Diving any of the top spots in Bali from here in Tulamben could not be easier. We have trips to cater for anyone and everyone and can easily be tailor made to exactly where you wish to go. This is what a group of six French Instructors and Divemasters from Koh Tao took us up on whilst on a holiday to the island. Once they had taken a 10 dive package here at Tulamben, diving the famous Liberty wreck by day and night as well as the lesser known sites we have to offer, they had their eyes set on a trip to Menjangan Island. Needless to say I jumped on the chance to tag along with the group and discover for myself if it was worth all the praise that I had previously read about.
Menjangan Island is a small island, 15 square kilometers in size situated in the North West of Bali. The island is part of Barat National Park and is therefore well protected in the hope to maintain the excellent diversity of marine and coral life that the islands surrounding reefs support. Snorkeling trips are available around the island, but to truly appreciate the hundreds of different species of coral that inhabit the surrounding island, strapping a tank to your back is the only way to go. For this trip, we took a boat out for two days. The first day for 3 dives, then with a stop at Secret Bay the following morning it was back on the boat for 2 more that afternoon.
The first two dives of day one were at ‘POS 1’, a sloping stretch, flat at the top at around 5-10 metres then sloping all the way down to depths out of the reach of recreational diving. We all descended to around the 25-30m mark and slowly increased our depth as we worked our way along the masses of corals and marine life on offer. There are lots of holes, nooks and hiding spots for marine life and so with an experienced guide there is a lot to be discovered. This section of the reef was home to many different types of Trigger Fish. The larger, more sinister looking Titan Trigger Fish were patrolling the reef, attacking the corals with their large beaks. Schools of Red Toothed Trigger Fish could be observed overhead when at depth, and I personally also spotted 4 or 5 Clown Trigger Fish swimming around under me at around the 30 metre mark. Juvenile batfish hiding under table corals or in coral crevices were spotted on several occasions, a fish which is always a welcome photo opportunity. Many different Boxfish, in particular one of my favorite fish the Juvenile Yellow Boxfish were darting around looking for cover from our alien faces peering into holes in the slope to catch a glimpse of them. One in particular was no bigger than a matchbox, and moved almost impossibly with its tiny tail around different hiding spots. Undoubtedly the highlight of diving at this site came from a sea fan at 19.5 metres below sea level. After some close observation from our expert guides, a Pygmie Sea Horse was located on the upper most part of the fan. The sea horse, no bigger than a grain of rice, was almost invisible to the eye, blending in with its surroundings impeccably. The real surprise came on the 2nd day of the dive trip when we returned to POS 1 with a professional photographer who made up part of the group to capture seldom spotted sea horse on camera. Whilst taking the shot, a second Pygmie Sea Horse popped out of nowhere and latched on to the fan no more than an inch away from the first. Never before have I seen two so close to each other, and needless to say the photographer wasted no time at snapping away at the rare opportunity.
For all of the dives on this site we took full advantage of the shallow corals for our safety stops. These stops always took much longer than the suggested 3 minutes as we were constantly discovering sea life that took our attention away from ending the dive. Amid the regular backdrop made up of Banner Fish, Sergeant Majors and Butterfly Fish we were able to spot a pair of Octopus working their way across the corals changing colour as they moved. They are a fascinating creature to stop and study, mimicking their surroundings both in their body colour and shape. They also have the ability to squeeze into the tiniest of gaps and so after following them and watching them for a few minutes, possibly fed up with the unwanted amount of attention they were getting they darted off and hid out of sight.
For the final dive of the first day we stopped off at ‘Garden Eel’. Following the briefing we quickly took to the water and descended as the surface current was starting to pick up. After a brief swim over a sandy base, spotting a few Blue Spotted Stingrays we reached the coral and bumped straight into a very large light grey Crocodile Fish, probably around 50cm in length. We followed around the edge of the corals, still maintaining a shallow depth of around 8 metres, where we encountered a Cuttlefish change through many different colours before shooting off like a spaceship into the blue. After about 15 minutes we came to a point where it is possible to descend down a slope to 30m+. As we were floating above the corals we disturbed a sleeping Green Turtle, easily over 1 metre in length with a vibrant green shell, who promptly woke up and swam to the surface for some air before disappearing down into the depths. As our first dive was to 30 metres we didn’t venture deeper, but the array of sea fans that are living on the slope is vast. Many different sizes and shapes make up the collection, and where the coral ends, the location of where the dive site takes its name from begins. As far as the eye can see, garden eels are swaying in the sand. Keep your distance and you can watch them as they seemed very shy in comparison to the ones that inhabit the Liberty Wreck in Tulamben.
Because everyone enjoyed this dive so much we made it the location for the last dive of the trip. Only this time when we reached the sea fans, there was a very strong current. As we were equipped with safety sausages and had a boat on the surface keeping track of our location, we decided to make the dive into a drift dive for the 2nd half and go with the flow. One thing that strong currents are always good for is sharks, and today was no exception. As we were being swept across the reef at around 23 metres we spotted a pair of Black Tip Reef Sharks presumably using the strong conditions to seek a meal. Safe in the knowledge that they are perfectly harmless and we were not going to end up being the dinner they were after, we waited for their return. Managing to carefully hook onto some corals we spotted the pair twice out in the blue, as well as many large Trevally darting around above and below us. The current wasn’t slowing down so we decided to fight it to a place where we could perform the 3 minute safety stop without any issues, sharing the spot with a large Honeycomb Moray Eel as well as various Boxfish, Batfish and Lionfish before ending the dive.
This is only a snippet of what Menjangan has to offer. If you are interested in taking a trip to Menjangan or any other location around Bali, anything is possible. Simply send us an email and a representative of the Dive Concepts team will be happy to answer any of your questions. We are in the process of searching for new dive sites and logging everything we see, so check back regularly for fresh information and write-ups about diving in and around Bali. Our last two ventures around Tulamben and Amed have proven very fruitful, with Eagle Rays being spotted on the first, and a Macro site on the 2nd with many Ornate and Robust Ghost Pipefish, four of which were spotted within just inches of each other. With Amed only around the corner and the USAT Liberty as our house reef, why not come visit us here at Dive Concepts in Tulamben and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
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