Featured Writer: Jen Baxter
As we sit down to have breakfast with Nico and Murray, our two dive guides for the weekend, I can smell the thick, dark Bali coffee sitting on the table. Ordering eggs and toast we start to talk about the sites we’re going to dive over the next two days. As I look out over the treetops at the cobalt blue ocean I feel the excitement of being back in Amed.
Zuri fills out her paperwork before we get started. As usual, the atmosphere with Nico and Murray at Baliku is lively with constant chatter.
Zuri looks over the questionnaire and says, “Wait, you can’t be over 45 and smoke?”
I look over and notice Murray putting out his cigarette, so I say, “Guess that let’s Murray out, we can’t dive with him.”
Nico retorts quickly, “For Murray he already has to mark “No” for half the questions.”
“But there are no “Are you a legend” questions. That would be a YES answer,” Murray defends himself with a completely straight face.
“I don’t understand”, Nico replies
“I’ll explain it to you later” I quip.
“Okay great”, Nico tells me, “That very handsome guy over three will get your equipment sorted.”
And we’re off for a full day of diving at Jemeluk drop off.
Our SUV pulls up to the sight and 6 small Indonesian kids run from the side of the road to our car. A skinny 7-year-old boy wearing blue faded shorts and a worn red t-shirt runs to the back of the car and squeezes in between two taller girls to help pull out the plastic blue crates filled with scuba gear. Gathering around the back of the car the kids help pull out the oxygen tanks, BCD’s and regulators to carry them to our set up spot. As we set up our equipment I hear the skinny little boy yell out, “NNNIIICCCCOOO” and our Belgium guide flashes a big smile as he laughs at his little Indonesian friend.
What I love about shore diving is walking into the water slowly and feeling the gradual decent until eventually you find yourself 30 meters below in God’s aquarium. Immediately a Stingray swims past me. I remember being in Thailand at a fish farm feeding the sting rays and how thick and slippery their skin felt. As I look to my right I spot a lone Trumpet Fish and a small Puffer Fish swims by. Soon a little school of Razor Fish drift past and Nico cups them with his hands playfully.
Staring at the coral reef I spot a big Dogface Puffer Fish casually swimming in and out of the reef. A Unicorn fish swims by and in the distance I spot a Clown Triggerfish (Big-spotted Triggerfish), one of my favorite fish in South East Asia.
Breathing in and out, the darth vadar sound from my regulator lulls me into a meditative state. I see the water getting shallow as we begin to swim closer to the shore. Suddenly Nico is waving his arms to get my attention. I swim higher to meet him, as I’m cresting over the coral reef there is the biggest school of Bigeye Travallies I’ve ever seen. They form a cyclone shape and swim tightly together hardly moving at all. They look like a tornado starting a few feet above the coral reef and spreading up close to the surface, beams of sunlight streaming down through them. Nico swims just under them and floats effortlessly while watching them above. I hover quietly watching him floating below the cyclone shaped school and make a mental picture of the one lone diver floating below of hundreds of Travellies as the sunlight beams down between them.
I have that picture in mind as we end our first dive at Jemeluk drop off. For our second dive we make sure to bring the camera. As soon as we descend the biggest Cuttlefish I’ve seen is there to greet us. It hovers in front of us and changes its colors and patterns. It’s the first time I’ve seen a cuttlefish camouflage. It was the highlight of the dive. For the next 40 minutes we floated around, snapped photos and enjoyed the vibrant reef and life down under.