“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.”
It’s been roughly a week since I began my six-month overseas journey (give or take a day… the time zones make it hard to keep track) so that means it’s about time that I start documenting and sharing my travels. It’s been a wonderful first week, although relatively uneventful, which is generally a good thing when it comes to international travel.
I set off on Sunday from Chicago, ready for 30+ hours of travel time. Fortunately for me, I had accumulated enough miles for a business class ticket (and I got one for a relative steal) so the journey was entirely comfortable. I slept most of the 13 hour flight to Tokyo and the 6 hour flight to Bangkok (yes, I am a champion sleeper), so I arrived relatively refreshed and ready to do a little bit of wandering around Sanur after arrival in Denpasar. Upon arrival, I was not surprised to see that the Denpasar airport was a zoo with hundreds of drivers waiting to collect their fares. Fortunately I had pre-arranged a driver who told me it would be easiest to meet a bit past the chaos, so getting out of the airport was relatively stress-free.
My driver, Eka, took me to my homestay–a small collection of rooms with an open air common area and a small pool, tucked away in an alley off the main drag. It was a modest, but comfortable place, and the hosts were delightful. After freshening up a bit, I went to explore Sanur beach and have a bit of dinner. To get there, I had to cross the main drag, which it turned out was an adventure in and of itself. While there are pedestrian signals, they don’t seem to mean much, and it was a bit of a game of frogger, but I made it across safely. Once there, I enjoyed a simple local meal of fish, rice, and soup at a small warung recommended by the owner of my homestay. Delicious, but the soup was too spicy for me. After wiping my hand across my mouth, I thought I had numbed my lips with Deet only to remember I was wearing no bug spray–just the natural effects of the chilis! I checked out Sanur beach and walked around a bit before tackling the return trip across the road and relaxing for the rest of the evening.
My humble but comfortable homestay in Sanur
Dinner and exploring on Sanur beach
(Update 7/2: I finally got around to processing the Sanur photos on my good camera so I’ve added a few above.)
In the morning before I headed out for Nusa Lembongan, my hosts offered me breakfast, and I opted for some banana pancakes that it seems are very popular here in Bali. More of a crepe than a pancake, they contain fresh banana and appear to be fried in oil in a cast iron skillet, giving them a char that reminded me of the Chapati we had in Uganda (although made of much thinner batter). Delicious! Then in the early afternoon I headed off to Nusa Lembongan, my home for the next month, and the location of my IDC (instructor development course).
Getting to the island requires taking a speedboat from Sanur beach, which has no harbor so it is necessary to wade to the boat. Fortunately the waves were small and we were able to board easily. But the tide was low and arriving in Nusa Lembongan was another story! The boat captain took about 40 minutes to maneuver through the shallow waters to get us close enough to disembark. We finally made it, though, and I was dropped at the homestay where I had booked my first two nights–or so I thought. As it turned out, the homestay was roughly 300 meters from the main road through an alley. No problem if you’re not dragging two large bags. But eventually a gentleman came to my aid and I made it. The hostess, a lovely and welcoming woman, invited me to sit on a chair on the beach while they prepared my room. Only after I got up did I realize I had a friend lounging below me. Dogs seem to be everywhere on the island, and they seem to keep hanging out by me. Perhaps they can tell I miss Ernie!
I headed over to the dive shop where I met a few people and had dinner before collapsing back at my homestay. I hadn’t planned to dive the next morning, but I hadn’t adjusted to the time and woke up at 5 AM, so I couldn’t resist! Fortunately for me, the owners of the homestay made me a banana pancake before I headed out. Nothing beats a beachfront breakfast!
I headed out to the dive shop for two dives. The diving on Nusa Lembongan is mostly drift diving and is quite lovely. The first site we visited was Manta Point. And unlike most dive sites where naming the site seems to scare away it’s namesake (I’ve yet to see any sharks at a site with “shark” in the name, or turtles at a site with “turtle” in the name, etc.), this one is aptly named. The mantas like the area because the currents bring in a great deal of plankton. That means less visibility, but it’s worth it to see these beautiful and graceful creatures. Although I’d seen them before, it had been some time, and somehow I had forgotten how awe-inspiring they are. For our second dive, we visited Crystal Bay, where the visibility was higher and the corals more abundant. I was pleased to see how healthy and teeming with life the reef was.
Because it was just one day of diving, I left my large bulky camera back and opted to just carry my small point and shoot. Most of the shots I got were not great, especially of the mantas. (Relatively poor visibility means you have to be really close to get a decent photo, and we didn’t get super close.) But I still can’t resist sharing one manta photo, since they’re such beautiful creatures. You can’t get a sense of the size from the photo, but this was a relatively small one. We did see one big guy–probably 12-15 feet long. And while these pictures aren’t the best I’ve taken, you can get a sense of the healthy marine life from the rest of them. And no, the third photo isn’t just coral. Can you spot the fish? (I believe it’s a scorpionfish, although I don’t have my ID books with me.) I just love seeing how some sea creatures have evolved to blend in with their surroundings.
The following day, I started my IDC study period. The first segment is made up of largely classroom and pool work, so it will be awhile before I’m back in the sea. The first few days have been theory study days, so there isn’t much exciting to report. I did take part in the weekly Friday night party, where I got to see the new divemaster trainees’ “snorkel test.” Not the 800m snorkel test in the water, but a different kind of snorkel test that involves drinking through a snorkel in costume. It was quite entertaining, and the party was a lot of fun.
I’ve also moved into a new homestay, where I’ll stay for the remainder of my time in Nusa Lembongan. The owner, Ketut, is very friendly and welcoming, and keeps a lovely, lush garden, which makes for a welcoming home. He also offered to teach me Indonesian, and after suggesting he teach me 3-5 words every day, he prattled off about 60. Hopefully eventually I’ll absorb some of them. He likes to chat, so hopefully at least some learning is inevitable!
Overall, the trip is off to a great start. The people on the island are extremely friendly, and it’s a safe, relatively comfortable place. I am looking forward to spending the next month getting to know this place.
Location: Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia
Date: June 22, 2017
Max. Depth: 75 feet
Total Bottom Time: 99 minutes
Dive Sites: Manta Point, Crystal Bay