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Sept. 2001

We woke at 5:00am had a quick shower and loaded the car, check-in at the airport was at 6:00am Saturday 1st Sept 2001. The plane took off at 08:00, after an uneventful flight we arrived in Bali at 11:10am the same morning (yes just over 3hr from Perth, Western Australia). After collecting our bags, we were greeted by staff from our travel agent at the front of the airport and transported to the Barong hotel on Poppies Lane II in the heart of Kuta (Be aware that when you collect your bags from the baggage carousel, porters will come from everywhere to help you. They can be VERY demanding! If you don't have any Rupia to give them don't let them take your bags or you will have one angry porter demanding money at the car).
The first day was spent buying clothes and nick-knacks for our loved ones and prepared our gear for tomorrows dive. Segara, our dive guide, contacted us later that night and requested our diving itinerary be put off by one day. It was ceremony day in his village tomorrow night and he would like us to attend with him, while he was at it he also sold us a white water rafting trip for the same morning.
At 6:00 we woke to prepare for the rafting and were picked up at 8:00, to be transported up the mountains to the starting point at the Bali Rafting Company two hours away. We were to share our raft with two Canadians, I made the mistake of calling them Americans and was quickly corrected. The river was a grade 3 rapid and took us through waterfalls, under some bamboo bridges not more than one foot above the water and down a small dam. Our guide was very friendly and the ride was most enjoyable. The rapid ride lasted 90minutes and we travel 16km before finishing and climbing some MONSTER stairs to the restaurant. This caused my legs to require several stops to have a rest before reaching the top where lunch was provided.
At 7:00pm we were picked up by Segara and taken to his village on Turtle Island near Sanuar for the dance ceremony, held every full moon. Introductions to his family were made before being taken off and changed into traditional Balinese dress, as this is a requirement to enter the temple. The ceremony started with the locals praying in the temple before heading outside for a dance. This symbolised the battle between the good & the bad gods, thankfully, the good won. The ceremony lasted approximately 2 hrs, after which we headed back to Segara's house to change and call a taxi. Thirty minutes had passed and the taxis had not arrived, waiting more than 30sec for a taxi in Bali is rare! Again the taxi company was called, but no one knew how to get to the island so a taxi was not coming. It was decided to take us by scooter to the main road and hail a cab from there. The trip on the back of the scooter on a gravel road was an experience but fun all the same. Once at the main road a taxi was hailed within minutes and we proceeded back to our hotel.
Pick-up was arranged for 7:30am for our first destination, Talumben, on the North East coast of Bali. This is one of Bali's most popular dive sites due to the 120m long World War II wreck of the USS Liberty and a Drop off a short stroll of 200m down the beach. As we left the sky was very cloudy with a moderate breeze, diving conditions where not looking good. At 9:00 we stopped at Dunkin Donuts for Breakfast, which consisted of a ham, egg, cheese and salad roll, a coke and some donuts, a very healthy start to the day. Traffic was terrible, worse than usual, we came to a crawl thru Klungkung, one of Bali's main traffic junctions. There were cars and trucks everywhere, putting some light on why so many Balinese have scooters and motorbikes.
By 11:15am we had arrived at the Talumben drop-off and the sky had cleared and the breeze had faded away. It had become the perfect diving day, the temperature was 29oC and the ocean was flat as a tac. We stopped the van under some trees and before we could get out the locals had all our gear unpacked. Apparently part of the diving costs is to pay for the locals to help carry and set up your gear. As I was stepping out of the van a lady walked past carrying two (yes two) FULL sets of gear on her head, weight belts and all. They had come from the Wreck site to the drop off some two hundred meters away. If that's not amazing enough consider that the beach is not made of sand here but fist size volcanic rocks! I had enough trouble just walking to the waters edge some 5m away with just my gear on. We entered the water and swam down to 30m where most of the dive was spent cruising the steep slope. Fish where everywhere and came in all shapes and sizes, the visibility was about 30m. I stopped to take a picture of a family of small clown anemones only to have these feisty little buggers attack the camera. This was a fascinating dive with things to see in every direction. We spent 46mins at this site before surfacing and heading down the beach to have our surface interval and then dive the wreck.
While on our surface interval we decided to snorkel out to the wreck some 40 -50m off the shore to have a look, we could just about see the whole wreck from the surface, you can even swim down and touch it. The top of the wreck starts at about 3m and goes down to about 30m. We spent 40 mins snorkelling above the wreck looking at the amazing fish life here. The resident school of trevally came swimming around us on several occasion, we couldn't wait to get our tanks on!
We had lunch (noodles and a Fanta) and kitted up. The visibility was still about 30m, even though there were between 20-30 divers in the water some doing the tour section of their open water-training course. Heading away from the wreck and coral, Segara gave us a banana to feed to the fish. They came from everywhere the majority about 30cm long, until a rather large Titan Trigger fish came in and ripped what was left of the banana out of my hand, I was lucky to still have all my fingers. The resident trevally about 70 in number circled above as we explored. There are numerous swim throughs and ledges here all hiding some sort of marine life. Once finishing the dive here we went and placed our gear in the bungalow where we would be staying the night, and prepared for our night dive, which was scheduled for 6:30pm.
6:30pm arrived quite quickly, we kitted up using our torches and entered the water. We started our dive at the front of the wreck, it looked even more magnificent at night, our torch lights illuminating events that are unseen during the day, as the night shift starts. Spotting a barrel coral full of prawns where fish came for a good clean is something we had not witnessed before. The fish seemed to be more active as they hunted around in every nook and cranny for food. About 20minutes into the dive we noticed particles of fluorescent plankton glowing in the water, it was a beautiful sight, dulling our torches by pressing them against our BCD's we followed the glow into the wreck. Once in I noticed something big sitting to my right, it was the biggest Bumphead Parrot fish I have ever seen, it must have been 1.5 meters long and it was sound asleep. Getting within a few centimetres we had a really good look. It was covered in cleaner prawns, which were busy removing minute pieces of food from the surface of this monster. Bob was ecstatic this was his first night dive and the wreck had really turned on a show, it lasted the full 44 minutes we were in the water.
After exiting we packed our bags and headed for dinner at the beach restaurant, deciding to have the Chicken with garlic sauce. When it arrived we all looked at the size of the Chicken leg and wondered if we should call the Guinness book of world records to see if we had the largest sitting on our plate. Considering all the different animals we had seen around here and the options that this could have meant we decided to eat it anyway. It turned out to be a very tasty dish and at least it tasted like chicken. As we ate our dinner in the moonlight I thought about how nice a really hot shower would be and after finishing went to our bungalow for a quick one. Well not only was the shower not hot, it was waterless, not one drop came out of the shower head, this was to be the only disappointment of our visit here.
Waking at 6:00am with the sun rising over the ocean, there was not a cloud in the sky, it was perfect diving weather as we left for Tepekong. Within half an hour of driving the sun had disappeared and it was raining as we drove into the mountains. I was surprised to be passed by a soldier on a scooter with an Ousi machine gun sitting in his lap, this was the first time we had seen a military presence here. We arrived at Canidasa and stopped to check conditions at Tepekong, Segara is very cautious about diving here but we were very eager, as this was the place to see sharks. Luckily conditions were acceptable, so it's off to Padang Bai to get a boat. Segara has warned us about the swirling DOWNWARD currents here, so the dive was planned for 20mins to leave enough air in the tank should someone get pulled under unexpectedly. This dive is only for experience divers, they will not even think of taking you here if you aren't. Segara's brother Sweta, a Master Scuba diver trainer had also briefed us earlier about the dangers here. Segara organised for two outriggers to take us there, we arrived and quickly entered the water. Within 10 minutes we had encountered three very shy white tip sharks, a cuttlefish and two mating blue spotted rays. Getting close enough to the sharks to take a photo was very difficult, these guys were definitely camera shy. Eventually I got a few shots before Segara signalled for us to finish the dive. We were happy though, after 5 years of diving we had finally seen a shark.
After a 30-minute surface interval we went to the left side of Padang Bai Bay for a dive, as soon as we were on the bottom we ran across three white tips hiding under a reef ledge. The sight of us staring in at them made them very agitated and they scurried further under the ledge. Continuing on a small moray eel slithered across the sand in front of us, as we followed, it desperately searched for somewhere to hide. We than encountered a very large moray poking its head out of the reef, there were rays and fish everywhere. Our tanks all ran down very low on air during this dive before surfacing. After a 1.5hour lunch interval we dove the right side of the bay, fish occupy every piece of coral here. We were lucky to see three big Napoleon Wrasse rushing past, unfortunately I was not ready with the camera and a good photo opportunity passed. The surge was making it very hard to take pictures, I ended up having Bob and Segara holding me in place while I took the shots. There were also a lot of thermaclines in the area making the water a little chilly.
After a 2 hour drive we arrived back in Kuta and headed straight for the Kodak shop down the road to get our film developed, then off to McDonalds for dinner. Tomorrow we begin our search for the elusive Mola Mola (Sun fish), these fish can get to 3m high by 2m long, and Manta Rays. We were picked up at 7:30am and taken to Sanur from were we caught a boat to Nusa Penida, an island off the east coast of Bali. Lionfish and Clown anemones are plentiful here and the current is reasonably strong, but nothing like we would encounter at Nusa Lembongan. The boat stopped for lunch inside a small bay called Toyapakeh Bay, this is where we would have our second dive. The current had picked up a little as we headed down to 25m, being weary of the amount of dives we had done I kept a good eye on our no-decompression time, within 10minutes we had 1 minute left so we ascended into shallower water. After drifting for 600m we surfaced to get picked up by our boat, the search would continue tomorrow.
On the car trip back to our hotel we passed a multi story construction site, we noticed the concrete being passed up to the second story in a bucket on a rope and pulley, there are no concrete pumps here. The scaffolding would cause our Occupational Health and Safety inspectors to have a heart attack, they don't look very sturdy. Things are done here so much differently than back home.
Nusa Lembongan was to be our location today, our first dive at Blue Corner, the best place for Mola Mola and the fastest drift dive in Bali at about 4 knots. The current was roaring today, we decided to go to 40m keeping close to the reef so we could grab hold if needed, to try and see some big pelagics. We must have travelled over a kilometre before we headed to shallower water, at about 15m the current reversed direction and we enjoyed another wild ride back towards the boat. Unfortunately we were not lucky enough to see our Mola Mola but the fun of the drift made up for it. The second dive was more sedate with the current running at a pleasant cruising speed, a huge Potato Cod, a large school of Trevally and a 1m long puffer fish made for an enjoyable dive.
Upon returning to the Hotel we discovered it was Aussie day and activities had been arranged for the evening. This involved Yobbo's getting drunk and singing Karaoke. With all this noise going on outside our room we realized it was going to be a long night. Surprisingly enough it didn't seem to make much difference as we both collapsed well before the celebrations outside had finished.
It was a 7:30 pickup again, but when we arrived at Sanur the tide was out and the boats were stranded on the sand, time for breakfast at the local restaurant (eggs on toast). The boat was loaded and we were on our way, about half way over the crew decided it was time to put more fuel in the tank, no problems, just keep going and we will refuel with engines running, all the passengers seemed to edge toward the front of the boat while this was happening. The first dive was at Sental on Nusa Penida, the deep slope here is the steepest of anywhere along this coastline. We had decided to go Deep again looking for something BIG, once in the water we descended quickly, I led the way with Bob and Sweta close behind. At 48m Bob started having ear problems and began to ascend to try and clear the discomfort. Coral and fish life at this depth had all but disappeared, looking further down the slope it just kept on going and the visibility was at least 30m, there were no pelagics here! We levelled out at 25m only to notice a large Napoleon Wrasse, a school of trevally and a Bumphead Parrotfish all sitting at 10m, the big stuff today was all in the shallow water. Slowly ascending to 10m we decided to stay at this depth for the rest of the dive.
We headed for a site called SD or Elementary, depending on who you ask, and had our surface interval and lunch. Deciding to stick to 15m for this dive (our last for this holiday) turned out to be a good decision. A school of 25 large trevally swim around us followed by 4 big Barracuda. We surfaced with a hint sadness, it had been a lot of fun but still the Mola Mola and Manta Rays had eluded us. Tomorrow we fly out.
Segara had organised to take us into Dempasar to have dinner, transport would be on two scooters. You have never known terror until you have been on the back of one of these at night in Bali with your brother in-law driving! Needless to say we got back and had a good night sleep (prays of thanks were whispered). We got up the next morning packed our bags, had breakfast and picked up some last minute shopping items to use up all our Rupia. We carried all our gear to reception to check out only to be told that check out was actually tomorrow. After querying this we decided to check our flight details, sure enough it was tomorrow, due to a full plane our travel agent had book an extra day, we should have checked before we left I guess. This had caused the little predicament of no cash and 24hours to get through, thank God we had our Visa cards and an ATM that let us get some money out. It was to late to organise anything else today but tomorrow would be spent enjoying the rides at Waterbom Park.
We took a cab to the park, which consists of 7 waterslides and numerous other pool activities. It took 5 hours before our legs gave way, we just couldn't climb the stairs to the top of the slide platform anymore. After leaving the park we headed to the Kuta beach and strolled along this for 2 hours, the beach here is covered in people of all nationalities, we passed 4 beach soccer games during our walk. With only a few hours before pickup we had dinner and finished a fantastic adventure in Bali.

Feb. 2001

On the 7th February 2001 my Brother-in-law, Robert Allen, and I, Gary Brennand, went for a diving holiday to Bali. Nusa Pendia an island off the East coast was to be our first dive at Bali, pickup from our hotel was arranged for 7:30am from where we were transported to our dive centres, Sea Star dive centre, head office in Sanur. Here we where greeted by Andy with a smile and very friendly welcome, we completed the paper work and headed off to the boat. Once there all our dive gear was transferred to the boat for us, a quick intro to our travelling companions, Julie and Chris from Singapore, Ramon from Mexico, and we where on our way. The Sea Star staff consisted of Marta our dive master (yes that's one dive master for two divers, not bad considering a requirement to dive here is that you are an experienced diver), Andy the dive master for Julie, Chris and Ramon, there was also two boat crew. The trip over to Nusa Penida was a little over one hour to a dive site called elementary, named after the grade school located on the shore. This site had a slight current and very clear water with a max depth set for this dive of 25 meters and a visibility at 35m, I think this was a site for the dive masters to check our skills before tackling Nusa Lembongan. As soon as we entered the water two large Potato cods showed themselves, this was until I put the camera to my eye at which time they whipped into a small cave and out of site, but there were fish everywhere and on we drifted to see them all. Marta pointed out a Moray Eel but it too was a little camera shy and retracted back into its hole. After a very enjoyable dive the boat picked us up and we were taken to a quiet bay for lunch.

For our second dive we were taken to Nusa Lembongan, Marta gave us a run through of the dive site and the best way to tackle it, basically go with the flow and try not to use your fins, if you wish to stop find shelter behind a rock formation and grab hold of the bottom (while watching out for coral). Entry into the water was a back roll out of the side of the boat and then grab hold of the mermaid line hanging from the back, the current was roaring at 4 knots just holding on to the line was hard enough, once we had all gathered on the line Marta gave the signal to let go, well what can I say we were flying through the water, even if you wanted to fin against the current it would be impossible, even some of the large fish were having problems swimming into this it. You keep your eyes peeled for a rock formation to hide behind so you can stop and have a good look around, even here the bubbles from your regs are going straight BACK, sticking your head around the corner of the formation lets the current just about rip your mask off, but this is the best way to get an idea just how fast the current is going.
When we had finished our dive Marta sent up a buoy so the boat could locate us and come pick us up, the next trick was trying to get back on the boat, a tight grip is required when taking off your fins or you will be whisked away as my buddy found out. Upon returning to the shore our gear was unload and packed into the car for us.

After being picked up from our hotel the next day we arrived at Tulamben about one and a half hours later, although the drive didn't seem that long as the scenery is magnificent all the way there. We headed straight for the drop off dive site, unfortunately it was quite rough and way to dangerous to dive, the waves were crashing into the rocks. We proceeded to the Liberty wreck, a World War II casualty, it was torpedoed by a Japanese sub and limped to the shore here but during the Mt. Agung eruption in 1963 it slide back into the sea and sank 50m from the beach. There was a reasonable amount of surf here that we would have to work our way thru, but driveable never the less. No sooner had our car stopped and the locals had all our gear unpacked, on the beach and had started to rig it up for us, this is not something we were used to and it took us a little by surprise, they did everything I thought they were going to carry us into the water to save us the effort. After checking our gear we worked our way out behind the surf and descended to about 8m where the wreck began. Due to the poor weather conditions the visibility was only about 10m. The first thing you notice here is the colour of the sand, it is pitch black, a perfect contrast for all marine colours here. We did two dives here and the marine life has well and truly taken over the wreck, there was healthy coral growth everywhere and a large diversity of fish.

Menjangan Island located in the far North West corner of Bali about 3 1/2 hours from Kuta was our next destination. We did 3 wall dives here. Could see the bottom at 45m on the first, but nothing but black on the 2nd and 3rd as the walls disappeared into the depths. Corel everywhere, lots of BIG fan coral and heaps of fish. The walls at this place are enormous, I'm not sure what depth they went to, but they started at 5m and dropped straight down, we couldn't see the bottom. During the dives we were just hanging at about 25m along side the wall and being pushed alone it by the current. A pair of fins got misplaced so the person with the camera used two and the other two used one fin each. A bit of a pain but you didn't really need to use them as we had a current pushing us along. Bob was using two fins on the second dive but one fell off and he lost it as it was whisked away in the current, so on the last dive we all swam with one fin each.

Our next and last dive was to be at Padang Bai at a site called Shark Point, this was a one half drive and as usual everything was done for us when we arrived. The boat we were to head out in was a dug out tree trunk with side riggers, this gave us quite a steady ride considering the width of the boat. Segara our Dive Master gave us one warning, if I signal a certain way to ascend go straight to the boat and DON'T do a safety stop! Thoughts of sharks everywhere filled our thoughts, we couldn't wait to get in the water. We quickly got in and started looking for sharks but there were none to be seen, the coral and fish life was still wonderful here so we something else to look at as we searched out the elusive animals. We ended our dive and proceeded back to the beach for a one-hour lunch break. Back out again to a site a bit further up the current, my first encounter of life was a psychotic Triggerfish, it bit my fins three times and tried for my head many more, I had to fight it off with my camera, apparently it was protecting it eggs that must have been in the vicinity. We continued on and began diving at the side of a steep embankment when we were signalled by Segara, to ascend to shallower water, he noticed our bubbles being pulled DOWN the embankment and into the never never by the strong current. After looking around a bit more we ended our dive and went back to the beach for another one hour break. I took the opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep and then it was off again for our last dive. We had decided to go to the other side of the bay to try our luck there but we ended up leaving Bali not having seen any of the little critters.

The dive at Nusa Lembongan was the best of all the dives we did at Bali, only the beauty of the coral at Menjangan Island came close. The staff at Sea Star were fantastic, Marta our dive master at Nusa Pendia and Tulamben and Segara at Menjangan and Padang Bia, were the best dive master's we have ever dived with by a long shot.

It was a fantastic holiday and the diving there was great