We signed up for a two-tank dive day with Dolphin Dive School, here in Lombok. We were picked up at our hotel since the crew and guests head north to a “marina” and then head out to the Gili Islands for diving. I say “marina” because really, the boats are tied to trees or stumps on the beach, and are pulled in when it’s time to load up. So it isn’t what you’d call a port or marina. But the place from which the boats embark.
Anyway, so we met our dive crew (and the dive leader and driver looked about 12 years old, although he said he was 25). And of course I don’t remember any names, sorry guys, because they really were very nice and helpful. Especially since we had to climb over the tanks to get into the boat – the guys took one look at my chunk of grey hair in front and they moved the tanks out of the way so I could climb in without walking over wet slippery metal tanks with my wet slippery feet. (One guy gave me a hand and I nearly pulled him over – Indonesian people are rather small, I tend to tower over a lot of men despite the fact that I’m barely 5’4” these days!) Dolphin Dive School, at http://www.gililombokdiving.com
The other guests were Queenie, from Hong Kong, though she’s been traveling around Australia and is on her way home at the end of the year, but she stopped in Lombok to get her open water diving certification, and was doing her final two dives before the written exam; Winnie, from Singapore, who came to Lombok to attend the 10th anniversary wedding vow renewal of her friend Chris, whose father, Peter, was also diving – Peter being British but working in Dubai. Got all that? An international group!
So, we had a windy drive along the west coast of Lombok, up to a small town, and onto the boat – named, aptly, Richard. Then out to Gili Air, which is the Gili island closest to Lombok, about a 20-30 minute boat ride out. We dropped anchor and prepared to dive Hans Reef, gearing up on the edge of the boat and then doing the very cool, very macho back roll into the water. Which is no mean feat when you keep in mind that this is just a long narrow outboard with two bamboo outriggers to keep us balanced. (The back roll is easier than it looks, because you scoot back so the tank is hanging over the water but you are leaning forward – you put one hand over the regulator in your mouth and your mask over your eyes, other hand on your buoyancy vest (which you’ve put some air into) – and then cross your legs, pick up your feet, lean slightly back, and gravity does the rest. You just fall backwards into the water, bob back up, and readjust everything so you’re ready to dive.)
We dropped down in fairly clear water, with all kinds of fish swimming around and pretending we weren’t there. Nice coral in all kinds of pastel shades, fish in bright colours, basket starfish tangled in the coral, all kinds of interesting things to look at. The best find of the morning was first a nice big friendly turtle, who swam with us for a minute or two before veering off into a little chasm in the coral, where he proceeded to have a nice brunch eating something – we hung out and watched him for a bit. There was also a small stingray, sort of dusty beige with almost blue spots, who spent time on the sand watching us. And our dive leader found a teeny tiny hairy crab, kind of orange in colour, called an orang utang crab, at least around here.
Forty minutes at depth, came up, held onto the outrigger pontoon things (which turned out to be bamboo!), and took turns handing up gear and climbing back into the boat. Not as easy as it sounds, because the ladder is quite short and those of us with long legs (and over age 40ish) had trouble getting a first foot onto that bottom rung! A little push from someone and I was up – the others had almost as much trouble as I did. (Just one more step longer and the ladder would have been fine!)
We went on over to the beach at Gili Air and hung out at a café, having lunch during our two hour surface interval. Always nice to spend a little time on land and chat with the other divers and the crew. Although some of our crew went for mid-day prayers, since this is Friday and they are Muslim. (We ladies wore our wetsuits to lunch so we could look Diver Chick tough! Hence the photo as we fooled around.)
And then it was time for our second tank – we went a little ways to Secret Reef, which was sort of a large sloping reef covered in the strangest soft coral – it almost looked like small light lavender or mauve flowers, blanketing the bottom of the ocean. Really, it looked like fake, plastic flowers creating a meadow for some theatrical productions. With some traditional hard coral thrown in. Very odd!
We did find another turtle, who was resting in a sandy hollow, though he/she got up and moved when we all came up to say hello. I don’t know what kind of sea turtle this was, nor our first one – hawksbill turtles and green turtles look fairly similar to those of us who don’t know – but it’s ALWAYS cool to see a turtle when diving.
I found a little family of clownfish – their anemone was on a bag of cement that was used to hold down a mooring buoy, and the little clownfish were hopping up and down and wiggling around in their white anemone – they are such cute and funny little fish, and surprisingly feisty! The dive instructor was taking photos of them, and they weren’t too happy with being photographed quite that close! I was having a great time watching these cute little fish, and didn’t notice that our dive leader headed off – eventually I noticed, and Queenie pointed out where my group had gone, so I wasn’t lost.
And of course there were the usual cast of fish characters – angelfish, parrotfish, blue fish, yellow fish, striped fish, neon fish, and other fish who shall remain nameless.
By the time we came up, a strong wind and chop had come up, with good sized swells, so we were bounced around as we took off our gear – and since I have such natural buoyancy, plus was in a wetsuit which adds buoyancy, I was really bouncing all over and had trouble moving around outside the boat to hand up my gear. Richard had to kind of push me up onto the ladder.