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The boat operator is called Dive Concepts, and they are based in Lembongan, so the boat trip was definitely a dive excursion. The 12 divers were diving a site called Mangrove, which is subject to strong currents. The last time I did that dive, my bubbles shot out straight in front of me rather than going up. This group was pretty lucky to get picked up at night. They were supposed to come up from the dive at about 4:30 p.m. They were reported missing when it was already getting dark.
Just another case of an incident in the Lembongan area due to currents. People tend to understate and underestimate the challenges of diving in that area.
Something like that happened to me in that same area back in 2001. Our dive vessel was on the opposite side of a small island, waiting for us to come up, and we were drifting away from the island on the other side. Fortunately, we only drifted for about 25 minutes before being spotted by a fishing boat, who sailed over to where our boat was and told them that they had divers drifting away. We only went about a mile or so before they came and fetched us.
Yeah, I'm told that's pretty common in that area ...
It was just below freezing and snow was falling steadily. As we stepped toward that portal separating a cold and dreary world from the tranquility and wonder of another dimension teeming with life and color a passer-by shook his head and muttered "crazy". Poor fool. If he only knew. (Airsix)
They offer day trips to Nusa Lembongan / Nusa Penida and rent boats to get there. The actual rented boat (My Darling) has already been involved in incidents in the past months around Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida.
Mangrove Point is actually one of the safest & easiest dive site around Lembongan & Penida ... as long as you are used to it. You just have to stay close to the bottom & close to the reef. Period. Nothing fancy here ... and obviously you need to dive this site @ slack tide ... as any drift around Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida.
If you go there @ low tide (it's the case here), it can get tricky ... but still manageable. At low tide, viz is not good, current is strong and pushes you against the reef but it remains manageable ... if you have any experience with the dive site & its topography to know where you are.
Oh, gosh, you're right. I know it's Tulamben, and started thinking Mangrove, so my fingers simply typed Lembongan.
At any rate, here at the dive show in Kuala Lumpur, there is a lot of commentary about this incident. It seems that not only was the tide wrong, but it was just after a full moon when tidal currents are most pronounced. In terms of experience with the dive site, I haven't heard anything about the backgrounds of the divers, but I did hear that the op sent just one guide for the entire boatload, so if the divers were not familiar with the topography and lost track of the guide, they would have had more difficulty in following the right route. According to other French ops from Bali who are at the show (Bali/Lombok is well-represented at this show), this particular op offers very low cost packages, so they have to find ways to save money. Perhaps (and this is purely speculative) their selection of boat/skipper and the dive staffing decisions they make are influenced due to this.
This is the second lucky rescue of a large group of divers adrift in the dark that has taken place in recent weeks (6 divers went missing off Tioman island). The Nautilus Lifeline is looking better and better, and in fact, I've just bought two of them to rent out to my divers who want to take them on their Thailand dives. I figure they cost no more than an inexpensive dive computer to buy, and I have those for rent, so....
Yep, this op is known to be the cheapest in Bali ... kind of low cost op.
As everybody knows, you get what you pay for in this business ! and when a dive trip from Sanur to Lembongan / Penida is 25% cheaper than competition, there may be something wrong ...
- 1-to-8 (assuming the 4 others divers were with another guide, otherwise it makes 1-to-12 !) in Mangrove is a CRAZY ratio ! Period.
Most of the ops offer a 1-to-4 ratio (for the most experienced divers - including divers with experience in the area - 1-to-2 for the less ones) when diving in the area.
You can't manage 8 drifting divers whatever experience they have. It's just impossible !
I guess the divers did their first dive in Crystal Bay, as most of the day trippers do. 1-to-8 @ Crystal Bay is not crazy, it's just insane !
- Guides & skippers with experience in Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida ARE NOT the cheapest around Bali, both dive sites & navigation around the islands having the reputation of being tricky ... and they can be if you don't know them, as demonstrated by this incident.
Hopefully this is just an incident but I don't see how it can't get worst in the future with such an unsafe way to do business.
---------- Post Merged on July 8th, 2012 at 01:18 PM ---------- Previous Post was on July 7th, 2012 at 02:07 PM ----------
I was in the tulamben area yesterday, doing wreck diving when this news break out and saw the shop.
No local dive guide in Bali would take more than 4 divers - its reckless if they did bring only 1 DM for 12 divers
Hmmmm. . . one of the dark sides of Bali is the lack of professionalism with some of the dive shops. Your link really brought me up short, since I learned to dive with Eco Dive in Jemeluk and they are a first rate operation. It's not uncommon in Bali for one shop to copy the name of another with apparent impunity. Eco Dive has been in business since the late 90's.
FWIW, Jemeluk is an overlooked spot with some superb muck-diving, although you need to get used to the local women carrying your tanks and gear the 50 yards to the beach :-)