Diving In Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

Diving In Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

On this trip, I did not intend to spend a lot of time going diving.
While on a recent diving trip to the Maldives, I spoke with some divers who told me that they enjoyed diving in Nusa Penida, an island reachable by speed boat from Sanur in Bali.

Of course if you intend to make a trip dedicated to diving, it is best to stay on Nusa Penida island, or nearby Lembongan Island, and save yourself the daily cost of a speedboat trip from Bali.
It is said that you can encounter Mola Mola Sunfish in this area.
I have never dived and seen Mola Mola in the ocean, so naturally I was excited.

The ocean sunfish is known as Mola mola.
It is one of the two heaviest known bony fish in the world.
Adults typically weigh between 247 and 2,744 kg (545 and 6,049 lb).
They live in tropical and temperate waters around the world.
The name sunfish comes from its habit of sunning itself near the surface of the ocean where the sun’s rays warm it up.

Sunfish are predators that mostly consume small fish, fish larvae, squid, and crustaceans.
Females of the species can produce more eggs than any other known fish, up to 300,000,000 at a time.

I knew that going to dive in Pandang Bai offered no chance of encountering a Mola Mola.
But in just two weeks, I will be staying in Lembongan island, where I can go diving in Nusa Penida and, fingers crossed, I will encounter this unique fish.

Pandang Bai is only a one hour drive from Sanur along the coast going north.
We met at the dive shop right after an early breakfast where I ate mostly fruit to keep my stomach from being too full.
The ocean looked calm, which was very reassuring.

Outside of the city of Sanur, I saw artisan showrooms, selling huge stone Buddha statues in many seated or standing positions, stone altars and beautiful stonework used for the entrances of houses.
In Bali, every house or hotel has a beautiful stone gate with two guardians, one standing on each side of the doorway.
The doors are also a work of art, with carved wood and stunningly painted stonework.

Otherwise, the countryside was mostly flat rice fields and later on, green mountains covered in thick vegetation.
Padang Bai is a busy harbor.
Fast Ferries go from here to Lombok Island and to the three Gili Islands.
Beside ferries, it is also where snorkelers and divers come to see the aquatic life.

We were dropped at a big outdoor restaurant with multiple showers, toilets and communal tables.
This will be our base to change into our diving gear and order our lunches and drinks, before we board the traditional Junkun boat to go diving.

The Junkun boat is a small wooden Indonesian outrigger canoe.
It is a traditionally a fishing boat, with a long bamboo pole on each side, to offer stability.
These boats are all over Bali, and some are wider and have shade, and were set up as diving boats, with holes to hold the air tanks and gear.

We changed into our diving suits and checked our gear.
My equipment is all rented. I only brought my mask, dive computer and a waterproof case for my camera, since carrying a special dive camera only to use it for one week on a three month journey, seemed to me to be a bit too much to carry.

We were asked to choose our lunch, which will be prepared and ready for us on our return after our two dives.
Jules and I chose the famous Indonesian fried rice called Nasi Goreng, vegetarian style, and Nasi Campure (pronounced Champoor), which is rice with a medley of toppings, including Tempeh, tofu and vegetables.

As we were placing our lunch orders, a young woman of about sixteen who seemed to be the daughter of the proprietors, asked me where I live.
I said that I live in the state of Colorado in the USA.
With a broad smile and real honesty, she asked:

“Ma’am, are you happy in your life? Are you happy living in the USA?”

I was charmed by her honesty and sweet nature.
I thought for a moment about her question.
Am I happy in my life?….. Do I like living in the USA?….

It is a tough question to answer casually.
I thought about the outdated constitution that puts a gun in the hands of every fearful lunatic, whether certified or undiagnosed….
About the high percentage of Americans who are clinically depressed and angry, mostly owning guns and raising angry teenagers.

I thought about my home in Colorado, where hunting and killing our wildlife is a respected “sport.”
About the insanely high cost of living, about our corrupt “healthcare system” which feeds sick people addictive or harmful pills, about our health insurance fees that are unbelievably high…
About greedy doctors who operate on insecure people seeking to stay pretty and young for a few more years, about our legal and tax systems which favor the rich and keep those who can pay out of prisons or avoiding paying taxes….

Then as she looked at me with her innocent sweet face, her eyes as wide as a young deer, I thought about my lovely home in the mountains…
About swimming in the hot springs pool near my home, so nourishing and healing…
About our pristine snowy mountains offering wide ski slopes…
About hiking for wild mushrooms, running by the clean river full of rainbow trout, about the beauty of our blue sky and our villages covered in seasonal flowers, and I said:

“Yes, I am happy in my life, and I do like my life in the USA.”

She seemed pleased with my answer.
Then I asked her if she were happy with her life here in Bali.
She answered without a second thought:
“Oh yes! I am very, very happy with my life here.”

There was a conviction and a confidence in her voice, that comes from a girl who really felt fortunate to be in her own skin, happy with her family connections, happy with her tribe, with her place in the world and happy with her present incarnation.

We left for our first dive shortly after.
The boat ride was just ten minutes on a calm sea.
The first dive site was called “Blue Lagoon,” not because of the blue waters in that bay, but because there is a resort named Blue Lagoon in the hills above it.

The visibility was not great, and the reef and the wall were small, but there were a lot of macro creatures to see in the hour we dived.
The second dive spot was about a ten minute boat ride towards the next bay, and it was called Tanjun Jepun.

Jepun means “Flower” in Indonesian.
It is the Plumeria flower that women put behind their ears.
The name was given to this dive site because of the flowering trees surrounding the hills around the bay.
At first glance, it seemed impossible that this would be a good dive site.
I counted eight huge oil rigs in the waters around us.
But during my dive, I saw three very large cuttle fish swimming towards me.

They are not really fish, despite their name.
They are more like squid or octopus.
They have the ability to change their body color, to hypnotize their prey and to blend into their surroundings to avoid predators like sharks.

It was the first time that I had seen these large sized Cuttle Fish and as I spotted the second one, I turned to photograph it and did not notice the third one, who was quickly backing out of my way, changing its colors from light blue to dark black to look ominous to me.

There was lots to see at the Jepun dive site and I was happy with my day of diving.
Our lunch was delicious and the local diving guides were so polite and kind, even if they did dive with masks so old, that I was at awe at how they could see at all, let alone spot the microscopic shrimps at the back of a sea slug or around the clown fish’s coral.
They wore torn shorty dive suits and old soccer socks pulled up to their knees.

My heart was full of gratitude… What an adventure life is….

With love,

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