Despite a major Typhoon in Hong Kong the group eventually arrived at Scuba Seraya in Bali 24 hours late, tired but in good spirits.
We flew with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong in order to enjoy the 40kg of luggage that you get with them on this route. Very useful for those carrying heavy photographic equipment!
Bali is a very beautiful and unique Island and Province of Indonesia. Its busy Capital Denpasar where the airport is located is situated in the southern part of the island where the majority of the tourism industry is based.
Bali is a lush green paradise famed for its art, culture and recreation. The island of the Gods with its hills and mountains, rugged volcanic coastlines and sandy beaches, rice terraces and temples.
Famous for its friendly people, religion, colourful processions and ceremonies it really is a very different place to visit.
Scuba Seraya is an established small dive resort on the East coast in the Tulamben region. It takes about 3 hours drive to get from the airport to Seraya. Once there you very quickly get into the much slower pace of life. Despite all of the diving and photography activities it really is a serene place to stay.
The accommodation either in bungalows or rooms is surrounded by beautifully kept lawns and gardens with loads of flowering shrubs, neat pathways and literally right on the beach.
The resort has about 12 rooms so is never that busy. The dive shop is staffed by a large number of guides and helpers and the service they offer is second to none. They all understand photographers and carry your camera and equipment to and from the boat. All you have to do is don your suit and literally walk into the water where help is on hand to kit you up.
After a relaxing sleep and breakfast, the group were ready to immerse themselves into the diving that the area has to offer. Our first dive was on Seraya Secrets the superb house reef right off the beach. Here the expert guides slowly meandered over the black sand finding all sorts of wonderful critters for us to photograph. From a variety of different cleaning stations, it was possible to shoot reef fish. From Coral Groupers and Emperor fish being cleaned to Marbled or Honeycomb Morays yawning wide having their teeth cleaned. The resident harlequin shrimps were huge and everyone got several chances to spend quality time with them.
There is a huge array of different subjects on the house reef. After that first dive, we had to tear ourselves away to dive from the boats slightly further afield during the rest of the trip. However most afternoons we returned to the Seraya Secrets and the group managed to take some outstanding images.
We quickly got into a routine. Two-morning boat dives returning to the resort after each dive to change batteries and enjoy a decent surface interval. After a relaxing lunch and break, we mainly dived on the house reef. You have the option to dive unguided however everyone went in with a guide. These guys are extraordinary spotters capable of finding amazing critters, some extremely small.
The diving here is easy in most cases little or no current. Most of the critters are at 15 m plus so Nitrox is a sensible route to enjoy the good bottom time.
The Liberty wreck
Tulamben is home to the famous Liberty wreck. This is a former US Army transport ship that was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942 on its way to the Philippines from Australia. She was carrying railway parts and rubber. Originally launched in 1918 it spent the interwar years as a cargo ship but in 1940 was taken up by the US army for defence services.
After being damaged by the torpedo the Liberty was towed to the coast of Bali when it had to be beached. She remained until 1963 when Mount Agung erupted and the ship slipped off the beach. She now lies between 7.6m to 30.5m.
Diving the Liberty
You have to get up early to enjoy the Liberty as it is a very popular dive site. I have to say it is well worth waking at 5.30am and diving as the sun rises. The early divers to arrive each morning witness the large shoal of huge bumphead parrotfish that sleep on in the wreck. They are very photogenic and a rare sight indeed.
The soft and hard corals and the fish life on the wreck are simply stunning. I dived there first about 11 years ago and it is as good today as it was then despite the heavy pressure of divers. By diving early the sun is in a good position for wide-angle photography. Even with a full fisheye lens, you can avoid other divers and bubbles. During our workshop, we dived the Liberty three times and we found different shots to take each time. I also had the opportunity to return to specific places on the wreck to perfect the image I had in mind.
There are some excellent sites around Seraya all within a few minutes boat ride. We were able to photograph a huge array of different subjects. Subjects ranged from minute hairy shrimps, through Sean the Sheep, Skeleton shrimps, a wide selection of nudibranchs, tiny frogfish, and loads more.
A 15-minute boat ride took us on two occasions to Amed. A sleepy fishing and resort village. Here we dived over a large gathering of blue-spotted rays leading to a site known as the Pyramids. This is a man-made collection of crates so festooned with coral and fish life it was difficult to see their origin.
The second dive was shallow and we found the most amazing collection of pristine fan corals and soft and hard corals. We were able to frame these and include beautiful sun rays against a gorgeous blue background. From time to time a huge shoal of what the locals call diamond fish swam past filling the frame with their glittering silver bodies. This was an amazing photographic opportunity. The following day we returned just before dusk to photograph the same subjects in a softer dappled light. The entire group managed to get some great shots of this spectacle before us.
It is unusual to have first-class macro and wide-angle available at the same destination and this is a definite plus factor for diving in the Tulamben area.
We went to Nusa Penida in the south of Bali to dive the famous Crystal Bay. Here we hoped to see giant Mola Mola. Unfortunately, they didn’t turn up for us although had the previous morning and did the following day. (When have you heard that story before?) We did, however, go to Manta Point on the south of Nusa Penida and it did what the label said and here a few of us were able to get some Manta shots.
Slide Presentations on photographic techniques
During the workshop, I did different short slideshow and talks each evening. These covered subjects such as Critter behaviour, subject choice, the peak of the action through equipment choice and composition. I also covered quite a bit of macro and wide-angle lighting including using a snoot. Other key areas we covered during the week were background colour, dealing with sun balls and silhouettes and how to deal with muck.
We did some image reviews where people put up a couple of images to openly discuss with the group or for me to live process and also reviews of images on Laptops.
I was at hand underwater to help with snooting or setting up strobes for wide angle shots and by the look of the images at the end of trip slideshow people had taken some of the tips on board and in some instances, there was a quantum leap in the quality of images being taken.
Scuba Seraya really did perform for us. With every aspect of our stay, we were truly looked after whether we were chilling, diving, eating or watching presentations. A couple of the dive guides on one occasion even came back after work to cook some Satay and fish on the beach for us, which was a very memorable evening. The fact that most of the guides have been there for 12 – 18 years is in my view testament to how much they themselves are looked after and also that they enjoy their work!
After the workshop closed most people either stayed on for a few days or moved to a different place to experience the culture that Bali has to offer most of which should not be missed!