Gili Trawangan

June 18th, 2013

Gili Trewangan cidomo

The job that was too good to turn down turned out to have a drawback or two. The main one being they wanted me to manage the dive centre on top of the instructor responsibilities. I didn’t want to do that so at the end of the three month trial we parted ways. It’s a shame because the diving was good, the staff were really nice and most of the guests were great.

I was looking forward to spending a whole year on Moyo but at the end of May found myself on Gili Trawangan instead, sampling the diving there before my visa expired. I could only stay a few days but managed to squeeze in ten dives in four days with Gili Divers. I would have done more but the weather wasn’t great for the last couple of days and many of the dive sites were inaccessible.

Gili Trawangan had one outstanding feature: no motorbikes. In fact there are no motorised vehicles at all on the island. Transport options are limited to bicycles, horse drawn carts and walking. And that’s fine because the island is only tiny. The horse drawn carts, cidomos, replace the ubiquitous tuk-tuks that feature elsewhere in Asia. They ply their trade mostly along the beach road and when you hear the horn you’d better jump out of the way or risk getting smacked by the yoke the horse is tethered to. I saw a runaway cidomo one lunch time racing down the road with a crowd of excited locals chasing it. More joined the chase from every bar or shop it passed. I didn’t see how it ended somewhere down the south end of the street. The cidomos are pretty superfluous really, you can walk from anywhere to pretty much anywhere else in less than 30 minutes. They could be useful on the day you arrive or depart if you have luggage which you don’t want to carry.

Another nice feature is there are no dogs. The beach isn’t bad and there are plenty of bars and restaurants. There are lots of places to stay, the better value ones are anywhere off the beach road. There are several ATMs and internet access available pretty much everywhere. There’s a good chance I’ll go back some day.

Jungle paradise diving

May 17th, 2013

Floatplane arriving at Moyo

A couple of years ago before quitting my “real” job and travelling a friend asked what my plans were. Half-jokingly I replied “Be a beach bum in Bali”. And now, here I am working as a dive instructor at a 5-star resort on the jungle paradise island of Moyo.

I’m working too hard to be a bum but there is a beach and it’s only a hundred miles or so east of Bali. Don’t scoff! It’s harder than it sounds, this swanning around in SCUBA gear looking at fish and other underwater delights.

I arrived by floatplane early in March and quickly settled in to my new environment. The resort nestles on the western edge of the nature reserve that is Moyo, a decent sized island mostly covered by jungle. The largest mammals are Rusa deer, wild boar and monkeys. The monkeys like to visit the resort around dawn and sunset and can often be seen, and heard, playing tag on the roof of a guest tent. The deer wander around the resort in the evenings, the boldest comes right up to the restaurant and can be hand fed slices of apple. The wild boars are much more discreet and I’ve only seen them once. Smaller resident critters include snakes, lizards and spiders. The lizards range from small geckos about 5cm long to 1m long monitors. There are many different species of butterflies flitting about in the sunshine, bats are seen at night and sometimes sea eagles fly across the bay during the day.

Underwater is where my real interest is though. The diving here is very nice with warm water and good visibility. There are many different kinds of hard and soft coral, sea sponges and fans. Swimming or crawling around among them are countless species of  aquatic animals. Having bought an underwater camera and housing in Singapore on the way here I’ve been photographing some of the sea life. Or trying to. A lot of it seems to be very camera-shy. As soon as I point a camera in its direction it swims away. I guess the port on the camera housing looks like a big eye and the fish think I’m a big predator that might eat them. Whatever the reason, very few hang around to pose for the camera. There are few large pelagics here but lots of “the usual” reef fish, some turtles, eagle rays and reef sharks. The sea slugs are blind and move rather more slowly so they feature quite heavily in the photos.

It’s boutique style diving here; just me and a guest or two on a boat, and a whole dive site to ourselves. We do two or three dives a day and occasionally a night dive too. It’s a whole different world to the one I gave up in 2011 and I know which one I prefer.

I still miss dancing and will get back to it one day, but for now I’m living my “Bali beach bum” dream. The travelling and adventures will continue for a few years yet. Do you have any life-changing dreams? What are you doing to make them real?

After Khao Lak

May 16th, 2013

Singapore night

I had planned to complete the season in Khao Lak and from Christmas onwards I dived pretty much every day. While doing so I applied for instructor jobs anywhere in the world with sunny weather and warm water. One of the multitude of  applications finally paid off and I was offered a full-time permanent position at a 5-star resort in Indonesia, starting early in March. It was too good to turn down so I set off from Khao Lak a few days before the end of February.

First stop was Pulau Tioman in Malaysia to sample the diving there. I flew from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur and took a bus to Mersing. Mersing is rather like Pakse in Laos; there is no good reason to go there except to go somewhere else. Bus and ferry timetables meant staying the night. While out and about I got a lot of hard, unfriendly stares from the locals, especially the men. The town did nothing to redeem itself  on the culinary front, offering some of the worst food I’ve encountered while travelling. At least it wasn’t bugs on sticks and didn’t result in a day spent sitting on the toilet. Riverside Hotel was cleanish and functional but not particularly cheap.

The diving season in Tioman was just getting started when I arrived and only some hotels and dive centres were actually open and operating. I stayed at Babura Seaview in Tekek and dived with Tioman Dive Centre which was right next door. The hotel was cleaner and cheaper than that in Mersing and the room was more comfortable but with garish green walls. I didn’t have an ocean front room but could hear the sea from it anyway. Visibility on the dives wasn’t great, mostly around 8m, but the corals were pretty and there were plenty of fish. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable and I enjoyed the six dives I did with them. The food in Tioman still wasn’t great but it was better than in Mersing.

A ferry and bus got me from Tioman to Singapore in a little under nine hours. While there I got a visa for Indonesia, visited a friend from my round the world trip, went to a dentist, and did some sightseeing and shopping. I left with a new camera and underwater housing, that Christmas present I kind of promised myself last November. It wasn’t the one I had planned to get; I got bamboozled by the salesman, but it will do for starters. There are some fishy pics which I have taken since over at Flickr.

From Singapore to Bali was a short flight. The planned one night in Kuta (kind of like Koh Tao but in Indonesia) turned into three since I got bumped from the floatplane which covered the final leg of the journey to Moyo.