Frog fish and soft coral at 27m

It’s been just over a year since we visited Bali for diving the last time. It was a great fun and very productive trip (photo-wise) that we feel obliged to return. This trip however, we were a bit tight on time but didn’t want to compromise on the number of dives and location. So it  became a 5-days, 11-dives and a 200-miles trip around the island – with the first 2 dives straight after we landed.


The journey was quite similar to last year. We did our usual thing: Went to bed at 11 pm, Got up at 3am, 4.30am arrived at the Suvanabhimi airport 2 hour prior to our flight with the intention to sleep all the way to Bali. Unlike the Philippines trip, Bali is further away to allow for a good power nap to give us some energy to deal with the crazy schedule ahead.

Chicken rice with chilli sauce as a inflight breakfast.


Arriving at Ngurahrai Airport.





Everyone on the road seems to be wearing the Balinese traditional cloth today.


We went straight to Candidasa at a neck breaking speed on a neck breaking road. Anyway, before I managed to get a Cervical collar out, we arrived at Topi Inn on Padangbai beach.  People were chillin out, gentle sea breeze coming in.  It’s like we haven’t left since a year ago.




I took this opportunit while we were waiting for our lunch to assemble the UW housing. Obviously, I would prefer to do this indoor to prevent dust and hair lodging between any of the 8 o-rings on the housings but having come straight from Bangkok and we were not checking into our hotel until after the dive, I have to do it on this bread crumb covered table.Fortunately, I knew this is going to happen so I assembled as many connections as possible from home. Camera was already in the housing but I couldn’t put the port on as it won’t fit in the bag so instead I cover it over with a plastic sandwich bag and some rubber bands to hold it to prevent dust getting in. Batteries are in the strobes which in turn have been connected to the sync cord. All I really had to do then was to connect the sync cord to the housing and put a port on. Much simpler than full kit assembly.

And our lunch arrived shortly after.


Nasi Goreng fly lice.



First dive site, Jepun, which is in front of the dive shops but we need to get there by a small outrigger boat. It’s just round the corner from the Blue lagoon.

As soon as we descend to the bottom at 15m we saw two Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commersoni). Both of them were on an artificial reef. Another one is a yellow but was facing down so I didn’t get a good shot of him.

Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commersoni)

Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commersoni)

Squat Shrimp (Thor amboinensis)

Squat Shrimp (Thor amboinensis)
Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster Valentini)

Bali10-0008Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)What’s difficult about this site is the constant weak current, which, will pose no problem to the wide angle lens but very tricky for the macro,esp 105mm. As the camera finally manage to lock the focus on the subject, the current will move you slightly away from the focal plane but not quite enough to stop you or the shutter firing. Later you realise that most of the pictures were just out of focus.

Discodoris boholiensis

Discodoris boholiensisJuvenile yellow boxfish (Ostracion cubicus)

Yellow boxfish (Ostracion cubicus)

We surfaced and got back on to the outrigger and headed back to the dive shop. The Blue lagoon night dive is the next. We dived here before on the first trip and we know roughly what to expect. There are a lot of nudibranches in Blue Lagoon.

Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus). There were a lot of these on this site. We encountered at least 4-5 of them on that dive.

Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus)

Mid water swimming

Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus)

Necklace Starfish (Fromia monilis)

Necklace Starfish (Fromia monilis)

Reaper Cuttlefish (Sepia mestus)

Reaper Cuttlefish

Pseudobiceros gloriosus

Pseudobiceros gloriosus
Anemone hermit crab (Dardanus pedunculatus)


Anemone hermit crab (Dardanus pedunculatus)
Chromodoris annae

chromodoris annaeOctopus (Octopus cyanea)

Octopus (Octopus cyanea)Longhorn Cowfish (Lactoria cornuta)

Longhorn Cowfish (Lactoria cornuta)

Mastere of the camouflage,A decorator Crab (Camposcia retusa)

Decorator Crab (Camposcia retusa)

When we surfaced again it’s completely pitch black and raining. Riding back on a small boat on the choppy sea would have been cool during the day but at night it seemed to take forever.
It’d been a very long day. We finally checked into the Water Garden. Here, there is a natural stream that runs from the mountain through the resort with waterlily ponds among the villas.

Water garden Hotel

Water garden Hotel


Day 2

We woke up to the sound of rooster crowing. I was completely knocked out until the morning. It was a good night sleep after all the activities yesterday.

The room here is pretty normal. I think our bungalow was converted from a spa before. However, what’s nice about this hotel is its setting which blend really well with the nature. There must be about 10 bungalows in there but they cleverly arranged it so that you don’t get to see other bungalows from your porch. Instead, each room has a view of waterlily pond, stream and lush greenery that makes you feel rather private and peaceful.

Koi pond

Koi pond

Our breakfast was served at the porch. There are choices of English, American and Balinese breakfasts. We chose the latter one.


We could stay here the entire time. It was a shame we only stayed there for one night and today we have to check out dive at Nusa Penida and headed north for Menjangan Island.


Before we go, we had a good walk around the resort. It’s bigger than it looks. With my camera neatly sitting inside the UW housing, I didn’t want to take it out again. So I walked around the whole resort taking picture with the full rig. People looked at me oddly…..
A brick path to our bungalow

Water garden Hotel

Water garden Hotel

Water garden Hotel


Today, we planned to dive the Nusa Penida in search for the Mola Mola. It’s one of the reasons we came back to Bali. We supposed to be picked up at 8am. But at 8.30 there was no sign of our transportation. It turned out that one of the tires blew half way while the driver is heading to pick us up so the guy at Aquamarine arranged with the hotel to drop us at Padangbai in order to save some time.

We took a 45 minutes speedboat ride from Topi Inn to the island. Our first dive site of the day was at Crystal bay. The other boat reported that they saw a mola mola earlier which suddenly put a spring in everyone’s fins.


Down at the reef, the current was relatively strong. There was also a down current, dragging you our of the reef and down the slope.  So we had to hug the terrain. Apart from the mola mola, there is not a whole lot of cheerful reason for any photographer to dive this site. The reef is kind of ok, nothing to woo but you can get the dome port scratched by corals and rocks or knocked by fellow divers hugging the same reef.


Our guide Janri went down to 40m to search for the elusive fish. After a while, he gave up. The fish was gone. So instead, he called us to see this huge frog fish at 30m as a consolation.

Frog fish and soft coral at 27m

Bali10P1_Bali10-0181The wall at Crystal Bay.



The next dive is more promising to see big critters at Manta point. I remembered the site was shallow 13-14m but the strong wavebounce back from the cliff create this see saw motion that made me felt a little queazy last time.

A natural arch formation on the way to Manta Point


Because this site is shallow, I had to set the ISO to 100, max out the sync speed and still left with F6.3 which means that my strobes has a range of less than 3.5m at full power. Quite close when dealing with a fast moving manta ray.


The temperature was moderately cold here, around 25c which is colder than Crystal bay.  We swam around the cleaning station to keep our bodies warm. At 30 minutes, again there was nothing, I had a sinking feeling that we were not going to see anything this time.


But it happened so quickly. A 5m Manta ray just appeared out of the gloom, with another smaller one trailing behind.

Manta ray (Manta birostris)

Manta ray (Manta birostris)
As fast as it happen, they disappeared and everything was quite again. Ten minutes later, a lone manta passed by. It’s like they time it so that you’re off guard when they do appear.

Manta ray (Manta birostris)

It was quite busy and confusing down there. People seemed to be heading in every direction as they though they caught a glimpse of a shape shifting in the blue. Again, the two mantas appear but this time, I’m ready.

While the whole crowd was chasing them as they effordlessly glided around the rock, I predicted the manta’s path knowing it’ll cut in at some point to make a pass over the cleaning station…And it did. Right on top of me.

Manta ray (Manta birostris)
This is quite an intimate moment when the mantas decided to approach you.  It pulled up at the last moment to fly over so I gave a small exploratory puff of bubbles to see whether they’re interested.

Manta ray (Manta birostris)
and he came right at it.

Manta ray (Manta birostris)

Manta ray (Manta birostris)

Manta ray (Manta birostris)

Manta ray (Manta birostris)

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

The Manta stayed long enough to get some decent shots. Satisfied we ended the dive with smile on our faces. With no time to waste, we set off from Padangbai and headed north on the road toward Tulamben. That’s it for a while on the search for the sunfish.

Passing this on th way, don’t know what celebration it was but it looked fun.


Mount Agung at sunset

It was a very long ride to the west side of the island. 4 hours is long enough on a normal road but this road was like the surface of the moon. I think it shook so much that my spleen fell off somewhere on the floor…


Finally, we arrived at a warm, quiet, cosy and most importantly we are not bouncing around the road anymore. Bless.



To be continued.