Heart & Brain Underwater

2008 Aug – Tulamben, Bali

Bought the air tickets to Bali on Jetstar Asia back in early Feb, when they were having a promotion! Airfare was just slightly more than $200. Have chosen to dive around Tulamben area, as the dive sites are largely suited for novice. And shore diving meant no seasickness (great for Terence). Have thought of making our way to Manta Point, to hopefully fulfill my “lifelong” dream of seeing a real manta but the trip was a little too short (4 dive days) & it was not economical to change the flights…

As usual, I went to the online forums (ScubaBoard & Fins) to find out the recommended places to stay. Around Tulamben area, Tulamben Wreck Divers (TWD) http://www.tulambenwreckdivers.com/dive-bali.asp? was a highly recommended dive shop/ resort. So we booked with Tony in May during ADEX 2008 & managed to get a wonderful deal! 4 days of unlimited diving at Tulamben with equipment, plus 5 nites of stay at the deluxe room (complimentary upgrade from Tony) with American breakfast, plus transfers for just US$395 each!

Our flight to Bali was in the evening of 31st Jul, from Terminal 1. We haven’t been at T1 for a longtime, realised that it was quite compact & crowded. I was quite surprised to find that the leg-room on Jetstar Asia was more than Cebu Pacific & Tiger! They even served water & croissants.  A short 2.5hrs later, we touched down at Bali & Wayan, the driver was waiting for us. The roads at Bali were better maintained than we last visited in late 2004. When we reached TWD at 1+am, after being on the roads for 2.5hrs, we were delighted to find the deluxe room large (the bathroom is also large but windy) n comfortable n the bed very inviting.

When we woke up at 8+am, the breakfast was waiting in a covered basket on the balcony’s table & our dive guide Nyoman was ready to take us diving… For all the dives, Nyoman would prepare our tanks, fix up the bcd & regs & arrange with the porters to bring the gears to the dive sites. We would gear up at the dive shop – wear our wetsuits, booties, prepare the masks and walk to the dive sites carrying our fins & weights & camera. The porters bearing 2 sets of tanks & gears would make it to the shore twice as faster as us, they also used motorbikes. So don’t be surprised to see riders with dive gears…

To get to the Liberty wreck, just cross the main street in front of the dive shop, go through the carpark area (built for day trippers), turn left for abt 50m and we would reach the beach. Then we would have to wear our gear and do a shore entry with the bcd fully inflated. After several days of shore entry, I still found it extremely exciting! We just had to walk abt 5m into the water, as it got deep quite fast. The black, big n round pebbles & the crushing waves sometimes made the 5m very intimidating, luckily Nyoman was always there to lend a hand. Both Terence n I slipped just once or twice & we thought we could get used to the shore entry & quite enjoyed it. Furthermore, I could equalise better with shore entry, I could take my time n slowly follow the slope, into the deep…

Big pebbles covered the top part of the beach, going deeper, we reached black sandy bottom.

We dived at the Liberty wreck every morning of 1st Aug (time in 10:12am, max depth 22.5m, 41mins, 26degC), 2nd Aug (time in 6:58am, max depth 26.5m, 48mins,26degC) and 3rd Aug (time in 7:01am, max depth 26.8m, 58mins, 24degC). Terence also dived on the morning 4th Aug. Viz was best on 1st Aug, at 15m and subsequently deteriorated to 10m, it was slightly better on 4th Aug… Sometimes there were slight current but nothing tedious. On all the Liberty wreck dives, we saw bumphead parrotfishes (usually there was a herd of 10 or more of them, all more than 1m big) and the large barracuda (it should be the same one) and the resident tiny pygmy seahorse on the gorgonian. Bumphead parrotfishes reminded me of bisons, large and they could charge when provoked, their large fused front teeth warned me to keep a safe distance. Felt a chill running down my spine when faced with the 1.5m barracuda, it just stared so coldly at divers… Oh ok, maybe I am just a wimp but I felt the same chill just looking at its photos – it always showed its teeth! I spotted a whitetip reef shark swimming from the wreck beneath us and a huge grouper in the hull. Blue spotted stingrays also resided at the wreck, together with the “normal” reef fishes – sweetlips, butterflyfish, moorish idols etc. Other interesting residents were the large school of garden eels dancing in the current! Think there were 2 species – 1 was dark gray, the other was white with black stripes, or maybe they were adults n juveniles? Terence spotted a small flounder near the garden eels, cool! Had seen 2 large tunas visiting the wreck too! There were also huge school of trevallies, forming “tornado”.

Last dive at Liberty wreck, 3rd Aug (time in: 3:15pm). I wanted to get another dive in for the early evening and planned to do a complete “round” around Liberty (it is a big wreck, 120m long)… The dive began ordinarily enough, we descended, swam to the wreck & suddenly Terence turned n gestured “frantically”. Nyoman n I thought he ran out of air, after some more frantic gesturing, we realised that his reg was free-flowing. Nyoman helped him change to the octopus & we ascended as fast as we could & did our safety stop. The dive was a total of 12mins…  After that dive, my flu got worse & I couldn’t dive on 4th Aug…

I love the wreck, haven’t explore every nook n cranny, haven’t met all its interesting residents & visitors, hope to return soon!

The other frequently dived site at Tulamben was The Wall. The wall is to the right of the wreck (less than 1km away). I think Nyoman preferred The Wall. Guess he had good reasons – the tiny 1-inch baby clown frogfish (so cute! its body had “holes”, just like a piece of hard coral), the many many cleaner shrimps & small fishes that resided at a rock which had green tube sponges growing on the top, the pygmy seahorse at the gorgonian fan, the green leaf-fish which loved to perge on the staghorn corals, many beautiful nudibranches, mantis shrimp and even a small “herd” of large bumphead parrotfishes! 1st Aug – time in 1:26pm, max depth 23.3m, 49mins, 25degC; time in 4:21pm, max depth 22.7m, 51mins, 26degC. 2nd Aug – time in 10:58am, max depth 24.3m, 53mins, 25degC. Viz at The Wall was quite bad too, 5-10m…

We only dived once at Coral Garden, 2nd Aug (time in 2:54pm, max depth 22.3m, 53mins, 26degC). At abt 9m, there was a sunken “plane” made of metal rods, for “growing” corals & 2 large groupers. I remembered the dive as The One with the blue ribbon eel because I finally managed decent photos of a blue ribbon eel! Well, of course it was spotted by Nyoman. Credits to the blue ribbon eel for being a bigger sized (than those we saw at Lembeh) & not too shy… We also saw a blue-spotted stingray, a “normal” stingray, a large moray eel & a few filefish/garfish (more than 1m). There was were lots of soft corals at this site, too bad the viz was just 7m.

Batu Niti (Tanjung Muntig) – the dive site was just a 10min drive from Tulamben. We were charged a “princely” sum of 200k rupiah for the trip. Nyoman was quite happy to get away from Tulamben & promised harlequin shrimps… Well, we won’t want to miss that! We did 2 dives there (time in 10:33am, max depth 21.9m, 44mins, 25degC; Time in 12:30pm, 20.4m, 55mins, 25degC – that is my 100th dive!). The beach was made up of small little black stones, the bottom was fine “silt”. Nyoman showed us an anchorpoint, where a large honeycomb moray eel had made itself a home inside a hole & it had a “harem” of cleaner shrimps for company. On the 2nd dive, after lunch & loading the battery into the camera (yes, I had forgotten to load battery for the 1st dive ), we went back to the anchorpoint & besides the honeycomb moray & shrimps; there was a beautiful black ornate ghost pipefish! (This was the 1st time we have seen a ghost pipefish)  There was also a small lionfish on the moor line tied to the anchorpoint. There was an artificial reef made into a dome, it was covered by corals and had attracted larger residents like groupers & batfish & smaller residents like lionfish & of course the pair of beautiful harlequin shrimps! I enjoyed watching the batfish lying on 1 side & getting cleaned by 2 cleaner wrasses. During the 1st dive, we saw many pairs of gobies & cleaner shrimps & spotted a little white-eyed moray… The viz was 10m on the 1st dive & 7m on the 2nd…

Staying at Tulamben was really convenient for diving, we could easily get 4 dives in, spend our surface intervals having breakfast/ lunch (depending on the time) & sometimes even sneak in a short nap & we would be in bed by 9 – 10pm. Terence managed to finish reading a novel within that few days… Although there was a tv n a vcd/dvd player n aircon, we didn’t need them…

We had our lunches at Warung Komang, which was just 2-door down the road. Food & drinks were inexpensive and delicious, altho we suspected that the cook was too liberal with MSG… We loved the fried fish, fried rice with satay & nasi campur were quite good too! Nyoman recommended his relative’s eatery – Warung Esa, which was a little further down the road, “serving restaurant food at warung price”, we had all our dinners there… Ketut – the co-owner of the warung, helped his wife Esa manage the place in the evening & held a day job as the DM at Eco-divers at Amed, regaled us with interesting dive stories while we waited for the food. We loved their satay! The chicken curry was nice too & fish was always very fresh! & the prices were truly affordable, just S$3+ each dish with rice…

We want to go back to the idyllic life at Tulamben soon! Island with a palm tree It was wonderful to have our “own” guide, we could decide when & where to dive (with consultation with Nyoman) & also how many times we want to dive. We didn’t need to have any route, we would dive & see what came up, although sometimes I would request to see something – like the ornate ghost pipefish… I didn’t have to “fight” with other photographers for any subject & could take as many photos as the subject could tolerate. I think I am getting spoilt.Tongue out Surprisingly I wasn’t as bothered by the lack of viz on this trip. (We were told that the viz was 25m in July & Aug wasn’t the best for diving Tulamben…) Maybe it was because the dives were more interesting or because I was too preoccupied with the new G9 – changing setting & getting frustrated by the large shadow created by the long port of the housing etc…


On our last day at Bali (5th Aug), we went on a day tour to the “Mother” Temple – Pura Besakih at Gunung (Mt) Agung & Danau (Lake) Batur – Kintamani. The drive from Tulamben to the other side of Gunung Agung was nearly 2hrs! We were “persuaded” to purchase a sarong to enter the temples (had to “respect” the biggest Balinese temple). The shop owner initially asked for 300,000Rupiah for a real batik sarong, there was no way we would pay nearly S$50 for a piece of cloth! So we told her we just want a cheap sarong but still ended up paying S$12 for it! Lesson earned, bring your own sarong! Or improvise – we saw a westerner using a large beach towel! We also “had to” engage the services of a guide to visit the temples, paid 40000 rupiah, abt S$6+ & “had to” tip the guide. We were quite happy with the services of the guide; he was able to provide lots of information & brought us around to many of the temples. We spent 2hrs touring the temple. At the end of it, we were faint with hunger (or was it because of the high altitude of ~1500m)… Anyway I felt that the Mother Temple is quite worth a visit, being the biggest & oldest temple in Bali, the grounds are big & the scenery is beautiful & the weather is cooling…

Wayan drove us to Kintamani for lunch. We were the only customers at the restaurant (1 of the many on the hill), as it was long past lunch time (Nearly 4pm)… Nevertheless, the servers were very warm & attentive to our needs. The food was served buffet-style it was ok but the view was beautiful! The view was worth paying S$15 for! We could see the lovely Lake Batur, Mt Batur & the smaller volcanic craters.

After food, we set off for the airport, which took 2hrs, through the greenery of Ubud, the crowded area the silver n gold making area – Celuk, the stonecarving & weaving area – Batubulan & then thru Denpasar area… Reached the airport before 7pm and “killed time” by doing souvenir shopping at the many “duty-free” souvenir stores.


1 last “drama” when we reached home – 1 of our cats was spooked by our suitcases (or something) n “ran away from home” and we had to go “finding Ryann” at 1+am! He was hiding on the steps upstairs, looking forlorn n silly when I found him.


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