Posts Tagged ‘diving’

Squeaky sand and sexpats

Friday, February 17th, 2017
Golden Lions roundabout

Golden Lions roundabout

I originally wrote this in June 2013 but didn’t get round to posting it; I can’t remember why not.


Leaving Gili Trawangan my plan was to spend a few days sampling the diving in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Afterwards I’ll have a few days in Phnom Penh before moving on to the Philippines to try the diving there.

The diving at Sihanoukville gets very mixed reviews; some people rave about it, others slate it, still others rate it as mediocre. Sihanoukville is a port town undergoing a phenomenal amount of development. In addition to the port there are a number of beach areas, numerous casinos, a “downtown”/city centre area and about half a dozen dive shops.

There is no diving at Sihanoukville itself, most of it takes place around the nearby islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Day trip dive excursions leave from the pier at the bottom of beach road or from a pier at the port. Most of the shops use converted fishing boats which take about two and a half hours each way to the islands. The boats leave around 8:00 in the morning, some provide a breakfast onboard. There are a dozen or so dive sites around the islands, the dive shops choose which to use on the day depending on conditions and experience of the divers. They offer snorkelling too for those who want it. After the morning dive they generally provide lunch onboard during the surface interval, then a second dive in the afternoon and then the long slog back to Sihanoukville. Accommodation is available on both islands for those who want it. Koh Rong is the busier, more developed island. Koh Rong Samloem is the more sleepy, less developed option.

The dive shops are spaced out along the road from the (in)famous Golden Lions roundabout down to the pier at the north end of Serendipity beach. Prices are pretty similar, both PADI and SSI are represented for anyone wanting to acquire a qualification. None struck me as being obviously better than the others and I opted for Scuba Nation, the closest to the pier. I did a two dive day trip and rate the diving as mediocre. The water was warm enough, about 28C, but quite turbid with about 5-8m visibility on shallow dives, both less than 12m deep.  The corals and fish were unspectacular, not as good as at Tioman or anywhere on Koh Tao. We saw lots of polka dot nudibranchs, a rather large scorpion fish and a selection of the “usual suspects”. Two dives were enough, I didn’t feel the need to do any more. They told me the diving is a lot better around the more distant Koh Prins and Koh Tang islands which they offer as a “liveaboard” whenever there is enough demand.

Sihanoukville is blessed with many long sandy beaches which from a distance look quite appealing. Up close they’re not very clean and are lined with beach shacks selling cheap beer and food. Walking along Serendipity beach the two things which struck me most are the way the sand squeaks underfoot and the large number of sexpats sat swilling beer and slobbering over their rent-a-girlfriend(s). My RTW travel companion, Hannah, would have shuddered at the sight and probably had a disapproving word or two to say about them.


Gili Trawangan

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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?