Such a Photogenic creature

We both love the ocean. I feel calm and peaceful when I am in that blue world. Some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen were over the Atlantic and the Pacific. I’ve been on the scariest storm ride in Andaman sea. I was looking up at the milky way from the pitch black surface of the Red sea. There are a lot of superlative verbs to be used to describe my experience of the ocean. Diving in Bali is great because all the dive sites are really close to the resort. It’s actually because there are resorts absolutely everywhere. The third dive of the day was at the Drop off site in front of the Mimpi Tulamben. The site is renowned for the Nudibranches , GhostPipefishes and other macro stuffs. This site is much easier to access because you don’t have to walk along the boulder beach. It is literally 10m from Mimpi’s swimming pool.

Off we went. The beach slopes down gradually for the first 20m then the changes to steeper slope of around 30 degrees. There are groups of coral and artificial reefs scattered around the sandy bottom.  We scouted these corals carefully hoping to find something exciting. First, we found Striped Triplefin Helcogramma striata. Not particularly a rare subject but its colour and the colour of the sponge is very striking.

Striped Triplefin (Helcogramma striata) on sponge at Drop off site, TulambenVariegated Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

Variegated Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)


Lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Lionfish (Pterois volitans)Then we came across a sea whip. Our eagle eyed dive guide, Angky, spotted a Xeno crab Xenocarcinus tuberculatus. They are one of the most alien like creatures.

Xeno Crab (Xenocarcinus conicus) on sea whipsOn the same sea whip further up, there is another find Sea Whip Goby (Bryaninops yongei)

Sea Whip Goby (Bryaninops yongei)Male Blue Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita).

The eels are hermaphrodite and will change their gender and colour later in their life time.  Juvenile ribbon eels are all black to camouflage itself against predators. Once grown, the males develop bright blue colouration along their bodies. The blue will fade out and transform completely to yellow when the eels develop their female sex organ. This is the last stage of their lives. it’s quite rare to see the female as the life span during this period tend to be very short.

Male Blue Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita)
Ornate Ghostpipefish Solenostomus paradoxus

Ornate Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus)There was a small cleaning station at the south end of the drop off. In one of the coral rubbles we saw numerous Rock Shrimp hovering in mid water. There are a few cleaner shrimps around the area too. This is a good indication of a cleaning spot for fishes where they come and have these shrimps remove parasite and dead skin from their bodies.

Rock Shrimp -Undescribed Species hovering in mid water  (Urocaridella sp1)
This White banded Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) who was so eager to climb on my port to clean it. He actually jumped on to my hand, scuffle around a bit but decided no meal can be had so he wiggled back to the station.  May be he has a better luck on his next customer.


And we didn’t have to wait long. A grouper decided to stop for a services. Another specie of rock shrimp immediately hop on to the fish and began grazing his face .

Rock Shrimp -Undescribed Species (Urocaridella sp2) cleaning a grouperOuch! good thing he didn’t do that to my eyes!


Durban Hinge Beak Shrimp Rhynchocinetes durbanensis. Pretty common shrimp. Usually found in large number among crevices.

Bali09P2_DSC_0081Phidiana indica Nudibranch

(Phidiana indica)I’m not really sure whether this is a juvenile Robust Ghostpipefish or a completely different specie of Ghost pipefish. I would appreciate if you leave me a comment if you know what it is.

A Juvenile Robust Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)Hypselodoris kanga Nudibranch. Belongs to Suborder Doridina, this specie reminded me of blue version of Mr. blobby.

Hypselodoris kanga Nudibranch
White banded Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

White banded Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)Male Peacock Flounder (Bothus mancus)

Male Peacock Flounder (Bothus mancus)

Male and Female Peacock Flounder (Bothus mancus)Sapsucking Slugs (Elysia ornata)

Sapsucking Slugs (Elysia ornata)

On the Road

After the 4th dive, it was time to move on to the bumpy ride again. We packed up and headed to Candidasa . The next morning we would be diving at Nusa Penida.

Mount Agung at sunset

Sunset with Mount Agung view from Tulamben.

Road to Candidasa


Another head balancing skill. The helper ladies at Tulamben beach also carried the tanks or twinset on their head like this. They have my full respect.


Bali09P2_DSC_0119I have already paid half of the trip in advance. Another half is to be paid to our guide. For some strange reasons, the credit card machine refused to work.So I asked the driver to stop by a local bank so I can withdraw some cash out. Unfortunately, the maximum amount is 1million Rupiah. I need way more than that so I had to take out the max amount a few times. Needless to say, I emptied the ATM.

At a local Bank. We literally emptied the cash machine to pay  our bill.

..and became a millionaire. It felt good smelling that wad of cash.


The room at the Nirwana resort. Really beautiful but I prefer the less posh version at Zen resort.

Nirwana Resort at Candi dasa

Nirwana Resort at Candi dasa

The room was absolutely lovely but a little to posh. I just want some open air bath. Yes that’s not posh.

A bit too posh for my liking.

Bali09P2_DSC_0132Heading over to spa for a massage

Spa! Massage!



Into the Blue

We took an hour speedboat ride to Mantapoint on the south far side of Nusa Pedina. As the name suggested, there  is a Manta ray cleaning station here where 23 Manta rays had been seen circling around the site on a single dive. We hadn’t been particularly lucky when it comes to an encounter. There were countless occasions where other people from the same group saw something like a hammerhead shark but we didn’t.

On that day, the sea was rough and the vis was down to 10m – not good for photography but perfect for Manta encounter. There wasn’t really anything interesting to see on this site except the Mantas. So when we jumped in and the sea was empty, my heart sank.

I braced myself for another disappointing dive as 30 minutes had passed and we still hadn’t seen anything.

Then there were frantic bangs on the tank….

A 3m Manta ray appeared out of the blue (literally)

Mantaray (Manta birostris)


It’s such a elegant creature. It glided effortlessly in the water while we were struggling to keep up.

Then a second Manta showed up following by another. Typical. You wait for ages and three show up at once.

In an attempt to save batteries, I left my strobe power  to ‘off’ while we waited for the rays. So when they did show up, I forgot to switch them back on. I was too busy shooting without looking out of the view finder to notice it. Luckily, we were in shallow water so natural light was quite adequate.

Mantaray (Manta birostris) banking away before disappear into the gloom.

Such a Photogenic creature


Another bad example. There were some micro bubbles on the surface of my dome port caused during our entry jump. When shooting horizontally, you can’t see them. Unfortunately, when tilting the camera up towards the sun, my 10.5mm lens was able to focus on them, throwing everything out of focus.




There were 3 mantas all together that day. The visibility was very poor.


What? Disapprove?

The disapproval look ?

We were a little early for the Mola Mola season. Our dives at Crystal bay confirmed it. There were no sighting.

Reef at Crystal bay. No Mola mola today and no point for wide angle.


Nasi Campur – It’s the best food after diving.

Nasi Campur, extra spicy. Loved it.


After the exhaust morning dives, we have a little bit of time for ourselves before the night dive on Nusadua beach. So we headed back to the hotel.


Just chilling out at our pool

Pool at Nirwana

Our room at Nirwana Resort


Creature from the Blue Lagoon

Our night dive at the Blue Lagoon was fun as it was half drift and half wall dive. There were so many creatures out and about. I’ve never seen so many feather stars in my life – there must be around a thousand on that wall.

Box Crab (Calappa hepatica)


Bali09P2_DSC_0208Rock Crab (Percnon guinotae)

Rock Crab (Percnon guinotae)

Heavy weight Spanish Lobster (Scyllarides aequinoctialis ) This guy must be at least a foot long.

Heavy weight Spanish Lobster (Scyllarides aequinoctialis )

Heavy weight Spanish Lobster (Scyllarides aequinoctialis )

A special find – a Decorator crab (Camposia retusa) with the superb ability to dress itself with sponges to camouflage itself against the background. He was extremely hard to spot. Once he stops moving then it is impossible to see.


Papuan Cuttlefish (Sepia papuensis)

Papuan Cuttlefish (Sepia papuensis)

Papuan Cuttlefish (Sepia papuensis)

Milky way

A clear view of the Milkyway

Drift dive in Ped

The current at Nusa Penida Channel was very strong that morning. Angky suggested that it would be safer to change to Ped, so we did.  Unless you are on a liveaboard, you can’t really change your lens on a smaller boat without the risks of flooding your camera or drop it overboard.  Whatever the set up you have, you’re stuck with it the whole day until you’re back in your room.

Overall, it was a good dive but there wasn’t a lot too photograph with a wide angle lens except some large sponges and soft coral formations. Angky pointed at an orangutan crab and looked at me hoping I would jump into the usual mad-dash action. I just shrugged and swam off. It is an irony most UW photographers are familiar with – when you have a macro lens on, there will be a pod of dolphins, swimming, waving and mating right in front of your eyes.

Soft Corals and bommies at Ped



Giant Barrel Sponges

Giant Barrel Sponge


No Mola Mola Today

Let me do a selfie


In and around Ubud

That was it for diving in Bali. The next 24 hours is offgasing period allowing our bodies to release the trapped nitrogen inside the tissue or bloodstream out to prevent decompression sickness which may occur due to low atmospheric pressure inside the cabin. Since we can’t dive, we decided to spend the last day sightseeing in Ubud.

Arriving at the Kamandalu Resort.

Arriving at the Kamandalu, Ubud for our last night in Bali.

Arriving at Kamandalu Ubud
The lobby

What a Grand Lobby.

We booked into one of the villas. Each villa has its own gate and outdoor courtyard spaces. Walking to your room feels like walking through a village. Here’s the front gate

This is the front door of our room.

which led into our room…


Our exotic room.

Bag and dive gears stay here.


Bags and Diving gears stay here in the lobby.

There are even mini rice terraces inside the hotel. View of the mini rice terrace inside the resort

Our bed.

Not an outdoor Jacuzzi?

and the bathroom

Yes there is shower at least.

..and outdoor shower (again, sigh).

The back door opened out straight to the rice field.

There are real rice fields next to our hotel.What a view…




Sunset at UbudA local Balinese walking along the edge of rice paddies

Bali09P2_DSC_0377Sunset after rain



Bali09P2_DSC_0385Ubud palace was full of tourist.

Bali09P2_DSC_0399We tried some of the local street foods. This one was selling Mataba.

Mataba stallIt was delicious. I recommend anyone who goes travelling to always try buy some foods from stalls like this. You’ll never be disappointed.

It's delicious and cheap...Good night


An aerial view of river delta.

Flyover MangroveSee you again. Denpasar

Bye bye Bali

 It’s been an amazing and memorable trip – very exciting to dive all around the island and yet very convenient. A big thank you to AquaMarine who make this trip so easy and stress free for us. They managed to arrange everything so well that all we have to do is just dive. Their guides are also very friendly and knowledgable. With only two of us it felt like we have a personal guide. Also Bali is beautiful for holiday and an excellent place for photographer as you can see from this set of photos. There are so much to see and still to be seen. We will definitely coming back for more.