Diving on the Gili Islands

From Kuta to. Uluwatu, Pedang Pedang, Canggu, Tanah Lot, Jatiluwih, Danu Bratan, Git Git Waterfalls, Lovina, Tigawasa, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Mount Batur, Ubud, Nusa Lembongan and then to Gili Trawagan- again. Why- you probably ask? It might not sound like the most logical route..

I had booked my trip to meet friends along the way and since they had all planned their trip independently I would have to travel a lot back and fourth to meet them all. In Gili Trawangan and Gili Air there were friends waiting for me and I had booked some nights of diving courses for my stays there.

At Gili T I did my rescue diver course and Nitrox speciality course, which was both fun and rewarding. Every day we learned new skills and then went out for a couple of dives to practise those skills.

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At Gili Air I just went fundiving for a couple of days. All the dive sites were the same as the ones I had already been diving for a week at Gili T, due to how close the two islands are.

My favorite spots were by far shark point and thr Meno Wall where we saw lots of sharks, turtles and stingrays. Going out at night was also quite rewarding as there were other animals such as octopuses and eels that came out to hunt then.

Venturing Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan was the Theo island where I knew least what to expect as it is often surpassed by backpackers going between Bali, Lombok and the Gilis. All I knew was that it was famous for its Manta Rays, which I happily can say that I saw lots of.

I had two dives with Big Fish; one at Manta Bay, the second at Chrystal Bay. Two completely different dive sites.

At Manta Bay, as its name insinuits, was full of mantas. We saw maybe fifteen of them, circling over us at the surface and ducking down and swimming beside us, nearly for half of our 50 minute dive.

Other than that there was not much to see, but at Chrystal Bay there was a healthy coral reef with turtles, sea snakes, bamboo sharks, eels and lots of fish. The diving in Lembongan is something I would never want to be without.

On land I had a scooter rented for my three days there and drove around with a french girl I had met on the ferry. We visited an outdoor cinema, stopped at Devils Tear to see cliffs that shot out water every time a wave hit them, visited the beautiful dream beach and drove back and forth over a yellow bridge blinking with disco lights at night.

At secret garden where I lived there was also a pool, slackline, juggling equipment, some great yoga sessions and a bamboo shack cinema that kept me entertained and relaxed for my days here. The perfect break before heading back to Gili Trawangan.

Diving the Wrecks of Malta

When it comes to driving, Malta is a mess. Luckily my dive master from Dive Systems was used to it and drove me through the one was streets, through hills, curves andog traffic until we got to the port of the Il Hnejja Grotto (Blue cave) where we got out of the car and into our scuba gear.
We didn’t have to swim more than a.few minutes before being at 30 meters depth and by the Um el Faroud, a Libyan ten thousand tonne oil tanker that had an explosion and sunk together with nine of its crewmembers in 1995.

Diving through the wreck was great, but the best was looking up when we were halfway across where the tanker had broken in the middle. There must have been hundreds of Barracudas swimminh in a school above us!

On the second day of diving I went with this Russian dive instructor called Sergey. He took me to the north of the island to dive around a tugboat called P29 and a giant shipwreck called MV Rozi. Sergey was like a non stop guide, telling me all there was to know about Malta on the way- a great lad!

The dive sites at the North were a lot like the ones in the south. The ships and underground landscape were fantastic, but there was not much to see in terms of underwater life. We saw a few mooray eels, some barracudas and tunas, but Sergey explained to me that due to overfishing all the squid, that there used to be so many of, were gone.

The wreck MV Rozi with a canon on the front!

My main purpose of going to Malta was to dove, which I would reccommend everyone to do, but I also had a rental car and got to see some more of what the island had to offer. Together with people from my hostel I got to see forts, churches, the Mdina and the nightlife that Malta is so famous for. I had a blast and I will have to come back,  especially to see Gozo which is a neigbor island more like how Malta used to be back in the days.

Diving the Red Sea in Aqaba, Jordan

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When I got to Aqaba, a tax free town in the South of Jordan I met up with my couchsurfing host Omar, who was a dive master instructor and was on his way out to do some diving. Knowing that the red sea is famous for having some of the World’s clearest waters I was quick to ask if I could come with and just a few minutes after we were on his friends boat on out way out to a dive site with a swim through grotto that few people went to. I was excited.
Going down the water my mask started filling up with a thick green liquid and at twenty meters dept my mask was almost full of it so I had to shoot to the surface. When I got up I saw that the color was actually red, but had just been looking green underwater because of the breaking of the light, making colors look different there. It was just a common nosebleed and I was bummed that it had ruined my first dive in the Red Sea.
For the second dive I was finished bleeding so I went down again to see that the visibility still was not as good as I had hoped, but this time it was not because of blood but because the wind and choppy weather in the surface had made conditions bad.
We still managed to see a couple of pinnacles with some impressing corals, lots of lionfish and a huge stonefish. At the end of the dive we got to a tank that had been sunk and was quite interesting to swim around and inspect.
What made our dive really good was that we also went with a German film crew and underwater magazine photographers who took some footage of me and our dive that I am very much looking forward to seeing. I was also happy that they wanted to take my contact details to inform me about their next diving trips that they welcomed me to join them for.

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Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Having snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef at the Whitsundays, but had really bad visibility and seen very little I was ready to get a better experience when doing a day trip from Cairns that would take me to the outer reef for a few dives.
After about a ninety minute boat ride we were at Norman Reef, with the first divesite being Plate Top. Here we got in and swam around for about half an hour without seeing much more than coral and small fish before we finally spotted something worth seeing. It was a sleeping black tip reef shark, with its front facing away from us allowing us to get really close. After that we had another fifteen minutes of swimming around without seeing anything impressing.
Our second divesite, still at Norman Reef was at Turtle Bay where it was almost a repitition of our first dive. We managed to spot a reef shark and a turtle at a distance and then a giant maori fish swimming above us at the surface, but other than that it was probably the most boring diving I have ever done in my life.
The Great Barrier Reef is the Worlds biggest reef which also has the reputation of being one of the Worlds best places to dive. For me it did not live up to its expectarions at all, but then I might also have been very unlucky with the visibility and colors of the reef due to rain and choppy wqves on the surface.

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Diving around the Rasdhoo Atoll, Maldives

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I have always thought that Maldives was a country that had to be travelled on a huge budget, but the country has more to offer than five star all inclusive resorts! guest houses are popping up and scheduled ferries are making most of the inhabitant islands connected.

After our Dhoni cruise we had a few days off and decided to spend these at Rasdhoo, the smallest of the Maldivian atolls, known for having the countrys best diving spots. We stayed at Rasdhoo Dive Lodge, being the first guests to stay in the rooms where we slept, as the lodge was just starting up.

Being an islamic state there are regulations to where it is allowed to go swimming in bikinis, but the diving lodge was situated right on the islands main streets and was within short distance of both the bikini beach and the harbour where all boat excursions took off from. One of the days we borrowed the kayaks of the dive center and paddled out to the picknick islands and the sand bank right next by. The picknick island had a table, umbrellas for shade and restrooms and was a place people went to have lunch, relax or just do some snorkelling at the reef right by. The sand bank was just a white and smooth pile of sand surrounded by beautiful turquise water, which was the perfect place to take photos that all looked like they could have been on the cover of a travel magazine.

While being on the island I also got to do two afternoon dives and one morning dive. For the morning dive we got into the water before 6am, in the beginning it was pitch dark and then gradually it started getting brighter throughout the dive. What totally blew me off about this dive and almost took my breath away at nearly thirty meters was a blanket of “bioluminecent plankton” glowing up like starts underneath us. Apparantly that was not even a seasonal thing and was something that could be seen on almost all morning and night dives.

The morning dive we did at Hammerhead Point, known for having hammerhead sharks, but unfortunately I did not see any on my dive. However we saw bubblefish that came to play with our bubbles, we saw a manta ray and a marble ray, we saw white tip, black tip reef shark and a leopard shark and a few giant moray eels. Although a bit bummed about not seeing hammerheads I was quite lucky and satisfied with the dives I got to do. The only problem is that I from now on will compare my dives with the Maldives, which will be quite hard to beat. I guess I will have to be back for a longer diving holiday sometime.

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Diving in Cayo Largo, Cuba

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At the end of a trip discovering the Cuban islands, it was also time to see if it was just as beautiful under water as it was above. At first I had been a bit concerned, as Cuba has a trade blockade with the US that even include the recognition of the American PADI standards. Luckily the Australian equivalent Scuba Schools International (SSI) was not. Cuba Diving Avalon was a Cubans SSI certified dive center, but for them to look up my friends license (as she had forgotten it at home) took forever and a half as Cubas dial up internet is the Worlds slowest. Luckily the dive center was right at the harbour so that we could relax on deck of our sailboat in the meantime.

Our instructor, Pablo, did not speak any English which was fine as most of us knew enough Spanish, but others who did not had missed his reminded of the five meter safety stop and shot to the surface without it. Luckily both our dives near Cayo Siguia had a max depth of around 12-14 meters so it was not as bad as it could have been, especially since we had been promised to start with a deep dive of 30 meters plus. I don’t know why we went just shallow and did not bother asking.

I had earlier been impressed with the huge tarpons living in the shallow water around the docks, and had hoped to see some schools of those, but dissapointingly enough all the fish we saw were small.

The water was quite clear and we swam through some impressively coral, but the underwater life was not as good as I had hoped for. Except for a turtle, some lionfish and a huge lobster we did not see much. The snorkeling around Cayo Largo has revealed more interesting places that we visited on our two scubadiving dives.