24 May 2009

Shipwrecks and grunting fish

After our very relaxing week on Gili Trawangan we caught the Perama boat back to Padang Bai on the East coast of Bali. From there we hired a car to have a second try at getting to Tulemben, the place with the torpedoed ship just off shore.

This time the journey was a lot easier thanks to the better roads en route, the lighter traffic and our vehicle.

Even though our Suzuki Karimun looked like a cross between an overgrown invalid carriage and a bread delivery van it was a far better drive than the last heap of a jeep that we hired. To be able to go up hills without having to turn the air con off, go over pot holes without jarring the fillings out of your teeth, working seat belts and brakes far outweighed the negative i.e. that we looked a little bit like Postman Pat on a day out.

We stayed in Tulamben for 3 days/2nights and had some great accommodation at a small dive resort called Puri Madha. Our bungalow was right on the shore opposite the spot where the wreck of the USS Liberty lay 50 meters out to sea.

The snorkelling was absolutely breathtaking and made the diversion up the coast well worth the effort. We're not sure if there is anywhere else in the world where you can explore an underwater wreck just with snorkelling gear. Wrecks are usually in much deeper water and only accessable if you have SCUBA equipment and a PADI open water license.

The waters along the coastline and surrounding the wreck have also been protected and no fishing is allowed. This meant that there were some huge schools of fish swimming around. At one point we got engulfed by a school of thousands of trevallies, it was like being caught in a cyclone of two foot long giant silver fish. We didn't have an underwater camera but this picture from the web shows you what it was like . . .

Slightly unnerving at first when you can't see further than a couple of feet in any direction because of the shoal of fish.

We also spent an afternoon snorkelling down the coast at Amed where there are some really good coral gardens along the shore. We got to see some quite unusual fish that we've only ever seen before in an aquarium. The strangest being the garden eel which spends its time on the sea bed sticking out of a small burrow. Whenever you dive down for a closer look they get all shy and wriggle back into the sand to hide. Again this is a picture from elsewhere on the web . . .

The other unusual fish that we saw was the red tooth trigger fish which is bright blue, about 20 to 30cm long and has some really long floaty fins on it's tail. Another web sourced picture . . .

They're also quite shy and try and swim into cracks and holes in the coral when they see you coming. You can usually see where they are hiding though as their long whispy tails still stick out. We didn't try this, but apparently you can make them grunt by giving their tails a litte pull. Wonder what the RSPCA would have to say if we started to recommend that you could make a dog bark by doing the same!

On our last day in Tulumben Liz had one last snorkel before we left. The fish on the wreck were great again although she did get stalked by some big blue fish.

The drive back to Padang Bai was spectacular. Volcanoes in the distance and beautiful rice terraces sweeping all the way to the sea.

Even though it was a bit spazzy we were still sad to leave the car behind as it meant that we had to revert back to public transport.

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