Along with 2 partying Aussie women, a Belgian who sounds vaguely Russian, a Swede who sounds too much like American TV and an unnamed European who loves Taiwan and Hong Kong, I made a quick trip down Sanur’s Jln Kesumasari and then we were trudging down the beach at low tide to get to the speed boat aptly named ‘Halloween’ given the time of the year.
An hour later, we found ourselves at Nusa Penida’s Manta Point under the care of Ethel and Imam and gearing up awkwardly in the cramped space of a speedboat. And then it was a backward-roll and straight into bloody cold waters.
“Great idea. Diving in a shorty!” The Big Belgian proclaimed loudly and sarcastically to himself when it became apparent that the water was too cold for anything that ended at knee level.
I only managed a choked chuckle while shivering with the cold. Of all the people in the group, he was the most boisterous and the most entertaining.
In short, Manta Point was a disappointment lasting 45 minutes. Visibility wasn’t too good and the state of the reef could not compare to the one at Tulamben or even at Padang Bay and nary a Manta in sight.
We all ascended except for the Big Belgian who, in his own words, said later, “I have 100 bars left, so I thought ‘Fuck it’, I’m going to stay down. I must see a Manta.”
In all his 500 dives around the world, he’d apparently never seen one and the desperation was showing, having already promised a few beers for everyone for every Manta that he spots. The only conditions were that he had to see it with his own eyes and that the Manta had to be bigger than him.
20 minutes into the second dive at Manta Bay, 4 of those graceful creatures glided in like thieves in the night and frolicked on the surface where our exhalation bubbles were. I floated (or tried to) enraptured as they swished and turned and flapped along with shoals of fish, and developed an equalisation problem at the worst possible time.
The Big Belgian was so satisfied with the Manta spotting that he couldn’t care less about the rest of his dives the next day and looked puzzled when no one seemed as excited as he was. Truthfully, I stopped caring once the ear started giving problems.
And just like that, our 50 minutes were up. Back to Joe’s gone diving for lunch (Big Belgian said that he was hungry enough to eat a manta, god forbid) with Buttons the Beagle, with loads of time to spare to collect the laundry I sent in yesterday.
We never got our promised beer.
*Underwater photos courtesy of one of the Aussie ladies who had the very good sense to rent an underwater camera.