Divemaster day 1

Large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) at Monterey Ba...

Yesterday was a pretty quiet day spent chilling out and relaxing as I prepared for the regular sleeps I’d need for the next two weeks. Sadly, despite being in a complete party capital, there’s no way I can go out on the ale of an evening and then do 2-3 dives while in charge of other people the next day!

I didn’t quite get the sleep I intended. My alarm set for 6am, I was woken up by noise from next door. Not that I’m saying my neighbour is noisy. But the girl he brought home was – *ahem*. I thought it was a bit of a giggle and only an hour ahead of when I planned to wake anyway. The girl opposite, however, went banging on his door shouting “maybe you should get a place with windows!” The rooms here just have mosquito-proof mesh behind carved wooden pillars – no glass – so sound does leak from rooms easily.

When I woke early, the staff asked if I wanted breakfast which was great as I was actually kicking about half an hour before it’s meant to be served. I had my usual banana and jam jaffle (kind of a toastie) and some sweet tea then made my way around the corner where the ProDive staff were waiting for me.

Today was to be an easy introduction, to say the least. Not that I’m complaining. We picked up two Thai girls who’d been diving all week and headed for the dock where we loaded the boat and jetted off around to the other side of the little peninsula that Kuta’s on. There we were joined with three Japanese tourists staying at a posh resort. Around the resort were “fun boats”, large vessels with water slides and so on hanging off them – they looked great fun!

Our first dive site was just around the corner and we all jumped in off the back of the boat. And I swear it’s the coldest water I’ve ever dived into! Unbelievable given the surface temperature but that’s the sea for you. Deeper down, there were occasional “wafts” of warm water but that could have been one of the other divers having a pee. All it really succeeded in doing was making the water seem oily – a strange effect you get when cold and warm water mixes. The other thing I found out was that I need an extra weight when diving with a full-length wetsuit… thankfully my buddy had a spare or I’d have been sitting on the surface for forty minutes.

The quality of the dives here seems superb. Vast expanses of coral and a huge number of very brazen fish. I don’t recall ever getting so close to so many individual fish without them darting off. Playing with clown fish is a giggle – go up to the anemone they’re protecting and wiggle at it with your fingers. As it dashes towards you, put your arms into a ring and you’ll find the fish will often “climb” up to your shoulder before realising that home’s about two feet away.

Highlight of the dive was an unexpected sighing of a medium-sized (I was told) mola (or Ocean Sunfish – the heaviest bony fish in the world). We were around 20m down and it was nearer ten, but it was a sight to behold. I also like the diving sign-language symbol for it – a fist with the thumb up and little finger down. It really does look like the fish in question. The photo above isn’t one of mine (obviously, as it’s from an aquarium), but does give an idea of the size of these things.

Back on the surface, I wasn’t feeling too great as we had lunch. I’ve been good on boats recently and don’t think I was that close to being ill, but it took me ages to eat my sandwich and orange. I gave my cake (delicious though the nibble I had was) to another couple who boarded for an afternoon dive. They’d not eaten since 7am, so I took pity.

The second dive was also superb, but subject to a lot of current. I was pleased on this one to spot a huge stone fish. Unfortunately, I’d not taken my camera with me on this trip so didn’t get any photos. One of the Thai girls went snap-happy and I hope they’ll email me so I can ask for copies. Stone fish (hand symbol – clenched fist as in the rock/hammer/scissors game) are damn hard to see. After I spotted it, I was trying to get my Divemaster‘s attention. Every time I glanced away, I lost it and had to find the thing again.

After this dive, the newer couple and the Japanese left is and the girls tanked up for a third dive. I was only doing the two, but after missing sleep I was quite happy to lie on one of the comfy padded benches and snatch a bit of a kip in the sun. Of course, I’ll regret it when the sunburn comes up.

Then back to shore, a meeting with a cute dog at the equipment store and paying my bill at the office. I picked up my Divemaster manual and DVD as well. Got those to start studying this evening. $750 for this course is a bargain. If I was doing 2 dives a day over 14 days, the least it would cost me would be $840 and much more if I chose anything other than the cheapest dive sites. Having said that, they get another Divemaster on their crew for the duration of the course (and perhaps for a short time after depending on my plans).

I did find out I can renew my visa here, regardless of what it says on my passport stamp. Thing is, it costs IDR1.5million – around £90. Given that the original visa is US$25, this is pretty steep but still far cheaper than going anywhere else outside of Indonesia and re-entering. I also think it’s slightly dodgy!

Dinner was at my now-regular Gong Corner 2 hangout where I went for the pork steak. Which was – and this is no surprise – bloody delicious. And just over a quid. No wonder I’ve gone there three nights in a row. Every time I order fruit salad for dessert, it gets a little bigger as well. I wonder how much they’ll be cramming on my plate by the end of next week?

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