We have been talking for a very long time about going to Bali to see the mola-mola and finally it was time to do it! To see the mola-mola, it is important to be in the right place in the right season, which is between August and October.
Before going into more details of our weekend trip we would like to give a brief introduction of the Coral Triangle (of which the waters of Bali are a part). The Coral Triangle has the highest coral diversity in the world. 76% of the world’s coral species are found here. The Coral Triangle has more coral reef fish diversity than anywhere else in the world: 40% of the world’s coral reef fish species. The Coral Triangle is frequented by different types of whales, dolphins, porpoises, the endangered dugong and six out of the seven marine turtles.
The Coral Triangle supports livelihoods and provides income particularly for coastal communities. Resources from the area directly sustain more than 120 million people living in the area.
The Coral Triangle’s economic value is nothing short of phenomenal:
- Tuna spawning and nursery grounds support a multi-billion dollar tuna industry and supply millions of consumers worldwide
- Marine resources contribute to a growing nature-based tourism industry, valued at over US$12 billion annually
The fast economic growth and big demand for fish have fuelled unsustainable coastal development and boosted demand for expensive marine resources such as tuna, shark fin, turtle products and live reef fish.
The big challenge is to ensure that the growing needs of the region do not make the wonders of the Coral Triangle something of the past…and for this reason the WWF is working together with local communities and politicians. We really hope this will work as this treasure should not be lost. On this particular trip it was very good to see that the coastal communities were relying not just on fishing , but also on cultivating seaweed (which is very healthy and extremely popular in Japan and conquering the world because of its health benefits).
Now a bit more about our trip... We flew out on Friday evening and checked into a hotel which the dive company arranged for us. We didn’t like the accommodation, so the next day we got upgraded to a very nice place called Sriphala in Sanur.
On Saturday we woke up early, fitted the gear and off we went to Nusa Penida (where the main Mola Mola dive site is). The reef has a lot of soft corals, and also many kinds of fish, such as Moorish Idols, Sweetlips, Lionfish, Moray Eel, Scorpionfish, Napoleonfish and Mola-Molas. Chrystal Bay off Nusa Penida is famous for the mola molas. They come to this place because here the cold water current and the warm water current meet, which the mola molas like. By speed boat, it takes about one hour to get here from Bali (Sanur beach).
We did 3 dives on Saturday. Our 1st dive was at Chrystal bay searching for the mola-molas and we weren’t lucky on this occasion. The corals and the small fish were very beautiful, and we thought even if we only see these we'd be happy already... Our dive master suggested that for the 2nd dive we should go to Manta Point about 20 minutes further by speed boat, as it was the manta season as well! This dive proved to be one of our best dives ever, as we had 6 mantas swimming around us - it was incredible!!!
Usually when diving with mantas we have seen them just for a short time, but on this occasion they stayed with us. It was like they were checking us out. The feeling was exhilarating. We really had to stop ourselves from touching them as they were so close. I was right under one of them and it felt like a plane taking off just above me. It was a dream come true! As soon as they disappeared they reappeared again. This dream dive lasted about 40 minutes. We will always cherish this moment!
We have even seen a 2 meter long sea snake, really a big one.
The 3rd dive was back at Chrystal Bay, we had lots of beautiful coral and fish again, but no sign of mola-molas.
In the afternoon we went back to Bali/Sanur and checked into the nice Sriphala hotel. We were exhausted, had an early dinner and went early to bed to be prepared for the next day’s dive.
After a good night of sleep and a big breakfast we were ready for a new dive day! We will try to see the mola-mola again! Hopefully with a little bit of luck we will see them this time.
We took the boat to Chrystal bay at Nusa Penida again. We put on our gear and off we went for our 1st dive of the day. In order to see the mola-mola (also called sunfish) you have to dive to about 40 meters deep - that's how high they come to get cleaned, before going down again. It started nicely with a pleasant water temperature of about 23-24 degrees, but all of a sudden it got terribly cold at about 17 degrees. We almost told the dive master that we want to go back again to the warmer parts as we couldn’t take this cold anymore. Just when we were about to give up from the distance we saw our 1st mola-mola!!! He was coming very slowly towards us, clearly not bothered by our presence. We forgot all about the cold, we were just focussed on watching the mola-mola getting closer and closer.
The average size of an adult Mola-mola is 1.8 m from snout tip to the end of the "tail" fin and 2.4 m between the tips of the dorsal and anal fins. Nusa Penida’s sunfish can get over 100 years old and their favourite food is jellyfish. The average weight is up to 1000 kg. This was a smaller one, but still big enough to be very impressive!!! We were absolutely delighted to have seen it!!!!
A few hours later we went for our 2nd dive. The temperature of the water was slightly warmer, but the current was much stronger. We went to the edge of the wall and we were hanging there for about 15 minutes. And again just when we were about to give up the mola-mola appeared. This one seemed even bigger and it came even closer. It was an amazing moment! It was all worth it, the wait and the cold water!
We spent the afternoon recovering from the cold, sunbathing on the roof of the boat.
For the 3rd dive we went to Ped Point, another dive spot off Nusa Penida. The water was crystal clear, but there was a rather strong current. There were plenty of colourful small fish and corals, the most interesting was a huge scorpion fish. The photo doesn’t really show his real size about 35 cm, but it was really one of the biggest scorpion fish we have seen. We appreciated that the coral was intact. The locals are specializing in seaweed production rather than fishing, the seaweed is exported to Japan. It was nice to see them at work.
We spent the evening relaxing and have a nice dinner on the beach not far from our hotel.
The next morning was dedicated to relaxation at the hotel’s spa and in the afternoon we took a flight back to Singapore. When we booked this trip we were hopeful to see mola-molas and mantas, but not entirely counted on it. It turned out to be one of our best dive trips! We are also thankful to the dive company that we used and our dive masters!
For more pictures, click here.