Beyond the usual way of diving with big cruise boats such as the ones that cover the Red Sea, sometimes on the journey we have the fantastic opportunity to associate scuba diving with local traditions. In Tulamben & Amed, in Bali, Indonesia, I had the chance to experiment with the “Jukung” dive! Thanks to the relaxed village atmosphere of Amed, the fresh grilled seafood available and the kindness of people, the northeast side of Bali was my favourite spot of my first trip to Bali.
Imagine, you wake up in Amed, Bali, 7 am, black volcanic sandy beach, Agung volcano overlooks the landscape. It is the time when all fishermen are coming back with their catch. The fish market is directly on the beach, and everything is sold quickly. Then from 9 am, this is the time for scuba divers to get wet. To dive on the beautiful drop off of Amed and Jemeluk, you can still go shore diving, but it’s better to take the Jukung for 5 to 10 minutes to be on the site directly. Because of the currents, the dive will almost always be a drift dive so why getting tired before the dive when you can have such a unique experience?
How to go scuba diving on a jukung?
The Jukung is the traditional boat of fishermen in South East Asia, mainly in Indonesia and the Philippines, but the origin is Balinese. It’s a small wooden sailboat that looks like a canoe with two outriggers and a triangular sail (which is now also equipped with a gasoline engine). In Bali and Lombok, you can see them on the beach all around the islands. Their style can be slightly different, but it always has this elegant curvy shape. It is often painted in white with bright decorations in blue or yellow. In some areas, the front of the boat ends like a swordfish. Diving from Jukung boat in Bali is a fun and enjoyable experience. It could almost be a scuba diving speciality as this is so special. Sitting on the sides of the boat, you feel like surfing on the surface of the water. It is a perfect first contact with the water before the first dive in the morning.
Diving from a Jukung boat requires special briefing and preparation as space is limited, and no ladder is available:
- Prepare all your equipment on the beach: put on your wetsuit and boots, take in your hands your fins. Keep in mind you won’t be able to set anything on the boat or even zip your wetsuit as there is not enough space to do it.
- Store gear on board: Usually porters will take you BDC/Regulator/Tank (don’t try to wear 3 tanks like Balinese people). No more than 3 scuba divers go on the boat and tanks fully equipped are put inside the cavity of the canoe. Just take what you need for diving, remember you won’t have any dry storage on board.
- Get wet: To enter into the water no jump with all your gear is possible, so inflate your BCD and put it in the water and get equipped directly from the surface. Be careful of Jukung side bars (outriggers) and the blades of the engine. Ready? OK? OK! Let’s dive!
- End of the dive: be careful while ascending as many Jukung boats are present at the surface, the guide will always launch the buoy marker to signal scuba divers presence. Watch your buoyancy while doing your safety stop as you do it the blue. Remove your weight belt, your BCD but keep your fins on! You’ll need them to go back on board again by jumping into the boat while kicking energetically.
Amed dive sites
Amed is very famous for “muck diving”. Dive sites are mostly shallow at about 10m and rarely go beyond 25m of depth. Expect strong currents so watch out your air consumption! Between the coral and the sea anemone, on the black sand, the dive sites are great for macro photography. You can spot many interesting species like mantis shrimps, ribbon eels, hermit crab, anemone fish and of course many nudibranchs!
Amed is the first place where I started learning the manual settings of my S95 camera with my flash on, so my pictures are not at their best but still a bit better than what I used to do. I can’t wait for the day I will return with much better underwater photography skills. I decided to add Amed to my list of the best diving in Asia-Pacific.
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