Padangbai is on the east coast of Indonesian island of Bali. It is the port for people catching the ferry to Lombok and the Gili Islands. Besides being the jump off location for Lombok, it is known for world class diving as all of Indonesia is. I had a friend getting her dive master there so it made sense for me to make a stop off there. I have been diving with my Naui dive certification that I have had since I was 12. The broken up card always got quizical looks when I showed dive shops it. I mean, I have had this thing for so long that I don’t even show up in Naui’s computers. Having such an old dive certification and wanting to update my skills, I decided to get my advanced open water certification with PADI.
Everyday people would march through town to a temple up on the hill for a funeral ceremony.
This the dive shop that I dove with. They were definitely a good group of professional people.
The main street of Pandangbai.
Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!!!! Blowing Bubbles!!!! There is something that is addictive about scuba diving. I mean addictive like you are willing to sleep in a cardboard box on a street corner begging for money to support your habit kind of addiction…well maybe not to that point but you get the idea. Every scuba diver feels like they need to another scuba diving fix once they are out of water. “Need to be back under water!! Must scuba dive!” Dive resorts in Indonesia know this. They don’t ask for the money up front. “We will settle up later.” They just keep a tab rolling and ask when you just get out of the water with a huge endorphin grin, “I saved a spot on the next boat, are you coming?” “HECK YES!!! KEEP IT ROLLING!!!”. These dives add up like a gambler with a problem at a casino. You have to eventually stop or you will spend all your travel budget. Over time being out of the water gets easier and you forget how much you love scuba diving but once you start blowing bubbles underwater, you are hooked again and you just sold your soul to Poseidon.
My typical dive day is………
Wake up with childlike christmas excitement!! “Yes, I’m going scuba diving today!!!!” With a belly full of breakfast and a cup of coffee in the system, I walk over to the scuba shop. Everybody has giddy grins in on their face and even the people who work there who do it everyday for a living are as happy as the tourist. Scuba divers are dorks. I mean we all totally “geek out” about being underwater.
After the initial greetings with fellow divers, “How are you? Where are you from? Are you ready for some diving? How many dives have you done? Where have you been? Can’t wait!!! I’m so stoked!!!!!”
Butterflies of excitement flutter around the stomach!….”I’m going diving today!!!!!! I’m going diving!!!!!!” I then try to calm myself down, take a few breaths and start to get ready for the dive. First, equipment checks are always necessary and especially in rental equipment. You don’t want to be sucking in salt water at 100 feet deep. So, BCD in good condition with no leaks, regulator and octopus (breathing apparatus) working as they should with no leaks, tank has good o-ring gasket with no leaks when connected, fins and dive booties fit, mask has good suction on the face, weight belt has correct weight on it, and then it is time to start putting on the wetsuit. Hopefully the guy that wore it before you was nice enough to not pee in it while diving. You can do sniff test but I think it is best not to, you would rather not know.
Okay after everyone is ready, the dive plan and site is explained by the dive master to everyone. Hand signs for communicating underwater are gone over…these hand signs can vary from dive shop and dive master so it is important to go over them each time. The main thing is just being able to understand each other under water. Signs such as “how much air do you have left, problem with my regulator, problem with my mask, can’t equalize, out of air, come up, go down, stick together, safety stop” and signs for different fish, “cuttle fish, trigger fish, octopus, shark, scorpion fish, turtle, lion fish, eel and so forth.”
After that, we all start getting on the boat but the boat is stuck. So everyone has to get off the boat and give a few heeves to push the boat and then do a “dukes of hazzard” leap into the boat as it starts floating away. The boat captain cranks the engine and we start moving. The boat bounces with the undulating waves. The feel of the occasional ocean spray splashes the face and everyone is smiling like “it doesn’t get better than this!” In the digital area, nearly everyone has a camera and starts playing with their GoPro or other type of digital camera on the ride. “How do I work this thing again?” “How’s the battery life on it?” As we start getting closer to the dive site, everyone starts putting everything on and getting their mask defogged. Mask defogging is done by spitting into the mask or pouring dish soap in it and rinsing it out. I offer my impressive thick defogging spit to everyone on the boat but there are unfortunately no takers. Once we reach the dive site, the boat is attached to a mooring or just floats freely. Anchors are frowned upon since they damage the coral. So here we go, it is dive time! “Okay let’s do this!!!” Dive master yells out “It’s a back roll entry.” That means we are sitting on the side of the boat, tank hanging over side, and we back roll while holding on to the mask. It is very important to do this with your regulator in your mouth as well so you don’t choke on salt water. And BCD is filled with air so you float.
We all plummet off the side of boat. The initial feel is chilly brisk water entering your wetsuit and for a moment your face is submerged underwater and you pop back up to the surface. So once we are in the water, we all try to fin over and regroup together.
Dive master yells, “everybody ready?” We all give the okay sign and he does the thumbs down sign to start the submersion. We all let the air out of our BCDs and start sinking. As we make our descent to the underwater alien world, the soothing sound of meditative bubbles permeate the ears. “blup blup blup.” The group sinks together. There is an awesome wolf pack experience as you look around at the group and going down together. You then notice the intoxication underwater world with an explosion of colors. It is like being in an underwater disney aquarium. The vivid colors, the crazy coral formations, and numerous exotic and cartoony fish swimming about. It is incredible! It is like being teleported into a real life computer screen saver. You are like “sooo beautiful! soooooo beautiful!!! can’t take it…tooo beautiful” Your eyes almost hurt from opening them so wide to take it all in. The excitement causes you to start breathing heavy. “uhhhhhh ahhhhh uhhhh ahhhh uhhhh ahhh!” Then you remember ,”Okay I must calm down the breathing, I’m going to use all my air.” Air is limited and you don’t want to suck down all your air in 15 minutes. So you try your best zen-like meditative breathing to stretch out the air as long as possible. Small women and very experienced divers can stay under water forever with one tank. New people, people too excited underwater, and out of shape people typically run out first. I have gotten better with this and I normally now can extend my tank to about average, that’s about 51 minutes for me. Pro divers never swim with their hands underwater. They have a very relaxed formation. They keep the arms crossed on the chest and hold on to each biceps and barely kick. They just float around and slow motion creep like a barracuda, watching, looking, and hardly using any muscles. For those of you don’t know about barracudas, they appear out of nowhere and just hover around you. Not swimming but creeping. The first appearance, is like “ahh where did you come from?” Those beedie eyes just stare at you as they float and follow you around. This underwater creep’n barracuda strategy helps with air consumption and it makes it easy to tell the rookies from the pros by those who creep.
The dive master floats about pointing to different underwater critters and does hand signs of what he’s looking at. The dive group then tumbles over each other trying to get a look at what he’s pointing at. Even if you don’t know what the heck he’s pointing at, you do the “okay” sign for “yeah I see it.” You don’t want to sit there all day when there are so many beautiful and colorful feasts of the eyes.
The dive normally is 40-60 minutes depending on who runs out of air first. As we make our ascent, we do a 3 minute safety stop of 5 meters to let the nitrogen out of the blood stream. We then pop up to the surface and talk about the dive. “Did you see that? What was that? That’s was crazy!” “AWWEEESOOOMMMEEE!!!” Everyone is stoked and I can’t stop giggling. Don’t ask me why…I just can’t help it. Guess I’m just happy.
There is a ridiculous amount of sea turtles in Indonesia. I love these cute sea creatures!