I yelped in delight as my head emerged from the water. “Spaceships, they’re the size of spaceships”, I exclaimed breathlessly. Not that I have even seen a spaceship before, but these impressive manta rays were certainly out of this world. As my head went back underwater they continued to swim around me, graceful, serene and plentiful.
I had jumped off the boat into the Flores Sea, not far from Komodo Island, at Manta Point. I felt honoured to be snorkelling with these wonders, their mouths open as they sailed past me. I free-dived to get a view from beneath and I was struck by a scene that stays with me to this day; six manta rays, three turtles and two reef sharks. Where was my camera when I needed it, Doug Allan would certainly not have made the same mistake?
Indonesian waters offer many surprises and they are not always on the large side. Diving from Tulamben, on the east coast of Bali, I was rewarded with yet another memorable moment. Seahorses, something I’ve always been transfixed by. It’s something about their delicate ways and inquisitive eyes. Meeting a pygmy seahorse was to be one of the most unbelievable and lucky moments, remaining with me forever. Highly camouflaged, it was only when the local divemaster carefully pointed out this beauty that I looked beyond the coral branches to encounter this tiny creature. I managed my air so I could float with him for a few minutes, solitary but perfectly at ease in his bright pink coral. It pulled my heartstrings to leave him, his tail curled around the coral as he swayed side to side with the current but sadly my air gauge was telling me to move onwards and upwards.
As a divemaster myself I am always looking for the extraordinary so when I landed in Nusa Lembongan my sights were set on seeing the Mola mola or Ocean Sunfish. On hearing that the Blue Planet team had spent weeks in the area with only one sighting, my heart dropped, realistically what were the chances. We saved our dive for the lunch stop, which we were told was our best opportunity to see this mysterious creature. Whilst other divers were munching away, I did my final checks and stepped off the boat, after a quick ‘ok’, we started our descent.
Within seconds I could see something lurking about 10 metres down. Surely not, was the divemaster really making the Mola mola dive sign – best dive sign invented by the way. No, I was not mistaken. Trying not to get too excited and start hyperventilating I slowly made my way down to this huge, coin-shaped oddity. Hanging in the water as bannerfish cleaned its skin, I floated mesmerised by his side.
I stretched my arms out and realised he measured more than my arm span, impressive. We floated there for 15 minutes there until we thought we ought to give him some privacy plus my feet were getting chilly. To my utter surprise, around the corner we encountered two more Mola mola. Surely, I couldn’t have asked for more. Extraordinary to the limit.