Go Deep for Mola Molas, the biggest bony fish on the planet

Sunfish Photo by Jun Lao
my first Mola Mola

I got to know about Bali Diving through this video by Bubble Vision (aka amazing uw videographer Nick Hope) and if you are an avid travel diver and aspiring photographer / videographer, you would have seen it for sure. I first saw his video around 2009  it got me crazy about diving Bali. 

Last week, I went back which was my fourth time and during my first three sojourns, I have always missed seeing Mola Molas... I hoped my lucky stars will shine bright this time.
A typical Bali dive safari starts with a dive at Liberty Wreck in Tulamben which is a 2-3 hour drive  (130km) up North from Denpasar Airport and after you had your wreck diving, early morning bumphead parrotfish and macro critters fill, you go down south to Nusa Dua jetty (roughly 150km) and take a one hour and a half speed boat to Crystal Bay to see Mola Molas and further down Mantas at Manta Point 1 or 2, both sites within Nusa Penida.

Jun Lao
lots of nudibranch at Tulamben
Dive Bali with Jun Lao
a Denise Pygmy Seahorse up close

Underwater Selfie with Jun Lao
the customary selfie
First leg of our trip was diving Liberty Wreck where I immensely enjoyed this time around versus my previous trips here.  The vis was great and saw lots of good macro but had more fun shooting wide during our two day stay within the area. Missed the Bumphead Parrotfish school in the early morning, a detail our dive operator left out but I said, lets just go along with what the group wanted to do. Also missing was the school of jackfish which would have been a nice bonus.

Bali Diving by Jun Lao
the biggest candy crab I've seen, over an inch

Photo by Jun lao, Tulamben Bali
Stephen rising from the wreck
What was nice about our trip was we stayed at Puri Mahda, where the Liberty Wreck was right in front of us and the central kitchen concessionaire, where all divers gear up prior doing a shore entry to the wreck was just right beside us. Wifi was quick for Bali standards and also had a nice big pool where I would do some fun shooting with dive bud Sherman, Ali and their daughter prior heading down to Nusa Dua to see Mantas and Mola Molas.



Daddy duties

After six dives at Tulamben, we headed down for the big show and it looked like luck was against me again. On my very first dive at Crystal Bay, my BC failed. I was wearing around 10 pounds due to wearing two wetsuits which was needed to survive the freezing 18c water and with a leaking BC... I couldn't possibly go down the challenging waters of Crystal Bay. My heart sank as I saw all the divers around me deflate their BC's and I signaled to the fast craft I was going to abort but Jon, one of the guides stayed with me and told me to change BC's, and much thanks to him, down we went.


Crystal Bay is known for its strong currents and the first dive was no exception. There were probably 50 divers going in and out the drop off where the Mola Mola's were.  As always, a group always manages to drive the Mola's away, new divers tend to be too excited and like all fish, this vibe is felt and they feel threatened and move away. I had a fisheye lens on and the only way I may take a shot is to be at least 1 to 2 feet away from the Sunfish. All of us saw the three young Mola Molas but no one got a proper shot as the hordes of divers and those before us unintentionally drew them away for good photo opportunities but deep down, I felt happy, I finally saw not one, but three Mola Molas. 

Jun Lao, Sunfish, Paparazsea
getting a deep clean fron banner fish
The second dive was amazing. It was around 3pm and all the other boats were leaving back for their respective resorts and we had Crystal Bay almost all to ourselves. I was the first one to go down this time and went straight for the drop off. At around 100 feet, I could see one huge Sunfish being cleaned by banner fish but it was around 40M. I wanted my shot and just went down and surprisingly, this dive had zero current. I approached the big Mola Mola very slowly, making sure I dont scare it away or get the ire of my dive buddies for driving it away....as I inched closer and closer, it stayed where it was. I got my shots and left the Mola there for everyone else to shoot.

We did a third run at the same spot and this was a totally different dive from the second one. Currents mixed with surges went amuck and all of us were hovering at 100 ft and no Molas. From a distance, I could see another group way down probably 50M with its guide pointing and signaling there were three just ahead. In my mind at that time, If gweilo can do, I can do, and just rushed down till 45M where water temp dropped to 17c. I could hardly move my fingers at this depth and all I wanted was to get out of there. I took a few video clips of the photographers having a feast with the Molas and made my way back up. As I ascend to around 40M at the second drop off (there were around three drop offs, 30mtrs, 40mtrs and one at 50mtrs), an insane down current suddenly formed and I was being sucked down quick. For the first time in my diving life, I had to inflate my BC fully to get out of it. The local divemasters were waiting for me at 100ft and were quite happy to see I made it up, shaking my hand and I seriously had my balls up my neck once I got out of it. Below are the video clips I managed to tie together to make a short.




Jun lao, Underwater Bali
one time flyby
On our last diving day, we headed out to Manta Point. I always enjoyed diving with lots of Mantas at this place but on my last two trips to Bali, I was quite unlucky, getting there with unfavorable conditions. Manta Rays are always there, three to five on a normal day but if swells are strong, they stay away. On the first dive, we saw but one passing Manta. This time, I apologized to my buddies... I got greedy & ran after the Manta, which shouldnt be done by anyone... I might have scared the Manta away but it was already on the egress & managed to get two shots as it glided away. We did another two dives at Crystal Bay but this time around, we had no Mola. Thats the ocean for you folks, nothing is ever guaranteed...

Jun Lao, Underwater Photography

As always, was a pleasure diving with the folks at Scubaholics Anonymous, YY, Moe and the gang and was great diving with Made Sudata of Bali Scuba Masters and his excellent dive masters.

After our dives, the guys partied and I stayed behind, doing what I enjoy best, editing my photos and videos for everyone. On our last free day, some of us also did a crazy motorbike adventure going around Bali (from Nusa Dua to Kuta to Ubod and back) via motorbike, being extorted by the Polisi by IDR250,000 along the way, but that my friends is another story.


Beyond Diving...
Kuta & Legian beach is where surfers congregate. If your a photographer, having a 200-400mm telephoto lens will be a good toy to play with while chilling around the beach. Did a few surfing shots with my fisheye but had no chance to do over unders as the vis in the shallows was bad. It was a fun experience and a first for me to photograph surfers up close. The local market place is nearby to do some last minute shopping for pasalubongs for your friends and family. By motorbike, its only 10 minutes away from the city proper.

surfing at Kuta

Temples at Ubod                



Ubod on the other hand is Bali's center of the arts. Took us an hour to reach there via motorbike from Kuta beach. Best place to try authentic local food at the marketplace such as Nasi Goreng (their local fried rice) and a host of other spicy delicacies. A walk down Ubod is quite inspiring, seeing lots of local art pieces  and Balinese style home furnishings, its one place one must not miss when going to Bali. Photographers would love playing with their 24-70mm / 50mm lenses at this arts & culture hotspot.

Quick references:
USD1= IDR11,500
Metered Taxi Aiport to Kuta= IDR70,000+/-
Motorbike Rental 24 hours= IDR50,000
Diving- contact http://www.baliscubamasters.com
Airlines from Manila to Depansar- PAL 
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4 Komentar
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kind regards, happy birthday Penn

Balas
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Thanks for dive with bali scuba masters

and see you soon for ather diver.....

Balas
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will be back for sure Pak Made : thanks Bali Scuba Masters

Balas