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Published: September 30th 2008
I don't often get time to update my blog now - but sometimes, I'm lucky enough to see something or do something so amazing that I just want to write it up straight away. Yesterday was one of those days.
Nusa Penida is a rocky, rugged island off the south-east of Bali, virtually uninhabited, undeveloped, a sanctuary of wilderness on land and a deep water wonder under the sea. I thank the Blue Planet for this experience - I'd seen the Mola Mola or Sunfish on episode - oh I forget - watch them all - it's one for sure. The episode is full of interesting deep water fish, rising up out of the blue to visit reef cleaning stations, attracting hordes of long-fin bannerfish, butterflyfish, angelfish - the reef fish tuck in to delightful parasites that just itch those big bodies so. The Mola-Mola or Oceanic Sunfish is one of the wierdest, it's the heaviest known bony fish (sharks have cartilage rather than bones) - it weights 1 tonne and is about 3 meters in diameter, but really narrow - imagine a rounded, fined, fishy king-size mattress.
Staying in Padang Bai - I'd found a friendly little dive
shop Water Worx
- a couple of local sites the previous day, and then the highlight a trip to Nusa Penida - where Mantas are almost but not quite guaranteed - this is diving and wildlife sometimes makes a no-show - the Mola-Mola hadn't been sighted for a week or so though - due to the warming water caused by rain.
A hours choppy ride out to the island, and most of the boat was queasy (cue smug diver Ali - took a sea-sickness tablet on the way out) - we hit the first possible site - Crystal Cove.
Crystal Cove has a reputation for being the best place in this region to see Mola-Mola - unfortunately this reputation has lead to many peoples Mola-Mola sightings being a disappointment - one giant fish seen between fins and bubbles making a bee line back to the deep blue... and away from those pesky monkey fish.
When Water-worx talked about checking the conditions - they meant as much the number of dive boats as the water clarity - luckily for me - it was a good day for both. Suited, booted, finned and masked, I rolled back in to the
water with a small group of 5 divers. Descended into the freezing water - thermoclines of 19c - an average of 21c - I was cold - and couldn't see any giant fish mattresses. We kicked out towards the drop off - floating at 20m - waiting - watching.
Then - I spotted a grey shape down below - Mola-Mola!! - ting-ting! - that's the sound of a metal rod hitting my tank (my tank bangy - technical diving term!) - I pointed down and descended down to 40m... I get there first - and for a few brief minutes - it's me a couple of angelfish and a 3m fishhead. This is the weirdest big thing I've ever seen in the water. My buddy group catch up - I take photos - staying close to the reef and desperately working to control my breathing - the bubbles scare some fish - we are the weirdest big thing they ever see in the water.
The timidness of the Mola-Mola is demonstrated a few moments later - one of our divers had kicked out into the blue to get a closer look - I saw a visible shiver -
and it turned out to the blue and started to retreat. Fortunately our diver realised this and backed up to the reef - the Mola-Mola swept out and curved back around to continue being cleaned. I pinched myself - is this creature for real?
After a few minutes more divers arrived and true to form the Mola-Mola made a break for the blue. Wow - my heart rate was a mile a minute and I was 5 mins from deco. The encounter lasted just 5 mins - but - I was so luck to have had it.
Then I couldn't believe my luck - there was another grey shape further along the reef - I kicked out and made my way towards it... another Sunfish surrounded by long fin baner fish out there on it's own. I made the most of my few minutes before deco - (something I try to avoid when recreationally diving - as it's a pain) - would kick in. I'll put a brief explanation for decompression below... on zero - I made my way back to the shallows - reluctantly. It was one of the most amazing diving experiences I've had.
30mins of choppy and heavy seas a we make it to dive site 2 - Manta Point - a Manta Point that truly deserves it's name.
For the next 49mins I was rolled around and tumbled in a giant freezing cold washing machine of a surging salt-water, narrowly avoiding being buffeted against rocks while twelve beautiful flying carpet fish or Manta Rays twirled and danced and swept above and below and beside me.
Another fantastic dive!
The photos are edited in Picasa - I took them using a Canon G9 in WP-DC9 underwater housing (I'll double check that later) - the white spots are from the masses of particles that were in the water - particularly on the Manta-Point dive.
Thanks to Niko and Newman of Water Worx
- divemasters on these dives.
More on the Mola-Mola...
Wikipedia - Ocean Sunfish
The ocean sunfish, Mola mola, or common mola, is the heaviest known bony fish in the world. It has an average adult weight of 1 tonne (2,200 lbs). The species is native to tropical and temperate waters around the globe. It resembles a fish head with a tail, and its main body is flattened laterally. Sunfish can be as tall as they are long when their dorsal and ventral fins are extended.
Sunfish live on a diet that consists mainly of jellyfish. Because this diet is nutritionally poor, they consume large amounts in order to develop and maintain their great bulk. Females of the species can produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate.
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