Bali, one of the world’s most sought after tourist spots, finally knocked at my door. It is also a well-known haven for divers. One of my long outstanding wishes was to dive with my son, Lawrence, who is an established underwater photographer. I wanted to experience first-hand the wonders that he portrayed in his photos.
We landed at the Ngurah Rai Airport and were met by a van to take us to Hotel Tune at Seminyak which was hot, humid, congested with motor bikes, scooters and shops. We left as soon as we had rented a car and drove north east to Tulamben. The drive, though slow, was mostly along the coast, up and down mountains, passing through picturesque terraced rice fields. At Tulamben, we stayed at Mimpi Resort which provided a perfect setting for a relaxing holiday with ample opportunity to experience some of Bali’s dive sites.
After a brief lesson on how to clear my goggles underwater, Lawrence and I ventured out for our first beach dive. I was immediately awed by the colourful corals and vast variety of tropical fish. Lawrence, being an experienced dive master, was able to adjust the buoyancy of my BCD while pointing out interesting sea creatures. Our hour went by very quickly. Lawrence, who takes most of his best shots at night, was then keen to do a twilight dive. It was amazing watching the sea creatures come to life after being illuminated by a strobe light. Lawrence played with an octopus smaller than the palm of my hand when fully extended. The most exciting find for me was the ‘sea squirt’, the size of a thumb pin. Looking into the sea squirt I saw the ‘enchanted forest’ that Lawrence captured as an image that was used as the banner at the Exhibition of Wildlife Photographers at the Natural History Museum in London, England.
Later, while Lawrence continued his work, I explored the neighbourhood and found a small, family-run hotel, the Resort Liberty, close to the Liberty Wreck and with access to some walking trails. So we moved there, where we enjoyed mingling with the friendly Balinese and appreciated their willingness to serve us meals outside of regular hours.
Next we went south to Ubud, known as a centre for arts, crafts, dance, music and great cuisine. We were guests in a chalet inside the compound of Hotel Taman Indrakila. The chalet is in a small jungle facing a ridge above a running river. It is within walking distance to the city center. Ubud was my favourite spot in Bali as I could explore the wilderness, the arts, and attend dance performances on my own, feeling quite safe. On one of my walks, I found a small village with white herons perched on trees by the thousands. I also enjoyed ‘megibung’, an Indonesian home-cooked meal in the form of a buffet. It was set out in a gallery that displayed exhibits around the courtyard where there was a constant cool breeze. I also enjoyed a dance performance known as ‘legong’ at a lotus pond in front of an ornate temple with the moon above. Yes, it was hard to say goodbye to Ubud.
At the recommendation of Hiroko, our chalet host, we drove north-west to Banyuwedang Bay, across from Menjangan Island, another well-known site for diving. Again, we stayed at the spacious Mimpi Resort Menjangan. Our villa has its own hot-spring pool and a gazebo in a private garden. Lawrence went off diving while I snorkelled. It was the best snorkelling I have ever done. It was a great place to be pampered, and wind down before taking our leave of lovely Bali.
The websites: Mimpi Resorts Tulamben and Manjangan – www.mimpi.com; Liberty Dive Resort -www.Libertydiveresort.com; Hotel Taman Indrakila – www.balitrips.net/hotels/taman_indrakila/index.html
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