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Tag / scorpion fish

One of the most important item on our itinerary for Bali is scuba diving. Bali is one of the few places in this part of the world where there is almost a guarantee that you’ll dive with the otherwise very elusive Manta Rays, and there’s also a good chance in spotting the biggest bony fish in the world – the weird and wonderful Mola Mola, also known as Sun Fish.

leaving from Sanur to Nusa Penida
the beach at Sanur before heading to Nusa Penida

Prior to the trip, I did some research on the various dive centres at Bali (and there were a lot of them) and arrived at no conclusion, so I asked Edvin for suggestion and Bali Scuba was recommended, it turned out to be a good one, so thanks buddy!

Diving at Nusa Penida
the three dive sites at Nusa Penida that we went to

There are many dive sites in Bali offering very different diving experiences. There’s the USS Liberty wreck at Tulamben, white tip sharks that is common at Gili island, muck diving for macro photography at Seraya, and more.

However, since my goal was to see Manta Rays and Mola Mola, I chose Nusa Penida as my destination.

boat transfer from Sanur to Nusa Penida
Bali Scuba is located at Sanur

The dive center charges US $145 for three boat dives at Nusa Penida, and the package comes with hotel transfer, drinks, and a lunch served on the speed boat. Equipment can be rented at extra charge, and extra wet suit is recommended (5mm wet suit rented at $5).

To tag on for snorkeling only, the fee was US $50, Haze does not dive yet, so she went aboard for a snorkeling trip, that was the initial plan anyway.

manta ray at Manta Point, Nusa Penida
abundance of manta rays at Manta Point

We left Sanur at around 9 in the morning and our first dive was at the famous Manta Point, located at the Southern part of the island.

Even before jumping into the water, there were already sightings of those gentle giants swimming close to the surface.

2 mantas in a mating dance
2 mantas in a mating dance

I was wearing the rental 5 mm wet suit for the dive, and spent over 40 minutes in the water that was 22-23 Celsius. A bit too cold for me, but bearable, a hood and extra thermal guard would probably be a good idea.

My previous coldest diving temperature was at Aquaria KLCC, but 22-23 Celsius is a big difference with 24-25 Celsius.

the graceful devil ray
the graceful devil ray

The dive though, was definitely worth it. While the water at Manta Point wasn’t particularly clear and there were even debris (some banana leaves, plastic wrappers and such from offerings made by boatmen), the sight of these huge fish was amazing.

There were probably over a dozen mantas at the site and some were doing their mating dance too. A fantastic dive for sure.

mola mola at Crystal Point, Nusa Penida
mola mola: hello, diver: say cheese!

The second dive was at Crystal Point to hunt for the elusive Mola Mola.

The dive master said it’ll be cold on this dive, so I put on two wet suits this time (Haze has already abandoned snorkeling after being shocked by the 23 C water temperature at first site), but it was not nearly enough for the 17 Celsius water temperature at this site.

It was FREEZING! It was so cold I think I’d need at least a thermal layer, 2 wet suits, gloves, hood, and probably socks too.

But we saw two mola mola, so it was definitely worth it. I only managed to take four photos in the 20+ minutes we were underwater. I was shaking too much to operate the camera, basically.

Other than the temperature, the current at Crystal Point is also something to be reckoned with. There is sometimes a down current that can pull inexperience divers towards the deep slope, you need to always stay close to the coral & dive master and monitor depth constantly. A Japanese diver with another group was seen being pulled by the current while we were doing our safety stop and our DM had to help him out.

Crystal Point is definitely only suitable for those who have a bit more experience in diving.

underwater seascape at North Shore
underwater seascape at North Coast, Nusa Penida

We had lunch on the boat, took a bit of rest and then moved to the 3rd dive site of the day. This time at the much warmer North Coast of Nusa Penida. The operator usually would have a repeat at Crystal Point as third dive if you don’t spot any mola mola on first attempt.

North Coast offers drift diving opportunity, and after the two very cold water, I was happy we agreed to do something relaxing for the final dive.

then we meet another mola mola at 37 meter
then we meet another mola mola at 37 meter

And as luck would have it, we met another mola mola at this site. The dive master did mention that while there is a chance to see the sun fish here, it is exceedingly rare, we were very lucky.

The photo taken here turned out to be almost exactly the same as the one from previous site, and I think a couple of us accidentally went a little too deep chasing mola at 37 meter.

scorpion fish at north coast, nusa penida
hey look, a scorpion fish

After the encounter with the sunfish (lasted but a few minutes), the remaining dive was a more leisure and less interesting affair. There were scorpion fish, moray eel, and more coral fish. We finished the day after 40+ minutes underwater.

It was tiring, and definitely a very rewarding day diving at Nusa Penida.

Pulau Lang Tengah is an island sandwiched between the more popular Redang and Perhentian islands, approximately 20+ km from Merang Jetty, which itself is roughly half an hour’s drive from Kuala Terengganu.

Our trip was organized and led by DM/Instructor/UW Photographer extraordinaire Edvin Eng, who was also the first DM Terence and I dived with back in 2004, a whopping 7 years ago.

Lang Tengah with a bunch of jokers
and Derek is now a certified diver, by Edvin the man

Edvin is always one of my favorite dive leaders, the dude  is a joker on ground, but serious and attentive underwater. He also has an eye in spotting weird and wonderful creatures underwater, which is good. However, the very same guy also always poison us in underwater photography equipments, which might or might not be a good thing.

the resort at Lang Tengah
the resort at Lang Tengah, with Derek and Terence camwhoring

The main purpose of the trip was actually to get Derek certified as a PADI Open Water diver, for those of you who are interested to get into this hobby, Edvin is as good as any instructor you can get, you can find him at oceanxplorer.com.my

disco colored anemone
disco colored anemone, true story

We left at around 1 am from KL on Thursday night and arrived at Kuala Terengganu in the morning just in time for a breakfast of roast duck noodle before hopping on the transfer boat at Merang jetty.

We did a shore dive right after lunch, at the same time Derek was getting his exams. The shore dive at Lang Tengah wasn’t anything to shout about, visibility was close to 10 meter, there were corals, giant clams, and the various fishes, including clown fish, of course.

anemone at lang tengah
some sort of anemone?

giant clam
giant clam, good for 100 plates of char kueh teow

We went on a boat dive after tea time, and there were much more to see here. Plenty of coral banded shrimps, red shrimps, moray eel, scorpion fish, and more.

banded coral shrimp
banded coral shrimp

red shrimp among the corals
red shrimp among the corals

moray eel
a pretty small and shy moral eel hiding in its hole

scorpion fish at lang tengah
can you spot the fish?

We were dead tired from previous night’s driving and the 2 dives, and everyone headed to bed and pretty much passed out before 10 pm.

For the last three dives on second day, I had the luxury of using the combination of INON UWL 100 and the DOME unit with my S90 (in Ikelite housing and lit by Sea & Sea YS-01).

Since there are already quite a few photos in this post, I’ll delay the second batch on the next post. By the way, Selamat Hari Raya to all my Muslim friends, and to everyone else, Happy Merdeka!