I have no children, I don’t know what it’s like to send them off on their first day of school. But I do get to stand on the boat, proud as punch, as Marc does his first backflip into the ocean with all his scuba gear on. Today we are diving at Manta Bay and Crystal Bay with Lembongan Dive Centre‘s Khloe and Christina.
We met Khloe (a French expat with wildly beautiful curly hair) on the beach on our first day and, not partially on the success of her restaurant recommendations ($3 cashew chicken?!), decided she was trustworthy and professional: the perfect Dive Master to initiate Marc into the dark-water arts. Marc started his course on Day 172 with a series of readings and videos, followed by tests (yawn) and then I joined him for a refresher yesterday afternoon in the pool with his new instructor, Christina (described as “equally cool” to Khloe in his text – high praise). It has been a strange experience, after almost half a year of being together pretty much 24/7, to have two mornings to myself. I laid alone, stretched out, in the bed. Read a bit of my book. Sat in the sun with a tea. Boring!
Today I’m diving in the ocean for the first time in at least 4 years (hence the refresher) and Marc for the first time ever. The sun is out during our boat ride around the coast of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida as we head to Manta Bay. We see a bunch of “famous stuff” (that we don’t know is famous) from the water, which basically creates our Nusa Penida bucket list for us.
Our goal for today is really just to get Marc comfortable in the water, and maybe see Nemo, so we aren’t too concerned when there aren’t a tonne of fish to see. The swell is formidable in this location and, even 12 metres under the water, we feel as if on a ferris wheel: lolling up, around, down with the waves.
I trail happily behind Marc and Christina like the third wheel that I am – taking pictures of… everything… and playing with the GoPro while Marc practices clearing his mask and making emergency ascents.
I merrily snap pictures of beautiful, vibrantly colourful corals, schools of fishes, rock formations, Marc’s butt, fancying myself an underwater photographer for the ages. In my mind, each photo will be priceless, a “framer” to be cherished forever. After all, when I scuba dove with a rental camera in Australia all those years ago (and shouldn’t technology be leaps and bounds ahead of that, now?) I ended up with some amazing shots.
So allow me to hop out of the chronology for a moment and tell you now, before you scroll down and see for yourself, that this was not the case. I was HEARTBROKEN to discover, upon returning to our hotel, that each of my photos had become a washed out blue blur. A GoPro, as it turns out, unassisted by a red filter or flash/light, takes garbage photos underwater anywhere past about 3 metres, since the water filters out the red wavelengths of light and renders everything cerulean. Womp.
Anyway, continuing on. We bundle back on to the boat, reconnecting with Khloe who had taken her own team down, and have no sooner stripped our wetsuits to half mast then we are being hustled back into the water. An ominous dark shape is gliding through the azure shallows towards the boat, and Khloe is at our back “hurry, hurry, get in the water, it’s coming”. After strapping an aluminum tank to my back and 6kg of weights to my belt then allowing myself to sink to the bottom of the ocean for a half hour, THIS is what is scary. All my primal instincts tell me NOT to jump in the water ahead of this gliding black sea creature, but I have the curious impulse to look strong and not wimpy in front of my husband. This is how all good decisions are made, I’m sure.
So, we strap our goggles and snorkels on and throw ourselves overboard, crashing underwater and seeing the thing gliding toward us through the bubbles of our bellyflops: eight feet across, six feet long plus a long needle-like tail. Oh, it’s just a manta ray!
We join the little gaggle of Bali day-trippers and snorkel around it for a few minutes before heading back to the boat. Halfway back we encounter another manta, and we have this one all to ourselves. It glides past us, turns 180 degrees and glides by again, its mouth gaping wide, feeding. Back and forth while I film it as best I can.
Finally we clamber back onto the boat and, after a brief interlude whereupon we each take turns hanging off the ladder (wetsuit stripped down to our ankles) for an “aqua-pee” – don’t watch me! I can’t go when you’re looking! – we blast off for Crystal Bay.
“It’s not called Crystal Bay because there are crystals in the water or the people on the shore are doing meth, but because the water is crystal clear… in high season” explains Christine, helpfully.
Well it is low season for us, but the water still looks fine. After a lunch break of fried rice and hot tea, we jump back into the water to scuba around the atoll in the centre of Crystal Bay.
Crystal Bay has areas of pure sandy bottom, where we can kneel while Marc practices some skills and I look around idly. We have a quick swim across to the corals and check out the beautiful fishes. You’ll just have to trust me that in “real life” the corals and fishes in the below photos were a riot of yellow, red, pink, purple, blue and green. Just trust me. Use your imagination.
At least Nemo always photographs well.
Moorish Idol, also known a “Gill” from “Finding Nemo”
I don’t know what kind of fish the above was, but he followed me home.