With the dive tank on our back, fins on our hands, we walked cautiously on the beach full of small pebbles and entering the water. Rather than worrying about slipping, I was actually more worried about getting my ankle twisted considering my level of clumsiness. Damar gave his hand helping me to stay balanced. “Please take care of me,” I told Damar and Alif as we were walking further away from the shore deeper into the water, putting on our fins, and getting ready.
• • •
That was more than a couple of months ago when I was in Bali – together with Alif and Damar from Livingseas, we spent two days diving in Padang Bai and Tulamben. It was before the new norm kicked in and everything becomes quieter than ever. A situation where everyone is advised to stay in, don’t gather, keep a distance from one another, hugs and handshakes are prohibited and virtual meetings also video calls have become so common – at least until everything is clear and the restriction is relaxed, hopefully, lifted soon.
Shore Dive in Tulamben
That morning, we set off from Dewi Villa at Padang Bai, at around 8 am. We dived in Padang Bai the day before and it was awesome. The travel time from Padang Bai to Tulamben took us a bit more than an hour. The weather was good. I remember we passed through a green scenery with rice terraces on our way there. After all, it is Bali. Agus drove us there and waited until we finished with our dives in Tulamben at around 3 pm.
Tulamben is famous for its USS Liberty Wreck dive. The shipwreck is not that far from the shore and needs no boat out for diving. It was my first time to dive start from the shore. When I thought of the struggles of wearing the dive suit and gears on the moving boat, I supposed starting from the shore would be more comfortable. Indeed it was until we started to walk on those pebbles with all of our gears on except mask and fins. The struggle was not about having to carry the weight of our dive tank but about to stay balanced when walking on the pebbles with the possibilities to slip anytime.
One of my friends ever told me about her experiences diving in Tulamben. She slipped and unable to pull herself getting up again. For a minute she was like a helpless capsizing turtle until someone came to help her. It was funny when I imagined that. It would have been funnier if that did happen to one of us that day, or, even funnier if three of us altogether. Then, Agus would have been the superhero to help three helpless capsizing human turtles that day.
USS Shipwreck in Tulamben
The USS Liberty shipwreck was first beached at Tulamben shore for twenty years before it sank to its current location in the sea because of the earthquake caused by Mount Agung eruption in 1963. It was a 120 metre-long cargo ship, longer than the Indonor shipwreck that sunk in 1960 in Karimunjawa which length was only about 100 metre. We did three dives and we explored a different part of the shipwreck on each dive. I followed Alif closely while Damar was somewhere around us documenting interesting stuff.
Although due to the ages in the water, corals have started to grow covering the wreck and many fish have made their homes there, I must admit that the feeling of diving exploring a shipwreck and exploring reef is totally different. It is interesting to see the structure of the ship, especially the hall structure that we can swim through. Checking out one corner to another, seeing small fish, big fish and sea turtles. It is not that I never see fish and sea turtles before. But in such an environment, in a big shipwreck, it was my first time.
There was one spot where I saw a big fish in front of me and I aborted my mission to continue swimming ahead and turned back hiding behind Damar instead. But who knew there was another big one, the same type of fish at one corner behind us, too. The fish did nothing, just stationed there, maybe wondering why there is a Dugong there. I was just terrified of seeing their teeth, so clearly. Haha…Well, it means that the visibility was good, too. According to Agus, there are few big fish that always stay around the shipwreck and I suppose those we saw are one or two of them.
I think, my experience of being chased by the Titan Triggerfish when I dived with Agus last time, indeed had left me with some phobia of the fish. It has been more than a year ago but every time I see a Triggerfish, particularly the same type as the one that chased us before, I feel horrific right away. But we all may know, regardless of animals or humans, one usually turns aggressive when feeling threatened. From what I read, I and Agus might have got too close to its nest that time. And yeap, we also encountered Triggerfish when we swim through one of the halls in this shipwreck. Just that this time the fish swam happily passing below us. No chasing drama.
There is also one interesting spot called garden eels. To be honest, when I first saw that, I thought those were some kinds of seagrasses and then I was stunned when I realized those were not. I am not into something that has long shape creatures such as eels, snakes, worms and any kinds that look like that. Though I still felt eerie seeing the garden eels, I couldn’t deny I was fascinated, too. It is beautiful in a way that they move like grasses. Then, when we were about to do our safety stop on one of our dives, I saw another long creature in white colour coming from behind Damar. It could be another type of eels. Well, all I know is I had seen many eels that day.
• • •
Damar laughed when he heard I told him and Alif to take care of me. I laughed, too. I know, even I didn’t ask so, he and Alif, both would take good care of me. Perhaps, I said that just to remind myself that it is okay to let them know, to let people know I am worried, I can be scared, and I can’t always solve everything on my own. I also need help sometimes.
A few years back, when I was still working as a full-time designer that spent most of my times in front of the computer and went hiking, I wrote about what I learnt from hiking. And now, if I were asked what I have learnt from diving since I dive, I think I have learnt one important thing – to be more emotionally open.
It could be due to my personality or maybe my current job nature that causing me to always have a tendency of putting others first before myself and keeping problems. As a result, people around me often to have the assumptions that I am capable of solving every problem ahead of me and I can take care of myself. Though most of the time I can, however, it is not always.
My dive log number is still two digits, I have a lot more to learn. Now, if I want to know about something, I will try to ask someone I can trust that I think should know the answer. Although I must admit that in the beginning, I searched answers randomly from everywhere because I don’t want to disturb people. But, I am actually happy when I get corrections or feedback in the end.
Scuba diving is being said as the top three most dangerous sport in the world and I clearly understand what I am getting myself into. To me, diving is more than the ability to breathe underwater with the air in the tank strapped on our back. It is more about knowing how to enjoy the underwater in correct manners and mindset. Anyway, isn’t that our own responsibility to prepare ourselves in any situation we might encounter if we want to keep on diving? In my case, maybe the encounter with the Triggerfish? Oh..well, that seems to be only the beginning.
What do you think of shipwreck diving? Do you like it or you would prefer diving around the reefs?