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Trip Report.... Bali/Wakatobi, 4/26/13....

Discussion in 'Indonesia' started by Sideways, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. Sideways

    Sideways Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Huntington Beach, CA
    734
    257
    63
    PART 1



    FINALLY! Some free time to sit down and try to recap a fantastic trip, before my "Oldtimers" sets in and I forget all the details. We had planned this trip initially for last October, unfortunately because of circumstances beyond our control, we had to postpone until April. It's funny that after almost 2 whole years of planning, it still seemed like we were being rushed at the end and not quite ready when the day finally arrived. This was our first trip to Indonesia, and to say we were excited is a massive understatement. The itinerary was..... 7 days in Candidasa, 3 in Talumben, 10 in Wakatobi, then the last 5 in Kuta. I'll try not to drag the report out too much, and believe me...there is PLENTY of diving to come!


    Travel Day - Ahhhh…the long, dreaded travel day begins! I know folks who make these 20+ hour excursions effortlessly and without stress. I wish I knew their secret! Our flight left Los Angeles around midnight. The biggest hurdle for me to surpass is the ticket counter and carryon luggage dilema. I knew that the potential was high for them to enforce the strict carry on weight policy. Being a Underwater photographer AND videographer makes it doublely tough to get all the big money items into carryon's. This was my solution on this trip…


    My Carryon - My soft sided padded cooler , which I use to carry my DSLR in the housing with dome port, all assembled. This came it just under the regulatory weight of 15 lbs. The cooler doubles as a rinse tank after dives too ;)


    My Personal item - Small back pack with HD vid camera in housing (wrapped in our Bali change of clothes…LOL), just in under 15lbs :)


    Wife's carry on - 13" macbook, 2x YS-110 strobes for DSLR, regulators and dive computers, just under 15 lbs :)



    Wife's purse - 4 lenses for DSLR, 3 SOLA video lights, right under 13 lbs.


    A new addition for this trip was a Scotte Vest. These vests are just awesome for travel. If need be, I was ready and able to put the macbook in the back pocket of the vest.
    In my vest I had…


    Phone
    Ipod & earbuds
    Ipad
    Sunglasses
    Glasses
    Passports
    $$$
    Bose NC headphones
    Travel documents
    And tons of other small items like aspirin, chapstick, etc…..


    Sure enough, when arriving at the ticket counter, we were instructed to weigh our 2 main carryon's. We passed with flying colors! After the ticket counter we stepped into the bar for a preflight libation, and to redistribute our gear before the security checkpoint. All the stuff in the wife's purse and everything from the vest except the passport/$$$/Tix billfold, went into the other carryon's. I LOVE the vest! Even for regular travel with out all the camera gear, it comes in so handy. Security checkpoint? No problem, take the vest off with everything zipped in pockets safe and throw it in a bin.


    The flight wasn't too bad. We flew to Thailand a few years ago and discovered EVA airlines. A friend told us about them and their Evergreen club. You sign up for free then buy their "Elite" tickets. For the Thailand trip the tickets were about $100 more each, for close to business class seats. Very nice seats with pop up leg rests, more recline and overall much roomier. After a 4 hour layover in Taiwan, we boarded the 2nd flight, 5 hours to Bali. Upon our arrival at Denpasar we got our first taste of Wakatobi Dive Resort's spectacular service. When arriving in the immigrations section, the cue was PACKED. A Wakatobi rep was there holding a sign with our name. He asked for our passports and the $25 each for visas and told us to wait. He returned after less than 5 mins and then escorted us to the luggage carousel. We got our luggage and he took us straight to the front of the line for customs and walked us through. We spent no more than 15 mins in the airport, the cue we saw folks waiting in had to be at the very least 30 mins long in immigration. What a perk!! He then led us outside and straight to our Candidasa hotel driver.


    Now begins the final 2.5 hour leg of our travel day, and our first exposure to the infamous Bali traffic. Mind you, we're from LA and we live with traffic, but Bali traffic was sheer mayhem! It took us 1 hour to travel 3-4 kilometers. SO!! After 27 hours, we arrive at the Pondok Bambu Hotel in Candidasa. In this day and age of the internet, trip advisor and such, I really enjoy doing the research and planning. That being said, the only part of this trip I was a little concerned about was Candidasa. There wasn't a whole lot of info and media on Candidasa, so it was a bit of a dicey decision for me. I had to decide between Candidasa and Padang Bai right up the road as to where we stayed. Between the 2, the deciding factor actually came from a dive operator in Padang Bai. His advice was spot on and I appreciate his insight. He could have easily said.."Oh just come here with us!" but he took into consideration our wants and needs and actually recommended we stay and dive in Candidasa. I thank him for his honesty and integrity!





    Our first sunrise at the Pondok....yeah...we were wide awake at 4am bouncing offf the walls, our internal clocks all wacked out...



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    The Pondok Bambu is a seemingly lesser known hotel, not real fancy, but it had decent reviews and feedback. Suffice to say, we were NOT disappointed one bit. Our room was 10 steps from the pool. Our porch view was the pool, and 20 yards beyond that…the ocean. Just an awesome view. The room was big with a HUGE bathroom. Very comfy too! The staff at the Bambu, and really everywhere we stayed in Indonesia, were just fantastic. So genuinely warm and friendly. Right across the street from the Bambu was the Kangaroo Restaurant and Bar (same owner as the Bambu). We stopped in there for our first Indo drinks and a light dinner. During the stay in Candidasa we ended quite a few nights there with a nightcap. Candidasa in general was nicer than I thought it was going to be. It's a very quiet, pretty seaside town. Now, I had read that it was a little…slow as far as nightlife was concerned. That, is an understatement. Most of the places we ate or drank at were about completely empty. The exceptions were Vincent's (on live jazz night) and the Watergarden on one night of the week when a lot of the area expats were there. Now, we're not looking for Studio 54 (oops…dated myself) but we do like a little nightlife.


    We purposely planned nothing for the first 2 days, figuring out we might be recovering from the 27 hour travel saga. On the first day we hired a driver right outside the hotel for the day. We hit the white sand beach about 5 KM north of town. We hung there for about 5 hours. There were a bunch of Warung's there for food and drinks. Also renting out chase lounges and umbrellas. Overall the beach was really nice. Our driver hung with us so there was no issue when we were ready to head back to Candidasa. I think we paid him $30 for the day, which in our experience is just a great deal. The next day we booked him again and played tourist for the day. We went to the Tirta Gangga water park and the Taman Ujung water Palace. Both were just gorgeous. We also hit some terraced rice fields, and a local market. Over all it was a very nice day. We had a great lunch at a Tirta Gangga Warung before heading back to Candidasa. This was one of the actual rare instances where we actually did some touristy stuff. Usually it's a case of..."Let's do this" then when the trip is over it's more like "Well....we didn't do that". Overall we were very pleased with the Candidasa "Vibe". On day 3 we headed up to Tulamben for a few days off diving!



    Pasir Putih, aka...White Sand Beach (not too be confused with the white sand beach in Padang Bai near Blue Lagoon)


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    Tirta Gangga water park.....


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    Taman Ujung water Palace....


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    Terraced rice fields.....


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    gee13, Luko, Stijn and 4 others like this.
  2. Tippytoes12

    Tippytoes12 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: UK
    492
    136
    43
    Wow , fabulous trip report.....Bali is so beautiful and am so glad that you love it too.

    Thank you for posting .
     
    Sideways and diverjen like this.
  3. Wisnu

    Wisnu Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Katameya Heights, New Cairo
    1,410
    334
    83
    can't wait part 2
     
    Sideways and diverjen like this.
  4. diverjen

    diverjen Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Denver
    489
    132
    0
    I am also very excited for part2!
     
    Sideways likes this.
  5. pughio83

    pughio83 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Nottingham
    459
    92
    28
    Great first part role on next part!
     
    Sideways likes this.
  6. Sideways

    Sideways Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Huntington Beach, CA
    734
    257
    63
    PART 2



    After playing tourist for a couple days it was time to get down to some serious diving!! We booked the Liberty Dive Resort in Tulamben and again were not dissapointed in the decision! They picked us up at the Pondok Bambu in Candidasa around 11am. The drive was just gorgeous, especially once we got out into the country. By this time we were seriously ready to get wet, affter all the planning, delays, and traveling we were about as primed as humanly possible. We quickly checked in, leaving our dive gear at the shop. The hotel was very nice, picturesque grounds and 2 nice pools. We took it all in...but quickly, we were after all on a mission ;) We headed back to the shop to get geared up and introduced to our dive guide Thi, like "Mr. T" as we soon crowned him. The porters schlepped everything down to the beach, about 100 yards where we were doing our first dive on the Liberty. Now, I've done a lot of beach diving, but the Missus...never. She was a bit apprehensive, being a smaller woman having to really bear the weight of the gear during a water entry. She adapted like a champ though! Thi helped her don her gear in the water. There was a bit of a swell, more than I thought there would be from my research, but again she did fantastic. We are both 50ish and relaxed (read ..lazy) resort style divers. The only negative for us with the LDR was that they had no bar. We both are cocktail drinkers, and they had none. It's a bit sad... if they would have had a bar, we would have spent quite a bit more time there at night instead of walking down the road.

    This was also Loree's (the boss) first wreck dive. Talk about starting off big! What a great wreck dive! We saw some really nice schooling jacks on the way out, along with some groups off sweet lips. Also, a nice turtle that during the dive we ran into about 6 times. Overall it was a great first dive and a perfect way to start the diving portion of the trip. We headed back to the resort for a shower and some relaxing pool time. We chatted up a couple, Chris and Michelle from Australia, who recently returned from a trip to Borneo where they worked with an Orangutang conservation organization there. Great folks that we really enjoyed meeting and talking to during our stay there.

    That night we headed out to a place down the road called the "Safety Stop" (wonder how many bars in dive regions have this name...LOL) for tapas and drinks. Not a big place really (the bar area) so we sat down at a large table that could seat about 12 people. It was that or the dining area. Anyways... after a few minutes, our little table started filling up quickly with other peeps. Soon we were surrounded by a big German group of divers. We had a great time with the group. As it turned out the Owner is also German and was friends with them. They were actually staying at the hotel there for 16 days. So.. after a fun night on "Town" we were ready to head back to the resort. For those who haven't visited Tulamben yet, it's a pretty small town. There's a few places along the main highway, but not much else. I had brought...all the way from the states, a lil plastic flashlight solely for the purpose of having at night in Tulamben. There are no street lights and stretches of the road back were very dark. When we were about to leave the bar I noticed that this stupid light I hauled halfway around the world suddenly didn't work. One of our new friends offered us their light to get us back to the resort, which was very kind of them (we went back the next night and returned it to them ).

    As we went to leave, we noticed the "Bar" dog get up to go also. The dogs name was "Brownie" and we had been giving him some attention all night. So we head on down the road. We soon notice...that Brownie is kind of leading the way in our direction and thought it was kinda comical. Well, as cars approached he would go a couple steps in the street and bark....seemingly to alert the cars to our presence. This continued for the 1/2 a mile or so back. Brownie was always about 10 yards out in front of us. When we get to our street to turn down....Brownie, out in front, turned down first. At this point we were laughing our butts off that Brownie was leading us home safely. At that point, we were ready to crown Brownie the smartest dog in the world....but then again, the rum and cokes might have been contributing to the sense of awe. The next night, she led us home again... although that night it might have been because we filled her gut with beef jerky ;) She took us all the way to our door, we invited her in for some snacks and water, then sent her on her way.


    Brownie.....


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    All in all we dove the wreck 3 times, along with the "Drop Off", "Coral Gardens" and "Saraya's Secret" over the next 2 days. On our 3rd wreck dive, a 6am dive, we saw the Bumphead clan that hangs out at the wreck at night. The day before on the 6am dive many of the divers saw a Mola Mola at the wreck! WOW! Mr. T told us in his 5 years there he has seen 2 at the wreck. All the diving was really nice. Especially for Loree who really hadn't dove much in Asia and the South Pac. This was great intro into the region. Here's as good as time as any to share the one downer for the whole trip. Later in the vacation when we got to Wakatobi, over 1900 pics got unlinked from my Photoshop Lightroom software. 99% of my pics from Bali, including land and dive pics from Tulamben all gone. Only a few pics still show up in my directory. I've talked to some Lightroom guru's and there's still the possibility they are still somewhere hidden on my hard drive, we just haven't found them yet. So, there aren't a lot of pictures to share. Our time in Tulamben was fantastic. The diving was great and we met some really nice folks.



    Tulamben diving....



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  7. jake11

    jake11 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location:
    1,035
    144
    63
    Sounds FANTASTIC!!! We too loved Candiasa and Tulamben!!! What a great report!!!!
     
    divewench1 likes this.
  8. Sideways

    Sideways Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Huntington Beach, CA
    734
    257
    63
    Thanks Jake :) I've been super busy at work this week, I promise I'll get the next chapter in very soon. In the meantime, I did get a video of the wreck edited and posted. SO! Here is a small piece I put together from the 3 Liberty dives!


    (Don't forget to select 1080 on the viewing quality!)


    USAT Liberty, Tulamben Bali, 5/13 - YouTube
     
  9. gee13

    gee13 Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Perth, West Australia and Bali
    867
    203
    43
    Hey great reportand lovely photos Greg, what date did you arrive at Liberty Resort? I may have been there around the time you went!
     
  10. Sideways

    Sideways Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Huntington Beach, CA
    734
    257
    63
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2013

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