Heart & Brain Underwater

Bali 2009 – 24 Feb to 3 Mar

Michael & Janet went on a liveaboard to Raja Ampat on 5 Mar 09 and they were transferring in Bali, so Terence & I arranged a trip to Bali to catch up with them. Plus Jetstar Asia was having a promo! (our all inclusive air tickets cost $403.76 for 2). Airplane

Coincidentally, Tulamben Wreck Divers Resort (TWD) was having a 20% promotion to celebrate their anniversary in Jan & Feb, so going back there was such a pleasure! Our 3D2N, 6 dives package was US$368 (for two) & Tony, kindly (very nice as always) threw in the first night FOC! We were out of the Bali airport by 10pm on 24th Feb. TWD’s driver – Wayan picked us up in TWD’s new Toyota SUV, acquired just a week earlier. 😉 We reached TWD slightly after 1am (also the reason why we get the 1st “night” free), to discover that we were assigned to one of the two large Penthouse rooms, with a king-size bed & a single bed, plus the “usual” kettle, fridge etc… Ah, sweet joy of being repeat customers! Tony is the best!  Open-mouthedOpen-mouthed http://www.tulambenwreckdivers.com/dive-bali.asp?active_page_id=623

Breakfast was served freshly-made in the dining area now, overlooking the pool – very nice! And there is a small variety of choices, instead of the same old cold egg and packed cereal etc served in a basket (the basket idea was quite nice but after the 2nd morning, it became quite boring). I thought that we might meet other divers at breakfast but it seemed everyone had their own timing…

Diving at TWD has always been 1 dive guide to 1/2 divers. Ketut was our guide this time (our previous guide – Nyoman was having fever). He has 15 years of diving experience & has been been with TWD for more than 4 years. He is a Tulamben “native” & has more years of experience at Tulamben, since he has worked in one of the other Tulamben resorts previously. Diving at Tulamben was as usual at own time, own target and as Ketut put it – we are the boss. 😉 It was nice to pace ourselves, not having to “catch the boat”. Furthermore, Ketut would setup our gear for every dive and “call” for the porters to bring it to whichever dive site and after the dive, he would wash our gear. :-p We are getting spoilt.

Liberty Wreck: 25th Feb 09 – 2 dives & 27th Feb 09 – 1 dive

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23392006@N04/sets/72157615825933032/ or http://cid-74010af9ecfc869a.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/2009%20Bali%20-%20Tulamben

1) Time in: 10:44, Time out: 11:43, Bottom Time: 59mins. Max Depth: 19.8m. Viz: 12m. Water Temp: 26degC.

Very sunny day, the sea was placidly beautiful, there was a zen-like atmosphere in the air. For the 1st time, I did a shore entry in Tulamben, unassisted! Sharp-eyed Ketut spotted a beautiful peacock mantis shrimp, at 3m – we hadn’t started on the dive proper! Then at 10m, where it was still rocky at some areas, there was a group of divers looking at something, when we approached the “crowd”, we realised that it was the large famous Liberty barracuda, it coolly returned our curious stares with dead calm in its eyes, with numerous large teeth in its partially opened mouth. *shudders*  Other highlights of the dive: green leaf scorpionfish and many nudibranches (eg a beautiful Flabellina sp & Nembrotha-cristata). It was the 1st time I was using my new UN macro lens, it worked quite well with the nudibranches!

Although there were quite a lot of divers on shore, we didn’t meet many other divers around the wreck, there was always a lot to see at the huge Liberty wreck, no need to “fight” over the critters..

2) Time in: 14:58, Time out: 15:47, Bottom Time: 49mins. Max Depth: 28.1m. Viz: 8m. Water Temp: 26degC.

The sky was overcast, viz dropped. Our aim of the dive was the pygmy seahorse, Ketut had us swimming over the wreck & then descend to the deep. On the way to the pygmy seahorse, he spotted a beautiful white Glossodoris atromarginata, then descending further, he found a tiny weeny delicate looking pygmy seahorse on a white gorgonian seafan… Then we ascended to about 16m & Ketut spotted a congregation of 3 beautiful, large nudibranches – Halgerda batangas (translucent with bright orange lines & spots). Then more nudibranches – Phyllidiella pustulosa, Nembrotha kubaryana and another fat Nembrotha-cristata. A small school of large mandarin sweetlips were taking shelter at the shallow protected areas of the wreck. As Liberty is a protected area, fishing is prohibited, all the fishizens (common reef fish – unicornfishes, surgeonfish, sweetlips, coral groupers & butterflyfish) manage to grow to their full size. Ketut commented that there were quite alot of nudibranches due to the cold water.

3) 27th Feb. Time in: 07:04, Time out: 08:10, Bottom Time: 66mins. Max Depth: 30m. Viz: 12m. Water Temp: 25degC.

We dropped to the depths to see pygmy seahorse & on the way, there was a school of bumphead parrotfishes. Ketut expertly found 2 pink pygmy seahorses, 1 of them seemed pregnant! I was trying hard to get decent photos & Ketut was very anxious that we were approaching the limits of non decompression, I rechecked my dive comp, still had 3plus minutes left, well, that was the problem of some brands of dive comps. Then we ascended into the hull where there was a large bumphead parrotfish. At the coral bommie, I saw a blue spotted stingray, closely followed by 2 lizardfishes which were hoping for an ez meal. Among the rocks, Ketut spotted a small beautiful nudibranch – translucent white with pastel yellow Bulbous rhinophores & spots, then a sapsucking slug blue with brown ridges & rhinophores (Thuridilla sp). I spotted a green Thuridilla ratna & Terence pointed out a yellow Phyllidia occellate. We ended the dive watching the jacks whirlwind. Cool!

26th Feb 09 – 3 dives

1) Dive Site: Liberty Wreck. Time in: 06:43, Time out: 07:46, Bottom Time: 63mins. Max Depth: 18.3m. Viz: 8m. Water Temp: 26degC. Overcast.

We started quite early but were delayed on the water surface, when the o-ring of my tank burst. Luckily Ketut was prepared, he had extra o-rings. The delay was compensated by the rare encounter of a large napoleon wrasse at the stern ~17m! I didn’t dare go very near, afraid to scare it off. It stayed with us for a few minutes & then swam away to the left, towards the direction of the Coral Garden. We sincerely hope that it will be able to live a long life & have many off-springs, as the napoleon wrasses are highly endangered. Ketut said that he seldom sees them at Tulamben. Of course there was the usual school of bumphead parrotfish but they were at an usual shallow depth of only 10m! The viz was bad, I wanted to get closer to them for clear photos & was quite worried as there was a gentle current carrying me towards them. Other highlights: 2 commensal shrimps hiding on a white sea whip, an orangutan crab with 2 cleaner shrimps on a hard coral & the garden eels.

2) Dive Site: Drop Off. Time in: 11:40, Time out: 12:43, Bottom Time: 63mins. Max Depth: 19.1m. Viz: 10m. Water Temp: 25degC. Drizzle.

Another critter galore dive! Nudibranches: Hypselodoris zephyra (white with with stripes), orange one, white with violet spots, Hypselodoris infucata (green with bright yellow spots). We went back the large sponge again to see the cleaner shrimps, there were 3 species – the red/ white ones, the larger yellow ones & the small translucent ones with bright violet tip on its tail (I spotted 1 which was carrying eggs). A very small & fragile pipehorse – its body was long, like a pipefish & its tail  could wrap around the coral, a small strange black small fish on a coral. Towards the end of the dive, Ketut spotted a tiny white fish jumping underneath the rocks. We also saw many damselfish and school of beautiful snappers, a lone tuna & at the shallows, a large barracuda. The good people at Wetpixel id the pipehorse as short porch pygmy pipehorse Acentronura tentaculata, the small strange black small fish as a fang blenny & the tiny white fish as a juvenile fingered dragonet. Cool!

3) Dive Site: Coral Garden. Time in: 17:00, Time out: 15:54, Bottom Time: 54mins. Max Depth: 17.2m. Viz: 8m. Water Temp: 25degC. Drizzle

Whoa, a very cold dive, lots of thermal clines. Ketut pointed out a black ribbon eel, a small scorpionfish & in a hole a few mtrs below, a blue ribbon eel. Terence spotted a flounder. Ketut overturned a crinoid to show us a zeno crab, a tiny weeny juvenile sweetlips, tried to “persuade” a octopus to come out from the crevice & a beautiful Glossodoris hikuerensis. I spotted a red mantis shrimp but the camera was already out of battery at that point.

At Tulamben, we had all our lunches at the economic Warung Kumang & dinners at Warung Esa. The boss of Esa – dive guide Ketut (not to be confused with the TWD Ketut) had became a partner of the dive shop – Marta Dive (for enquiries call +81 363 23403), which was just next door. Ketut’s day job – DM of Eco Dive at Amed, he had been there for many years.

We left TWD at around 11plus am, travelling in the Northwest direction & abt 2hrs later, we stopped for lunch at Lovina. Coincidentally, lunch was at Aditya Lovina Resort, where we had stayed 5years ago! Local buffet lunch at 70000Rp per person. We were amazed to pass by large areas of vineyards, Wayan said that the grapes could be eaten & also made into wine, so we got him to stop by a roadside stall to buy some grapes but after the Lovina area, we didn’t see any. Finally at Pura Pulaki, we found a stall by the beachfront. 1kg of grapes for only 5000Rp!

We reached Mimpi Menjangan at 3plus pm. I found a good deal on http://www.bali-travelnet.com/hotels/339/Mimpi_Resort_Menjangan at usd68  per night plus daily breakfast (more than 25% less than Mimpi’s published price on its website). The area of the patio room was generous, had a very comfortable queen size bed, the big open concept bathroom was a winner, sitting area was at the large front porch, our room #223 (& that whole stretch) even came with an individual small but tastefully decorated lily pond. At night, we heard frogs croaking from the pond, in our bathroom & 1 even came into the room through the gap beneath the front door! The grounds were extensive & beautifully manicured, we could enjoy any of the 2 large swimming pools or (the best stuff!) 4 natural hot spring tubs – 3 of them with beautiful mangrove & bay view! When M & J reached Mimpi around 5plus, we wasted no time to checkout the infinity pool & hot tub by the bay. Hunger & the mosquitoes finally drove us to dinner.

M’s longtime Balinese travel agt Dewa  julyseven_dewa@telkom.net recommended his friend Ketut Seri Dana DM of Wisnu Dive Center http://www.lovinadive.com/index.html to take us diving. Ketut was very nice & worked hard to make sure we were happy. We spent 2 days diving at Pulau (Island) Menjangan & 1 day at Permuteran Bay. The scenic boat ride from Mimpi took slightly more than 30mins to get to P Menjangan.

28th Feb & 1st Mar 09 – 4 dives at Pulau Menjangan

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23392006@N04/sets/72157615829095346/ or http://cid-74010af9ecfc869a.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/2009%20Bali%20-%20Menjangan

1) Dive Site: POSII. Time in: 11:15, Time out: 12:17, Bottom Time: 62mins. Max Depth: 22m. Viz: 20m. Water Temp: 26degC. Sunny.

I was expecting a boat dive but Ketut had the boatman anchored at the beach & told us to get ready to do a shore dive. We waded out for a few meters and then started to descend. We could see the gentle sandy slope dropping to the depths at abt 20m away. We swam over the edge & descended at the edge of the wall. The scenery, added by the wonderful viz, was spectacular! The gorgonian seafans were huge & numerous, lots of colourful soft corals & large barrel & tube sponges, lots of sea squirts (tunicates), hydroids, algae. It was quite overcrowded. The lack of current made this a very relaxing & enjoyable dive. Mike spotted 2 white seawhip shrimps, Ketut found a beautiful polyclad flatworm (Pseudoceros lindae) & at the shallow a small white scorpionfish. A fearless lizardfish posed for my camera on sponges.  The parrotfish/es of Menjangan Island were fearless, it/they kept zipping in & out in our faces! (it happened at all sites)

We had lunch on the beach & it started to rain quite heavily.  Terence didn’t want to be rocked on the boat, we seek shelter at the abandoned house, which was infested with red ants & mosquitoes. We were quite glad when the rain stopped.

2) Dive Site: Cave Point. Time in: 13:36, Time out: 14:54, Bottom Time: 78mins. Max Depth: 14.6m. Viz: 15m. Water Temp: 26degC. Overcast.

We drew anchor & stopped abt 100m away. Again it was shore entry. Terence spotted a black pipefish at abt 5m, we were still at the sandy area. He was beginning to develop good sea eyes. At the reef crest,  Ketut pointed out some beautiful cleaner shrimps in the gigantic anemone. General scene was similar to POSII but the star attraction was a small cavern with blow hole (there were many other overhangs & crevices). Mike found a tiny, beautiful & feisty, pink & yellow crinoid crab camouflaged among some soft & spiky coral…

3) Dive Site: Eel Garden. Time in: 10:25, Time out: 11:28, Bottom Time: 63mins. Max Depth: 23.6m. Viz: 20m. Water Temp: 26degC. Overcast.

Boat dive. General seascape was the same as POSII, very beautiful. The buttons of my camera housing were stuck! I was going into despair, although I succeeded in “unstucking” them, I have missed the opportunity to get any good photo of a large lobster! & the photos of a big tasseled scorpionfish resting its head on seasquirts were out of focus. Luckily, I didn’t miss the precious chance to take photos of 4 pygmy seahorses on 1 large pink gorgonian seafan! The “junior” dive guide found them. As the dept was less than 20m, I was able to spend many minutes observing them. Open-mouthed 1 of them was fat – maybe “pregnant”. Terence insisted that I see the next critter & I reluctantly bid the pygmy seahorses goodbye & thanked them for tolerating our intrusion. They were excited abt the large octopus on a table coral. Upon my appearance, it promptly hid under some corals. We also saw 4 types of nudibranches! This was 1 amazing dive!

Lunch was at a a pavilion on shore. We asked for nasi goreng, which was yummy. We could see lots of rubbish around the shoreline, it was not a pretty sight, to think that this place is a nature reserve!

4) Dive Site: Eel Garden. Time in: 12:59, Time out: 13:47, Bottom Time: 48mins. Max Depth: 20.3m. Viz: 23.6m. Water Temp: 26degC. Sunny.

We were supposed to go see the garden eels which gave this site its name. We splashed off around the same place as previously, the reef was beautiful. An octopus was spotted, then a blue spotted sting ray went flying up from the depths, a large, heavily pregnant map puffer was seen, although pregnant, it was quite fast & I didn’t wanna stress it by chasing. The junior guide signaled for us to follow him, so we left the reef & begin to fin into the current, it went on for a long time, as the current was strong, I opted to stay near the sandy bottom which was at 20m. It was strenuous & boring. After awhile, we decided that the guide might be lost & we ascended to do our safety stop, as we didn’t have much air left. Mike was pretty pissed off with Ketut & the junior guide after the dive…

2nd Mar 09 – 3 dives at Permuteran (Some spell it as Pemuteran)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23392006@N04/sets/72157615743647217/ or http://cid-74010af9ecfc869a.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/2009%20Bali%20-%20Permuteran%20Bay

I wanted to see the Turtle Project, so Ketut suggested we go diving at Permuteran/ Pemuteran Bay. The Projek Penyu Turtle Hatchery (also known as Reef Seen Turtle Hatchery Project) is located there www.reefseen.com. Permuteran Bay is abt 20mins drive from Mimpi. The powder fine sand on the beach was a mix of white & volcanic black.

1) Dive Site: Napolean Reef. Time in: 10:37 Time out: 11:33, Bottom Time: 56mins. Max Depth: 32.2m. Viz: 15m. Water Temp: 26degC. Sunny.

It was a 20mins scenic boat ride out of the bay. The green mountains provided a lovely backdrop. The current was strong & I told Terence not to delay on the surface. This was a beautiful site –  the current was manageable, the corals were very healthy & there were lots of soft corals, sponges & reef fish.  We descended to abt 30m & Ketut pointed to something in the distance, only realised that he was showing us garden eels, when I got close… Ah, at last he managed to show us garden eels. After a few mins with the garden eels, we had to ascended & we saw many many Sergeant Majors at the reef flat, had nearly seen a congregation of so many of them! The viz was so good that I couldn’t believe that we were at 16m! Mike then found another of the cute crab among the spiky soft coral.

When we got up the boat Janet dropped the “bombshell” –  a whaleshark came visiting 15mins into our dive! The boatman was spooked by the shadow of the 5m whaleshark, which bumped the boat & came so close to Janet that she could touch it! Damn, we missed a big deal!

2) Dive Site: Middle Reef. Time in: 13:21 Time out: 14:30, Bottom Time: 69mins. Max Depth: 14.9m. Viz: 10m. Water Temp: 27degC. Overcast.

Shore dive from the gently sloping Permuteran Beach to visit the reconstructed reef maintained by the Permuteran Reef Gardeners. To regenerate the dynamite damaged reef, they welded large metal structures, transplanted the broken corals onto the structures & to accelerate coral growth, low amount of electricity generated by solar panels was passed through. There were a lot of small reef fish making their homes on these reconstructed homes & soft corals & small tridacnaes were plentiful too. 2 octopi showed up at one coral bommie. Was pretty glad that we had stopped eating octopus since last dive trip, as we had been rewarded with many octopi encounters on this trip.

After the dive, we went to visit the turtles at Projek Penyu. There were a hawksbill and a loggerhead that were brought in by the fishermen, who were compensated by the Projek. There were many baby green sea turtle hatchlings & a very adorable 16 yr old green sea turtle – Boomer (as in boomerang), who kept coming back to the Permuteran Beach after being released & he had already done that 5  times!

3) Dive Site: Monkey Pirate Jetty Time in: 18:16 Time out: 19:27, Bottom Time: 71mins. Max Depth: 10.1m. Viz: 6m. Water Temp: 27degC. Clear.

We walked into the ocean, admiring the beautiful sunset & observing the local kids enjoying their playground. Ketut got help from his friend, a local of these waters, to show us the amazing critters. This was the only night dive of the trip & it was an  action-packed muck dive – Cowfish, numerous juvenile lionfishes, banded shrimps, anemone crabs, sea slugs, scorpionfish,  juvenile sweetlips, flying gurnard, 2 large seahorses & a congregation of many many pipefishes – saw more of them here, than the total of all the pipefishes I had seen during my 100+ dives! Maybe I should be doing more night dives & cut my day dives?! Maybe I should snorkel in the day (remember the whaleshark?). Wink

TWD’s Ketut came to drive us to the airport, from Tulamben. He wanted to supplement his pay, as it was low diving season. That was a 3.5hrs drive fr Tulamben to Menjangan, then a 4+hrs drive through the scenic “mountainous” lake district, to Denpasar, then another 3hrs drive back to Tulamben… Balinese are a hardworking & friendly bunch! & Bali is really a very rewarding place to dive at!

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