One of the things I enjoy the most about diving and underwater photography is that you never know what you might encounter on that day. Sometimes, you are lucky to be the only one in the group who saw a rare creature. Other times, you’re the only one who missed it.

While you can’t control your luck, you can control your plan to increase that chance of encounter. A lot of works go toward the preperation of the equipments. Packing, charging battery, cleaning o-rings, making sure there is no hair or dust lodging between the grooves, testing it, check the grooves and battery again. Underwater photography is perhaps a perfect hobby for the people with mild compulsive disorder. Those who didn’t care too much would have had their housing flooded long ago.

After a long bumpy journey, the next morning we headed off to our dive sites on a small boat. The north coast of Bali it is much quieter and less touristic. The climate seems to be cooler also.  We had a good experience diving here on the last trip so we decided to come back. Now, sitting here on the boat crusing at leisure speed, the journey yesterday seemed very worthwhile.

Our first site is the Gardens eel. It is at the channel between two islands with white sandy bottom. We jumped off the boat at the tip of the island in the shallow and made our way toward the channel.

Not sure this is a group of juvenile wrasses (possibly Halichoeres prosopeion) or juvenile stripe catfishes.  Their perfect formation was suspended over the reef, only to break apart when we approached for a closer look.


A green turtle feeding on the reef. This one dashed away as soon as he saw us. Not a very social turtle, aren’t you.

To be honest, I don’t really blame him because illegal catching and trading turtle was quite a common practice in Bali until a few years ago. Unlike Marsa Alam where the locals has learnt long ago to conserve the marine life as they can make far more money from the diving industry than just quick bucks from illegal catches. Green turtles there live long enough to grow up to 1.5 to 2m size and I flew all the way there to see them. It is definitely a more sustainable way to use your resource.

Sadly during our dive, we heard a loud pop which Janri our dive guide later told us it was from a dynamite fishing in Java island 5-6miles away.

A ball of juvenile striped catfish Plotosus lineatus rolling along the sand. Too bad I had a 10.5mm wide angle on. It means I had to get really really close to the subject to get anything decent. When I got close enough, the formation broke and they decided to turn away. Arghh frustrating.

As the name of the dive site suggests, this site has one of the highest density of garden eels over a large area that I’ve ever seen. I lay in middle of their population. Those nearer to me didn’t dare come up. You can almost see the radius of their comfort zone.


Dive 2, White sand. Drift + wall dive on the west side of the island.

Making an entry

Weird effect from water refraction making everything much bigger than it should be.


We descended down the slope to about 20m-25m. The slope continues to about 50m before bottom out. The current was mild and constant throughout making it an ideal place for sea fans and crinoids. We drifted by numerous giant seafans. Janri checked each one of them to see whether he could find any pygmy seahorses. Again, my fisheye lens won’t be any use if he found them.




There was no one else on this site but us.





My biggest mistake was probably to give Pao my old compact camera. Before, she used to be such a good underwater model. I can call her to swim over a reef four or five times no problem. Now, we either have to fight over a subject or I had to wait for her to finish taking photo before she moves into the position.






Giant barrel sponge



False clown anemonefish Amphiprion Ocellaris


We did our night dive at the Mimpi Channel. This site is famous for the Mandarin fish. But unlike the Philippines where the mating site is directly under the mooring point, here we have to look for them – not an easy task as you have to use the torch to search for them among crevices . The mandarin fish only mate at dusk so the light from our torch may stop the mating behaviour altogether.


To make the matter worse, we don’t know exactly when they’ll mate.  The staffs at Malapascua make a daily Mandarin dive so they can predict the exact time of the mating. Here, it depends on luck and whether you could find the fish before they finish their ritual. Before the dive, I booked a body massage at our hotel hoping to come back smug with good photos and get all relax. As the dive progress,  I wasn’t not so sure I’d achieve any of those..



We found about 4-5 Mandarins during that dive but they didn’t seem to be very active. We waited and waited for them to start the orgy. Nothing. Er hello. I’ve come all this way to see you. The least you could do is show your face?

In the end, we gave up and went back.


Oh well, next time then.
At least, we took a dip in the natural hot spring last night as a consolation to our failures. I felt so relax and drowsy afterward I slept while writing my log book with the pen still press firmly on the page. Later, I found out that we should be taking the hot bath as it could trigger a decompression sickness, oops.


To be continued…..