Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diving at Menjangan Island

Dive Menjangan
Sept 16 – 18 2010

Can you spot the porcelain crab?

This was one of those (and many more to come I hope) trips that me & my husband came up with. I told him before that our next diving trip should be somewhere I have never been, such as East Kalimantan, Bunaken, and Raja Ampat. So, when he suggested diving in Bali, I always said no. But then, Lebaran holiday is coming and unlike previous years, my family is staying home for once. I thought this would be a good change, staying home and all. But, you know me, I really have itchy feet and we’re bound to go somewhere, somehow. I was right! Out of nowhere, my husband mentioned diving in Menjangan & I got hooked instantly! Mostly because it is not a well known & off the beaten path tourist destination. I like the idea of going where most of my family members have not been.

Menjangan itself is actually an island on the northwestern Bali, you can read up more here. The island is part of Taman Nasional Bali Barat, so nobody is living on the island. The only buildings there are Hindhu’s Temples (Pura).

The Resort

The choice of where to stay were between Mimpi Resort and Novus Gawana, we chose Mimpi since it’s a well-known place for divers. Read more about Mimpi Resort here. It’s located in the Banyuwedang village, Singaraja. There are more resorts and dive centers on the Pemuteran area. Mimpi resort has the most strategic location, as it’s located in a lagoon, which is ideal for a night dive. Most, if not all of the fishermen boats are parked at Mimpi resort’s jetty. It’s also got an advantage of sitting right on top of a mineral water source, that mean they got hot spring baby.

At first, I was taken aback by how remotely located & how quiet this resort seem. I secretly whispered to myself that we might have chosen a wrong place for a holiday. My dad did mention that since it’s in the Taman Nasional area, the place would be quiet. However, the quietness quickly turned into enjoyable peace and tranquility. It’s also a great place for birds to live freely. So far, we spotted sunbirds, spotted dove (tekukur), babblers (ciblek), Javan white eye (kacamata), and kingfishers (raja udang). The dragonflies also amazed me since I’ve never seen such red-winged dragonflies. I really never thought of myself as a bird-person until I met my husband. Now he got me into birds too! However, I find it sad to see birds caged as pets. I mean, birds have wings for a reason. They use them to fly. Flying is their life. What are they supposed to do with their wings if they’re caged? That’s why I was so happy to spot those birds in the wild.

We stayed in the Patio room and the Courtyard Villa, each for one night. From our experience, we can say that the Villa is worth the price. The patio is a very basic room with no TV and no hot water maker. So when we first entered the villa, we were awed. The amenities were complete, TV, hot water maker, tea, coffee, and even a loft (where the extra bed is located). There’s also a private hot spring pool in our private garden. Next to it is a bale bengong where you can spend your day lazying around. By the way, the HOT SPRING is one of this hotel’s main attractions. It’s very nice to just submerge yourself in the natural hot spring pool after a night dive (although it must be done with precaution).

In terms of food, there’s no other choice but to eat at the resort’s only restaurant. We ate there day and night for 3 days. It’s no surprise if the food price is on the high side plus 21% tax & service charge, starting from around IDR 30.000 for appetizers.

Despite the low occupancy at that time, the resort was really well maintained. It’s super clean, almost no trash in sight. The mangrove area was particularly clean too. According to our dive guide, Lebaran holiday usually brings a lot of locals, the resort was full a week ago.

A couple of tips before going to this resort or any other resorts in this area are to purchase bottles of Aqua upon you arrival in the big city (either Denpasar or Gilimanuk) and to bring a heap of readings in case you’re neither into diving nor trekking.

Diving at Menjangan Island

Who knew that you don’t need to go as far as Bunaken in Sulawesi to see incredible and colorful corals? The corals at Menjangan Island will fascinate your eyes already. Perhaps since I’m comparing it to the corals at Gili Trawangan, I found the corals here to be out of this world. I’m not all that knowledgeable about corals, all I know is there were definitely table corals, anemone, and fire corals. Anyone can name more?

Thanks to our sharp-eyed dive guide, Mr. Putu, we were able to see creatures we would otherwise miss. Diving in Menjangan is categorized as muck diving, where you’d dive really slowly while trying to identify one macro creature after another. While at Menjangan Island, we dived at 2 sites, POS II and Coral Garden. We didn’t go to the Eel Garden because Mr. Putu said the current is quite strong there. 

Diving here can also be categorized as wall diving since you’re mostly diving next to the walls, which is the underwater extension of the Menjangan Island itself. I was having trouble with my buoyancy under water and almost hit some of those fragile corals. Either my husband or Mr. Putu was always saving me. Need more practice, Cindy. (read: more diving please!)

Amongst the creatures we spotted were crabs (hermit, orangutan, porcelain), puffer fish, starfish, pygmy seahorse, nudi branches, cleaner shrimps, Jack school, jaw fish, ribbon eel, pipe fish, goby, urchins, bat fish, clown fish, lion fish, and black-tip reef shark. A shark? YES, a SHARK! Well, make it two. We were wall diving at POS II and not long after we saw the school of jack fish, a shark came swimming by in the distance. O my gosh it was such a surprise, that was truly a beginner’s luck. Yay! There wasn’t supposed to be many pelagic here in Menjangan. Maybe some occasional turtles and eagle rays, but not sharks. That was my first time spotting shark and a second time for my husband. 

I was amazed by all of these sea creatures, but I almost cried tears of happiness when I saw a single ribbon eel sticking out of the sand hole. I think I have affinity to sea eels, the same feeling I got when I saw a moray eel back in Gili Trawangan. I’m also happy that I finally see a lion fish and a nudi branch. The variety of crabs was really amazing too. There was one crab camouflaged as if it were a rock, it somehow looked like a tempura, so I call it tempura crab, but no idea what it’s actually called.

On average, we dived at 15 – 18 meters with very good visibility of 15 – 20 meters. The water was really warm too, around 28 – 31 degrees Celsius. There were a bit of currents, but very mild. 

During our 3-day 2-night stay, we did 4 dives, 2 of them being night dives.

The Night Dive

We did 2 night dives in total, first at Mimpi Chanel and the second one at the Lagoon for some Mandarin fish mating session. We spotted quite a lot of creatures on the first night dive, such as bump head parrot fish, hermit crab, pipe fish, puffer fish, red shrimps and pencil urchin. I noticed some glittery stuff on the corals, thinking that the corals produced them. Then, on our second night dive I realized that they were the little shrimps’ eyes! Wow!!! They glow in the dark! Other than that, we didn’t have much luck finding Mandarin fish. We were a few minutes behind schedule and those lovely patterned fish were already back inside the corals, sleeping after an exhausting mating activity. We did spot some pajama cardinal fish, which Mr. Putu said to be indigenous to the area.

Trekking at TNBB

We really enjoyed this 2-hour trek but I still think charging IDR 350.000 per person for a 2-hour guided trek is still too expensive. Our guide, Mr. Wardi knows the park really well and has a very keen sight and hearing. Thanks to his sharp eyes, we were able to spot the lovely orange-red kingfisher, which is endemic within the national park, according to our guide. Unlike the common blue kingfisher, this small bird has a vibrant red color all over with an orange beak. They prefer to fly around the water, so keep a watchful eye for them when you’re near the water. 

The next attraction was a flock of black monkeys up in the trees. We were able to spot them and followed them for a while. My husband even captured a tail of its young, which is characterized by a light yellow/golden color in contrary to the all black adults. They were really shy, but we did spot one of them sleeping on a tree branch.

There were two main trees that inhabit the national park, they were banyan tress and lianas. I found the lianas fascinating because their seemingly fragile branches are actually very strong. You can use it to hold on to and get across the river during rainy season. During dry season, the branches store water, I wanted to try to cut it and see if it were true…

On the last day of our stay, I noticed that are a lot of baby fish pooled near the jetty. Some are just black fish but there were some pipe fish and even a black & yellow butterfly fish. Amazing! It makes sense that the young stays on water’s edge since it’s safe from predators. I also found out that when the tide is low, one-clawed little crabs crawled out of their holes to look for food. There are also lots of blennies hopping around the rocky sands. Yes! Hopping on land!!! How amazing is that?? Love those tiny fish!

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