First time... breathing with the fish

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2007

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, October 6, 2006

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So there I was in Lovina. I had chosen this spot from the guidebook because it seemed a quiet place, central on the north coast of Bali. With the season coming to an end, it was indeed so quiet that there were only a handful of tourists, with enough accomodation and restaurants for hundreds.
So I shopped around, and finally selected the cheapest, which is still a Bungalow just in front of a swimming pool, 30 meters from the beach. Life is hard. Actually I had an instant of relative depression, as I always do when I see a sea without waves... the Bali sea is flater than the Mediteranean Sea, but that's about the only thing I did not like in Lovina, even though it brought some certain advantages for scuba diving.

And that was the main, if not the only reason of my presence on Bali: taking a scuba diving training (which I had intended to do inThailand). I booked a PADI Open Water Diver course, which was done in three days. I ended up having my personal instructor, as I was alone taking the course.

The theory part was studied alone in the afternoons and evenings, and I had a test at the end of the course: very easy, but effective I think in making sure that the main points were understood by the students.

On the first day (tuesday), I spent the morning in a swimming pool, making 5 "confined dives", getting to know the equipment, learning to breathe underwater (easy), and mainly learning how to manage little hassles (such as loosing your mask, or your regulator, through which you breathe) and serious problems (such as running out of air or getting entangled).

Second day, first openwater dive, just offshore Lovina: two dives there, with each time trainining work for 20 minutes, and another 20 minutes just cruising around, with my instructor writing on a slate the names of the fish: lion fish, trumpet fish, clown fish (Nemo in his anemone), prawn fish, barracuda, sea cuccumber, sea worms, garden eels, scorpion fish, lizard fish, clam, titan trigger fish, ghost something fish, etc... plus an array of corals... Magic! Each square meter of coral is a bustling city, with fish and worms and anemones and things of all size and shape and color. Each square meter could keep you busy just observing for hours.
So that was my first 2 dives,at 12 meters.

On the last day (thursday), I completed my tests and theory reviews. With a group of divers we were taken by minibus (2 hours) to Tulamben, on the east coast of Bali. A famous diving site, where I would finish my training, with two dives at 18 meters, including a few more exercises.
In Tulamben the beach is made of rocks, and not very attractive. Your feet hurt and slip as you walk across the rocks carrying all your gear. Last checkup, you go underwater. Swim some 20 meters. And there you have the wreck of an American cargo ship, US Liberty, sank by the Japanese during WW II It used to rest partly out of the water, but an eruption of Gunung Anung, the biggest volcano on the island, made it slide down completely under the water. It is big, and marine life has taken over the site. The wreck lies at a depth between 12 and 30 meters, and we made most of the exploration between 15 and 18 meters. Tons of fish, much more than the day before. Coral everywhere, including the fire coral, which is supposed to hurt if you come into contact with it. More fish species, big and small and very big and very small. In addition to the ones already met the day before, there was sole, parrot fish, unicorn fish, big big barracudas, and arghhh so many I don't know their name and can't even describe them. It's just like on TV, a huge aquarium. Think of one shape, one pattern, and a set of colors, and it exists, it is there! My instructor, with his sharp eyes, also spotted a shark, (white tipped tail) which was staying still on the sea floor some 10 meters below us. I don't want to produce any stupid figure, but that shark was big. We continued our way just keeping an eye on him, as we also did with the great barracudas. Anyway they are used to divers in this area. And even to a point where when you put your hand in the pocket of your jacket, at least a dozen fish gather around you thinking you are going to feed them. The first time it was rather impressive to have these 20-30cm fish surrounding me just a few centimeters from my mask (of course everything appears closer and bigger in the water).
I hope I'll have some nice pictures with my disposable underwater camera. Some divers had a complete set of video cameras, underwater flashes and so on.

So, to summarize: I know I never had the chance to scuba dive before, so I cannot regret that I did not discover it earlier... but it is really great, revealing a significant part of nature's beauty and treasures. Anytime, everybody: go for it!

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