The one thing I definitely wanted to do when I was in Bali was dive. The original plan was a Dive Safari, preferably around Menjangan. However, the company got back to me and warned that this was a 2 diver minimum and I would need to pay for 2 divers regardless. That’s more than I had, so had to amend my plans to a single day. Posted interest in doing Tulamben as it includes a wreck, and got booked in for today.
There was a course happening today, and they were training a new dive master – so I would pretty much be getting a private tour with said dive master while the others did their course. Awesome – although after my last attempt in the water, I was a little worried I would have the same problems with my air intake – at least this wreck didn’t have a strong current, and as an added bonus it would be the first time I ever did a shore dive.
The remaining 4 divers arrived, and we set off for Tulamben, which is in the North East of Bali, and takes about 2-3 hours to reach depending on traffic. During which you get some spectacular views of Bali’s countryside. Had to take my photos through the window, but some of the rice fields and mountains were incredible.
We also ran through several villages preparing for their Ogoh-Ogoh festivals tomorrow. At one point, we even passed several dump trucks filled with people in white robes each with a temple icon. Learned later that this is the day icons and such get removed from temples and are washed in preparation. Also saw several ceremonies being held, and a handful of small Ogoh-Ogoh figures finished and waiting for tomorrow.
The dropoff point in Tulamben is a small beach next to a restaurant. About 30 metres from the shore lies the wreck of the Liberty USAT. This old US Army ship was beached on the shores of Bali in 1942, but a volcanic eruption in 1963 sent it sliding into the waters and down a sandy slope in the ocean.
My diver partner for the day was Mikael, and he was great, albeit a little nervous. Helped me figure out the difference in a shore entry (main issue, putting on the bloody BCD in the water), and set off towards the wreck over the rocky shore.
First thing we spotted were some giant fish that reminded me of parrot fish. One sadly had a hook embedded in its mouth, but it didn’t seem to be causing him pain.
The wreck itself was flung down a ravine and lies in pieces on its side. Nature and water have shredded it to pieces, and it only looks like a ship from certain angles – unlike the HMAS Brisbane, this is a wreck that only has a few safe areas to check inside – most of our diving was done outside, scanning the outside and checking out the coral.
Near the top, lying on part of the deck though, was the best thing I’ve seen since diving. A hawksbill turtle! It was just lying there, rather curious about the 2 divers floating around but clearly unperturbed. I’ve always wanted to see a turtle, so that just made my dive. Spotted the critter one more time when it was swimming – coming back down after getting some air.
We also caught sight of a few rays, and a very large trigger fish we had to keep a wide berth from. I think my dive partner may have caught sight of another, as when he checked the window of an area for entering, he quickly bolted back and wouldn’t let me near – no swimming in that hole.
When we finally had to make it back to shore, I was elated to find out that not only had I stayed under for close to 45 minutes, but I’d actually had more air than the dive master when we finally came back up! Apparently it really was the current that wrecked my usual air control in Oz.
Lunch at the restaurant was included, so was able to recover with rice and veg while listening to what the others saw and did. Sadly, at this point the tide was starting to come in, and with it, a good chunk of Bali’s rubbish problem.
Its horrific. The water that had been so clean this morning now had a several metre wide decoration of rubbish scum on its roof. Never clamped down on a breathing apparatus so hard in my life. Its a completely different diving experience with the rubbish. It becomes so much easier to understand why turtles and fish mistake plastic bags and rubbish as jellyfish and other fish – in the water I mistook them for creatures 70% of the time. The water and sun make it next to impossible to differentiate at a distance.
Its awful how badly the water is affected by this – there really needs to be more done about the trash in Bali’s seas – maybe divers with bags to collect it considering how many come to this dive site.
This dive wasn’t quite as impressive – the turtle was gone and we eventually left the wreck and headed for the coral bed nearby, which would have been incredible if not for the flotsam in the water. However, when we finally headed back Mikael spotted something unexpected in the shallows. I still don’t know exactly what the fish was, but it was a bronze colour and shaped similar to an angel fish. According to Mikael, it was extremely rare to see.
My final dive had me under for over 50 minutes, which I think is a record for me. Although I’ve definitely taken it too much seawater cause my stomach is doing loops. I’m actually quite happy to crawl into bed and not worry too much about the nightlife. Given that tomorrow is the big festival night, that will be a big enough event for me.