 2012 – Last Diving Days: East Bali

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 5:21 pm

Tuesday we headed southeast along the coast to Amed, a beautiful seaside area full of little beach cottages and European expats.

Our first dive here was at a site known simply as “the Japanese Wreck” – or possibly “the Javanese Wreck” (apparently there is some debate).  We parked at the top of a hill, and porters carried all our dive gear down a set of stairs on the tops of their heads.  As if I wasn’t already feeling guilty at having other people do all the hard work all week!

The wreck itself is in shallow water (you can snorkel over it) and quite small, but still beautiful.  Soft coral is growing all over it, and schools of fish hang out in the shade.  As usual, though, we had more fun poking around in the sand!  The slope next to the wreck was home to all kinds of nudibranchs, as well as jawfish and the usual assortment of little crabs and shrimps.

The second dive was a bit further up the shore, at a site called “Bobo’s Cafe Reef” or “Big Tree Reef.”  You know those dives where you basically never put the camera down, because there is constantly something AWESOME to be shooting?  This was that kind of dive for me!

First we found a patch of garden eels, perfect subjects for a camera on a tripod.  As soon as I finished filming them and went to catch up to Jeff and Janri, I became distracted by a bunch of mating dascyllus and plopped the tripod down again.  Then it was down to the artificial cement-block reef in the sand, home to lots (seriously, LOTS) of stingrays – which also turned out to be fun to film.  On the way back into the shallows, Janri discovered (i.e., was attacked by) a nesting titan triggerfish. (It’s usually smarter to run AWAY from angry triggerfish, but on the other hand they make pretty fun video…)

All this on one dive, and I have the video to prove it!

We continued south to Candidasa, where we  spent the next two nights at Candidasa Bayside Bungalows,the only hotel we stayed at that I wouldn’t recommend.  It wasn’t horrible, but seemed a little run-down and poorly staffed compared to every other place we saw.  And it happened to be next door to some extremely loud roosters who thought it was sunrise ALWAYS.  Ack.

The location was good though: it was just a 20-minute scenic ride from Candidasa down to Padangbai, where the AquaMarine dive boats live.   These are three super-fast boats of small-to-medium size, tied up to a sandy beach next to a diver-friendly restaurant.

This beach looked so lovely after the pointy, constantly shifting rocks we’d been hobbling over for the last few days.  I was super excited to just have to walk across SAND to get to my boat.

“Careful,” warned Janri.  “It’s quicksand – take your shoes off.”

Turns out the sand here is parrotfish poop – coral that’s been ground up into small spheres inside the guts of fish.  It doesn’t stick together like “normal” sand; the grains all slide past each other, making something that is basically dry quicksand.  (Or wet quicksand, once you get to the water – it still doesn’t solidify like wet sand is supposed to.)  I sank knee-deep on every step, and still have no idea how the porters managed to just dash across the beach lugging all our gear on their heads!

Once on board the boat, it was a shockingly short trip across to Crystal Bay – if a bit jarring to our spines!

The water at Nusa Penida is colder than north Bali, sometimes even dipping into the 60s.  We both added an extra 5mil layer on top of our 3mil full suits.  With those temperatures, I was surprised that it’s still a very tropical reef, with huge hard coral formations and beautiful schools of fish feeding in the current.

But the real reason to dive Nusa Penida – especially in October – is to look for sunfish, or mola mola.  On all of our dives, we kept our eyes trained on the depths.  Janri usually left us cruising in 60′ while he headed a little deeper in search of molas, letting us conserve bottom time.

First dive… nothing.  Second dive… no molas.  For the third dive, we thought about putting on our macro lenses, but decided not to risk it.

Good thing we didn’t, because third time was the charm!  We were tooling around in 40′ of water when we heard Janri’s shaker and glanced down to see him doing a little victory dance and pointing off in the distance.  Jeff headed in that direction and was able to snap a couple of shots of a HUGE sunfish before he disappeared back into the depths.

We spent two days diving Nusa Penida, but that was our only mola mola sighting.  Mostly we just relaxed and enjoyed the sights, letting the current pull us along first one direction and then another – sometimes changing 3 times in one dive!  As our second day there drew to a close, I felt the usual post-trip blues settling in already.  This was our last day of diving in Bali, and I knew I was going to miss it!

At least we still had more to look forward to – a day of relaxation in Ubud…

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