I had swum with sharks and turtles, and a ton of amazing and sometimes very strange looking marine creatures. What I was going to witness snorkelling in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia was out of this world, bat-shit insane!!
I reached Lembongan from Sanur, Bali. It took me about 30 mins to get there by a speed boat. Honestly I was a bit disappointed. It seemed like a sleepy, relatively unfriendly little place compared to the ultra vibrant, forever happy Bali. It had no hostels which meant expensive accommodation (200-300,000 IDR, roughly 15 USD) and much lesser chance of meeting people. This was my third day in Indonesia and this was not what I wanted so soon into my trip. Anyway, I had bargained, pretty uninterested and booked a snorkelling trip for the next day for about 1,50,000 IDR (roughly 11 USD) which is so so cheap that I didn’t think I was going to see much!
I was up at about 6am the next morning for the trip. I am NOT a morning person. I was cranky, cold and thoroughly convinced this was going to be a complete waste. We got into the boat and left for the “spot”. The current was pretty strong and the sea, a scary deep blue -pretty uninviting. We reached a place which was between two huge rocks.
“There! There! Jump in now!” screamed our guide, excitedly pointing in a general direction. I had been on enough snorkelling trips to know these squeals usually meant an obscure fin or a shy tail lurking somewhere in the distance. So I took my time putting on the snorkelling mask. I was in no hurry to get into the wildly disgruntled morning waters. I finally tried to muster some enthusiasm (which mostly stemmed from the fact that I had paid for this) and jumped in.
Soon as I did, I saw three enormous Manta Rays surrounding me. I panicked pretty hard. The thing is you see sharks on TV, you know what they look like. So they are more exciting than frightening. But these mystical almost mythical beings were terrifyingly unfamiliar. They were huge, with giant holes for mouths and they looked like they were gliding through water. One of them came really close to me and all I could see was the insides of its mouth- a cavernous darkness. I had gone completely still, paralysed with awe. Just then it gracefully ducked and swam right under me. It was at least 6m wide (20 feet).
There I was in the middle of the ocean with this enchanting creature cruising under me and I knew I would never forget this feeling. A kind of nervous, debilitating love, where I would probably stammer, stutter, blabber like an idiot if it casually said hello.
It was a hugely humbling experience. The fact that these beautiful creatures existed on the same planet as I and I was here with them, swimming with absolutely no gear on, was nuts!! This tiny little speck in the enormous ocean, fighting for attention next to these gargantuan beings.
We saw at least 15 of them in the next hour. They were delightfully curious creatures. They kept circling us the whole time, coming really close. One of them even grazed past me (oh the horror!). Wherever I turned, I would spot one. The strong currents made it impossible for us to see them until they were right there. This made it all the more unnerving. However, after some time I sort of got used to their presence and started following them around. The fear had given way to wonder. I started noticing their beautiful triangular form, their spindly tails and the faint purple hues in the inside of their mouths. So extra terrestrial…
After this session we all just sat on the boat completely overwhelmed by what we had just witnessed. This was definitely the most surreal snorkelling experience ever. The memory of this is not going to fade anytime soon.
So long manta-loves, hope to catch you again in this lifetime, at least once.