Let The Explorations Begin

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

-Robert Lewis Stevenson

With a successful IDC and IE behind me, it’s now time for the real explorations to begin!  Don’t get me wrong, my IDC was great and I had a blast and met great people, but it was pretty time consuming, so I didn’t have much time to actually explore.  So after finishing a few specialty dives, I took a day off from diving to actually see what Nusa Lembongan was all about beyond “the main road” and the dive shop.  My homestay owner rented me a motorbikes and taught me to use it and after a few minutes puttering around his driveway and the adjacent alley, I was off for the harrowing experience of trying to navigate the hills and dodge the trucks while exploring the island.

And what a beautiful island it is.  First, I headed over to the mangrove and walked along the sandy beaches.  I didn’t spend much time there–avoiding the people hawking various mangrove tours is almost as challenging as avoiding the other motorbikes along the mainroad.  But I at least took the time to savor the scenery and get a few shots of the gorgeous coastline.  I then stopped at a Bamboo, a small warung, and had a delicious (and gigantic) seafood lunch.

After lunch, I took the backroad through the mangrove forest and over to the far side of the island to take the “yellow bridge” to nearby Nusa Cennigan island.  I managed to carefully hobble across the bridge on my motorbike and the view from the other side was breathtaking.  I attempted unsuccessfully to navigate a bit farther into Cennigan, but with the roads much rockier, I decided to take the safe route and turn back to Lembongan.

That afternoon, while trying to find Devil’s Tear, I stumbled upon the “underground house” I had heard about.  I decided to pay it a visit.  I was greeted by a proud man who ushered me down a treacherous “stairway” into an underground home.  He gave me a tour, “suggesting” I try to fit through various crevices and look down into wells and up into skylights and “yoga rooms.”  (I don’t know how you can do yoga where you can’t stand up, but I’m no expert.)  It felt more like a dungeon or something out of law and order than a home, but I appreciate the effort that went into building it.  He proudly told me his father had built it and prodded me to take photos, unsatisfied until he heard the click of my shutter.  (Challenging when my camera is on focus mode and it’s pitch black so there’s nothing to focus on and no way to take a photo.)  I did manage to get one photo that is something other than black blur.  Overall, I can’t say I would try to maneuver my way through there again, but it was an experience, and there is a certain charm to see something built and shown off with so much pride.

I finally did make my way to Devil’s Tear, where the waves crash into the rocks, and I headed up to “water blow” hotel to enjoy a milkshake overlooking the beach.  I then continued upward to a lookout, where I took the time to enjoy the view from above of Jungutbatu.  When it was time to head back, I remembered the steep road we had climbed to get to our IE, and rather than brave the steep decline on the motorbike, I returned the way I came.  I think my motorbike days may now be behind me.

The next day I headed out for my final dives on Nusa Lembongan–to Manta Point and Crystal Bay.  The mantas did not disappoint and there were probably 4 or 5, although with them returning again and again it felt more like 20.  Crystal Bay was lovely as always and made for a nice end to the trip, although there were no mola molas to be seen this time.  Unfortunately I neglected to take my usual test shots with my camera (facepalm!) and if I had, I’d have noticed my sync cables were missing.  Oh, well–made the most I could of the natural light!  Including by taking some topside photos (droplets on my dome port and all) between dives of the absolutely stunning coastline of Nusa Penida–I’ll happily take that 45 minute boat ride with that view!

The next day I boarded the Scoot fastboat back to Sanur to begin my explorations of Bali… eventually.  I should have learned to check the tides before booking a boat, and we ended up being very late because they couldn’t get the boat in at low tide.  (If only there were some way to predict the tides…. hmmmm…)  But I made it eventually and my driver Eka picked me up to hit the road to Tulamben, where I would spend the next two days diving.  The scenery along the drive was beautiful.  Lush forests and terraced fields throughout the mountains that descend to the coasts.  That’s the best I can give you because I didn’t take any photos.  (Whoops.)  Much to my delight, at one point I watched as a woman shoo some strange looking cats from the road only to realize they were not cats, but monkeys!

The next day I began diving in Tulamben with a 6 AM dive on the USS Liberty–one of Bali’s most famous dive sites.  The Liberty is an American ship that was sunk by a Japanese torpedo and then beached in Tulamben.  This dive, as with most dives in Tulamben, is done from shore, so I was loaded up into the back of a pickup truck with my gear to head to the beach.  The site is a popular dawn dive due to the presence of bumphead parrotfish, some dinosaur-looking creatures that look like they should be living in another time.  I finished the day off with three more dives–one on a wall and the other two in some muck that made for some good macro stuff.  It’s nudis galore in Tulamben!  I saw such a huge variety over the two days that there is no way I could keep them all straight.  (And in fact, the quote that opens this post came from the critter ID book my guide was using to tell me what we’d seen.)

The second day of diving it was really time to get in the muck, and my dive was on the hunt to find me the small stuff.  We began with one of those dives where you spend the first 15 minutes thinking the critters are all in hiding.  I had just turned to shooting random colorful bits of life as abstracts when things turned around–with a gorgeous seahorse–a pink one perched on a purple backdrop.  But not just that!  Not far away were two harlequin shrimp!  I was in heaven.  The rest of the day continued that way–my guide Made found critter after critter, including a frogfish.  And although I wasn’t able to take photos during one dive due to a little camera issue (I knocked the switch onto manual mode when I opened my housing…  again with the facepalm since I only checked the strobes and firing and not the focus on my tests shots… oh well!)  we finished up with a spectacular night dive back at the Liberty.

Despite having a pick up at 11:00 the next morning, I wasn’t quite done yet.  I couldn’t let the trip go by without taking my wide angle lens to the liberty, so we headed back out to the wreck for one last dive.  It was not as busy as it had been at 6 AM, and it was a great dive and good way to end my time in Tulamben.

Eka then picked me up and brought me back to Denpasar, where I picked up Genny and Andy.  Now it’s time for some land-based adventures for awhile!

Note that I’m not including all my photos in these blog posts.  This website (particularly on poor internet connections) does not like large files, so I have only uploaded the poor quality versions of the photos that I think will give the best sense of what I’m seeing.  If you click on these images, it should take you to the full-size image on my zenfolio site, which is much more stable in terms of uploading and gives me more freedom in terms of storage capacity, so I have more photos on there as well.  You can scroll through all my Bali photos here (or check out the full set of travel albums here).

Dive Summary (Nusa Lembongan):

Location: Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia

Date:  July 18, 2017

#Dives: 2

Max. Depth:  61 feet

Total Bottom Time: 88 minutes

Dive Sites:  Manta Point, Crystal Bay


Dive Summary (Tulamben):

Location: Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia

Date:  July 20-22, 2017

#Dives: 9

Max. Depth:  86 feet

Total Bottom Time: 476 minutes

Dive Sites:  USS Liberty, The Drop Off, Kubu, Coral Gardens, Sidem, Melasti, Seraya


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