BALI’S stunning diversity … and the Nature Conservancy Organisation

by Dave Moran

The glittering silver carpet swayed in a seductive dance before my eyes – it was almost mesmerizing! Bang! A huge black hole smashed through the dance as a much smaller black hole peered into my mask. I was looking down the gaping throat of an inquisitive grouper!

How dare I encroach into his lunchtime menu of baby fish and if he was much bigger I think he may have considered me as his main course!

I backed off and drifted down to the white sandy bottom at the entrance to the large jutting overhang that contained the groupers swaying floor show.

As I surveyed my surrounds I was gob-smacked, just a few metres away was the rhythmic conga snake dance of hundreds of garden eels.

Amazingly they showed not the slightest nervousness to the great lumbering bubble belching blob that had suddenly landed on their playing field. I was only in eight metres of water and this was at the end of my dive – talk about leaving the best for last!

These cute guys were obviously used to divers and to be just a metre away from them as they swayed, feeding in the slight current was the ideal way to end the day’s diving.

I was enjoying my one chance for a dive on my two day stopover in Bali on my way home after attending Deep Indonesia 2008 in Jakarta (see Issue J/J #106).

The dive had been arranged by the Bali Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC – www.thenatureconservancy. com) and we were diving complements of Bali International Diving Professionals (BIDP).

I have heard a lot about the superb diving that surrounds the clear waters of Bali but having only one day to experience it left little time for being fussy about where we were to dive.

I was told, “Sorry Dave with the current wind and the time you have, we do not have time to take you to our top spots where you may encounter sunfish and manta rays.” I guess I was pre-programmed to expect an average dive.

Our destination was Jungut Batu Island just 19km (12 miles) east of Sanur on the east coast of Bali – just a quick 35/45 minute boat trip away. The island is part of the Lembongan Marine Park.

An ever so slight current gently played over the reef below. As I drifted with it I soon realized that there was so much more to explore and photograph than I was expecting.

Bali’s waters contain a vast biomass of marine life that is part of the internationally recognized Coral Triangle. This area of 75,000 square kilometres of tropical waters contain the world’s largest diversity of marine life which encompasses: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

My mind fizzed, how do you describe the intricate wonders and diversity of soft corals? The creator must have been having a fantastic day with the paint brush as his/her creative juices ran rampant, splashing the world’s reef with colours of every imaginable hue. Great job boss!

With a macro lens fitted to your camera, you could photograph small critters till your camera’s batteries died – pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs of staggering diversity, mantis shrimp, frogfish and the cheeky ribbon eels are a few that come to mind.

Slap on a wide angle lens to get up close and personal to trumpet sponges of Jurassic Park proportions – would I ever be seen again if I ventured too close to its gaping mouth? The passing parade of the reef’s more mobile inhabitants that blended into the colourful patchwork quilt below passed by all too fast: small grouper, octopus, inquisitive jumbo truck size moray eels, eagle rays, Jacks and the occasional sentinel barracuda blending into the edges of visibility.

I need to return to these waters again, when time is on my side, to soak up their adventures.

I soon discovered what an amazing organization the TNC is and how proactive it has been in various environmental projects around the world.

TNC was founded in the USA in 1951. It is a non- governmental environmental organization working in more than 30 countries and has over one million members. Since 1991 TNC has been working in partnership with Indonesia’s government and people to sustainably manage and protect the country’s natural resources and biodiversity.

In Bali TNC is working to protect the reefs around Nusa Penida Island. They are part of a wider network of organizations including government departments that are putting in place measures and legislation to protect the vast biomass of marine life that live in the Coral Triangle.

While in Bali soak up the Balinese culture. Its history is extraordinary and humbling especially if you come from a western culture. Bali – the island of a thousand temples. It is impossible to ignore the numerous temples that just about seem to be on every corner or building entrance.

The Hindu faith is the dominate religion on the island. Balinese people are continually celebrating the step by step of their cycle of life. You will be reincarnated and your rebirth will be affected by the good and bad karma you have given during your life – so it pays to lead a good, wholesome life.

Ceremonies are just about a daily occurrence. It is the Balinese way of thanking God for everything that surrounds them and affects their life. They are thankful for the creation of animals, plants and the development of such things as machines, tools, electronics etc. Their God has many helpers. I was continually reminded of this by Agus my tour driver. I would question him about the numerous statues on bridges, in the trees, with the monkeys etc, do they all have their own God protecting them? He always replied with a hearty chuckle – why not Mr Dave? Thats a good answer – why not indeed!

Bali is renowned for its handicrafts. In fact you could go there just to experience their amazing skills.

Many villages specialize in a particular craft. You pass through a village that has row after row of stores selling a mind boggling assortment of wood carvings or stone statues or stunning textiles or paintings. You can watch as silver and gold craftsman manufacture gorgeous jewellery within minutes. There seemed no end to what these talented people can do.

I never made it to one of the most frequented destinations for tourists, Denpasar and its village of Sanur with its beautiful white sandy beach, five star hotels, fine dining and art shops – a shoppers Mecca! Maybe next time if I tire from experiencing the soul of these beautiful, peaceful Balinese people.

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