Indonesia: Part Two of Three.

Continued from Indonesia: Part One of Three.

I had a flight booked from Denpasar to Malaysia so was keen to do my PADI as quickly as possible so I could squeeze in a few more days in Bali . Traditionally PADI courses take about 4 days, but I was hoping to do it in 2-3. Blue Marlin Dive were fantastic in accommodating my request; I even had one-on-one teaching so there was absolutely no hanging around and everything could be tailored to my availability and learning. In the morning of my second day I met Mia, a young Australian girl who would be teaching me to dive. She was awesome and we got along really quickly, ending all our days with a celebration beer in the pool or at the bar.

We spent the morning doing skills in the pool that we would repeat later that morning in the sea. We did a shore dive and went out to explore the Bio Rock. When you dive, you are required to pay a one-off 50,000 IDR payment which goes towards conserving the world under the water. The Bio Rock technology was implemented in the Gili’s in 2004 and works by sending low voltage currents through a large steel structure which encourages coral reef regeneration. Hard rock corals can cross 2-6 times faster on a Bio Rock – how cool is that? If you’re interested, you can read a much more technical and in depth description here. I’m more than happy to give a couple of quid towards conserving the area, especially after seeing some of the Bio Rock for myself! Gili T can have some pretty strong tides, and so my attempted at return to shore was something worthy of You’ve Been Framed.

Over lunch I sat just off the beach to watch a few videos and fill in some quizzes – classrooms literally don’t get better than that. I had struggled with maintaining slow breathing during my shore dive so that was my main focus for our dive in the afternoon. We went out to Hans Reef, where we saw all sorts of amazing fish and coral. Moorish idol (Gil from Finding Nemo) are in abundance here, which is great because I think they might be my favourite fish. There’s so many it’s hard to choose! I nailed all my skills and improved my breathing, except during the safety stop where I seemed to go up and down like a yo-yo. After a beer in the pool I went back to my beach classroom to cram in a little more theory. This was my longest day lasting from about 8am to 6.45pm.

During our time on Gili T, Amy, Sophie and I had stayed in a private room at Gili Castle (formerly Gili Backpackers) after a recommendation from Sam whom we’d met in Santa Marta. In hindsight we should have realised this wasn’t really the sort of place we were after. All though the space was nice and the facilities perfectly adequate (minus no free breakfast before 8am even though they own one of the biggest dive schools on the island so know that people are out early…grrrr), the staff seemed permanently drunk and it was literally right next to the mosque which without fail woke you up at 4am when they were blaring out the loud call to prayer. The hostel was home to a lot of party-orientated plebs with little respect for the customs of the local religion such as not wearing a bikini on the streets. Again, maybe I’m just being old and boring, but these discourteous people just weren’t for me.

Amy and Sophie had embarked on a trip to Kimodo Island so I had the double bed to myself for one more night. Tired after a long day and excited for my last day of diving, I got myself a relatively early night. But the guests of Gili T had other ideas. I was suddenly woken up by a deafening clamour. Before I’d even got out of bed to put something on, someone banged on my door and in a panicked voice shouted ‘you need to get out, I think our building is collapsing! I went out on to the veranda to see everyone from our floor and below out of rooms wondering what the hell was going on and where the impossibly loud noise had come from. As it turns out, a young girl who was somewhat inebriated had scaled the roof and fallen through it. Her legs were dangling through the ceiling in the room next to mine – just a metre or two from where I was sleeping, so it’s not wonder it was so loud. The best bit is one of the guys in the bed in that room was so drunk he was still fully passed out, covered head to toe in roof debris and with this hysterical girl’s legs dangling above his face. She’s lucky she didn’t slide off the roof and fall about 10-15ft to the ground. Anyway, it’s fair to say I moved elsewhere for my final night on the island; I found myself a nice little hut at Aquaddition Dive for 130,000 IDR which was cheaper than Gili Castle anyway. I started at 8.30am the next day so I made sure I ate all three of our free breakfasts in protest of them refusing to offer me anything the morning before and last nights interruptions. And just because I’m a pig.

My second day was similar, starting with skills in the pool, including a shore dive and a theory test. Mia ensured that I had all my completed my skill tests on our shore dive so my afternoon dive was just about the fun! We went diving at Halik which was full of even more incredible marine life. Amongst hundreds of things I wouldn’t know the name of, we saw turtles, starfish, trumpetfish, pufferfish, sea slugs, eels, sea urchins, clown fish, razor fish, and coral so bright blue and lime green that I wouldn’t have thought it possible. The amazing thing about diving is you are able to fully immerse yourself in the marine world, instead of being a foreign being bobbling along the top. Scuba diving is like getting inside the fish tank, instead of just peering in from the other side of the glass.

After a few more celebratory beers, I moved my stuff to my new room and met Chris and Dave who worked there. After a few beers they convinced me to squeeze in a fun dive in the morning, promising they would have me back for 10.30am so I could make my boat to Bali. After a few more beers they also convinced me to hold one of their pet snakes which I had also said I wouldn’t do. Naturally I was much more drawn to the two adorable grump faced cats!

Aquaddition’s gear wasn’t quite as modern as Blue Marlin’s, and their approach seemed a bit less professional. But now my skills and confidence had built up, this worked in my favour – I was taken out one-on-one by a local diver who knew the area like the back of his hand and was quite happy to take me a bit deeper than I was qualified and gently poke about to reveal all the best marine life. Diving with him was awesome and I got up very close and personal with four reef sharks and four turtles too! The fun dive cost 490,000 IDR – the same price as everywhere else, of course.

Somehow the boat company mistook our single ride as a return so I managed to blag the transfer home for free! Before boarding the boat I grabbed a brown paper cone off one of the street sellers to satiate my post-dive hunger. It’s what you spot the locals eating and normally costs 10,000 IDR. What is inside is a bit of surprise but it will normally contain a majority portion of white rice, topped with chicken and/or tofu in a spicy red sauce. It was always spicier than anything else I ate on the island which is another way I knew it’s what the locals actually eat! Another street food favourite was corn on the cob which can be located all the way up the main strip for 15,000 IDR. They smother the corn in butter mixed with salt, sugar and chilli before BBQing it which gives the most amazing overall flavour!

We then sat on the boat for about an hour, waiting for the harbour master to signal us to go. People got increasingly more irritated and vocally angry about our departure time; myself and the two female travellers beside me weren’t too bothered as we were fully experienced in these things not adhering to the time they told us. But, with all that time waiting on this side, I didn’t start to feel myself getting irritated when I had to wait on the other side. The ticket includes a minibus transfer direct to your hostel, however the bus drivers won’t leave the port until they have a full van. So if you’re the first ones on, you’ve gotta wait until enough boats come in with people on that also want to head your way. Myself and an American couple begrudged waiting over an hour which was probably karma for getting away with the free ticket. If you do find yourself in this situation and are in a hurry or just really peed off then you can just grab a taxi for about 3-400,000 IDR. That’s prices to Ubud by the way, which is where I was headed next!

Continued in Indonesia: Part Three of Three.

Love, Lottie xx

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