Bali New Year 2005

Bali Gili New Year's Extravaganza

Day 1 - 29 December 2004

The rain was pouring when Rizal picked us up at around 7AM, but the journey to Padang Bai was uneventful otherwise. Rizal, CC, Tom and I were in one car; Budi, Richard and Tim were in the other. We arrived at Waterworx in Padang Bai where Herry and Janine were waiting for us, the rain already subsided into a soft drizzle. A few moments later, our dive guide Wolfgang Krutz appeared, soaking wet in his motorcycle. We wasted no time gearing up and load our stuff into the boat, and off we went to our first site. Buddy arrangement: Herry with Janine, Budi with CC, Rizal with Richard, Tim with Wolfgang, and Tom with me.

First dive: Gili Biaha

I felt unusually cold the moment I hit the water, and unfortunately it stayed that way until the end of the three-day trip. The temperature was around 25'C, good viz (20-25m), with a mild current that surprised me because considering previous experience and the site's reputation, I was somewhat prepared for some kind of a rollercoaster ride. Must be our lucky day! We went inside a rather large and beautiful cave with four juvenile white tip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus) lurking on the left side, a few even dared to swim past us ' I bet they were hungry for publicity, seeing so many divers with cameras nearby. A large number of multi-coloured seaslugs (Nembrotha purpureolineolata) were found in nearly all positions ' walking solo, mating, or laying eggs. Other kinds of seaslugs were the black and green nudibranch (Nembrotha kubaryana) and white with soft brown streaks Hypselodoris sp. So the photographers took pics to their hearts' content, while the others had fun poking around, admiring the cave. Out of the cave we also found the usual suspects: sweetlips, scorpionfish, and slipper crabs. My buddy and I ended the dive after 62 minutes, cold and starving but in high spirits, knowing that we've had a good dive and that lunch was ready at our disposal.

Second dive: Gili Tepekong

Again there was no current, the temperature was only one degree warmer than the first dive. We went through a short tunnel called the Blue Hole, which was dark inside but we could still see the end of it, with bright blue water basking in the sunlight ' gorgeous. We went out of the tunnel at approximately 27m depth, then headed to the right and enjoyed the wall. I saw a big mimic octopus hiding in the wall crevice, colours changing every now and then; two blue ribbon eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita), a considerably huge moray eel (Gymnothorax havimarginatus), a tiny scorpionfish, and again lots and lots of nudis ' sorry, seaslugs (Nembrotha kubaryana, Halgenda sp.,and the flamenco skirt-like Glosodoris sp., to name a few). There were two white tip reef shark hiding under the rocks. As we were about to do our safety stop, I was behind Rizal, who was poking around and entirely oblivious to the fact that a sea turtle (Chelonian myfas) just passed him by. I screamed at him through my regulator, he turned around, saw the turtle and instantly swam towards to turtle and grabbed it! The poor thing was totally flabbergasted for a few seconds until Rizal let it go again. It swam quickly away, undoubtedly swearing to himself that never again would it show up near these weird creatures with unnatural breathing devices. Nice job, Riz'. ;-p After our safety stop and a total dive time of 63 minutes we surfaced back to the boat and went back to the dive shop to change tanks.

Third dive: Jepun

The visibility suddenly dropped to a mere 5-10m this time, I had to be cautious not to be separated from the group because I could hardly see them. The current was picking up, making it a rather nice drift dive. I was effortlessly drifting with the current for what seemed like 20 minutes when I turned my head and saw that my buddy was nowhere to be found. My guess was that he had spotted something interesting and decided to stop to take some pictures, of course without giving me any prior indication. The foe of being a buddy of an underwater photographer! Grudgingly I fought the current and looked around, hoping the catch the sight of him. But the viz was so bad, I couldn't see anybody or any bubbles at all. Luckily Richard was next to me, apparently having lost his buddy as well. I banged my tank a few times and got some response, so I knew they were nearby. So we drifted together for another 10-15 minutes, not knowing where to go. Eventually I got tired of not seeing anything, so we did our safety stop and ended the dive after 44 minutes and waited on the boat for the rest. My buddy surfaced 15 minutes later, claiming to have seen a big Oceanic white tip shark, a Devil scorpionfish, filefish, and moray eel, to which I of course replied, heresy. We went back on land for shower and dinner, then retired early in our rooms, cultivating energy for the day ahead.

Day 2 - 30 December 2004

First dive: Gili Selang

After a long refreshing slumber we arrived at the dive shop to find Wolfgang already up and about, preparing for our dives for the day. A group from Semarang was to join us for today, they too have arrived and David Ruland was the designated guide. So we went with two boats, Wolfgang was our guide in one boat and David was the guide for the additional four divers at the other. The morning was cloudy when we entered the water at 9.36AM, and the water was rather cold but without current. The divesite was apparently a nudi's ' sorry, SEASLUG's galore, there are so many of them: all-blue Tambja morosa, blue-and-yellow Chromodoris annae, the usual Nembrotha purpureolinolata, yellow-and-brown Chromodoris coi, lots of semi-transparent Hypselodonis bullockii, the white and brown with red antenna and gills of Nembrotharutilans, and the similar but more slender Nembrota chamberlaini. You name it, it's there. After a whooping long relaxing dive of 70 minutes, we surfaced to find it was pouring rain above water. What else you could do besides huddle up inside the boat and open the lunch boxes?

Second dive: Gili Selang

After a surface interval of 1 hour 11 minutes we eagerly jumped back into the water, still at Gili Selang but on a different side from the first dive. It was still raining cats and dogs but it didn't stop us from doing the second dive ' hey, what are the chances if you're a bunch of compressed air addicts? The site was a shallow area of sand with nice rocky patches here and there. Within minutes after we were in the water, a brownish cloud was approaching us slowly. Had we been on land, I would have thought it was a tornado rising. Considering the tsunami just a few days before, I was a bit paranoid, but seeing that there was no current and none of the small fishes were bothered, I figured this couldn't be anything serious. It turned out to be a flow of murky water from the island's river, probably flooding after the hard rain. Our guide Wolfgang took us further from the spreading brown cloud, so we still managed to enjoy the dive. There were two big Napoleon wrasses (Bolbometopon muricatum), a striped black-and white seasnake (Laticauda colubrina) that Wolfgang caught and played with for a while, seaslugs (again!) and a small blue spotted ray (Taeniura lymma). At nearly the end of the dive, Budi found a juvenile black tip shark hiding beneath a table coral. He excitedly tried to nudge the coral from all directions, trying to catch a better view, but the annoyed shark bolted away and disappeared from sight. My buddy and I ended the dive at 66 minutes.

Third dive: Bias Putih

For the last dive of the day we went to a site called Bias Putih, near Gili Biaha. It's a beautiful site that consists of part white sand, part with huge rocks that you can swim in between. After two long dives in the rain (not that you could feel the rain underwater, though), I felt that the third dive was very very cold. In fact, my dive computer said that the temperature was 24'C. Hence we kept this dive rather short, only 52 minutes, even though we still managed to fool around a bit underwater, doing silly stunts and poking around. I dropped my small torch without even realizing it, so interested I was with the environment. But Herry ducked down and chased the torch for me. My saviour! We saw three Blue spotted stingrays, a juvenile ribbon eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita), black with pale yellow streak as opposed to its adult blue with bright yellow streak, the whole gang of seaslugs, including a peculiar yellow one with tessellated pattern that could be either Halgerda terramtuensis or Halgerda tasselata.

Day 3 - 31 December 2004

First dive: Gili Tepekong (The Canyon)

Hengky and Thea arrived early in the morning to join us in the last day of the trip, bringing Leo along. We started the dive at 8.48 AM, the water was a fresh 26'C, the viz was around 20m, no current. It was the same site as two days ago but turned to the left after the blue hole instead of the right, back to the slopes on the shallower depth. On the beginning of the tunnel, which was a small cave, we saw a sea turtle resting on the crook of the cave. Seeing a number of strange faces in masks clustering at such a small distance, the turtle was cornered even further. Honestly, sometimes I think group divers are doing psychological harm to the sea creatures' We then went through an interesting small passage where we saw some white tip sharks inside the crook of a rock. There was also an octopus, frogfish, moray eel, and a brownish nudi with dark spots (Ribescia tryoni). We surfaced after exactly 60 minutes, proudly reporting to Hengky and Thea that we've seen the first frogfish of the trip ' to which we got a grim reply of 'shut up'. Oh well.

Second dive: Gili Tepekong (Blue Hole)

We took a surface interval of approximately 1 hour 30 minutes then started to gear up again for our second dive. I didn't really remember much about this dive except that it was a little colder than the first dive, around 24'C. I also remembered this was the first time I've seen live spider crabs (Chirostylus sp.). They're such interesting tiny creatures, crawling everywhere with their long legs. I stayed awhile watching them on the move, amazed that they didn't seem to have any sense of direction yet they always knew exactly which way to go. We also saw a very beautiful mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) standing idle showing off its startling colours, an octopus hiding between the rocks, and a flounder trying to bury itself beneath the sand, which Richard chased after for a few minutes. And of course, seaslugs, you just can't help noticing them; there were several dark green nudis (Nembrotha kubaryana). Due to the cold, we ended the dive a bit sooner than usual, only 55 minutes.

Third dive: Blue Lagoon

For the last dive of our trip we went to one of the most popular site of Padang Bai, Blue Lagoon. It was nearly 2 PM when we started the dive, and it was cloudy. But we had a nice shallow dive (my divecomp only calculated an average depth of 10.6m, and a maximum depth of 20.4m) for 65 minutes, and the water wasn't that cold. We saw a huge white tip reef shark, harlequin shrimp, three leaf scorpion fish (Taenianotus triancanthus) with white and purple colour, Chromodoris michaelii, the usual moray eel. I saw a big dotted boxfish hovering cautiously and a smaller one, a unicorn trunkfish that looked like a square-ish dragon, proudly parading its decoration. They're just so cute! We surfaced happily after a good relaxing dive, went back to the diveshop to wash our gear, and getting ready for the big night ahead.

New Year Eve's party at Padang Bai

For the sake of my conscience, I'll just refer to the wonderful dinner that we had. It was a great seafood buffet consisting of grilled fish, squid and shrimp, traditional Balinese sambal, and lots of rice. We had it at Tim's bungalow, and two guests from Germany joined us and they brought a Black Forest Cake. I'll just emphasize that we had a good time at dinner. I won't make any comment of opening the bottles at 8PM, of the open competition between the Vodka team and the Tequila team, of the whole ass-grabbing and passing-out-on-the-floor thing, of throwing up in various places, nor of the fact that almost none of us made it through the final seconds of 2004 because we were all wasted. How Irene came after midnight expecting to see some serious partying going on, only to find nobody was around anymore. Nope, none of that ' that kind of information doesn't belong in our respected website and should not be published in the World Wide Web, right? From me, you only heard of the wonderful dinner that we had, that Rizal organized for us. And please note that on the morning of 1 January 2005 while the rest of us were in bed nursing their hangover, some of us (Hengky, Thea, Irene, Richard, Tom and I) went for the first dive of the year in Blue Lagoon at 10 AM and had a wonderful time. Please contact us to see pics of the anglerfish, stonefish and many others not found on previous dive the day before.