When it comes to diving in Indonesia, South Lombok is still more or less undiscovered territory, but there is plenty of diving in this part of the world: from adrenaline dives with hammerhead sharks to pristine reefs and gentle currents – it’s all there.
DiveZone and Two Fish Divers have offered recreational diving trips and courses in Sekotong and Belongas Bay for years, and a few weeks ago we had an opportunity to check out the potential of tech diving in South Lombok. Here’s what we found.
This time of the year is prime hammerhead spotting season. Great time to visit Belongas, then? Yes, it is, but it comes with water conditions that are not always suitable for decompression dives and only a restricted number of sites accessible.
Things change a bit later in the year when the sea calms down and many more potential sites towards the open end of the bay become accessible. As a result, whilst you are reading this blog, we are making plans to head back for a second exploration trip this October / November!! But let’s start at the beginning…..
Gentle start in Sekotong
The DiveZone / Two Fish centre in Sekotong became our main base for ten days and the schedule was packed: train Lombok dive manager Jake Langford as a TDI Decompression Procedures diver, look for dive sites suitable for deeper exploration as well as shakedown dives in the Sekotong area, assess logistics for further technical exploration and, finally, check out Belongas Bay’s tech diving potential.
As with many exploratory diving trips, what you can and cannot achieve is often determined by logistical considerations. In this case, we don’t currently have twinsets in Lombok, meaning all diving needed to be done in Sidemount configuration. The centre also currently does not offer nitrox diving, which meant decompression gases had to be brought in ready mixed. Travelling light was not an option!
First the training – slopes and plateaus
With a background in commercial as well as recreational diving and thousands of (decompression) dives under his belt, Jake was well-prepared and wrapped his head around TDI’s curriculum quickly. In fact, he commented that a lot of knowledge from his commercial diving days was being reactivated, with more current knowledge being added.
With the skill-based dives behind us, our decompression dives in the Sekotong area revealed gentle slopes covered in soft coral and current-swept plateaus with large barrel sponges. Perfect for shakedown dives before heading for the more challenging conditions of Belongas Bay.
Then the fun – Belongas Bay diving
First things first – Belongas Bay diving is not for inexperienced divers. It’s certainly not a training ground for divers, but it offers spectacular diving as a reward. Apart from the famous Magnet, where schooling scalloped hammerheads are the main attraction, there are two more well known pinnacles in the bay: Gili Serang and The Cathedral.
The Cathedral offers pinnacle diving, and dropping down to 50 metres means reaching the bottom of the pinnacle in some areas. On the deeper side, a rocky outcrop slopes deeper and overhangs just below 50 metres promise to hold a few secrets, too. Divers are accompanied by large (!) banded sea snakes, Napoleon wrasse and schooling fish at all depths while the overhangs promise to be shark territory.
Gili Serang can offer completely different dives depending on the side of the pinnacle divers choose or water conditions dictate. This pinnacle is home to schooling mobula (devil) rays and the encounters are closer and longer below 40 m with fewer divers around. Having better encounters with larger marine life is often a benefit of deeper dives in open ocean settings and it was the same here. Add to that reef sharks and schools of fish everywhere.
With details still being finalised, we are making plans to head back for a second exploration trip this October / November but this time with a couple of technical diving guests!
We’ll use Blongas Bay as a base for at least some of the trip and will be blending deco gas locally for the open circuit diver. We might also do CCR diving on the trip.
The real attraction and the reason to go back for more tech diving in South Lombok later this year are all the sites we haven’t seen deep yet. As the waves slow down, more of the bay opens up. Deeper parts of the Magnet become accessible for exploration dives. Might there be a chance of great hammerheads?
Our aim therefore is to take a look at the sites and areas that between May and September simply cannot be dived safely, considering there will be a decompression schedule to be adhered to.