Down Under in Amed

Down Under


As we sit down to have breakfast with Nico and Murray, our two dive guides for the weekend, I can smell the thick, dark Bali coffee sitting on the table. Ordering eggs and toast we start to talk about the sites we’re going to dive. As I look out over the treetops at the cobalt blue ocean I feel the excitement of being back diving in Amed.

Zuri fills out her paperwork before we get started. As usual, the atmosphere with Nico and Murray at Baliku is lively with constant chatter.

Zuri looks over the questionnaire and says, “Wait, you can’t be over 45 and smoke?”
I look over and notice Murray putting out his cigarette, so I say, “Guess that let’s Murray out, we can’t dive with him.”

Nico retorts quickly, “For Murray he already has to mark “No” for half the questions.”

“But there are no “Are you a legend” questions. That would be a YES answer,” Murray defends himself with a completely straight face.

“I don’t understand”, Nico replies

“I’ll explain it to you later” I quip.

“Okay great”, Nico tells me, “That very handsome guy over three will get your equipment sorted.”

And we’re off for a full day of diving at Jemeluk drop off.

Our SUV pulls up to the sight and 6 small Indonesian kids run from the side of the road to our car. A skinny 7-year-old boy wearing blue faded shorts and a worn red t-shirt runs to the back of the car and squeezes in between two taller girls to help pull out the plastic blue crates filled with scuba gear. Gathering around the back of the car the kids help pull out the oxygen tanks, BCD’s and regulators to carry them to our set up spot. As we set up our equipment I hear the skinny little boy yell out, “NNNIIICCCCOOO” and our Belgium guide flashes a big smile as he laughs at his little Indonesian friend.

What I love about shore diving is walking into the water slowly and feeling the gradual decent until eventually you find yourself 30 meters below in God’s aquarium. Immediately a Stingray swims past me. I remember being in Thailand at a fish farm feeding the sting rays and how thick and slippery their skin felt. As I look to my right I spot a lone Trumpet Fish and a small Puffer Fish swims by. Soon a little school of Razor Fish drift past and Nico cups them with his hands playfully.

Staring at the coral reef I spot a big Dogface Puffer Fish casually swimming in and out of the reef. A Unicorn fish swims by and in the distance I spot a Clown Triggerfish (Big-spotted Triggerfish), one of my favorite fish in South East Asia.

Breathing in and out, the darth vadar sound from my regulator lulls me into a meditative state. I see the water getting shallow as we begin to swim closer to the shore. Suddenly Nico is waving his arms to get my attention. I swim higher to meet him, as I’m cresting over the coral reef there is the biggest school of Bigeye Travallies I’ve ever seen. They formed a cyclone shape and swim tightly together hardly moving at all. They look like a tornado starting a few feet above the coral reef and spreading up close to the surface, beams of sunlight streaming down through them. Nico swims just under them and floats effortlessly while watching them above. I hover quietly watching him floating below the cyclone shaped school and make a mental picture of the one lone diver floating below of hundreds of Travellies as the sunlight beams down between them.

I have that picture in mind as we end our first dive at Jemeluk drop off. For our second dive we make sure to bring the camera. As soon as we descend the biggest Cuttlefish I’ve seen is there to greet us. It hovers in front of us and changes its colors and patterns. It’s the first time I’ve seen a cuttlefish camouflage. It was the highlight of the dive. For the next 40 minutes we floated around, snapped photos and enjoyed the vibrant reef and life down under.

Cuttlefish


Same Cuttlefish


Cuttlefish



Lion Fish

Lion Fish


Zuri


Nico








The Wandering Jen

Scuba Diva

photo by Cameron @ Dive & Relax
It was only last week, just before I came to Malaysia that I was in Southern Thailand. It’s already starting to feel like so long ago. After Phuket I jumped on a boat to Koh Lanta because I wanted to dive two sites that are local favorites, Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Meuang (Purple Rock). It was tough to find a boat going out there because it’s the end of the dive season (April 30th is when most boats stop going to the sites farther out because of the weather) and these two are at least an hour boat ride from Koh Lanta by speedboat. As it was the end of the season, I was lucky to get on any boat going out there, it took us 3 1/2 hours on a slow boat with Lanta Divers and I was just happy to find a boat that was going. Once we were out there I only saw one other dive boat the whole day. It was great.
Hin Daeng & Hin Meuang are two huge, deep water rocks that are well-known for sighting manta rays, whale sharks and leopard sharks.  Hin Muang is Thailand’s highest vertical wall, submerged below sea level. It’s covered with vibrant, purple, soft corals. The marine life, both big and small is beautiful and impressive. What surprised me the most was the size of the fish out there. I recognized many of the same fish I’ve seen at Koh Bida and the Similans, but they were 2-3 times bigger. Apparently, this too far out for fisherman, so the fish can obviously grow bigger when they are not being hunted. We saw great barracuda’s, bearded scorpion fishes,  coronet fishes, at least 8 moray eels, longfin batfishes, blue triggerfish, yellow tail triggerfish and a silver wall of travelly swimming past. On that particular day we didn’t spot any manta rays, whale sharks or leopard sharks, and I wasn’t able to get any photos of our diving from the others I was with.
Fortunately, the next day I had arranged to join Dive & Relax to try Koh Bida (again) and Hin Bida. Cameron from Dive & Relax was really helpful when I was trying to find a boat going out to Hin Daeng and Hin Meuang and suggested that I could experience some great things at Hin Bida. Dive & Relax is a great  company that has speedboats and offers dive trips, snorkeling, private trips and PADI courses on Koh Lanta. They’ll organize a nice day with lunch, experienced and professional dive guides and a small group of people to go with.  You can check them out at www.diveandrelax.com.
We had a great day diving, the conditions were really good and we experienced some fantastic sightings. As soon as we descended Hin Bida there was a big leopard/ zebra shark (photo above) just lying at the bottom of the sea, staring at us while Cameron took pictures until it swam off. It is a truly beautiful animal. At Koh Bida Nok, there was a big red octopus that we watched for at least 5 minutes. It was on the rocks and kept expanding and contracting and changing colors, camouflaging itself with the rocks. Then it swam in front of us from one rock to another, it was amazing. Usually when I’ve seen them they are hiding between rocks and you can only see a tiny little part of them.
Lastly, there’s a beautiful photo below of a cuttlefish. It’s the last photo at the bottom. This is the first time I’ve seen one and Cameron got a great shot of it. It was so nice to dive Koh Bida again and have better experience. Enjoy these fantastic photos courtesy Cameron at Dive & Relax.
photo by Cameron @ Dive & Relaxphoto by Cameron @ Dive & Relax
photo by Cameron @ Dive & Relax