There’s this resort town on the east coast of Bali called Candidasa, a place the Lonely Planet describes as “slouching into idle age”. The book goes on to say that the “relaxed ambiance and sweeping views from the seaside hotels” appeal to a “more mature crowd”. Ouch, for that’s where I’ve been staying and I actually found it preferable to the southern part of the island, which is overdeveloped beyond description.
At the same time, I was a little restless. Like I wanted to “do” something. I thought about climbing a volcano but was concerned I’d slow everyone down. I had rented a motorbike in Laos but knew within 30 seconds that it wasn’t a smart idea, for me or for anyone else on the road, and I wasn’t going to try that again. So I decided to go snorkeling. Why not? I can swim and there was a fisherman outside my hotel who was always offering to take me out and assured me there wouldn’t be any sharks, just cute and colourful baby fish. So I decided to give it a try. After all, the area is famous for diving and snorkeling and there is a bay close by where the water is “calm enough for children” (I think that was an insult).
Anyway, the fisherman picked me up on his motorbike (is this getting a little too adventuresome?) and drove me to a place where I could get into the boat without being wiped out by the waves. He then handed me over to his brother, who was also a fisherman and in fact had caught about 400 fish that morning. His brother, I was told, was the better swimmer.
The boat at best could be described as ‘weather beaten’. It was very narrow (you wouldn’t want to be TOO fat), and so deep that I could almost stand up in it. I must have looked terrified as we drove out through the waves because he kept asking if I was okay, which I think was all he could say in English.
I was concerned about getting out of the boat and into the water but it was not a problem for I just fell over the edge and the boat didn’t flip over with me. He threw me my fins and mask and then gave me some bread in a little plastic wrap, which he indicated I should give to the fish. Well the little fish LOVED the bread and zillions of them came at me and kept crashing into my mask, and I opened my mouth in alarm and swallowed lots of water. So I had to hold the bread up in the air as I swam around and just put a tiny bit in at a time.
I was actually happy when the bread was finished for then I could just float and watch the fish and they were beautiful, particularly when they came in bunches (aka schools of fish). The coral, while not spectacular, was interesting enough, some shaped like big mushrooms, other just like snow.
I floated along for so long that my fisherman started to worry if I was dead so he put on his own mask and jumped in the water to see if he should save me (there were no life jackets, of course). When it was time to leave, he lowered a ladder of sorts over the side for me to climb back into the boat for I would never have been able to get in otherwise.
I was ‘quietly elated’ with my accomplishment and have decided to write a note to that Lonely Planet author telling him that not everyone who stays in Candidasa is decrepit. Not even those who on occasion enjoy the view from a seaside hotel.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2012