Under the Sea
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Ever since I was awestruck meeting a US Navy "frogman" when very young I knew that diving under the sea was something I had to experience. Soon after moving to Ft. Lauderdale I got certified through PADI at Broward Community College, and logged about 250 dives over the next 20 years in the gorgeous warm waters of South Florida, the Keys, Bahamas, Cozumel & the Cayman Islands.
Since we have been in Bali this year the dive shops have looked at my 1977 "C-Card" a little funny, as the levels of certification have changed quite a bit since then. Before Pure Divers in Nusa Penida would take me out I took a refresher course with some book review and skills tests in the pool, and followed with a nice drift dive off the NE coast the following day. We saw many tropical fish & several large sea turtles, getting down to 20 meters. Susie started the pool review as well but decided to stick with snorkeling.
We then moved to Amed on the NE coast of Bali - an area known for great snorkeling and diving. I talked to Liselotte & David at Adventure Divers, one of the most respected shops on the island. They strongly suggested taking a course to upgrade to Open Water Diver and were very helpful in shortening the course (and price) considering my real-word experience. This certification is with SSI which has certification levels very similar to PADI.
Most current SCUBA divers use portable dive computers to calculate a dive profile and keep track of bottom time, max depth, decompression stops, etc. But the US Navy Dive Tables are the base for all of this, so that was a major item to review, along with the physiological basics of breathing compressed air under water.
Then off to the beach at Jemeluk Bay for the first review dive, with a teenage guy from Germany and a young man from India and Ketut, our Balinese instructor. The truck dropped us off at a "beach" area that pretty much a chaotic mob scene of many dive shops & their clients, people getting on and off the "fast boat" ferries, and the locals trying to sell wares to everyone. We did a gear review, put on our wetsuits (water is really COLD for being so close to the equator) and gear and waddled to the surf.
And there was a 2' surf, so we walked in backwards until we were past the surf line, put on our fins, purged our BCDs and sank to the bottom. Then we did some basic skills review like removing & refitting our masks, etc, while sitting on the mucky bottom, swaying back and forth in the surge. We then moved to deeper water to practice neutral buoyancy, and completely removing and reinstalling our gear on the bottom (and later on the surface).
Ketut then took us on a brief swim through some coral and back to the beach, to move back to the staging area for debriefing. Back to the shop for some cookies & drinks. The other 2 guys had more coursework to complete, so Wayan and I went back to the beach for my final dive.
We did a few more skills tests like emergency buddy breathing and emergency ascent without air. We then proceeded to the north side of Jemeluk Bay where the water cleared up and the coral and fish were beautiful! I saw the most amazing thing in the coral that sort of looked like the mouth of a very large clam. Zig-zag shape with bright metallic gold on the edge and fluorescent blues & greens behind. Wayan said later that it was a clam - maybe a maxima clam.
Back to the shop for a delicious lunch (Adventure Divers has their own resto and bugalows), and then a written exam for the 3 of us. Amazingly enough I passed, so I am now a certified Open Water Diver. WooHoo!
Susie & I went snorkeling several times off the beach in front of our room and we only had to swim out 20' to be in a large variety of coral heads and sea fans. The water was quite shallow so with a bright over head sun the colors of the fish were brilliant. Many of the fish looked similar to ones in the Caribbean such as triggerfish & parrotfish, but with many more variations in color. And many, many fish we did not recognize, with gorgeous colors and all shapes and sizes of fins and tails.
There are a lot of large blue starfish, about 12" to 16" across. Large schools of tiny, brilliant blue fishies, and Susie saw a deadly, but not-aggressive sea snake. There is an area a bit farther offshore where the locals have sunk stacks of concrete blocks into pyramids, and these have collected coral and fish. I could watch this amazing underwater panorama for hours but we were both starting to chatter, so time to get out in the sun and warm up!
Note: I don't have an underwater camera so I grabbed a couple of photos off the Internet that were very close to what we saw. But couldn't find many of the amazing fish & coral, and the photos of the (maxima?) clams are dull by comparison.
02/09/19 - Update - I am now SSI Certified EAN40 - diving with Nitrox Level 2. The main benefits are longer bottom times & shorter surface intervals for medium depth dives, or a greater safety margin using standard air limits. May also decrease fatigue in older (!) divers. I did two dives on Menjandan Island with Nitrox EAN30 & felt great!