Diving to me is the ultimate form of mindfulness. I think because you are silent and you have no choice but to be right where you are. You are focused on your breath, your body, and your environment. The environment just happens to be under hundreds of tons of water in an alien landscape where you are the guest and the vibrant creatures of the ocean your host. For as long as I can remember, my dream has been this, to dive with Giant Manta Rays. These animals can get a wingspan of up to 5.5 meters and are placid gentle giants that glide underwater as if they are flying.
Getting to Nusa Penida can be done by fast or local boats off the coast of Bali. The most popular port to get a boat from is Sanur. If you use the fast boat the ride is about 30-40 minute depending on the swell. You can get tickets online or at the harbour. I recommend online because it just makes life easier and the boats can fill up rather quickly.
Approaching Nusa Penida looks like approaching the tropical island of Jurassic Park. With jagged cliffs and towering palm trees, the island looks like a movie scene. Once safely in the harbour, we arranged with Sanctum diving to collect us. They were going to do so by car which is a quick drive from the harbour but in the end, we rented scooters and made our way there following our guide. It was quicker and much less painful than sitting in the heat on the back of a pickup truck as we ended up in unexpected traffic due to a school parade.
I went to Nusa for one reason, in fact, I went to Bali for one reason. That reason was to see the Giant Manta Ray. To chase the dream of diving under the water with them and be in awe of their beauty. Sadly due to the traffic, we were late and unable to get out to the cleaning station with the dive boat. It seemed all odds were against me. First an earthquake, then a full boat, then traffic! The cleaning station is a dive where you are almost guaranteed to see Giant Manta Ray and not being able to get there felt like a major blow to my excitement. So we decided to dive one of the other points also popular with these gorgeous beasts.
Together with Ben and Lauren (my adventure buddies for the day), we had our first dive, desperately searching everywhere underwater to find them. These giant black flying fish were nowhere to be seen. I let it go and lost myself in all the other creatures of the ocean. 40 minutes into the dive I made peace that it just wasn't my time to see them. First the earthquake and then no Manta ray. Bali wasn't going to give me all I had hoped for. But then it happened. As soon as I let go I received. Perhaps there is a lesson there...
I turned around and over my head flew a Giant Manta Ray. I was so happy I think you could hear the screams of joy under the water. Out of nowhere came another - I turned to Ben and there he was shooting away taking these beautiful images of me and my dream come true. I could see Lauren in absolute awe and the energy the three of us shared is something that I will remember forever. I saw the giant Manta Rays of Bali. Although brief, I had my moment. A moment with an animal that is so majestic it leaves you speechless. Nusa Penida - it was a day trip which was way too short, I will have to return!
My hope is that the world over will see that the oceans are a magnificent breathing living being that needs to be protected from us! Below I have linked two organizations that are doing amazing work locally in Bali. If you have the time - hop on over and read up on them. Perhaps even donate. The oceans need us.
My vow this year is to use even less plastic in my life - it just ends up in the oceans and affects these amazing animals. It serves no purpose but to harm. Refusing the straw is great but the problem is much bigger than that. Single-use razors, plastic bags, and bottles are some of the plastic items used every day that end up in our beautiful oceans. Think twice before you use plastic and ask yourself, can I make a change?
p.s thank you Benj for the pictures