15 August, Indonesia – ‘All Over The Place – Asia, part 2’
Well. That was quite a day.
Bounced out of bed with a spring in my step at 5.30am (I’m being sarcastic), loaded up our people carriers and got driven down to the beach where a number of large motorboats were bobbin up and down on the shore with porters wading through the surf to load them up with tourists’ bags and suitcases. Once our stuff had been loaded on we waded on board and were shooting off into the sunrise towards an island on the horizon.
The first stop for the day was a manta ray “cleaning station”. They’re points in the sea where these huge flat fish swim every day to get cleaned by the parasite eating fish that live there. The closer we got to the island the darker the sea and sky got as well, until it began to rain and the sea rose and fell in increasingly large swells. By the time we reached a channel where an inlet met the open sea we were approaching rollercoaster levels of undulation and my sea sickness had well and truly kicked in. I was wearing all manner of (for me, useless) homeopathic bands and sticky pads given to us by our AFM Sean, but had stupidly forgotten to pack any travel sickness tablets in my bag this trip, and was severely paying the price with that feeling you get just before you’re about to be sick, but stretched out to what felt like was going to be infinity.
Our incredible captain got us through the water and with his years of experience following manta ray bubbles brought us to a cove where, amongst the pounding waves and spray smashing off the cliffs, there was a manta ray swimming about having its plankton breakfast. By this point I barely had the energy to walk, so the idea of getting in the choppy sea and swimming about was a non-starter. Luckily Naomi now has loads of years experience on her nature show, so after 20 mins or so when the waves had died down a little she jumped in with our fixer Ana and our specially hired underwater cameraman Simon and proceeded to navigate her way around in the water squealing with delight at what she could see beneath. In all honesty all I cared about was getting back to land, but I managed a few pieces to camera about how rotten I felt (while, off camera, our researcher Struan was being physically sick over the side of the boat), and I was so relieved when Naomi got back into the boat and we headed back to shore. Or so I thought.
Once we arrived at our next filming location it became apparent that there was no way of mooring the boat as the sea was too far out, so we were going to have to spend the entire afternoon at sea and not reach land until 5pm. I was crestfallen. Luckily there was a pontoon anchored near a jetty for situations such as this, so we got a bit of a break on that, which bobbed about a bit less than our boat, and the weather improved too, so I stopped feeling like I wanted to throw myself into the sea to end it all and merely felt nauseous.
It turned out that what we had just experienced was the shockwaves of an earthquake from a few days before, which was why we had only seen 2 other boats out in an area that is normally teeming with tourists. This was also going to make filming our next item a bit tricky.
The next pontoon along in our bay was where we would be spending the next few hours learning how to use underwater scooters. These bright yellow bikes, with fins instead of wheels, are for tourists who want to see some underwater marine life but don’t fancy scuba diving or snorkelling (or even getting your hair wet). Our instructor Nyoman gave Naomi and I a brief lesson in what to do to operate them, but it became apparent that due to the strong currents we weren’t going to be able to have the motors on and would instead have to be dragged about by someone in the water holding a rope. This made passing our “underwater driving test” more than a little difficult, due to the fact that once we got down there we couldn’t actually control the thing. Still, nice to see a few brightly coloured fish and the wreck of an old pontoon lying on the sea bed.
I couldn’t wait to get off the sea and back onto dry land. It was another rudimentary bit of boat business once we reached the beach on Lembongan Island at 5pm, with a couple of guys from the hotel carrying our bags waist deep through the surf, while we jumped into the water and stepped our way awkwardly up the jagged coral sand. I was even more relieved when I saw what a lovely little patch we’d be staying on, with wooden huts dotted along a stretch of garden by the beach. Beats the Premiere Inns I’m normally staying in when we film ‘Marrying Mum & Dad’!