Mola Mola & Oceanic Manta; Diving Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida lie just off of the east coast of Bali and we had plans to stay in a hill top villa and dive every day we were there. As often happens plans go awry and the lovely accommodation we had booked turned out to be indeed lovely, just ten minutes down a VERY bumpy track. Having done it once holding on for dear life, it was clear we had no interest in doing it at least twice a day for the next week and promptly set about finding somewhere to dive and alternate accommodation.
Luckily one of the two places we had earmarked could help us with both and after a lovely chat with Sue, one of World Diving Lembongan‘s owners, we were soon settled in a hundred or so metres back from the shore in a very nice poolside room at Pondok Baruna.
Dive resorts are some of the friendliest places we’ve stayed, you’re all there for the same reason and conversation easily starts about dives you’ve done and plan to do. We also love a dive pool, pools nowadays (yeah yeah I’m ancient) all seem to be shallow, no doubt a nod to health and safety and all those *cough* idiots going in pools who can’t swim. When I was a kid swimming out of my depth in a pool was a much cherished pleasure and I still enjoy the same feeling today, which is a rarity in a normal pool but guaranteed in a dive one. The rooms are a good size and super clean, lacking a kettle or fridge, normally prerequisites for us but everything else was so lovely it didn’t bother us.
Sue and John have been running World Diving for the last ten years and are truly lovely; experienced, knowledgeable, down to earth, friendly and welcoming. Their team of local dive masters, instructors and guides were all professional, helpful and friendly. Everywhere we go plans their dive day slightly differently, at World Diving you leave in the morning between 8 and 10am for two dives with an hours break with snacks on the boat in between before returning around 1pm. They have two boats; big boat, a seventeen metre traditional Indonesian jukung, and the best designed dive boat we’ve had the pleasure of diving from so far. With rubber matting on the floor, a 5 gallon drinking water bottle, great for the environment and the divers, scuba tank holes behind every seat and racks for additional tanks in front of a deep dry shelf. At the back of the open hull, a full size loo and stairs up to a tanning/relaxing deck with rows of beanbags, the perfect seat on a moving boat. Little boat is a perfectly equipped speed boat for when there’s not so many of you diving.
Lembongan is known for its Mola Mola, Oceanic Manta and sublime corals, we dived nine times over the course of our four days on Nusa Lembongan and saw best corals we have ever seen, pristine gardens of life as far as the eye can see. We were incredibly lucky to see one Mola Mola, a huge bizarre looking sunfish that weigh up to a tonne. J thought it was a whale as it materialised like some other worldly creature out of the murkiness in front of us. We floated motionless in awe as it swam by, turning to see a hoard of underwater paparazzi swimming up and chasing it away. It never ceases to amaze me how dumb some people are, thrashing around inevitably scares off whatever you are trying to observe.
Having only dived in pretty warm water the temperatures were a bit of a shock even in a 5mm long wetsuit but the diving was spectacular and the dive shop so professional I would be stupid to do my divemaster anywhere else. Ha yes, ok, I’ve decided to do my PADI dive master next September when I have some more dives under my belt, soooo exciting, anyway…
We had the dubious pleasure of being attacked by some of the biggest titan triggerfish we’ve ever seen. It is the beginning of their breeding season and they are incredibly protective of their nests, they have fearsome teeth and will take a chunk out of you if you do not get out of their area as quickly as they would like. We’ve heard they patrol a cone shaped area starting at the nest reaching out and up to the surface, so the common response of swimming up to avoid attack keeps you within their cone and still a target, whereas swimming down and away gets you out of the danger zone. All well and good but when a muscle of flesh and teeth is firing itself at you we were too busy swatting with our fins, nervously laughing and checking on each other to remember, I’m sure they’ll be a next time!
On the first few days of diving the currents were fierce and we flew along taking in whatever we could as we drifted quickly by. It was quite the rush and very different from our previous diving however the guides are incredibly experienced and know the waters well and at no point did we feel out of control. There are a number of different dive sites around Lembongan and its neighbour Nusa Penida offering different dive experiences, from drift diving over coral forests, wall diving and a mix of both. As well as enjoying the adrenaline filled sensation of flying underwater it was nice to enjoy several dives where the current was minimal, not a better one, but definitely a more relaxing experience.
Each day we had asked about diving Manta Point, desperate to see the Oceanic Giant Manta that can grow up to nine metres across but visibility was reportedly too poor to dive. On our second to last day we’d been diving with Paul, a Brit with some hair raising dive stories who was desperate to see Mola and Manta. So keen was he that after we finished diving for the he enlisted Sue to advise him on the best chance he would have of spotting either, which turned out to be hiring a local fisherman, Ketut and his boat. Paul easily convinced us to join him and accompanied by Ketut’s son, a pretty great boat driver as it turned out, our snorkelling gear and sunscreen, we headed off. Not that long ago any journey on open water terrified me, now as we flew over swells three times the height of the boat all I could do was laugh. Oh how diving has changed me.
The islands are BEAUTIFUL and flying by in the ocean is about as awesome as it gets. Well, until we reached Manta Point, immediately Ketut was pointing out the huge shadows of Manta in the dark swirling sea, three or four of them swimming around. We had passed some pretty turbulent water and Sue’s warnings of mighty currents repeating in my head, I was feeling a little fearful so let Paul and Jason go first, pointing out the Manta to them from the boat. Ketut’s gentle encouraging got me into the cold murky water about five minutes later and WOW am I thankful. Simply the most amazing experience, the Manta who swam with us was between three and four metres across and the most gentle graceful creature swooping through the plankton rich water seemingly oblivious to our presence. We swam together for about twenty minutes as it drifted away then back, around and underneath us, such an honour.
Back in the boat, shivering, jubilant we could not stop smiling as we headed to Crystal Bay and our next stop, Mola searching. We had dived Crystal Bay a few days earlier and it had been freezing cold even in a 5mm wetsuit so I was not looking forward to snorkelling in only my swimsuit and hugged myself the entire time as we swam in the dark cold water peering into the blue looking for the majestic Mola. No joy sadly so we headed to the next spot where, more than a bit chilly and with the sun hidden behind the island, I stayed on board while Paul and J resumed the search. No Mola and one speedy turtle later we were heading back as the sun began to set on the most wonderful day, the almost full moon already high in the sky, we stopped a short way out and watched the sun disappear into the sea.
I can’t really tell you anything else about Lembongan as we did nothing but dive and chat with divers. what I saw was incredibly beautiful, the people were lovely and we’re committed to returning next year. It’s been another life changing few days on this amazing journey we are on Xx
nb. Before arriving we had researched dive centers and finally settled on two to look at when we arrived. Advice seems to be either to go on personal recommendation, great if you know someone who travels and dives a lot, not so great if you don’t or to have a look and get a feel for the place yourself. I like to supplement that with reading blogs and reviews from people who’ve dived there. We’d been researching here and at the same time diving in Vietnam for our visit next March and found a real lack of current reviews and information on diving, dive shops etc so I’ll do my best to be informative as well as interesting about the diving we do moving forward.