Breakfast at Puri Santrian is pretty great actually, we have it together with an ocean view before I grab my bag of dive gear to wait for the pickup.
As it turns out our hotel isn’t that far, and it’s a short ride with me being the last to be picked up. There they’re throwing together my gear, medium BC, a wetsuit, boots and fins, 6 kilos of weights. The wetsuit is a bit short but slim enough, this is a usual problem. It’s a 5mm wetsuit though, almost the thickness you’d wear at home in California because the water at this dive site comes up from some great depth and is very cold. 6 kilos seems light, I normally dive with 7 kilos with my shorty 2mm but they’re convinced, 6 sounds right. I must be remembering wrong.
The dive today is described as a safari because we’re out to see some big stuff. First up we’re hoping to see what the locals call Mola Mola, and what we call Sun Fish. They’re over 6 feet tip to tip and look a child’s drawing of a fish come to life. They’re not very common to see, and there is one of the few places in the world where you can find them as a recreational diver. Next up we’re off to Manta Point where we’re hoping to find Black and or White Manta Rays, also about 6 feet wingtip to wingtip. Then finally we’re doing a drift dive where there is a chance for Mola Mola, and a chance for sharks. All 3 dives are billed as difficult with unpredictable strong currents and the dive shop requires a minimum of 20 dives with at least one in the last 6 months. I’ve barely fulfilled those requirements with 23 total dives and my last in June. I’m fit and not easily flustered so I’m thinking I’ll be fine. There are lots of extra precautions taken though, we each dive with a special waterproof radio that has 3 modes, walkie talkie which is good for an anchorage, VHF which is good for some 2 miles, and then GPS distress which is good for 4000 miles and accurate to 12 feet. As long as we have these things we should be fairly safe. We’re all given instruction on how it’s used and each one is double checked before being put in our BC. We’re also 2 divers to a dive master to keep the groups tight and easier to manage.
An Aussie by the name of Nick will be my dive buddy. He’s apparently gotten fairly serious into diving, and last year won a villa stay at a charity auction. He’s convinced 6 friends to come with him (not that it’s hard with cheap direct flights here) and they’re enjoying the high life getting massages, partying, and going surfing. He’s the only diver in the group so like me is not paired up.
We have 2 other groups on board, a trio of Dutch, and a Finnish couple currently living in Thailand.
It takes us roughly 30 minutes to get to the dive site, which is just the right amount of time to get everything in order and relax. Crystal Bay has excellent visibility but the current is no joke. I start the dive at exactly 200 bar, and by the time I’m out to the spot where we’re possibly going to find the Mola Mola I’m at around 140 bar. I feel almost out of breath swimming against that current. At the wall we latch onto a piece of coral about 40 ft down and wait to conserve energy. The current is pulling me from left to right. No one seems to have seen one yet, and we get one false alarm before having to clamp back down. Suddenly the current goes from strong left to strong right and I’m almost pulled off my coral as it’s not apparently attached to the reef and starts lifting up. Our dive master apparently notices the new current is warmer which basically kills any chance left for Mola Mola as they don’t like it this warm. We have just under 100 bar each so we’re invited to let go and the dive becomes a drift dive. The reef is lively, though not as nice as Roatan or Half Moon Caye in Belize. We use the rest of our tanks and the current dies so we and ascend next to a moored boat. The dive computers read 21C water temp. 70F, a full 11F colder than at our resort.
We snack and exchange stories while we move to our next dive site. No one in the harbor seems to have seen a Mola Mola today and it’s explained that October is when sightings drop off and it being late October it’s a bit worse than 50:50.
Manta Point isn’t half as challenging, but immediately more productive. From the boat we can see at least a few black shadows of Manta Rays soaring along under water. From in the water we find many more. They’re huge, and very inquisitive, flying by silently. I’m told there were 13 in total, but I’m not sure how you tell, you see 5 in front of you then suddenly there is one behind you turn to see and then you turn back and who knows which one is which anymore. And then my camera freezes.
The rest of the dive was nice too, we see a whole mess of Blue Spotted Stringrays all piled on top of one another. We also see a yellow and white nudibranch of some kind. All of which I would have liked to share. The water here is still really cold and at one point my divemaster asked if I was too cold and wanted to go up. I grabbed his arm and gave him the ok sign. I’m not done even if I’m pretty cold!
After dive #2 we had some nice box lunches, tasty, though I think it gave me a bit of stomach problems that night…
I made a bit of a faux pas when I asked one of the Dutch if that was her daughter, they looked so a like and she looked crushed at first and said they had just met. They seemed to know each other so well. Leave it to the Dutch to make friends so quickly traveling. I had figured she was a young mother and looked young for her age, but I think she was probably just 10 years older than me and the woman I mistook as her daughter 10 years younger. Then I realized her friendly conversation and sitting next to me a lot was her being a bit flirty and I looked for a reason to bring up my Belize wedding.
The last dive of the 3 is a drift dive with very strong current. It must be 3knt and we’re basically along for the ride. I’d see something I wanted to take a picture of but it’s possible for it to not be a distant blur by the time I try. There were a lot of other divers and it was hard to stay with the group, some of us apparently act more like a sail than others. I’d spot my divemaster sometimes 50 ft away with his little rubber ducky floating above his tank asking if we were ok. Then suddenly the current changed, you could see the particles or bubbles suddenly coming downwards following the slope of the reef and we were in a down current. The divemaster Mo makes a sign for down current, grab on and we grab a chunk of the reef. From here we pull ourselves out of the downstream hand over hand for about 20 ft before being back in the normal current and back on our way. We’re down to about 70 bar when the current just ends. Like the ride is over, get off. Here the reef isn’t very lively or interesting, mostly all one sort of wavy shaped hard coral with no fish. That’s the end of the dive. We do our safety stop and radio for pickup. We’ve gone out of the range of the walkie talkie and out of sight, but the VHF has no problems and it’s not before our boat comes roaring around the corner to pick us up.
Back in Bali we wait for everyone to load up and Nick and I exchange business cards to email each other stuff from the dive. I need his camera’s contents more than the other way around, but I have 5 videos and 20 photos according to the display, so hopefully some of them are worthwhile.
I tell them where to drop me and for the second time in Bali I get a whistle when I say Puri Santrian. It’s not all that far as it turns out and I could have walked the 3 blocks.
Jenn is waiting for me in the lobby having just woken up from a nap. She’s all smiles and happy with her day. She spent a good portion of it napping by the pool, or in the room, and enjoying some relaxation and the full service of the hotel. We have a quick tea before she has a scheduled massage. Even that’s inexpensive here, about half the price as at home. I sign up for one in the morning expecting a sore back from 6 kg of weight belt, and she schedules a facial. From 9-10 they have a happy hour buy 1 get 1 free.
I go back to the room and work on my journal, and look at pictures and relax and before I know it she’s back from her 2hr massage.
It was now time for dinner on the beach with a nice fresh breeze blowing, no worry for bugs. The moon was almost full and low on the horizon a deep red.
It was a good day.