Category Archives: Indonesia

Dubious Diving, and a Bali Birthday

We left Gili Trawangan in hopes of finding more amazing diving off the coast of Bali near Amed.  But first, we were going to go out on a Jukung, a Balinese fishing boat, to catch some Mahi Mahi.  We set out before sunrise and the stars were amazing.  Once the sun came out, and we saw the boat and available gear, we knew that we would not be catching any fish.  But, we had a nice sunrise boat ride, nonetheless.  While we were boating around ‘fishing’ we saw pods of dolphins dancing through the water.  That was nice.  I wanted to hop in.

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We were back and ready to dive at 8am.  We saw some pretty amazing soft corals, and we went deep to find a huge wreck of the USAT Liberty.  The USAT Liberty was a US cargo ship from WWII that was hit by a Japanese torpedo.  The damage was beyond repair, so they beached the ship and took out all the cargo.  The ship stayed on shore until 1963 when the volcano erupted and the lava pushed the ship back into the sea where it sits today off the coast of Tulamben.  Though it was large and there was a lot of life around the wreck, the water was cold, and our gear was pretty crappy, which made for an uncomfortable dive.  The next dive was to the Coral garden.  The site was filled with tons of soft corals, eels, sea stars, and tiny critters we had never seen before.  It was pretty neat.  But, it was still cold, and the visibility was still bad.  

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It ended up raining pretty hard that night, and left us without hope for better visibility for our upcoming dive.  The plan was to do three more dives in the area, but after our first dive we decided against it.  Even though it was a cold and uncomfortable dive, it wasn’t a shabby way to spend my 30th birthday.  We saw some amazing pink fans, some blue spotted sting rays, some purple nudibranchs, anemones the size of trash can lids, and so much more.  It’s amazing what you can find down there.  

We hopped in a car to make our way to Ubud.  I’m told it’s the cultural capital of Bali, but so far it seems to be tourist central.  Streets filled with expensive boutiques selling clothing, aromatherapy, and chachkies interspersed with hotels and restaurants.  So far, the best part is all of the huge geckos we’ve found in our rooms.  Also, our room is right up against the monkey forest, so we had visitors running around our roof and balcony this morning.

Dive Dive Dive…

Bali is supposed to be an island of peace, tranquility, luxury, and beauty.  Though we didn’t find it on our first visit, we will be back in Bali soon to find it.

We landed on the island of Bali late in the evening.  The drive from the airport to our hotel in Sanur, showed me tons of motorbikes, cars, and development.  I was hoping for a small, beachy, atmosphere.  Our hotel was beautiful.  The Griya Sanur is definitely a great place to stay if in the area.  There are large rooms, with big beds and great showers all surrounding a beautiful pool area.  We happened to be the only ones staying the evening, so we had our own little pool party, with our portable speakers.  Fun times.


We spent a day walking around Sanur.  It was kind of a sad beach, with trash and empty shacks selling cheap souvenirs and begging you to sit and have something to eat.  We strayed from the beach in hopes of finding the ‘beach town’ of Sanur.  There were big streets with zooming cars, and perilous sidewalks that would disappear into large holes at no notice.  We had to hopscotch from one stable concrete slab to another.

Eventually we found our way into a travel agency to get some info about Bali and the surrounding area.  And, from what we found out, the place we wanted to be in Indonesia was the Gili Islands of Lombock.

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The Gili Islands are just off the coast of the island of Lombock, just East of Bali.  This chain of three islands is known for it’s laid back island feel and top notch diving.  After a boat ride that took about 3 hours longer than expected, we made it to Gili Trawangan, the farthest from the mainland of Lombock.  This is a small island with no cars or motorbikes, only bicycles and horse drawn carriages.

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We walked around the main strip of the island in search for the perfect accommodation.  We found Martas House, a group of bungalows surrounding a pool and garden.  Our bungalow is sweet, with AC, TV, DVD player, a big bed upstairs and a large bathroom downstairs.  It’s far enough from the main road to be quiet, but close enough to join in if we want to.

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After that we decided that choosing a dive shop was in order.  The shop with, what looked like, the nicest dive boats, and the most people diving, was Blue Marlin Dive Center.  So, we talked to them and signed up for some diving.  Sandra signed up for an Open Water Course so she could begin to dive, too.  We ended up completing the Advanced Open Water Course, which included a deep dive to about 90-100 feet and a night dive.  We, also, became NITROX Certified, so that we can have longer dives at greater depths.

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The diving here is amazing.  The water is 86 degrees Farenheight all the way down to the bottom, and from the boat, you can see straight to the bottom.  The visibility is amazing.  You can definitely see anything coming.  We’ve seen sea life like turtles, blue spotted sting rays, giant sea cucumbers, tons of tropical fish, scorpion fish, lion fish, crabs, sea stars, and even a white tip reef shark.  The deep dive was really amazing.  Going down you could only see blue at first and blue all around you.  Seth held my hand so I wouldn’t get nervous.  But the ocean floor arrived and I was fine.  Like always, we saw amazing sea life, but a cool one we didn’t see was the black tip reef shark swimming right behind us during our descent.  We were told about that afterwards on the boat by some other divers.

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Also a new experience, was the night dive.  It was kinda spooky.  It was a wall dive, so we were just moving horizontally along the wall, but behind us was simply blackness.  You’d shine your torch out into the black and see nothing.  Better just to look at the wall.  We saw a huge eel move from the wall to find a better hiding place.  When he re entered the wall, he happened to find the resting place for a huge lobster.  They fought for the space and the eel ended up with the choicest spot in the back while the lobster had to hang out in front.  That was pretty spectacular.  But, the best part of the night dive was the bioluminescence.  We turned off our flashlights and waved our arms around a bunch and it was like we were batting fireflies around in the water.  The little green sparks from our agitation was wonderful.  It was like we were casting spells underwater, “Alohamora!”

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We, also, rented some bicycles so we could circumnavigate the island.  There is a ‘road’ that follows the beach around the island.  It probably only took us about two hours to complete the journey, which included a swim, and a stop for drinks.  I couldn’t honestly say that we rode all the way around the island, though.  There were points where the ‘road’ was just a sand path, and parts of it were too deep to ride through.  We definitely walked our bikes for some of the trip.  Well worth it though.

Off the coast of Lombock there is a wreck dive that we decided to do.  It is the wreck of a WWII Japanese ship, and it’s down 148 feet below the ocean’s surface. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a really deep dive, past what is considered recreational diving, getting into the technical diving status.  So we went down in a small group with our guide who was a tech diver.  The weird thing about deep diving is that descending to 150 feet feels just the same as dropping to 100 feet, which feels just like going down to 30 feet.  The only difference is that when you drop into the water, you can’t see the floor, and when you are at the bottom, you can’t see the surface of the water, it feels exactly the same.  But, the actual difference is the addition of way more nitrogen in your system, which means careful planning, and strictly following the plan.  The risk for nitrogen narcosis increases at that depth, but neither Seth nor I felt a thing.  They say that it feels like being drunk.

The wreck was really neat.  It sits on a sandy flat with no coral or real formations to see.  Finding this wreck was probably a difficult venture.  But, on and around the wreck lives tons of fish, coral, and anemone.  You can’t enter the ship, but if you shine your flashlight into one of the holes in the hull you can barely see the other side, due to the densely packed fish using it as habitat.  Large pink, white, and red coral fans spring out from the outside of the ship, lion fish hide in the crevices, large grouper take refuge in the spaces under the hull, red snapper poke their heads out of corners to check you out, and schools of trevali hover over the top of the wreck.  A few feet away from the base of the boat are 35mm bullets.  Those were fun to see.  It was definitely a highlight in our dive experience, and a great last dive on Gili Trawangan.