How I started my Bali adventure
I've always been an adventurer. It usually occurred to me that I had the sudden need to escape my promisingly developing professional life. Because of this need, for example, I decided to travel to Rwanda after college, with an original plan to save the world. Later, I changed a convenient job at a law office for a non-profit job, which among other things, ensured the exchange of used syringes for drug users.
However, for me the biggest adventure started a few days ago. I found myself in Bali. Alone. Without any idea for how long. With a 30kg luggage, full of typical Slovak waffles, peanut nibbles, and yes, didn’t even miss the home-made apricot distillate which had caught the interest of the airport security so much that they were walking around me for half an hour with a sniffer dog.
The first time I heard about OK Divers in Padangbai, was from Martin, a former non-profit colleague and a good friend of mine. A few months ago, we talked about how we both needed holiday. Martin told me that he would like to go back to Bali to visit his Slovak friends who have their own dive resort there. The only thing I knew about Bali was that this island is in Indonesia. I told him that I would be willing to take a 20-hour flight to a destination on the opposite side of the globe only if I was to stay there for a longer period. Martin suggested that OK Divers were offering an unpaid internship ... and it was decided. I came home, started to google and found an article about Slovaks who had started in Bali as diving instructors and today they own a PADI 5-star dive center in Padangbai, together with a hotel, The Colonial restaurant and Spa. I had to call them.
I do not consider myself born under a lucky star. Generally, I tend to attract various tragicomic situations. This time, however, I was lucky and OK Divers, after reading my (slightly schizophrenic) CV, decided to give me a chance.
First days. I am trying to acclimatize. I find it rather difficult because I am worried about the uncontrollable flushes of sweat. The weather in Padangbai is perfect, 29 degrees, the sun shines, the seashore wind blows gently and Olivia is sweating abnormally. I'm watching other people in the resort and I do not feel like they're fighting the same problem. After a couple of hours of internal struggle, I am determined to ask Brona for help, because she is responsible for me as a trainee. "You will get used to it, it'll take a few more days and then you get acclimated, you'll see. To mitigate your misery, I can send you with the divers to the Tulamben dive site tomorrow. You’ll go into the water, I believe it will cool you down and you can snorkel. Even so, as our trainee you need to know the dive sites we offer."
Hell yes! I am willing to swim with sharks (yes you CAN really meet sharks here at the sea and most of the divers look forward to these meetings), just so that I do not have to sweat all day on a chair in a dive center, because I'm afraid I will get glued to it unable to leave, like ever.
In the morning I wake up to some odd sounds I cannot identify. Later on, I found out that the sounds are made by a gecko, which apparently lives in my room. My landlady reminds me with a smile that these lizards are fun, better than an alarm clock. It is 6:23 AM and I get up because I need to get out of the jungle where I live and be at OK Divers by 7:30.
At the dive resort I meet Lucia, a Slovak-Hungarian girl. She is also doing the internship at OK Divers, teaching English basics to local staff. She came to Bali few days ago, like me, she was sent also to the exciting snorkeling trip. We have breakfast together. "Lucia, have you ever been snorkeling? Because I haven’t, " I confess. "I haven’t, but I really want to see that ... well ... I do not know how to say it in Slovak, but a fish-clown ... so ... I want to try it at least." "Sure, I want to see Nemo too, so maybe we will get lucky. " After breakfast, we go to the equipment room together, where we get masks, snorkels and fins. It cannot go without complications, however. "Listen, your foot is size 4?", instructor Laci asks me while watching my feet with disapproval. "Take these XS children's fins and there's also a small mask, it fits all the girls who have a similarly tiny face." We take our equipment, jump into the minibus with the other divers and set out on the road.
The journey to Tulamben usually takes about an hour and half, depending on the traffic (and the traffic can be quite crazy here). However, we are enjoying this trip a lot. We see various pretty villages, terrace rice fields, a popular Candidasa spot that is inhabited by monkeys, and in one village we also hear a musical accompaniment.
When we arrive in Tulamben, we put on our swimsuits, take masks, snorkels and fins and join the divers by the sea. Instructor Vitek is taking care of the divers, but he gives us some useful tips before our first snorkeling session. "Girls, you need to be careful while going into the water, please note that the entrance is a little complicated. We are not entering the water from a boat, but from the shore, and there are big stones and the waves are tricky. When you put your fins on, I recommend you to hold your hands and do the “duck walk” together into the water. When the water is deep enough to swim, swim quickly from the shore. About the masks, before you put them on, don’t forget to spit in them and then rinse them in the sea. "
OK, let’s do this. We spit in the masks, rinse them, put the fins on… Frankly, I feel quite odd while doing all these things. After a while, we are standing on the shore victoriously with our masks and fins on, ready for this adventure. We hold hands and slide slowly towards the sea. I bet we look really funny. The waves are strong, so we need to wait for a while, trying to find the best strategy, not to let ourselves be crushed by them. Finally, we are in the sea, swimming to a site where we see a group of other snorkelers.
"So we are here, are you ready?", I’m asking Lucy. Lucia, with the snorkel in her mouth, nods “yes” and puts her head underwater. I'm trying to calm down while hoping that my mask will not flood. "Olivia, you want to see Nemo, don’t be silly," I tell myself. Finally, I force myself to put my head underwater and I'm totally shocked. There are fishes literally everywhere around me. Small, large, blue, yellow-and-black, colorful. I’ve entered a new world. When I overcome the shock from the fact that the fish are swimming so very close to me, I see something that I have never seen before. Bubbles. A lot of bubbles. Whole strips of bubbles that move from the depths to the surface. These bubbles come from scuba divers of course, but I'm so amazed, it's really a beautiful sight. And between these bubbles is a gigantic ship wreck, which is overgrown with colorful corals. And around it a million of fishes.
I do not know how, but I'm just breathing normally through the snorkel, just trying to keep my head in this new world for as long as I can. For a moment, I surface next to Lucy and take out the snorkel from my mouth. "This is amazing, I really did not expect it to be like this, and these bubbles," Lucka says enthusiastically. "Lucia, we have to go to other sites too, I’m addicted already. When we have another day off, we take snorkels and go to White Sand Beach and Blue Lagoon in Padangbai, these sites are just 10 minutes from OK Divers. "Okay, we can, but must take the open water diver course with me, too! Deal?". After this brief conversation we don’t have much time for any other chat. We are trying to spend every second possible in the new, unexplored world.