Nusa Lembongan 2009


I raced through the entire length of Bali in less than 3 hours and onto one of the smaller islands off its South East coastline. Nusa Lembongan is the smaller of the other 2 islands which make up the sub regency of Klungkung are all closely packed together, but its Lembongan is one of the most inhabited and a great little get away from the hustle and bustle of mainland Bali. The main reason for coming to the island was to dive and to see (hopefully) the rare and bizarre Mola Mola aka Sunfish.

They are the heaviest known bony fish in the world and can weigh up to a ton and they resemble a fish head with a main body circular flattened laterally with 2 large upward pointing fins. They normally spend there time at depths of up to 600m but every so often at certain times of the year at certain places they come up to depths of 30 m to “thermally recharge” and get cleaned. I jumped onto one of the many small ferries that travel to and from the island and 45 minutes later and we arrived on the beach and disembarked amongst many of the fishing boats and amidst beautiful golden beaches and peace and quiet.

A quick 10 minute walk down the beach and I managed to secure residency in a clean and comfortable room only 30m from the beach and right next to a number of dive schools. After settling in I wandered up and down the beach in search of some good offers but was drawn by the enigmatic Indonesian dive master called Rico. Rico’s smile was almost as wide as the dive boat and the restaurant next door served the best iced coffee so I was hooked straight away.  I booked in for 3 days diving straight away which started early the next day.. As I arrived late in the afternoon / evening I enjoyed a meal with the small dive shop crew and had a relatively early night after a whole days traveling. Up early at 6.30am I gathered my gear, checked my dive equipment and loaded it on the boat ready for the off.. There were only 5 of us on the morning’s dive – Rico, Willy (some German old guy who never spoke a word), the captain and his first mate and myself. It was a short 45 minute ride to the dive site on the east side of the island where we were doing a drift dive.

As the name suggests drift diving is pretty much going with the current as you drift along the coral taking in its beauty. It was the end of the season for the Mola Mola’s and they hadn’t spotted on in about a week so I was worried that we wouldn’t get the chance to see any. Jumping into the deep blue and descending down to 30m was refreshing and beautiful as we had the deep turquoise blue of the ocean on our left and a bank of pristine colourful coral to our right. I hung back a little as I was taking photos with Rico and Willy up ahead. Suddenly I heard a repetitive clinking sound of someone hitting their tank which means someone has spotted something good.

Racing around and seeing Rico some 30m away and gesturing with his hand that there was a Mola Mola I raced at full speed towards him. Unluckily for me Willy was in-between Rico and Mola Mola and decided to get too close and scared it away. Heart pumping and feeling annoyed that Willy may have blown my chance to see the rare Mola Mola. The rest of the dive was spent searching for the Mola Mola but soon we were almost out of air and had to return to the surface. Willy not speaking much didn’t apologise for his misdemeanor during the surface interval and after an hour, a light breakfast of Nasi Gorneg we were back down into the water for more hunting of Mola Mola. Nothing though.

The rest of the day was spent chilling, reading and feeling a little peeved. Day 2 for Mola Mola hunting started at the usual time of 6.30am and we headed off to a more distant part of the main island at a spot where there was a drop off from the coral down to 100m so hopefully a good chance to see them if they were there. The ocean was as flat as a pancake and descending into depths we struck gold. Directly below and to our left was a single Mola Mola flat on is side about 10 meters from the coral getting cleaned by around 50 banner fish. I looked around to see where Willy was to signal to him to hang back and not get too close. Luckily he was no where and we hovered at 30ms watching this huge, ugly but beautiful fish.

From tip to tip he was about 3.5m and at first was more interested in getting clean than the alien figures of us floating around near him. He swam right past me about 3 m away to check me out then swam away and then came back for one last look. Wow, how this creature actually swam through the water is a surpass but the move with elegance, grace and speed if needed. The rest of the dive and the next dive was insignificant due to the spectacle witnessed and was conducted with a very large smile on mine and Ricos faces! Whooping and high fiving all the way back to the dive school we viewed all the shots that Rico and I had taken.

Feeling satisfied that I had completed my mission on Nusa Lembognan I had a quick tour around the small inhabited part of the island where I walked to the other end of the island to Green beach to watch the many seaweed farmers collect there produce ready to sell on to Chinese and Japanese markets to turn into food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies. Green beach is named so due to the fact that there is not much sand but more seaweed than the eye could see. A quick walk around the bay to Mushroom beach to where I was greeted to a lovely secluded beach with a number of stylish bungalows and restaurants.

After a nice cool drink and feed i headed back to my pad on the back of a moped bathed in the warm orange and red warmth of the sunset. The next day was my last on Lembongan and the last in Indonesia as I was to flight out later that evening to Kuala Lumpur. There was enough time though to fit in one more dive in before heading back to the mainland and the airport. And what a dive. It was if Indonesia was saying goodbye and thank you to me in one go. Not only were we treated some beautiful diving once more but more surprisingly we managed to see 2 more Mola Mola, briefly but we got to see them for around a minute.

Around the coral I have never seen so many schools of Redtooth trigger and Indian Triggerfishes, followed up by numerous butterfly fishes, scorpion fish and many morays. I almost broke my neck as I twisted to see everything that hurried and swam past me. As I left the island later that afternoon I thought to myself it was a perfect way to leave Indonesia and I was blessed with yet more outstanding and clourful diving. As I boarded the plane that night, although Indonesia had been tough to travel around, hectic, polluted, busy, noisy and very often frustrating it had left me with so many happy memories. Sights that I had never dreamed of seeing like orangutans, dragons, suplhur mines, many volcanoes and stunning scenery not to mention outstanding diving. I was going miss the laid back attitude, chain smoking mad drivers, being given sweets instead of monetary change but my mind raced forward to how different India would be. One thing was sure Indonesia was going to prepare me (hopefully) for the worst. Goodbye Indonesia, thanks for the memories.

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