Amed is a small coastal fishing village on the North-East corner of Bali, which has developed a thriving dive industry in recent years. It’s the most recent tourist development in Bali (only getting paved roads about 10 years go) so it’s much less crowded and touristy than the beach towns in the south. We heard that basically all the restaurants have basically been made for tourists, so we were able to get a decent variety of food.
We were staying at De Potrek Villas, which is literally right on the edge of the Jemeluk Bay where the SCUBA dive entry point is. It’s run by two super friendly brothers, who let us switch rooms partway through our stay so we could be on the upper level. There is some nice snorkelling right off the beach, where there is tons of coral and they have put some statues and stuff in the water as sort of an art installation.
We decided to try Eco Dive Bali as our dive shop of choice for several reasons. One, it was directly across the street from us. Two, turns out that it was the first dive shop in Amed, and basically started the industry there. Three, the owner, John, who started the shop back in 1994 is from Toronto and super nice. And finally, other than the instructors (who all seem to be French and smokers) the shop is completely run by locals, which is cool (although seeing all the poor lady porters carrying heavy SCUBA cylinders on their heads is a bit much). One of the De Potrek brothers told us how much everyone loves John because he trained a lot of locals for free so they could then be employed as dive guides. So for all of these reasons, we plunked down a bunch of U.S. dollars and signed ourselves up (Chris for his open water certification and me for my SCUBA refresher). Chris also finally bit the bullet and shaved his beard, so he could dive without water leaking into his googles.
The first day we were paired with Thomas (pronounced thom-AS, of course). We did a very simple dive off the beach (a.k.a. right outside our hotel) as this was Chris’s FIRST DIVE. After some initial nervousness, Chris settled in and we took in some of the underwater sights and did some skills. The nice thing about diving in Amed at Jemeluk Beach is that it’s all shore diving for the most part, so you can just walk right into the water or take a tiny boat five minutes from shore.
The second dive was at the Liberty Shipwreck near Tulumben, a town fifteen minutes away. Here there were a thousand divers and snorkelers, as the wreck is quite famous so dive companies shuttle people in from all across Bali. It was still really cool and we got to swim through the wreck. Thomas also took some sweet GoPro footage of us, which can be seen here! We didn’t see the cuttlefish (he probably saw that with the other student, Aida, on her solo dive) but that barracuda was pretty cool.
Chris’s course was two more days, so instead of bumming around I thought I would try freediving, since Amed is also supposed to be the best place in Bali to learn,and there was a freediving school offering a 2 day beginner’s course a quick walk from Eco Dive. So, for two days we actually (gasp!) did different things, which is not the 2Peas ways, I know. But anyways, the stuff below will be split into Chris’s and my experiences.
Allison attempts freediving:
Freediving, if you don’t know, is basically diving whilst holding your breath. Pros can go crazy deep (the record is over 200m) because they can hold their breath for like, more than 10 minutes. The last time I tried to hold my breath I made it to about 30 seconds, so my bar was pretty low for this sport.
I went to Apneista, the original freediving school in Amed, which (as reviews suggested) was a very friendly, no pressure-type place. Since for most beginners (myself included) any success (e.g. overcoming the innate fear of drowning) is progress, Apneista uses its own program instead of adhering exactly to the PADI or SSI certification programs, which require that you meet certain depths to pass. They are also a yoga school, since those breathing/relaxation techniques are helpful for freediving.
I was in a class of four and over the two days we did some theory (to understand what is happening to your body when you hold your breath) and some diving. Contrary to my original worry, I was actually able to improve my breath-holding abilities to about 90 seconds with proper technique, so I can stay underwater a lot longer now! I cannot, however, equalize my ears very well upside down, which I guess is one of the most common freediving roadblocks (as upside down is not most people’s natural state). Ergo, I cannot dive very deep. Yet! I am working on it!
All in all, everyone at the school was lovely (plus they had the cutest cafe) and I can totally out-snorkel Chris now.
Chris’s thoughts about his open water diving experience:
I had a super nice instructor (Kim) who is Thomas’s girlfriend. She is so stereotypically French – attractive, rolls her own cigarettes, and complains about other countries’ food quality and cheese “not being real”. She is also super knowledgeable, and since she was trained in the French diving system, is a bit more technical than the typical PADI instructor.
Diving off the shore was a really nice way to start learning, especially because you can do all your exercises in the ocean but in 5m of water on soft sand. The rest of the members of my class were from New Zealand (a mother and two children). Their dad was a dive master and thus getting the family into diving. While it was a little challenging sometimes to dive with them (the kids were a bit distractible) they were the nicest and friendliest bunch. SCUBA is super relaxing – all your mind is really on is not breathing too hard to use up your oxygen too fast, following you guide, and looking at all the sights. If my quick research hadn’t taught me that it’s hard to make money at it, I’d totally do it for a living. Also, since Ellen is already certified, if my Dad (not really sure if Mom would do it) also got certified, I think that going to a dive resort would be a super fun family holiday (hint hint).
After our classes finished, since Chris was so excited about diving and I wanted another chance to see some sea life, we did a couple quick fun dives in Jemeluk Bay on our last day. Note: After using our GoPro, we have new respect for Thomas’s cinematography. Also, note to self: Just take footage of cool stuff, don’t turn on your camera and leave it running for the entire dive. Chris’s strategy is a sure way to make you spend THE MOST TIME POSSIBLE trying to edit down the footage into a useable clip. Anyways, here is our first underwater video – humble beginnings. Don’t ask how long it took Chris to figure out how to put this all together.
On our last day I also dragged Chris up to see the sunset from Sunset Point (aptly named by the locals). It was only a 7 minute uphill walk and he got to have a Bintang beer at the top, so he can’t complain. As the sun set one of the De Potrek brothers showed up on his motorbike, seemingly just to stop and take this picture of us, which was quite nice.
After Amed is was back to Ubud for a day before our flight to AUSTRALIA! We mostly spent that day trying to catch up this blog and also EATING, since we were pretty sure that this may be the last time we were going to be able to afford food based on what we have been told about Australian prices. Nothing too interesting, although our guesthouse had the FATTEST DOG EVER OMG I loved him.