Anemone Shrimp (Periclemenes brevicarpalis)


I have heard some good stories about Bali. However, like many other places, there are tales about bad encounter or how commercialised Bali has become. These stories tend to embed themselves in to my mind far deeper than the how beautiful the Hindu temples are, especially anything related to being ripped off by hustler. It’s a natural protocol of the traveller. You don’t want to be conned or ripped off so you lister more attentively to these elaborate tricks and hopefully you won’t end up like them.

So when we decided to go to Bali, I was a bit apprehensive. However, having read An Underwater Photographer’s Guide to Bali article in Divephotoguide website, I felt a lot more confident about the trip. In fact, it was one of the best trips we have done, parring it with our Hawaii and Moorea Island trips. I feel that the island still is a wonderful and magical place if you exclude Kuta out of the formula.
Bali is a go
Dawn t Suvarnabhumi Airport

Rice paddies on the edge of the Thai peninsular. Beyond that is the gulf all the way to Indonesia.


After crossing the pacific, the first island that come into view as we approached Bali was Java. Volcano landscape can be seen in the mist.

Indonesia from the Air
Indonesia from the Air


Raung Volcan

We were close enough to see the Caldera. I think that’s one of the sulphur mine that features in the documentary.

caldera, Raung Volcano, East Java


Safari Dive with Aquamarine

We went on a Safari diving with Aquamarine. The benefit of Safari dive is that you can stay and dive at multiple locations around the Island. This should save the total travelling time than having to travel back and forth everyday from a fixed base say from Kuta to Candidasa or Tulamben. Obviously, if you are only interested in seeing Mola Mola at Nusa Penida then it shouldn’t matter.

Aquamarine is very efficient in arranging all of this. The helpful staff will customise an itinerary based on what do you want to see. In our case, it was Mimic Octopus and Manta ray so they suggested Puri Jati and Manta point.

Our daily routine involved packing up and checking out of the hotel in the morning, arriving at a divesite for 2-3 dives, having shower before moving on to the next location. Check in, unpack and prepare for a night dive.

It doesn’t sound like a relaxing holiday but I have to say that they make the transition so smooth, I felt less tired than a typical fix-base diving. I can happily recommend Aquamarine as a port of call if you want to dive in Bali

Upon arrival, we hopped on to a van which took us straight up to the quiet north in Singaraja, avoiding chaotic Denpasar traffic and drunken aussies/kiwis altogether.

The ride was 3 and a half hours.


A rest stop with a picturesque view.

Rice Terraces

Rice Terraces

We stop once again after an hour. On the top of the hill is a really nice view of the Twin lakes -Buyan and Tambligan

Vantage point





Worker constructing a stone gate



A Young Mason

First stop, we arrived at Zen resort, which is a very small and secluded resort with cosy and rustic feel to it.

We didn’t bother to unpack our stuff as we were checking out the next morning anyway. All we have to do was to prepare the diving equipments and camera. That was easy so in no time, we were already having a massage to kill off the stiff necks from the long journey.

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Home away from home

Outdoor bath tub and shower at the front entrance. This makes me feel like exhibitionist but actually the high wall keeps it quite private.

Outdoor Bathroom
The back terrace is really nice and open towards the valley. The sea is about 100m away.

Zen Resort


Zen Resort

Zen Resort



After dark. the resort would lay a trail of flowers leading from our front door to the dining table by the pool in case we get lost – very thoughtful of them.

Follow the flower

I ordered a grilled fish but I had no idea what kind of fish it would be. Presumably, whatever the local fisherman manage to catch that day. So when a plate of parrot fish turned up with its front half still resembling an aquarium fish, it felt kind of somewhat wrong to eat it.

However, I must say that the taste was not too bad at all. The question then was how far up toward the uncooked head can I manage to eat…

Our dinner

There are almost no other light outside our resort. The only sounds you hear are crickets and insects. It was really peaceful.


Night time


Just chilling out

I just love to look up the sky at night to see the milkyway. This is what you are missing out living in the city.

Sky at night

Water lilly pond

Of course,being the underwater photographer you can’t sleep yet. This is the time to get O-ring cleaned and greased, battery charged and sort out the diving gear. The bed suddenly looks more comfortable than ever at this point but it’s not worth risking.


Mosquito net
The next morning, we woke up early for a breakfast and decided we want to do some Yoga before the first dive. What we didn’t know is that we have to book the instructor a day before. But being in Bali, they can resolve any ad-hoc decision like this smoothly, with a smile. We were told to go to the Yoga hall after breakfast where the instructor will be wait for us.

Our breakfast table

Zen Garden


This is another place they normally do Yoga on the cliff with Pltform for morning Yoga

There are no one else in Yoga hall and we had the instructor all to ourselves.

Yoga Hall
Flower at the hall entrance

After the Yoga and check out, our dive guide, Frankie, came to pick us up to go down to the beach nearby. This is the Puri Jati or PJ.

Puri Jati is a very secluded beach. There isn’t anything in the vicinity except a temple and a small local shop which is rather like a stall. The sand is volcanic black powder and is baking hot during the midday.

Puri Jati

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I have read from wetpixel web board about the problem with local fisherman dragging the net along the shoreline around PJ. This would pose a big safety problem to divers.

When I asked about the net problem, Angky seemed very surprise that I knew about it. He said that the problem was due to the fishermen from other villages who felt jealous that PJ has managed to attract more diver (which ultimately means incomes) than them. So the net dragging was to deter diver from coming back. He said the problem has gone now as they started to put a concrete cylinders with snagging hooks around the shore.

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Canang Sari, a hindu offering, which can be seen everywhere in Bali.

Canang Sari

Local Temple

Wading in to our first dive site. The beach is black pebble beach.

Beach Entry

PJ is perfect for muck diving as it is very shallow (6-12m) and full of various species imaginable. At first, it looks like an empty wasteland but underneath every pieces of log or rubbish, you expect to find something rare. You need very keen eyes and a lot of patience to dive here. Luckily, our local guide Angky has got both.

Striped puffer (Arothron manilensis)

Veined Octopus – Amphioctopus marginatus aka Coconut Octopus, named after its behaviour of collecting and habiting inside coconut shells. The fact that it uses two shells and holding them shut together with its tentacle like a full coconut shows the observing/learning abilities and tool usage.

Coconut Octopus

Now you see me, now you don't


Spearing Mantis Shrimp Lysiosquilla tredecimdentata. This one built a volcano shaped mound and lived inside the creator, ready to ambush the unsuspected fish that come within its range.

There is a good clip on TED about the speed of the Mantis Shrimp by Sheila Patek. Evidently, it’s not as fast as the .22 bullet. That’s an urban legend but it’s still very fascinating.

Spearing Mantis Shrimp (Lysiosquilla tredecimdentata)
A Juvenile Gurnard Lionfish (Parapterois heterura)

Juvenile Gurnard Lionfish (Parapterois heterura)

Juvenile Gurnard Lionfish (Parapterois heterura)
If you look carefully inside a sand burrow, you might see a Juvenile Common Lionfish Pterois volitans

Juvenile Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
I’ve been dying to capture the Imperial Partner Shrimp Periclimenes Imperator for a long time now. Seeing them for real was just like a little dream come true. Can’t believe how small and active they really are.

Imperial Partner Shrimp (Periclimenes Imperator)

There were two of them hitching a ride on a rather small sea cucumber. This picture remind me of a nigiri. Obviously, they are too small to make a good nigiri. A beautiful and fairly easy subject to photograph. They completely ignore you and you can stick the camera in as close as the lens would allow.

Imperial Partner Shrimp (Periclimenes Imperator)

Imperial Partner Shrimp (Periclimenes Imperator)

Imperial Partner Shrimp (Periclimenes Imperator)


Brown Spotted Moray Gymnothorax fuscomaculatus under a banana leaf

Brown Spotted Moray (Gymnothorax fuscomaculatus) under a banana

Brown Spotted Moray (Gymnothorax fuscomaculatus) under a banana

PJ is, in an unexpected way, a marine nursery as it is teeming with juvenile fishes. Taking cover under discarded sandals, cans and tyres, they are well protected from their natural predator.

Another Juvenile Common Lionfish Pterois volitans

Juvenile Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans)

A Juvenile Highfin Grouper Epinephelus maculatus

Juvnile Highfin Grouper (Epinephelus maculatus)

Juvenile Star Puffer (Arothron stellatus)


An Anemone Porcelain crab Neopetrolisthes maculatus filter feeding plankton using its setae. Porcelain crab is not a true crab (notice the number of legs and the compact body shape. I took many shots here as the sweeping motion was quite fast. This is to ensure that there is a shot with a good composition. Also increase you shutter speed to the max sync speed (usually 1/125 or 1/250)so that the setaes don’t show up as a blur shape.

Porcelain crab (Neopetrolisthes maculatus)

Anemone Shrimp (Periclemenes brevicarpalis)

Anemone Shrimp (Periclemenes brevicarpalis)

Anemone Shrimp (Periclemenes brevicarpalis)

Anemone Shrimp (Periclemenes brevicarpalis)

Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)

A Frogfish. I’m not sure which specie. please let me know if you think you know what he is.




It was a long dive – almost 70 minutes. So we deserve a nice warm surface interval and a good lunch. PJ is a perfect place as there is nothing except nature.

Outrigger boat can be found throughout the Philippines, Indonesia and Polynesia. I have never seen any in Thailand.

Outrigger boat

Outrigger boat

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Bali is full of rice field. Every square metre if it’s not used for footpath, building or animal farming, they will turn it into rice paddies.

Reluctantly we had to leave a nice warm and breezy surface for the second dive. Then, I would definitely be regretting if we didn’t come because we saw what we came here to see – a mimic octopus Thaumoctopus mimicus. The octopus basically changes its physical appearance and imitate the movement of other animals in order to fool their predators.  See a clip of Mimic Octopus on youtube here


Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

Flounder mimicry

Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

A Juvenile Star Puffer Arothron stellatusJuvenile Star Puffer (Arothron stellatus)

Starfish unidentified species


Another Robust Ghost Pipefish Solenostomus cyanopterus

Robust Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)



Dwarf Lionfish Dendrochirus brachypterus

Dwarf Lionfish (Dendrochirus brachypterus)


Clark’s anemonefish Amphiprion clarkii

Clark's anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

White “V” Octopus? Similar size to the mimic octopus but without horn structure over the eyes .

Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)




Napoleon Snake Eel Ophychthys bonaparti

Napoleon Snake Eel (Ophychthys bonaparti)

Two dives at PJ but with total time of over 140 minutes. The dive was shallow and the water was cold so my body tend to shutdown and use less air somewhat. There were very good muck dives.

That’s a good balancing skill.

Went Shopping?
After PJ dives, we headed off to Tulamben on the east coast which will take around 4 hours to get there. We set off in the early afternoon and should arrive there before the sunset. The idea is that we stay overnight there so tomorrow early morning we can do our dives before all the tourists arrive and fill up the whole site as it is one of the most popular wreck dives in the region.

On the road


There is only one road there and some part is not as smooth. It is a long ride and I’m trying to sit as comfortably as I can.
We drove pass a funeral procession on the way.

Hindu Funeral in Bali

Mt Agung can be seen from the east side of the island.

Mount Agung
After the two very long dives in PJ and a bumpy ride, we finally arrived exhausted at Mimpi resort in Tulamben to dive the Liberty wreck. USAT liberty is one of the most famous wreck in the world because of its location. Lying only at 3m depth from the surface, it is accessible even for open water divers.

Again, the resort is as lovely and relaxing as the Zen but in a different kind of way.


Front porch.


Chilled out is how I felt.

Room at Mimpi
Open air shower area at the back.

More outdoor bathing

We took a quick walk along the beach on the last light after sunset. The good news is we don’t have to torture ourselves on the van because the site is walkable from our resort. The bad news is we have to be up really early like 5am to get into the water before 7am.

I became gorilla.



We managed to up really early as planned and even see the sun rise from the horizon. I’m not a fan of early morning dives as saltwater tend to turn my stomach inside out if I have not eaten breakfast. So better get tanked up. Today we plan to do 2 dives on the wreck. I decided to go for wide angle on the first dive as it would not be full of people and then when I switch to macro, it doesn’t matter if the whole world turns up.

Tulamben beach

We approach the site from the stern. The dive site was quiet in the morning. There are only 3-4 groups of diver getting kitted up. By the time we are in the water, this wreck was getting busy despite being there just after sun rises.

Stren piece of the Liberty Wreck
Bow gun encrusted in sponges and corals

Encrusted Bow gun

We were on the deep (starboard) side of the wreck which wasn’t ideal at this time of the day because when I want to capture the wreck structure, the sun would be right behind me. I had to go right inside the wreck and shoot back out toward the sun if I want to include a sunburst in the shot. It’s not really a big deal but just makes to progress slower than it has to be. I could be continuously moving forward while shooting at the same time had we been on the port side.


Giant Barrel Sponge



There are shoals of snapper and barracuda over the wreck. You can take photos of them while you do your safety stop.

Barracudas and Jacks covering the surface



One thing I hate to do is switching the lenses and ports between the dives. This is because you are in an open environment where dust and hair can compromise the seal. But for this beach, we are so close that I can just walk back and change it from my room. It was a perfect location.

Rice offerings at Tulamben beach.

Rice offering by the beach


The beach along Tulamben supposes to be different to the PJ. Can any macro shoot get better once you have been to PJ? Turn out that it was different and I certainly was not disappointed. There were so many variety of critters that keep me busy the entire dive.

Giant Mantis Shrimp Lysiosquillina lisa

Giant Mantis Shrimp (Lysiosquillina lisa)


Many host Goby Muricella plectana

A pygmy seahorse Hippocampus bargibant, long queue to shoot (yes, there is a queue system), didn’t get a good clean shot. He was so small that I had trouble trying to locate him on the view finder. Among the soft corals, it’s almost impossible to spot him.

A pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibant)

Another fail attempt. I can’t really force him to turn around, can I …..or can i?

A pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibant)


Ornate Ghostpipefish Solenostomus paradoxus

Ornate Ghostpipefish  (Solenostomus paradoxus)

Another pregnant ghost pipefish

Ornate Ghostpipefish  (Solenostomus paradoxus) close up

Peacock Mantis Shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus or smasher mantis

Peacock Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)

Next, we are heading over to Nusa Penida and Crystal bay for more interesting stuff.

To be continued…….