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DIVING STORY: AMAZING BALI DIVE

diving story- Lash diving in Bali, Indonesia

Lash diving

DIVING STORY: AMAZING BALI DIVE

Diving in north Bali is always beautiful but one day last season I had an especially memorable dive at the famous USAT Liberty Wreck in Tulamben/ Amed in northeast Bali. I’d like to share it with you here…First let me elaborate on a few unique features of diving in the Amed area. At most places I’ve dived in Asia and Australia the diving is done from boats. In Amed, however, while a few dives are accessed by the colorful local Balinese fishing boats, most diving is done from shore. That’s because so many reefs are just a few minutes’ swim from the beach!

Of course shore diving is common all over the world, but Amed’s shore diving presents 2 unique features. First of all, most of Amed’s beaches are not what we’d technically call beaches. Instead of sand, they are ‘stone beaches’. They’re composed of smooth oval fist-sized charcoal-gray stones. The stones are very pretty but do make dive entries and exits a bit challenging! The stones constantly shift around under your feet as you walk on them. The water movement of the sea surging in and out also makes the stones shift around. Fully decked out in dive gear with tank, BCD and regulator can make walking on shifting stones rather tough! In fact, the hardest part of Amed diving is getting in and out of the sea!! I’ve seen even extremely experienced divers fall over on occasion, including myself!
diving story- divers- Tulamben Liberty Shipwreck dive

divers carefully entering sea at Tulamben Liberty Shipwreck dive

That was before I discovered a few simple ‘tricks’ that make entries/exits much easier: First off, dive buddies can link arms or hold onto each other’s BCDs to become much more stable. Secondly, walking slowly helps tremendously. Third, pause whenever water is surging toward you… With these techniques, exits/ entries are a practically a breeze.

diving story- dive porter- Tulamben- Liberty Shipwreck- Bali

Another unique and amazing feature of Amed diving is the presence of the crew of local ‘tank and equipment carriers’. They are local women, girls, men and boys whose job is to carry all the divers’ equipment from the car parking area out to the dive entry points. Amazingly, they carry everything BALANCED on their HEADS! Huge boxes of equipment that one person can barely lift. Tanks- 1 or EVEN 2- balanced on their heads, often with another tank on a shoulder! It’s one of those things you really have to see to believe! The Amed area dive shops have set up a great system. All the shops pay the carriers, based on how many loads they carry, and the fees are included in the customers’ diving prices. So customers don’t have to pay or tip the locals who carry their gear. This helps the shops out greatly with customer service and gives many locals steady jobs. Besides that, it’s great fun to watch and offers wonderful photo opps too!

diving story- dive porter- Tulamben- Liberty Shipwreck- Bali

So, with this background on diving in Amed, I’ll get on with my fantastical US Liberty Wreck dive one morning in September last year. Myself, some other staff and our dive customers set out by van from EuroDive around 9 am. It was another scenic 30 min. drive along the hilly coastal road to the dive site. Along the way were sweeping views from several headlands of the vast sea and the pretty curving bays and fishing villages of the Balinese coast. We also got treated to spectacular views of Mt. Agung, Bali’s most sacred and highest volcanic peak, that towers over the coast but whose peak is often hidden in clouds. The road turns inland briefly, passing through lovely lush rice fields, then a small village bustling with early morning activities, and more views of Mt. Agung before returning to the coast and the dive site turn off. A perfect way to start any morning!

As soon as we reached the parking area, several locals came over to collect our dive equipment and carry it out to the ‘beach’. We divers all followed, admiring their balancing acts and enjoying a relaxing unburdened stroll to the entry point. This morning I was guiding just one novice diver. Her first dive at the US Liberty. I gave her a dive briefing, we geared up, linked arms and carefully walked over the shifting stones into the sea. When we got to waist height water, we sat down, put on our fins, then swam out a few meters before descending onto shallow sand at 5 meters.

diving story- diver - coral reef- Amed-Bali

diver on coral reef

Once we signaled ‘ok’ we slowly headed towards the wreck, which sits just over the edge of a sloping sandy bottom, beginning at 8 meters. As the ship came into sight, less than 5 minutes into the dive, I saw, to my complete astonishment, a WHALE SHARK swimming past the wreck!! WHAT?!!! I had NEVER even HEARD OF a whale shark siting in north Bali!!! And here, of all places, just off shore where the water was only maximum 20 meters. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m sure I would have rubbed them if my mask hadn’t been in the way! Certainly they must have been bulging nearly out of the mask. What a way to start a dive!!!

It wasn’t long before my dive buddy saw the whale shark, too. Looking around, hoping other divers were enjoying this rare treat, I noticed only 4 other divers even in the water!! Unfortunately, they were busy looking at the wreck, not the passing whale shark, and they were much too far from me to catch their attention. Too bad for everyone else! But at least my buddy and I could enjoy the spectacle. We forgot about the wreck for the moment, and followed the whale shark. NO way was I going to miss that!!

At the time I had 800? 900? dives to date, but had only ever seen a whale shark once before. And that despite diving 3 1/2 seasons at Phi Phi Islands in Krabi, Thailand, where whale sharks are spotted several times/ season. So naturally I felt really lucky to see my second, and completely unexpectedly. But this was really an extra special siting because the big guy was just sashaying along slowly through the sea, no hurry at all. MY first whale shark had whizzed by in a flash. Not this guy. He was in no hurry what so ever. That meant we got to follow him for about 10 minutes as he swam along the coast to…? But gradually he gained on us, we gave up and returned to the wreck to continue our originally planned wreck dive…

diving story- sweetlips hiding under corals- Amed- Bali

sweetlips hiding under corals

The wreck, as usual, was beautiful- covered in soft corals, hard corals, sea fans, sea squirts and sponges- visited by a great variety of reef fish and patrolled by the ‘resident’ school of jacks. However, for me that day, the wreck was no comparison to a WHALE SHARK!! I could hardly wait to get out and tell everyone what we’d seen! Of course that chance came soon enough.

At the end of the dive, we swam in to about 5 meters’ depth, surfaced, and proceeded to carefully exit the sea, arms linked together for support. Of course by then I’d already been shouting ‘WHALE SHARK’ excitedly and punching my fist into the air. ‘We saw a whale shark!!’ In fact, nobody believed us!! We were the only divers apparently who had seen it! And dive instructors, DMs and dive staff are great at ‘claiming’ to have seen this or that amazing creature on our dives… It was no wonder they all thought we were bluffing! But as I continued insisting and was so visibly excited, the word finally got around that there’d been a whale shark sighting this morning. And I was the lucky one that day to make the sighting! ahhhh, diving is incredible!!

diving story- wheel- Liberty Shipwreck - Amed- Bali

I hope some of you can join me here in Bali! It’d be great to see you again. And to show you the beautiful dive sites of Bali. You’ll be impressed, whale shark or not!   CHEERS, LASH

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