Having worked in South East Asia for many years and loving the diving life and job, it was becoming more and more apparent to me that to live the rest of my years in the diving world, I had to either open my own operation or have equity in one.
After finishing a contract in Borneo – one of the best places I have ever dived, but sadly lacking in any life outside of diving – I had a conversation with two friends who own a dive centre on the island of Nusa Lembongan, just off the south eastern coast of Bali.
They told me that they were looking to open a new dive centre on the neighbouring island of Nusa Penida, which is where most of the diving takes place around the islands, but which is less travelled by tourists, even though there is more of an infrastructure and more land-based things to do.
I had worked in Indonesia before and the diving is varied from place to place but always very, very good. I had in fact worked on Lembongan for a year in 2012 and loved it, and have been back multiple times since then.
My friends gave me the opportunity and I jumped at the chance to get involved in a new operation of which I am now a partner.
The diving around here is superb. The coral life is incredibly healthy, with massive expanses of large hard and soft corals, long sea whips and huge sponges at many of the sites.
All along the north, west and east coasts of Nusa Penida is a long, sloping reef, often steepening into a wall. With this supremely healthy reef system comes a huge abundance and variety of fish life and that is a major attraction for me: they might be common reef fish but they are present in big numbers, and I haven’t witnessed that in many places during my travels as both a diver and a dive centre employee.
One thing that sets these islands apart from other places in Indonesia is that they are widely regarded as being one of the most reliable places to see the elusive Mola mola.
Every year during the colder months, which correspond to summer holidays in Europe, this strange and comedic looking behemoth ascends from the deep with the nutrient-rich cold currents and can be seen regularly around the Islands of Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida - although they are seen sporadically throughout the year.
One of the most popular dive spots to find these huge fish is Crystal Bay. But they turn up all around the Island and often the best encounters are at one of the sites along the north coast - mine certainly have been.
As well as this confused looking, massive sort of triggerfish, we are also lucky to have a resident population of manta rays, and at two dive sites, encounters with these creatures are practically guaranteed.
Given that – without exception – manta rays are my favourite fish, moving to these islands was a no-brainer. Anytime I get the chance to play underwater with these most graceful of animals, I’m ecstatic.
The underwater ballet performed by mantas never fails to captivate me as does their inquisitiveness when it comes to divers. If you are lucky to have such an experience it can leave you with a profound love and respect for them.
The Marine Megafauna Foundation has a base here studying the manta ray population and the dive centres work with them to aid their research.
Another good thing about the manta dives here is that – unlike some other places – there is no current at those sites, so you can capture some great photos and video and concentrate on the experience instead of worrying about holding on to something or being pushed off reef, or finning like mad in a current.
As well as mantas and molas, we have turtles, sharks, octopus and cuttlefish. For the more macro orientated, although not in the same abundance as elsewhere in Indonesia, I have seen robust, stick and winged ghostpipefish, marbled shrimp, orang utan crabs and a number of colourful and different species of nudibranch, to name just a few!
Nusa Penida has a lot of things to do on a dry day too. You can find an underground cave temple, watch the uniquely-fashioned, traditional, local textiles being produced or visit the seaweed farms, look for the world's second rarest bird – the Bali starling (or myna) – check out a waterfall, or sup a cocktail while visiting an isolated beach.
Being just 30 minutes from Bali itself means that I am close to anything I want. If I should – somewhere down the line – find a lady stupid enough to want to spend time in my company and have a family, there are international schools, first rate medical facilities and every creature comfort that you could possibly want.
So there we have it. I am now a business owner in a beautiful spot where the diving is incredible. Where my favourite fish lives, and where the people (I forgot to mention the always smiling Balinese people) are welcoming, and although I live in relative peace and tranquillity on a wonderful Island I am just 30 minutes from ‘the big city’.
This year promises to be exciting, albeit a little scary, but – I hope – busy, although not so busy that I don’t have the time to enjoy everything that is my island home of Nusa Penida.
If you are looking at diving here come and find me at Blue Corner Dive.