Diveplanit associate photographer Heather Sutton has just dived in Indonesia for the first time. Her first dive after landing in Bali, was Crystal Bay. And guess what? It’s Mola Mola season. And Heather got lucky. On her first ever dive in Indonesia, she encountered three Ocean Sunfish Mola Mola.
We now officially have Mola Mola-envy. So of course we asked her to spill the beans about the experience.
When you first planned your dive trip to Indonesia – what were your expectations?
I was given lots of advice from various diving friends as to where I HAD to dive in Indonesia, which of course, was an extensive list and my short trip will maybe capture less than a quarter of what has been suggested.
The added bonus of being on Bali during mola mola (ocean sunfish) season was something I hadn’t actually planned for but these last two days with Aquamarine Diving Bali have been sensational. I am still looking forward to the muck goodness of Lembeh, the walls of Bunaken, and the iconic Liberty wreck is on the list for a dawn dive as well (thanks to Alicia Shaw for passing on this ‘must-do’).
What had you previously heard about the diving in Indonesia?
I had heard that is was incredibly diverse and had something for everyone – and that (logically) the further away from the tourist centres you are willing to travel, the better it can get. I first heard about Lembeh in 2012 and it’s been on my ‘must-dive’ list ever since, so this year I finally get to tick the box and see if it lives up to expectations.
Did you expect/hope to see (or even know about) the Mola mola aggregation on Nusa Penida?
I knew that Bali was one of the few places in the world you had the chance to encounter these unique creatures and – serendipitously – was allocated leave from work during mola mola season, so was very, very happy that I had an opportunity to see them.
I was absolutely amazed to see three mola mola on my first dive (the work against the current was worth the interactions). I was blessed again on the second day to see three more. Being a decompression diver helped as we did have to dive quite deep (30m-plus) to have these interactions.
What was it like to see these creatures for the first time?
They are skittish creatures, but the briefing from our guides on procedures and approach was spot on. You are only to come within 10m if they are approaching a cleaning station and 3m if they are getting cleaned, no strobes or torches are allowed as they are sensitive to light.
Our first encounter took me to 42m and the second day a lazy 38.8m. As you descend, the guides signal to divers to hold at 25m while they descend to check for mola mola before guiding people down in a safe manner, keeping within people’s gas consumption and NDL’s at all times.
What were the conditions like? What should divers be aware of before heading off to search for Mola mola?
Conditions on the Lombok Strait which separates the main island of Bali from Nusa Penida can be rough, and it certainly was for us, both days, particularly on the south side of Nusa Penida (Manta Bay and Point). It is a minimum 45-minute transit to Crystal Bay and up to 1hr 15 min to Manta Point on a fast boat, so I would recommend even if you have an iron stomach – take a TravelCalm or two so as not to ruin your day staring at the surface while feeding the fish off the side of the boat.
There was plenty of current and surge particularly at Manta Point. The dive briefings do include information on the swirling currents that are common at Crystal Bay and most divers were coping quite well with them (a few consumed air a bit quicker than they were used to but that is normal) – definitely worth the extra exercise for the Mola Mola and Manta.
What else did you see while diving in Nusa Penida?
In Crystal Bay, we saw plenty of healthy reef, mosaic eels, nudibranch, pufferfish, green sea turtles. Conditions on the first day were too rough to dive Manta Point, and Manta Bay was the substitute where our group encountered three to four mantas on their safety stop. We were lucky enough to have a few more encounters with these graceful creatures on our second day’s diving at Manta Point.
How was your experience with Aqua Marine Dive Bali?
Aquamarine were fantastic – from the earliest email communication while booking, phone calls to confirm my 6am pickup time, there was never a question that went unanswered within two to three hours at the most.
They were easily able to adjust to me diving on a monkey-rigged single tank side-mount rig and were great handling my extra bags and big camera rig. Their boats (Aquamarine 2/3) were a good size for the groups we had, with a maximum four divers to each guide (in fact, I had a guide to myself on all dives).
The boats had a good-sized cabin to keep out of the wind, store gear, and on board toilet. Lunch was a choice of sandwiches, rolls or nasi goreng, pre-ordered before departure, and there was a fair selection for all tastes (the brown bread was homemade and lusciously dense like a good sourdough).
So what’s your overall first impression, diving in Indonesia?
Fantastic and I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks with baited camera.
If you liked this post, you might also like to read about some other Indonesian dive destinations.