Being a part of the coral triangle, Indonesia has always been one of our ‘diving bucket list’ destinations and we chose Bali because of the good mix of land and underwater tour. Bali however has so many dive sites and planning it alone with the logistics in mind may be a headache. Thanks to our friends from Oceanshutter, dive safari was well recommended. We booked with Underwater Tribe and true enough, we were never disappointed with their service and the tailored schedule suited for our convenience.
We took a plane from Cebu-Manila-Denpasar Bali via Philippine airlines. It was 4 hours in total flying time but we arrived at midnight and waited for another 2 hours for immigration and customs. Because of our late arrival, we wanted to have a relaxed land tour before starting our dive safari. We stayed in Seminyak but drove to Ubud, which is an hour away to experience a couple of things.
Elephant ride in Bali zoo:
Kopi luwak or civet coffee straight from its plantations:
Monkey forest and Goa Gajah:
Our dive safari started in Nusa Penida. To get to Nusa Penida, we have a 45-minute boat ride from Sanur. Sanur is 30 minutes away from Seminyak, where we stayed. If you visit mainly for diving, Sanur also has nice hotels but because we wanted to celebrate our 3rd year anniversary with a good variety of restaurants, we opted to stay in Seminyak.
Nusa Penida dive is mostly pelagics or the big animals. Our 1st stop on both days of diving there was Manta Point. The visibility was not great but it is always the case as Manta rays stay there for the very reason why it has poor visibility — the planktons.
Nusa Penida can have rough waves and swells so it might also be worth while to take sea sickness medications beforehand. Also a tip from our dive guide was to put half of our wetsuits on before leaving Sanur just to minimize movements and aggravate sea sickness. I learned it the hard way but made sure I did both precautions on our 2nd day there. Another good dive site is Crystal bay. During the sunfish (molamola) season, this is a great place to spot them. But the season usually runs from July to September, we were here on March so no molamola for us in this site BUT we were still so lucky to see one in Ped (another dive site in the northern part of Nusa Penida). We saw it at 25 meters and it was very skittish, probably because I literally screamed underwater. This picture is an “evidence shot”, not really the most ideal photo but atleast I can say, I really saw a molamola for the 1st time.
Also another gem that we saw for the first time was this Wobbegong shark. It was staying relatively shallow at around 11 meters.
After 2 diving days in Nusa Penida, we headed to the north east of Bali called Tulamben. Before switching to our macro lenses, we dove the famous Liberty wreck. The liberty wreck was hit by a Japanese torpedo then was beached near Tulamben however, the eruption of Mount Agung caused the vessel to slip off the beach in 1963. The best time to dive here is in the early morning for lesser crowd and more opportunity to see the schooling bumphead parrotfishes.
Tulamben is known for its macro diving. This place is comparable to Dauin Dumaguete when it comes to critters and opportunity for macro photography. Dive sites are also very close, usually around 10-15 minute drive from the hotels. Sidem was our 1st stop and I was so happy to see these boxer crab also known as pompom crab with eggs.
Seraya was our favorite dive site in Tulamben, we even did a night dive there. We saw a tiger shrimp for the 1st time and of course, the beautiful harlequin shrimps were everywhere.
Shaun the sheep nudibranch (Costasiella) has always been my personal favorite, and I was happy to see them in most, if not all, green algae in Tulamben, as well as in Puri Jati (2 hour and 15 min drive from Tulamben).
What I love about underwater photography is the challenge to get better shots each time. To get to that ideal shot, new techniques should also be learned. I dedicated 1 (or 2) whole dives to learn about ‘snooting’. A snoot is a creative lighting tool to narrow the beam of light. This way, you will be able to highlight a small critter subject among its camouflaged home. I used an INON-Z240 snoot set. I was lucky enough to have the most supportive guide, Parman from Underwater Tribe, to help me find the greatest subject for it- Hairy shrimp and to help me with my snooting.
Another interesting, but very hard to shoot was this skeleton shrimp with babies.
Our last stop for the dive safari was Padang bai, a 2-hour drive south of Tulamben. It was quite different from Tulamben because we have to use an outrigger boat (called Jukung) as oppose to shore entries in Tulamben, and mostly white sand (black in Tulamben). It is still mainly macro diving in Padang Bai but some mid-sized creatures like this leaf scorpionfish are also pretty common.
We stayed in an eco-resort in Padang Bai called Bloo lagoon. It was very relaxing as our room was overlooking the bay area. Here’s an early morning drone shot by Brian of our beautiful resort.
To conclude our cultural Bali experience, we went to Uluwatu temple to see the Kecak fire dance before catching our midnight flight back to Manila. Several men chant while the performance takes place. The show happens every 6PM, as the sun sets.
Our over all experience in Bali, both underwater and land, was great. It was a good variety of gastronomic and cultural enrichment, the same is true with the big and small underwater creatures. It was a great way to spend our 3rd year wedding anniversary.
We will definitely be back for the molamola season next time and get better shots and footage of that!