Nusa Lembongan: My Favourite Dive
Ever since the first time I went diving in Ko Tao I was curious about life under-the-sea. And in the 35 dives I did over the past years I have seen a lot of colorful fishes and reef sharks, even beautiful turtles, but it was always the more uncommon animals I was wondering about. You know, the ones you don’t learn about in pre-school. I remember the first “big” fish I encountered. It was a 1,5 m long Napoleon Wrasse in the Great Barrier Reef. At that time I hadn’t been diving for four years and that large fish surely startled me! When we were diving the Maldives last year, there were two dives I will never forget: one because our divemaster Jinah forced us to hang on a rock, swaying in strong current and watch all the sharks go by. One of those sharks was a big Grey Reef Shark, and although it is nothing like it, for me it was like watching a miniature Jaws go by, hoping he wouldn’t eat me. That shark scared the shit out of me, because of the way he looked and because he was bigger than the other reef sharks. The other dive is very memorable because we encountered a school of Eagle Rays. They were swimming by so fast, yet gracefully; I was amazed by their beauty. It was the most elegant animal I had ever seen. Until now.
I had never heard of Nusa Lembongan. It’s a small island south of Bali, right next to Nusa Penida. It was possible to have an extra stopover with the fastboat from Gili Trawangan on our way back to Bali, and it was an open ticket so we could stay as long as we’d like, so why not?
We checked for some diveschools almost immediately after we got there. After comparing diveschools we chose Dive Concepts. Our divemaster’s name was David, a fun French guy who seemed to know what he was doing, a quality I profoundly appreciate in a divemaster. We fit all our gear there and then, so they’d have all our stuff ready for the dive the next day. I felt good about this. On Gili they did some guesswork and we fit everything everyday right before the dive. Here we got all the equipment ready to try on and our names were marked on our gear. Super!
This morning we stepped out to the boat. Two dives were scheduled for today: Crystal Bay, which should have a nice collection of corals; and Manta Point, which should have a nice collection of Manta Rays. I was really excited but also a bit worried. On my last dives in Gili I was having some problems with my mask, and I was really hoping to not have any visibility issues when a Manta Ray would be in sight. Luckily, we went to Crystal Bay first so I could adjust my mask if needed. This divespot was really pretty, with great colorful corals, lots of Nudibranch (looks like a kind of sea slug, but is not related) and even a large sleeping Sea Krait. After the first dive there was tea and cake for everyone while taking the longer trip to our next spot.
An hour after our first dive we arrived at Manta Point. And guess what? From the boat we already saw our first Manta under water! Manta Point near Nusa Penida is a cleaning station for Mantas, this means they come here to get cleaned by other fishes. The most important rule for us was that we were not allowed to go on top of the rock that is the actual cleaning station. Otherwise the Mantas might get scared and leave, maybe forever.
We had no idea what our eyes were going to witness once our bodies hit the water. We descended as usual but not as deep; we stopped near the 9 meter mark because that’s where the Mantas floated around.
It. Was. Amazing. They were coming from all sides in groups of three, four, five,… Large Manta Rays were swimming elegantly around our heads to and from the cleaning station, while sunrays fell through the ocean. I literally have not enough words to describe the beauty of it. After about 20 minutes enjoying the spectacle, David wanted to take us a little further away to watch the Manta Rays coming to the cleaning station. In stead of whole groups we now also saw a few lone rays gently making their way towards the rest. One of them actually stopped swimming and hovered next to us for a short while! He was so big and gorgeous and I wanted to stare at him forever. We slowly made our way back to the cleaning station and managed to stay there for another 20 minutes. Turned out we had spend 57 minutes with these magnificent creatures! (normally with a deeper dive we would stay under water for about 45 minutes with 200 bar; this dive lasted almost an hour)
I can honestly say that for me this was the best dive ever. The way I felt when seeing the rays dance around us, was undescribable. I wanted to scream out my excitement, which is hard to do with a regulator in your mouth, but I was smiling inside. I saw Mike’s eyes full of joy. I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. Everytime I am nervous to go in the water, everytime I am afraid something might go wrong. I don’t know why but it just is. But witnessing something as beautiful as groups of Manta Rays swimming around you everywhere you look, is a unique experience. And I guess that’s why I always make the dive. To find this. To see this. To feel this.