200 Dives and Counting!

On March 18th I did my 200th Scuba Dive. Isn’t that cool?

Denny was my dive buddy – and the location was Palau Tenght in Komodo National Park.

I distinctly remember the first time I tried scuba diving – it was at a swimming pool at a hotel in Puerto Rico in 1976 – my husband and I ran into the guy running the resort course and he convinced my husband that even though he had horrid issues with his nose – he could teach him to dive – or his money back.

Such an offer my husband could not refuse.

So – we did it. We took the 1/2 day scuba intro at the pool – which ended up taking us into the swimming lagoon off the beach of the hotel. I’ll bet if we went 10 feet deep – it was a lot.

But we learned to take off our masks, how to breathe thru the regulators, how not to panic if you lost your regulator, and some more of the very basics of scuba.

The really attractive part of the deal was an offer to go to a small island 17 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico – Culebra – and do 2 boat dives there. To avoid the issues of flying after diving, the plane was actually open to the air (no pressure) and flew less than 200 feet above the waves – and they had to weigh us to determine where we should sit. In order to land – the plane tipped sideways thru 2 mountain peaks.

What nuts we were – but we did get to do 2 dives in crystal clear waters – and probably to a max depth of 25 feet. It was awesome.

Went home – got certified.

And now I’m doing #200. Wow – been a long way, lady.

I admit to hoping that #200 would be as memorable as #1 – but it was not to be. The memorable dives here in Indonesia (Komodo National Park) were 197 (Manta Point), 194 (Shot Gun), 189 (Castle Rock), 190 and 193 (Crystal Rock), and 191 (Secret Garden). The rest – including #200 – are a blur, nice but not spectacular.

There are other dives among the 200 that stand out – the overhangs and tunnels off the east coast of Grand Cayman, muck diving in the seriously cold water in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, and of course the Roraima – a wooden sailing boat that sits in 185 feet of water off the coast of Martinque. That was done as a decompression dive of course – with tanks tied off at 25 feet and 15 feet. I also fondly remember the sponges in the cave in Greece, and the octopus that AquaMan – our dive master in Greece – found for us to play with underwater.

Nice memories of blowing bubbles. Here’s the next 50 (I’m doubting I’ll make more than that.. To busy doing too many other things)

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Manta Rays – the B-52 Bombers of the Pacific Ocean

Manta Rays are cool. And huge. Seriously huge. They act like they own the seas – and I suppose in a way they do. I can’t imagine a shark taking down a manta – I can’t even imagine them wanting too!

And Manta’s don’t eat divers – I’m not actually sure that they eat meat. Which brings up one severe lack on this dive boat – no one with a background in fish behavior – at least no one who speaks English. So I don’t really have anyone to ask. And the fall back solution for lack of knowledge – Google – is definitely hors de combat – No internet here – there’s barely cell phone coverage. Ok – actually – there isn’t cell phone coverage in any of the protected ancorages we’ve been in – even if you can see a tower – and there are towers – it’s still a challenge.

Anyway – back to the dive at Manta Point.

Because Manta’s need space – no protected reefs for them – the dive starts on a rubble field. The challenge – find the mantas! We’d seen several on the surface from the boat – SC actually threw on his fins and mask and snorkled out to get a good look – but now we had to find them in their element.

Good news – Denny has a 6th sense for this – and with only a few twists and turns – got me to exactly the right spot. The trick is to get up current from the Manta’s – so they swim towards you against the current. No problem for the Mantas – but us poor humans don’t swim up current very well. So we have to go in above where we hope they will be hanging getting a nice cleaning from the cleaning crew, and then drift down towards them. We catch a glimpse in the gloom of these large triangular shapes, and sink to the bottom and hold on for dear life. The current tries to pull us down stream – but we want to stay here in hopes the Mantas will do a ‘fly by’.

And surprisingly – the magic works! Denny and I hold on to the rubble at the bottom – and the Mantas arch and curve and glide their ways towards us. There are 2 at first – a Giant Black Manta, and then close on his heels is a smaller – but still huge – Devil Ray Manta. Like Giant vaccum cleaners, their open mouths sweep in all the algae they can devour, and they continue swooping and swerving around us for what feels like several minutes. After these 2 leave – 2 more appear – Wow. That’s 4.

They are so close you can see their eyes, their mouths, the fish doing the cleaning – litterally B52 fly bys underwater.

They eventually are above us – and we release our hold on the rubble to continue the drift dive. We come across 4 turtles – each more adorable than the last, and a small shark asleep on the sand. Among the rubble are coral mounds with lots of fish – but between the Mantas, the turtles, and the shark – what more do you need? Apparently Nudibranches and Lion Fish!

The first dive of the day was also glorious – a fish market or Aqurium as you will. The funniest moment of the dive – we pass a group from another boat who are surrounding a turtle taking pictures. And one diver takes a SELFIE with the turtle. He has one of those long stick remotes – and is holding it out in front of him while he poses near the turtle. I almost swallowed my regulator laughing!

Huge Porcupine fish, huge morays, lots of micro stuff, huge Sweetlips, and of course a shark. My favorite moment – well aside from the turtle seflie – was later in the dive when Benny and I found a turtle on it’s own. I was above him, Benny below – and he swam right up to me – so close I could have kissed him! Imagine – me nose to nose with a turtle – very cute.

Signing off to get ready for my 200th dive!

The Soup Lady

Best Dive EVER!

Actually – I’ve had two of the best dives EVER so far this trip. Dive’s so outstanding that you will remember them forever – Dives that had everything. And we’re only on dive 8 of 18. What will they pull out of their hats this afternoon, tomorrow, the next day.

Castle Rock and Crystal Rock are comletely amazing dive sites – with the one we just finished – called Shot Gun a very close second.

I’m not going to bore you with a list of the types of fish we saw – lets just leave at a zillion and all be happy. These sites rocked because of the close encounters of the fishy kind – running into multiple turtles, 10 sharks, unknown scazillions of fish. And they rank amazingly high on the topography mark as well.

Let’s start with Castle Rock. On the surface, there is nothing to see, it’s all hiding below on an exposed rock mound that is teaming with fish and corals, both hard and soft. Because it is so exposed, and because the tides here run in and out – there’s a lot of current around the rock. This makes it an ideal place to see schools of fish darting in and out of the coral, or swimming idlely around and around the rock. Sharks of course love to see circling fish – so we get treated to several circling sharks! Denny, my dive master and buddy extraordinare – shows me how to hold on to a dead piece of coral in order to watch the show over/above/around us. It was awesome.

Crystal Rock – similar name, simlar geography – differes only in that there are actually 2 reef areas – separated by what Denny calls ‘The Fish Market’. I’m guess that is because it is here that Sharks come to pick up lunch. We enter with a fast decent to get below the surface current – and stablize at about 70 feet to enjoy the show. Denny is an expert at spooting Nudibranches – there are lots to see too. Brightly colored, these reef dewlers makes for nifty micro diving. We swim over the rubble to the Pinancle, circle it admiring all the brightly colored inhabitants – then swim back to the main rock to accend. Denny says we’ll do this dive again – and I’ll thrilled.

Crystal Rock – 2nd Time. This time we do Crystal rock first thing in the morning. Timing matters because different fish are active at different times of the day – with early morning seeing the most activitiy. I love the slanting light in the early morning better too. The Sisters convince Sarif and Denny – our 2 dive masters – to schedule this dive at 7:00 am – with the briefing at 6:30. Remember – these are all boat dives so after the briefing – we have to board a small boat, drive to the dive site, then get wet. Denny and I head off in one drection, the rest in another. Back roll off the boat – and we immediately spot a black tip shark, who is as surprised to see us as we are to see him. He makes one lazy circle between Denny and I – giving me a hard cold stare. Am I breakfast? Do I look yummy? Or too bony?

Fortunately, he decides against a taste – and swims off into the blue. Whew.

We continue our decent, round the corner of the pinnacle – and there’s another shark asleep in the sand. Ok – asleep is good. Further on – two small baby sharks are there to be found, also lounging around doing nothing much. But that’s not the end of it. We continue to circle the mound, and come upon 3 more sharks – in hunting mode! Denny grabs me and pushes me on his back. I get it – this is not about thinking I’m cute – this is about making like a really really big fish – so the sharks will decide to try for easier game. They criss cross in front of us twice – and again decide for easier stuff – and make for the blue.

Ok – that’s a lot of shark sightings for a dive that isn’t a ‘shark dive’. For once I’m going to be lowish on air. Lowish for me means coming back with less than 1000 lbs – and I’m already at 700. I signal Denny that we need to do our safety stop – and on the way up to 15 feet – there’s a gigantic turtle – stuffing his face. He’s using his front fins to hold the food, and munching away. Honestly – it’s so human – it’s scary! The turtle is probably 1/2 my size, and comletely un-interested in us. So we get the best decom ever – 5 minutes of turtle watching. And for the icing on an already over the top cake – a unicorn fish – large of course like everything here in Komodo National Park – swims right by. 5 Stars!

Oh yes – and somewhere in amongst the shark and turtle sightings – Denny also finds a Pgymy Seahorse, 2 huge Morays, 2 star fish, green coral packed full of little fish that poke their heads out – and dodge back in as soon as I wave at them.

Our 2nd dive of the day is called Shot Gun – and I’m thinking – how can you possibly compare with Crystal Cave. And yet – it does. This is one of those cool topography dives – where the briefing takes 30 minutes to cover all the different things we need to think about. The dive starts on a zen voyage thru a sandy field spotted with sea eals, coral mounds, and the occasionally huge Sweetlips (that’s a type of fish). But we gradually are swept by the current into a funnel between two island peaks – and the current picks up steam. A ring around a ravine and we can look up to see dozens of difenent schools of fish swimming in all directions. We climb up the ravine, and then grab a hand hold at the top to prevent the now extremely strong current from sweeping us further away. After a time admiring the schools from the top – we let go – and are swept away over the coral heads. It’s like flying surounded by water! At the end of our wild ride, we decom over a field of soft corals larger than I’ve ever seen before. Stellar dive.

Signing out because we are diving again in just a few minutes – The Soup Lady

I’m Flying Tomorrow – and I’m nervous. My stomach is killing me…

I’m leaving my safe and warm nest tomorrow for a 35 hour flight to another crazy adventure trip – this time to Bali. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali – ever since I saw the movie South Pacific, it’s been on my ever expanding bucket list of things I have to do some day.

And finally – I’m going. The trip is mostly paid for – I’ve gotten some Indonesian Ruples to pay for the Visa when I arrive – and I’m about 3/4 packed.

My packing issues are probably the source of at least part of my stomach concerns. Bali is just a very short stone’s throw away from Komodo National Park – home of some of the best scuba diving in the world.

I can’t go to Bali and not go scuba diving in Komodo Park – that and not seeing the dragons would be an expensive mistake. If you go that far – at least do the highlights!

In the book and susquent movie “Eat, Pray, Love” – the heroine goes to Bali – and doesn’t see the dragons. Loser. Silly movie. Monkeys are cute – and I’m sure that healer was a lot of fun – but when are you ever going to see hundreds of living, breathing, moving, and apparently ill tempered dragons? Get a grip. See the sites.

So – what does this have to do with packing issues? Well – if you are going diving – in a serious way – you need to bring your own regulator, BC, Mask, Snorkle, Fins, Dive Computer, Dive skin – etc. with you. And instead of just easy to squeeze in bathings suits and a few shirts – I’m now trying to figure out where to put stuff that really was never designed to be packed.

To add concern onto worry – apparently luggage has a habit of not making it to Bali. 3 changes of planes, 35 hours of travelling – just too many opportunities for even clearly labeled luggage to go off on it’s own and visit some other city.

So I’m doing carry on for the critical items – unfortunately – that’s my regulator, mask, Dive Computer, C-cards, and Dive tables. Plus bathing suit, shoes for the boat, hats for the boat, my toiletries, and my clothes. If all of that’s carry on – why am I checking luggage I’m wondering? Oh yes – fins and BC – truly bulky and not dive killers if they go missing. So one mostly empty suitcase in the hold (that is probably getting lost), and one over loaded and super heavy (for me) suitcase to carry on.

If you can’t lift it over your head – can you really call it a carry-on?

Well muttering about my packing concerns is not getting the stuff into the suitcase.

Signing off to go be nervous nearer my suitcase – The Soup Lady