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Monday, March 28, 2011

Indonesia Part Six: Diving in Tulamben, Bali

In Part Five, Todd and I traveled for a day from Sorong to Bali, Indonesia.  We'd had 11 days in Raja Ampat scuba diving, and now it was time to dive in Tulamben, Bali, home of the USAT Liberty Wreck.

Like on the boat in Raja Ampat, I took a little video of the room at our resort.  It's shorter than the boat video that you might have watched in part five, and less silly.  Check it out!

A bird on the shower head of our outdoor shower
We woke up in the morning and had breakfast at the open air dining room in the resort.  Breakfast each day was our choice of American or Indonesian breakfast.  Both of us preferred the American breakfast at this point, since we'd been eating Indonesian breakfast every day for 12 days.  This meant we got a fruit plate with pineapple, mango, watermelon and another fruit that I didn't recognize.  As it turns out, this was Markisa.  I was totally wrong on my previous assumption that Markisa meant gift.  Nope, it is a fruit that looks somewhat like an orange on the outside, but is filled with seeds and citrusy-flavored pulp.  Then, I found out it's a Passion Fruit.  I've had passion fruit a million times, in smoothies and shakes and such, but I had never actually seen a passion fruit in person.  I'd never even realized it!  They were delicious and not at all what I expected.
Markisa, Image courtesy of sonymon4

The pond in front of the dining area had three turtles living in it.  The biggest and friendliest was named Camilla.  She would come over and sun  herself and look for hand outs, although we never fed her.  The other turtles were teeny tiny, and they would run away when we would get close.  Too cute!

Camilla the turtle
During breakfast we met and talked to Christiane, who is one of the owners of the resort.  Chrisiane is a well-known nudibranch expert, which is one of the reasons we chose Villa Markisa.  We knew before coming to Bali that we were choosing one of the worst times of the year to dive in Bali (but one of the best for Raja Ampat), so we were expecting it to be rainy while we were there. However, Chrisiane let us know that this rainy season had been exceptional, and the rains had created a layer of silt over the sand, and visibility was low.  She was planning on diving with us later in the day.
The pool at Villa Markisa

After breakfast, we headed out on our first dive.  Villa Markisa is right on the ocean, so we decided to stick to shore diving at the house reef, called Seraya Secrets.  This dive site is muck diving, which is a lot like what it sounds.  Instead of being on a reef, we dove on sand flats.  The sand was black and volcanic, and looking across it, it looks as if there is nothing there.  However, the closer the look, the more you see amazing small animals living in the sand.  On that first dive alone, we saw nudibranchs, Harlequin Shrimp, an ocotopus, tons of cleaner shrimp, a small baby frogfish, and tons of more things.  It was our first experience muck diving and it was incredible. You know it's great when Todd surfaces and just screams "WOW!"

Cleaner shrimp waiting for something to clean.
Since we were the only people staying in the resort, we were able to totally make up our own schedule.  We chose to have a second dive in the afternoon, and enjoyed a delicious lunch and then a rest on loungers overlooking the beach (the waves were gently lapping on the beach).  While we were there, it started to rain, and we headed to our outdoor sofa at our room, which was on a covered porch/lanai.  The rain turned into a big storm with super-loud thunder that lasted for well over an hour, and we ended up going on the dive a bit later.  In fact, it would rain really hard for at least some of the day every day, and rain basically happened more than sunshine during our stay in Tulamben.  Believe it or not, this didn't take anything away from the resort, since there is something totally beautiful about sitting outside watching a summer tropical rainshower/storm.  We were well protected on our patio, and the rain was SO relaxing.

Mantis shrimp
On our second dive, we also dove at Seraya Secrets, this time joined by three divemasters instead of one, plus Christiane.  The storm had brought the nudibranchs out, and we found a ridiculous amount of them on this dive, from tiny ones that were only about a millimeter long to big ones that were several inches long.  It was incredible.  Christiane had amazing air consumption, and we were doing dives with her that were really, really long (close to 90 minutes).  Visibility had decreased because of the storm, and as we would find out on our night dive that evening, the currents were starting to pick up.  We ended up doing a very short night dive because we really couldn't see much underwater, and it was difficult to stay in one place due to a strong current.  Each day from then on, the water in front of the resort would become a little more cloudy and rough, and we weren't able to dive there again.  By our last day, there were huge waves, and the beach was getting eroded.

Each night, we ended with dinner, delicious Indonesian fare served in the beautiful outdoor dining room.

Day two, we started our dive at the USAT Liberty wreck. This is a US Army transport ship that was hit by a Japanese submarine in 1942.  The army beached the ship on the coast of Bali when it was taking in too much water being towed to port.  Then, in 1963, the volcano nearby (Gungung Agung) erupted and pushed the ship into the water where it is now.  It is a huge wreck, and very impressive.  It's covered with soft corals, nudbranchs and more, and schools of bumpheads and jacks circle it.  I also dove this dive as a start to our third day of diving, but Todd was not feeling well (stomach issues) and snorkeled on the surface.  From below, I looked up at him and he was literally making a hole in the center of about a thousand jacks.  It was amazing, and I'm so sorry that I don't know how to use the camera.  Todd shot macro on our first dive at the wreck, intending to come back and take wide angle photos of the wreck the next day.  Since he missed our second dive there, he didn't get any wide angle shots.  It's a reason to return to Bali again, especially since we'd like to dive the Liberty with better visibility.
Harlequin shrimp eating a starfish.

For the rest of our dives, we spent time mostly doing muck diving.  We were seeing tons of colorful nudibranchs.  Christiane had a guest at the resort, Judith, who also livwed on Bali.  Judith and Christiane would come and dive with us on some dives, and we'd find tons of critters. We spent some time at a site called Coral Garden, covered with tons of beautiful soft corals.  We saw lots of clown fish, and our first Ribbon Eels.  I know that the diving in Tulamben could have been better, but to us it was spectacular.  It is definitely on our "must do again" list.  We did a total of ten dives at the resort - 3 for each of 3 days and one dive on our last day.
A nudibranch (which is a sea slug)

On our second day of diving, we ended the day with massages at the spa at the resort.  A Balinese massage is oh-so-relaxing and remember the relaxing rain?  It was raining outside during my massage, which for some reason put me into a total trance.  After I had my massage, Todd had one also.  It was his very first massage and he loved it!

A Balinese woman carries a scuba diver's equipment
on her head.
On our last evening in Tulamben, we decided to make the 3 mile walk to the nearby geocache, which was in town.  Leaving the luxury of the resort was a bit of a surprise.  The road was crowded with motorbikes following crazy Indonesian traffic laws (the first rule is don't hit, the second rule is don't get hit).  Locals frequently live without a lot of modern conveniences.  For example, we saw many people cooking over an open fire because they do not have ovens or stoves.  Houses had roosters in cages on the front yard, which were used for cockfighting.  Everyone seemed capable of carrying heavy objects on their heads, including dive equipment.  We saw cows and goats in yards, tons of shrines and offerings, and walked in the shadow of the volcano.  We eventually made it into town, but it was getting late and about to rain, so we chose not to go as far as the geocache.  We headed back to the resort.  Six mile walk in all (no running while scuba diving).

On our last day, the air was windy and the seas were rough.  When we did our boat dives (as we did every day except the first), we had to swim to the boat.  There was no pier, the boat was mored out off of the beach.  Typically, seas are calm and there is no issue, but while we were there the waves were getting progressively higher and it was getting more and more difficult to get to the boat.  The staff would take Todd's camera and our equipment to the boat, but we had to get ourselves in and out.  On the last day as we got out of the water, waves were so high that two staff members would get on either side of me and hold me by the arms to help me out of the water.  It was exhausting, and we had dove 40 dives since we arrived in Indonesia, so frankly I was happy on that last day to be packing up our dive equipment for the last time.
A nudibranch on the USAT Liberty
We packed and said goodbye to Christiane, and got in the resort's car to take us to the town of Ubud, our last stop on our trip.
Blue Ribbon Eel
A Clownfish takes care of his eggs.  He intends to name
one Nemo, and the rest will be Marlin, Jr.

Stay tuned for part seven, where things go slightly wrong in the artist town of Ubud.  We visit rice paddies, relax at our private pool, turn down rides for taxis, get deep into Balinese culture, and get a little more than we bargained for from some sacred monkeys.


Kandi said...

Those photos are breathtaking! I've never heard of nudibranch before but wow, they are spectacular! I've enjoyed hearing about your trip. This portion sounds really relaxing and amazing, even with the rain.

Andrew said...

Glad you liked Villa Markisa! Andrew (Winter's Tale blog).

Annie said...

I am fond of scuba diving.Really nice posting , I will keep visiting your blog for next update. Diving Indonesia

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