To practice using our new underwater camera rigs, we were looking for somewhere fairly close with easy diving. And by “easy” I mean warm water, and people to carry all your stuff.
We settled on Bali, and booked a week with Underwater Tribe, who came highly recommended by Scubapix. The itinerary included five days of diving in Tulamben, with two days of photography instruction and three days of diving with a guide.
From the minute that we walked through Customs, we felt like we were visiting old friends. Everything that Underwater Tribe arranged for us was flawless. From the moment that Miho met us at the airport, to seven days later when she arranged to have our gear cleaned and dried before we went home, not one detail was overlooked.
In Tulamben, we stayed at the Mimpi Resort. It was ranked #8 of 10 resorts in Tulamben on Tripadvisor, but the folks at Underwater Tribe recommended it highly. We had an oceanfront villa named Trangipan, which we think was a typo for Frangipani. The villa had a main room with a net-covered bed (though we had no issues with mossies here), an outdoor bathroom, a private courtyard with a covered lounge area, and a deck out front with ocean views. Underwater Tribe kept our gear all week, but there was a handy rinse basin in the bathroom (which we used for cameras).
On the first day, we met Luca after breakfast and reviewed the principles of wide angle underwater photography. We then drove about five minutes to the wreck of the USS Liberty. This is a super easy shore dive. There are porters to carry everything (the beach is slippery rocks, so we geared up in the water), and a restaurant with showers and bathrooms. We did one dive, then had lunch and a bit of a review, and then did the second dive.
The second day we met Luca and reviewed the basics of macro underwater photography. We then drove five minutes in the other direction to the Seraya Macro Dive Site. I had some camera issues, so Luca and I left Andy in the shallows with the gear while we dried off and did some troubleshooting. It was resolved in five minutes so we salvaged the dive, photographing eels and super tiny, almost translucent shrimp. We did the second dive after a surface interval, and then went to lunch at the Safety Stop, where we reviewed the images on my laptop.
We spent the next three days with Amin, the most amazing dive guide on the planet. His critter spotting abilities were unbelievable, and his enthusiasm was positively infectious. Some of the things he pointed out were so tiny that I could barely see them, and it wasn’t until I looked at the images on my laptop that I realised how impressively intricate and colourful they were.
A word about the diving in Tulamben. In a word, it is effortless. Our dives this year have been on the peninsula, mostly Rye, which includes a 500 meter walk in full gear (including 7mm wetsuit and 11kg of weight to compensate for it). At every site in Tulamben, strong women porters schlepped our gear from the van to a shaded area, and once set up, taken down to the waters edge. Bliss.
We originally planned to have two “rest” days after diving, but we were having such a good time that we had Underwater Tribe arrange two more dives at Blue Lagoon, near Padang Bai. This was a boat dive, but the site was only five minutes or so from our departure point. We’d challenged Amin to find us some seahorses to photograph, and he delivered six.
So just to recap, we have been shooting macro for a grand total of three days at this point. To say that this trip exceeded our expectations would be a colossal understatement.
Ending on a high note, we headed to Sanur for two nights. We stayed at the Ajanta Villas, which got 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor so we had high expectations. The villa was nice – Balinese style open courtyard with a pool – bedroom and living area on one side, and a master bedroom with fabulous ensuite on the other. It was walking distance to the beach, but after being in Esperance a few weeks before, the beach was a bit of a letdown.
The highlight of our time in Sanur was a cooking class at Bamboo Shoots. After a visit to the local market, we shopped, mashed, and ground the ingredients to make satay lilit, chicken curry, mie goreng, nasi goreng, daging bumbu Bali, and bubur sumsum. YUM !