BUBBLES BELOW

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Published on April 06, 2015 with No Comments

Bali’s best dive sites revealed.

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Words JEFFERY LIM
Images MARIO GONZALEZ

Where are the world’s best diving sites, you may ask. For every diver there will always be a favourite spot. The Maldives, Hawaii, the Red Sea. The magic of diving is when you feel one with the underwater world, knowing that few have ever gone there before – a true, beautiful spot.

You could, of course, ask a seasoned diver for his favourite dive sites. And then, there’s Captain Mario Gonzalez. An accomplished kite surfer, surfer and diver, Captain Gonzalez has been cruising passengers on the Alila Purnama in and around the Indonesian waters since mid of last year. To say he has accumulated extensive knowledge of the best dive sites in Indonesia and West Papua is putting it mildly. After all, Indonesia’s 13,000 islands represent the world’s largest archipelago. From night diving with Eupalette sharks in Raja Ampat to drift-diving with schools of snappers and jack fish in the Komodo Islands, Indonesia is fast gaining momentum as having some of the world’s best liveaboard destinations.

It is no wonder then that in his years of sailing the Indonesian waters that Captain Gonzalez would be the best reference to find the country’s best dive spots. At the top of his list is Gili Selang, located in the south side of Amed. This area on the east coast of Bali, he says, is famous for its hard and soft underwater coral just below the water’s surface.

Gili Selang also happens to be one of the most challenging Bali dive sites but, for experienced divers keen to see pelagic fish, this is an experience not to be missed. With a visibility of 20-25m and water temperature between 20-30°C, divers can expect to see yellow margin morays, schooling big-eyed giant trevally, cuttlefish and pygmy seahorses on the gorgonian sea fans. Following the reef downwards, the sand slope becomes a wall, which is known for occasional ‘spinning’ currents combined with a horizontal current from the other side of the channel.

In Komodo, Captain Gonzalez suggests divers check out Shotgun, as the locals call it, or The Cauldron. The area is an intense and high adrenaline dive, perfect for drift diving, with amazing changes of scenery between Gili Lawa Darat and Gili Lawa Laut, north of Komodo. “The Cauldron” refers to the bowl shaped drop off along the eastern end of the site, while the name “Shotgun” refers to the currents that can reach peaks of 10 knots as the water squeezes into the narrow space between both islands. The currents bring the micro-organisms from deep waters, feeding the small fish, which in turn creates the perfect hunting ground for the big fish. Black and white tip sharks, giant trevallies, schools of snappers, and jack fish, fusiliers fish and even mantas and dolphins, are just some of the sea-animals divers can expect.

To swim with wild dolphins; white, black and silver tip sharks; Napoleon Wrasses with schools of jack fish; groupers and barracuda; Castle Rock northeast of Komodo Island is the place to be. The beauty of marine life in this area is remarkable and the coral slope is simply beautiful. However, Captain Gonzalez cautions that due to the strong currents, this dive should always be performed in slack tide and divers should never go deeper than 20 or 25 metres.

You will also experience Indonesian diving at its best with a night dive in the Waigeo Pearl Farm at Raja Ampat. As some coral reefs cannot be seen in daylight, it is only when darkness descends that they appear. Not an experience to be missed, night diving here will see the waters come alive allowing divers to experience the ocean from a totally different perspective. The Orange Tube Corals glow orange in darkness and the Sea Pens look like little brown furry leaves. Night diving in Waigeo is extraordinary as divers will see creatures rarely encountered anywhere else in the world, including the Eupalette shark, which is brown with dark spots and prefers to walk with its fins rather than swim. Divers are also guaranteed to spot wobbegong sharks, blue ring octopus, toadfish and crocodile fish in almost every dive.

Rounding off the experience is a dive at Kri Reef of Raja Ampat, West Papua. It has already secured a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, thanks to the 374 types of marine life that can be found here. These include barracudas, turtles, tunas, groups of giant trevally and large schools of bumphead parrot fish – divers can even see them crushing the corals with their huge teeth. Here, divers will find the healthiest coral reefs in the world and if lucky, witness sweet-lips hordes in tens as they pass by. To have the best possible dive, Captain Gonzalez suggests staying deep in this location to avoid strong surface currents.

Indonesia definitely has a variety of sites to dive, but more importantly, it offers divers a window into a marine life incomparable to anywhere else in the world. No matter which site you choose, expect to see stunning reefs, unique marine habitats and some of the world’s most extraordinary marine species.

 Royal Brunei Airlines flies Bali 4x weekly.

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