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Diving

The Most Unspectacular Favourite Place To Dive

Everyone has their favourite place to dive. Not THE favourite one, but just a normal favourite place, the one that you visit often, the one that you feel like at home.

This place, that I’m talking about, why is it my favorite dive site?
It’s rather close to my home town of Novi Sad. In the morning I can just pack the stuff on my motorbike, go there, set up the camera, make two dives, try to make awesome photos during those dives, chill and head home and arrive at night. The road to the lake is nice (omg a clue, it’s a lake!) and there are multiple roads to choose from if you I’m bored from one. There are a few rather beautiful lakes in the area, a friend of mine is an amazing host, he always brings shisha, and yeah, the most important thing, the ecosystem in those lakes is really healthy and full of life.

pike in the sunlight

There is abundance of pikes in the lake

You must be thinking: that’s it? Are there any massive pikes or catfish that could bite your leg off? Nope, not really… It’s just that when everything is combined it brings you a nice experience. I don’t need to rush anything. I can just enjoy the dives and have fun.

Facts about the dive site

The lake I’m writing about is located in Serbia in Bela Crkva – literal translation is: White Church. Who says I don’t go to church? Almost every Sunday.

Sunfish is always interested in what you are doing and comes close. Perfect time to try out some new photo techniques.

There are 5 active lakes and a few smaller ones. They were created by digging up the gravel. The water is always clear emerald colour, but during the tourist season the main lake gets murky and that’s when we experiment with other lakes in the region.

Although there are poachers in the area, lakes still have a healthy ecosystem. There is abundance of sunfish of course, dace and every dive you can see pikes, catfish, carps, small freshwater medusa (which I didn’t even know exists), snakes, and freshwater craw-fish.

Seizing the dive

When I finish my two and a half hour trip to Bela Crkva, I meet my friend Jovan who always comes in his small, company car, Yugo (he’s a vet). It is packed with tanks, diving equipment and of course, in the back, in Yugo’s window you can see a backpack and hookah sticking out of it. I don’t think he ever leaves his home without it.

lake weed

Lake weed skyscrapers

The conversation before the first dive is like a Ground Hog day. We set up the equipment and Jovan tells me how he arrived home at 5 o’clock in the morning. While I talk to him I can’t help but notice a ‘fresh scar’ on his hand and the story behind the scar is always 1 hour before he arrived home at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Lake weed at some points goes from the ground all the way to the surface, creating something which I can describe as Chinese version of kelp forest

After the equipment is ready, we hit the water. Depth in those lakes is usually around 5-6 meters, some lakes go down to around 17 meters but the visibility is really poor and the temperature is really low. So we stick to those shallow 5 meters searching for pikes that are looking for lunch and the lunch, usually not aware, soon becomes one. The ambience at this lake is amazing, there is a lot of weed on the surface which creates a fairytale sunbeams with sunfish swimming all around and sunlight bouncing off their colourful scales.

snake in the lake

The snake was not happy that I was present but I managed to snap a few shots before it swam away

Lake weed at some points goes from the ground all the way to the surface, creating something which I could describe as Chinese version of kelp forest, but don’t be fooled, the view and the ambience are still mesmerizing!

I started to think about my power of observation and wonder if I really suck at it, or the pikes are super professional when it comes to blending with their environment

At least it’s awesome until I try to go closer, thinking I’ve seen a pike and the next thing I know, I’m all covered in lake weed, my strobes are tangled and the fish is looking at me like I’m a mad man. The thruth is, in their brains they are probably thinking “this is

I walk it off (or should I say “dive it off”) like nothing happened and the next thing I notice is that something ran away. A quick scan and I realize it’s a pike. I’m floating there, searching hard for a pike and the next thing I know, I am going over its head without even noticing it. I started to think about my power of observation and wonder if I really suck at it, or the pikes are super professional when it comes to blending with their environment. Luckily, it doesn’t run far away, so it lets me take a few shots before it gets bored and swims away.

This dude was my favorite. Such small eyes and a mouth that could eat my arm.

Well, my pressure gauge shows almost 100 bars and it’s time to head back and smoke some shisha. It’s always the same, Jovan is already out, preparing the hookah and while I take off the equipment, the shisha is ready. What else could I ask for? I’m on a lake enjoying shisha, sun rays bouncing off the surface of the water which makes it look like a mirror. That’s until some old dude decides to swim from other side of the lake to where we are, disturbing the peace and equilibrium.

Now comes the time to do what all divers hate – put on the wet wetsuit

After short information exchange on what we could have done but didn’t, we slowly start to prepare for the next dive. The camera is set up so the boring part is out of the way but now comes the time to do what all divers hate, put on the wet wetsuit. If you don’t hate that part, you probably made a pact with the devil or something.

As soon as my ears get under the surface of the water there is no sound, except for the the bubbles, the eyes see a different world and body feels weightless unlike above the water where the scale goes 0 to 100 kg in less than a second. This time I decided to use my remaining air to just head one way and return swimming. The good thing is, I saw few pikes and a snake and the bad thing is I had to swim for almost 15 minutes to get back to the starting point. It was a good cardio. The dive itself was nice, lots of fish, pikes, a snake and some kind of fog that looked as it came from a horror movie and if you go near it, you would become some kind of a zombie fish, but luckily that didn’t happen.

The bad thing is I had to swim for almost 15 minutes to get back to the starting point

As I went back, we smoked another shisha, which would feel much nicer if there wasn’t an old guy who was trying to explain to me how he can see a snake from far away without that big camera that I have, whatever that meant.

pike

This photo won the first place in International Underwater Competition in Bela Crkva

Well, that’s it for diving and it’s time to pack and head home. The boring awaits once more, taking the camera housing apart, fitting it onto the motorbike. I say goodbye to my host Jovan and head home.

I went to Bela Crkva many times and and every single time (with only one exception) I got lots of rain while going back. Last time I went through a really crazy windy storm! And I went there like 7-8 times this year and it was always raining! This time it was no different.

Mesmerizing view from above the lake

Mesmerizing view from above the lake

Conclusions

I arrived home safe and wet and at that moment I realized I needed to wash the equipment. But hey, that equipment keeps me safe.

While I was lying in bed, happy-tired (it’s a condition) I thought it was a good day.

And that’s why, ladies and gentlemen, Bela Crkva lakes are my favourite place to dive. No pressure, no time limit, just pure enjoyment.

Hey, I’m sure you have a favorite divespot yourself, let me know which place it is in the comments!

koh lipe from air
Diving, Thailand

Koh Lipe – Paradise Getting Lost

Koh Lipe losing its paradise feel? OK, I might have gone over the edge here a bit;but let’s learn a thing or two about Lipe before we continue.

Where is Lipe?

Koh Lipe is a small island in Adang-Rawi Archipelago. It is one of the most southern Thailand islands and it is on the border with Malaysia.

The first backpackers came to Koh Lipe around 20 years ago

It is a divers’ and beach-lovers’ paradise surrounded with many other beautiful islands. The first backpackers came to Koh Lipe around 20 years ago when there were few bungalows to rent, no walking streets, no tourists nor the beaches like you have seen in the movie “The Beach”.

View on koh lipe from Adang

Me checking out beautiful Koh Lipe island. Photo by Jovana Milanko

So you are thinking: “In 20 years stuff probably changed a lot?”. It changed probably too much.  A few months ago it has been added under the Tarutao Marine National Park jurisdiction because of its really diverse underwater world but, due to deforestation, there is not much life on the land.

 

Koh Lipe Beaches

It’s one of the most remote Thailand islands, and, of course, the beaches are amazing. Beautiful white sand with emerald see through water. But there is a twist, with every year there are more and more people on the beaches, which means more trash (although the guys from Trash Hero are doing an amazing job, kudos to them!), more resorts, more stuff needs to get hauled on the island and more stuff needs to get hauled off the island.

Beautiful view on Koh Lipe Beach

Beautiful view on Koh Lipe Beach!

People go there expecting to have the beach for themselves because they have heard those stories but the thing is, times are changing. All the main beaches are getting more crowded and more people come who don’t care what kind of footprint they are gonna leave at the island.

Still, there are few beaches that not many people know about and with so many islands around you can find a beach just for yourself.

Koh Lipe from air

Koh Lipe from air. Photo by Weerapong Nakprasit

There are 3 main beaches in Koh Lipe:

Sunrise Beach – This beach has become really popular, first for people who like to watch the sunrise and who like to have fun during the day. I had a bungalow on that beach and it was not fun… Every morning Malaysian and Chinese people would take my chairs or even sit in my porch to watch the sunrise waking me up at 6 o’ clock.
Pattaya Beach – It is mostly reserved for long-tail boats but still there are places to swim. It is mostly popular in the evening because you don’t have to go all the way to Sunset beach to see the the sunset, you can catch a part of it on Pattaya beach. The sand on this beach is one of the softest I have ever felt!
Sunset Beach – It’s mostly popular in the evening during, you guessed it, the sunset. It’s a wonderful experience to see the sunset on that beautiful beach and drink mojitos, so make sure not to miss it.

Beautiful sunset on the beach next to a long-tail boat

Beautiful sunset on the beach next to a long-tail boat

 

Diving in Lipe

The vast underwater life makes this one of the most amazing places for diving. The vast number of people diving does not make it the most amazing place to dive. But luckily overcrowded sites don’t happen that often. To be honest there is only one site that gets overcrowded and that is Stonehenge. It got that name because it has a dozen of pinnacles sticking out of the sand that resemble Stonehenge.

Diving in Stonehenge in Koh Lipe

Diving in Stonehenge in Koh Lipe

If you are lucky enough to have great visibility and to be thfirst on the dive spot you will have a really good time. Schools of yellow-tail snappers, barracudas, amazing soft and hard corals and micro life are what makes this dive spot amazing. Sometimes there are many boats on the surface and at that time the only thing you can see is school of divers – which, we can agree, is not that amazing.

The amazing thing about diving in Koh Lipe is that, now and then, you can see quite interesting stuff – whale sharks (but really rarely), zebra shark and latest and the most interesting one seen is the guitar shark! There is a family hanging out around Lipe and one of them got caught by douchebag fisherman. He says it’s a catch and released it, but we haven’t seen any release photos.

 

Going out in Lipe

My favorite bar in Koh Lipe for sure was Mellowmango. Chilled-out atmosphere and enjoying the talk with everybody over there was always fun. Bartenders nickname is God (not the real one but he is close to it – same same but different) and there – all things are possible with God. Hanging out with these awesome guys until three in the morning was just a daily routine… or should I say nightly…

Bartenders nickname is God (not the real one but he is close to it – same same but different) and there – all things are possible with God

Unfortunately Mellowmango is closing for good this year so they can chase some bigger dreams.

Luckily, party scene in Koh Lipe is not that strong. Here and there parties are organized but nothing massive. There are bars and to be honest that’s just enough. There are few bars on the walking street but most of the people decide to go to the beach bars to enjoy the sea and the stars.

There is too much partying in Thailand. Can we just not ruin one place because people just wanna get wasted and get laid?

My favorite bar - Mellowmango

My favorite bar – Mellowmango

 

People of Koh Lipe

Original settlers of Koh Lipe are Urak Lawoi .  They are the last direct descendants of Orang Laut or the Sea Gypsies. They are originally from Spice island in Indonesia where they used to be pirates of the Straits of Malacca.

In recent past they are the people who refused to turn to Islam in Malaysia and they were forced to roam the seas

In recent past they were the people who refused to turn to Islam in Malaysia and they were forced to roam the seas in search for a place to live. They settled in Thailand in Andaman sea.

One of the Urak Lawoi people steering its long-tail boat

One of the Urak Lawoi people steering its long-tail boat

They reside in a big part of coastal Thailand – Phuket, Phi Phi, Jum, Lanta, Bulon and of course Koh Lipe. Because of expansion of tourism they are forced to move and land disputes still remain on many places and especially on Lipe.

Some of them decided to live thanks to tourism and many of them still live like they did many years ago – they go fishing. The most popular way is trap fishing in which the divers put the traps underwater and connect to a really old compressor on the boat.

One of the older settlers of Koh Lipe

One of the older settlers of Koh Lipe

The language they speak is a bit different, it is close to Malay but influenced by Thai.

I will be writing about them more in next articles. Until then read about them on Project Urak Lawoi website, these guys helped me get some amazing footage and photos of trap fishing and compressor diving.

Children in Urak Lawoi Village

Children in Urak Lawoi Village

Still an amazing island, but….

The stories I have heard from people visiting this place for 10 years or more make me cringe.

There is no doubt about it, this island is one of a kind, one of the last ones not totally destroyed by tourism, exploitation and money hunger.

The fact is that it is going that way. I have seen difference in one year span and the stories I have heard from people visiting this place for 10 years or more make me cringe.

Forrest all around island is getting cut to make way for more resorts, walking street is getting more filled with shitty gadgets and ‘clothes’ stores, Urak Lawoi people are forced to move because of land disputes and there are more and more tourists, which is slowly but surely transforming this paradise island to something that people in 10 years will probably wanna avoid.

I’m just gonna leave you with a photo of a walking street 20 years ago.

Koh Lipe 20 years ago

Photo by Somchai Preyde

Did you visit Koh Lipe? Tell my what you think about it in the comment section bellow.

Diving Around Bali
Adventure, Bali, Diving, Indonesia

Diving Around Bali and Why You Should Not Miss It

Diving around Bali is probably the most awesome thing you can do if you travel to this beautiful place! Dive sites are beautiful, marine life is teeming with life, a few shipwrecks to see – from 130m ship to a small boat and most of the dive centers are really professional so you will have no problem with that! I had a pleasure to dive with a friend of mine called Branko from Bali Aqua.

Diving around Bali is probably the most awesome thing you can do if you travel to this beautiful place!

On the dive boat
As an underwater photographer I will try to show you how it’s like when you submerge yourself under the Indian Ocean and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. If you are a fellow diver and you have already did some diving around Bali, then just enjoy these cool photos of the most amazing creatures you can find in these waters.
Let’s start this with the most popular diving spots you can find here…

 

USS Liberty Shipwreck

USS Liberty boat was hit by a Japanese torpedo. After the hit it was able to float so they navigated towards Bali in order to save all the cargo on boat. It was stranded on the beach, but after the earthquakes and volcano eruptions it went down to deeper waters. A long time ago people lived and fought on this boat and now it’s surrounded by corals and rich marine life. The shipwreck is about 130m long but a good part of it is under the sand by now.

A long time ago people lived and fought on this boat and now it’s surrounded by corals and rich marine life

USS Liberty Shipwreck

USS Liberty Shipwreck

Part of the USS Liberty Shipwreck
Just before the shipwreck there is a garden of eels. Make sure to stay as lower to the bottom as possible, so you can approach them without scaring them. If you don’t do that, they will just hide in the sand.
This dive spot is very popular among divers, so make sure to reach it as early as possible.

trumpet fish

Manta Point – Nusa Penida

Do not miss this one! If you ever go there and don’t see some manta rays then you really have bad luck! The chance of missing mantas is an equivalent to winning the lottery, really slim! I had two dives there and both times it was really wavy with powerful surges but it was worth it – for the second dive there were probably about 20 manta rays!

The chance of missing mantas is an equivalent to winning the lottery, really slim

IMG_4295-Edit
When you jump off the boat and dive to that spot, there is absolutely nothing special, you reach a big rock and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge manta ray swims above your head! That’s just a beautiful sight to see. Just a friendly reminder: while you watch that amazing creature check out around a bit to see if a surge didn’t take near the rocks like it happened to me. A wave surge smashed me to a big rock, but luckily my tank took the hit and I recovered with no problem.

manta ray at manta point
Why do mantas come here if they can swim really deep and why do they hang around these rocks? Well, the answer is simple: the rocks are cleaning stations for them. A cleaning station is a section of the reef which is home to reef-dwelling marine life which, as you can guess from the name, clean large fish like mantas, sharks and larger bony fish. Cleaning helps mantas maintain healthier life since the ‘cleaners’ eat all the dirt, bacteria and other harmful things that mantas pick up during their swimming.
This is a ‘must go’ diving spot if you plan to dive around Bali!

manta ray at the manta point - bali

Gili Tepekong

Want to see some sharks? This is the place to search for them! Gili Tepekong is the biggest offshore island in Amuk Bay. The safest way to approach the dive spot is to take a boat from Padang Bay.

white tip shark - bali
Marine life is good here and visibility was cool, though currents can be strong. Usually you can see white tip sharks at around 20-30m, but the ones we have seen were far away and scared of us. There are lots of reef sharks under the boulders sleeping since they are nocturnal animals. You can also expect to see a lot of eels, turtles, mantis shrimp, etc…

boat at gili tepekong
Longhorn Cowfish

Turtle swimming around the shipwreck

Free-diving around Bali

Do you love free-diving? Going deep with no tanks, regulators, BCD’s – just relying on your breath? Probably the best places for that are in north-east of Bali. Many free-diving centers are located around Amed and Tulamben as this area is probably the most awesome for free-diving. I haven’t done any free-diving courses, but my friends are crazy about it and many of them have become free-diving instructors by now. Checkout Apnea Bali for more information and find out what it’s like to depend only on your breath and your mind skills to achieve great depths!

Find out what it’s like to depend only on your breath and your mind skills to achieve great depths!

Conclusion

Whether you are an experienced diver or just a beginner, Bali is perfect for you to plunge yourself into the world of diving or free-diving and see animals that most of the people miss out when they travel to exotic places.

Of course, there are many more awesome dive spots in Bali but these are my favourite ones.
Did you dive in Bali? What is your favourite dive spot and how did you like it? Write it down in the comments!

Bonus photos so you know what to expect when you go diving around Bali

One eyed Joe - bali
school of fishes

Beautiful Coral in Bali

Couple of Surgeonfishes

Bali, Diving, Indonesia

Bali and 10 Amazing Things About It

People in Bali

I have traveled across a good part of South East Asia and I can say that the people in Bali are the most awesome people in all aspects! They are pleasant, good, fun and always ready to help! Even my experience with the shadiest people of Bali has never made me worry about anything, feel unpleasant or threatened. They are constantly laughing, they say ‘hello’ and of course they like you even more if you are a foreigner or should I say “bule” (an Indonesian name for foreigners).

Balinese family enjoying their day trip on one of the highest bridges in Asia

Balinese family enjoying their day trip on one of the highest bridges in Asia

 

Naming their children

The most common name in Bali is Wayan. Wondering why? The answer is that the first child is always named Wayan, the second child is named Made (pronounced Ma Day), the third is named Nyoman and the fourth Ketut. It’s simple, four names for the entire island. Imagine if the people in your immediate family were named those four names, and in the family of your friends, and the whole island! Trick question: What happens if somebody has 5-6 kids? It’s simple – they just start all over again – Wayan, Nyoman etc. “Ni” is added in front of female names, Ms, Miss.

 

Religion

Religion is the nicest aspect of Bali. Many Balinese use every chance they get to show their worship of their gods. One example is that you can see offerings all over Bali – in front of shops, houses, hotels, etc. These offerings are for the spirits. Usually when you offer something, you expect something in return, but in this case they just want demons to go away.

Bali is full of temples, and really beautiful temples at that! You can see people leaving their offerings to the gods and praying every day. There are many religious ceremonies and if you visit Bali you will run into one for sure!

Temple Besakih

Temple Besakih

 

Nature in Bali

Are you bored with city crowds, touristic places, concrete and the city heat? In Bali every hotel has its own small garden which is really pleasant and made for enjoyment. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about when it comes to the nature of Bali. The eastern part of the island is really beautiful, from the vast rice fields to rice terraces, to the peasants who will always say “hello”. There is also one special place in Bali – Agung mountain, which is actually a volcano. What it’s like at the top of the volcano – read here

Rice Terraces

 

Bali Beaches

Do I need to talk about this? When you say Bali that’s the first thing that comes to your mind! The beaches in Bali are best when you visit them between April and October. That is the dry season and it’s best to go at that time and enjoy surfing, kite surfing, bars, swimming, etc. The most popular beaches are Nusa Dua, Kuta and Balangan. Bear in mind that all beaches have something special and different about them, so try to visit as many as possible. Some beaches are not popular just because they are far away from touristy areas, but they are really beautiful.

bali panorama

bali beach

Yoga

Are you the kind of person who likes a healthy life, peace and meditation? Then Bali is the place for you, although I must be honest, I don’t think yoga lovers have that healthy life after all. Most of the yoga people I met were dead drunk, maybe that’s a kind of different way of seeking inner peace, but hey, I don’t judge, I just join the party.

But still, all yoga studios I have seen looked cool and would have certainly made me go for a class if I had not found my inner peace in diving. To be honest, I’m sad I did not try some yoga.

 

Diving

Are you a diver or do you  want  learn to dive? Bali is perfect for that! With numerous dive spots and a magnificent marine life (manta rays, mola mola, white tip sharks) Bali is probably one of the most favorite places for divers and also free divers! If you visit, you can go to manta point (which is a cleaning station for mantas and you can even see 20 mantas at one place) or dive at the shipwreck site of the USS Liberty which was sunk by a Japanese submarine and witness how amazing marine life around Bali is!

manta ray

USS Liberty Shipwreck

USS Liberty Shipwreck

 

Surfing

Yoooo dude, surfs up! In Bali you can, pretty much, surf anywhere. Uluwatu, Kuta, Legian, all of those places are really cool to surf at. Renting a board is cheap and people working there are all friendly. While you rest you can talk with them, have a beer and just have an awesome time! Watch out for the big waves – as an inexperienced surfer I had a few hard hits, but it takes more to get me out of the water.

Yours truly.... Trying to surf...

Yours truly…. Trying to surf…

Prices

I was amazed by the prices in Bali. I always had a feeling it is a very expensive place to visit but I was wrong – which, in this case, is really a good thing! Finding accommodation is cheap (as long as it is not a really touristy part of the area), food is cheap – make sure to visit night markets. The only thing a bit more expensive is alcohol. Beer-like products have affordable prices, but if you are on a budget don’t go near the wine section! Turn around and walk away to the nearest beer aisle.

 

Sunsets and sunrises

Sunsets and sunrises are really awesome, you cannot get enough of those! They are really beautiful and enjoyable. If you are in a quiet place near the water it is mesmerizing. You forget about everything, all the worries go away and you become a truly nice person with a smile slowly cracking through your lips.

sunset in bali

Sunset

 

That’s my few cents about Bali! I want to hear from you now! What’s is your favorite thing to do in Bali? Any suggestions for the people going there? Leave your comments in the comment section below and check out my 500px for more awesome photos!