Monday, November 30, 2009

Tulamben - USAT Liberty wreck - Scuba Diving

Last week Melis and I went to Tulamben, Bali to do some snorkeling and scuba diving.  Tulamben is small, lonely town known for great scuba diving.  In particular, there is great wreck dive 30 meters off the coast.  The USAT Liberty has an interesting history behind her sinking.

I've snorkeled on and off since I was in high school, but it had been 10 years since last time had a tank strapped to my back breathing through a regulator.  Thursday night we arrived in Tulamben and I stopped by Tulamben Wreck Dive Center to get fitted for my gear.  The next morning at 8 I arrived at the center for my refresher course.  The dive master decided to have a quick refresher course in the open water instead of in the pool.  We walked down the trail (5 min) to the shore and went over the hand signals and equipment.  It all started coming back to be.  We went into the water and for about 10 minutes practiced clearing masks, breathing underwater, balancing with the BC, and purging the regulator.  After that we were off to the wreck.  It only took about 5 minutes to swim to the wreck, which is only 10 feet deep.

The dive master and I spent about 40 minutes exploring the wreck, and we went down to about 40 feet.  I was in awe.  The ship was surrounded by beautiful bright fish.  I swam through a huge school of jack fish and enjoyed the coral and various other life forms growing on the wreck.  Before I knew it our air was running out and we headed back to the shore.  It honestly felt like I was only underwater for about 5 minutes.

I took a 3 hour break and met up with the dive master again and went for a second dive.  This time we went went down to about 55 feet.  I saw a blue octopus, along with more amazing sea life.  I really enjoyed swimming through different parts of the ship.  The dive master even took a picture of me and the steering wheel that was intact. Once again 40 minutes went by in an instant.  As we headed back to the shore I was pleasantly surprised by Mel tapping me on the shouldered.  She was snorkeling above and spotted us coming in.  The dive master took a few snapshots.  After I returned to shore I dropped off my tank, bc, and regulator and snorkeled back out with Mel to show her the wreck.  A lot could be seen from the top of the surface.

The next morning we work up and snorkeled around the wreck.  Even free diving (snorkeling) I was able to swim in-between, through, and under parts of the ship.  Great fun.  I can see why I started diving in college.  I miss it.   Mel is interested in getting certified, so that she can dive in Manado next time we head back to Indo:-)

For the two nights we were in Tulamben, we stayed at the Tulamben Wreck Divers Resort.  We were upgraded to a Villa suite, which was awesome.  It was right on the coast with a beautiful view and lush vegetation all around.  The Villa would be perfect for a family or a group of buddies.  There is good snorkeling right outside the Villa as well.  Just ask Mel about the indigo starfish she saw!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rafting along the Elo River

Last weekend Melis and I along with our friends Melanie, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s father went rafting down the Elo river in Magelang (50 min from Jogja).  We used the CitraElo guiding service, which had a base camp set up near the Elo River.  We started our 12 km journey down the river around 10am.  After a brief lesson about rafting and how to hold the paddles we were off.  The Elo River is great for first timers.  The river is super mellow, with a few sections of white water rapids of the easiest class.  Needless to say this didn’t mean we did not get wet.  There were about 14 other rafts on the river that morning and each time we passed one we would splash each other.  At times people would pull unsuspecting rafters into the water.  Our guide used his paddle to hook one side of the paddle around the life jacket of an unsuspecting person and yank them into the water.  It was quite impressive and funny.  He must have done this to 8 people on various rafts that crossed our path.  I think we were known as the “bully” raft. 

Besides water wars, we also enjoyed doing the “rodeo”.  When we would approach a rapid section of the river one person would sit at the very front of the raft with their legs dangling over and holding on to a piece of rope in between their legs.  This was great fun; I even got tossed from the raft when doing the rodeo without holding on to the rope.    There were even sections of the river where we jumped into the water and floated down stream.

Along the river there were beautiful streams pouring into the river.  Lush vegetation lined the river and also provided shade for the local people who fished along the side.  We crossed several bridges that seemed too small and weak to handle a car.  One was a nifty little bridge made out of bamboo and rope.

3 hours and 12 km later we reached our end point.  I was thoroughly impressed by how beautiful and lush the Eli River is and its surrounding environment.  It was a relaxing way to see another side of Indonesia.  If there is a next time I would like to try the moderate grade-rafting trip that is on the Serayu River.