Divernet


BALI WAS OUR LAST DESTINATION, and it needed to be a corker.
As ever with these trips, we were knackered and wondered-out by what we had seen and experienced. Our cup had runneth over with unforgettable sights and epic encounters, and it was time to go home.
Fortunately Bali provided not only the spectacular destination to fan the glowing embers of our gusto, but the explosive encounter to create something of a raging furnace. We were after mola mola, otherwise known as giant ocean sunfish.
The emphasis should be firmly on the giant part of that name. These things are the largest bony fish on the planet, have more parasites on them than any other fish, lay more eggs than any other vertebrate on land or in the sea - theyre just, well, large, really.
We arrived in the dark at the beautiful island of Nusa Lembongan in the south-eastern part of Bali, and stumbled in a generally washed-out-had-enough-been-on-the-road-too-long manner to our traditional thatched beach
huts. I have lost more than a stone in weight over the course of this filming trip, so the subsequent series will show my progression from hale and hearty ex-Marine just showing
a touch of middle-aged spread, to recently released Changi prisoner-style physique.
I wobbled to my hut on stork-like legs, and climbed the steps like an Everest mountaineer in the Death Zone, pausing every pace to lean and wheeze.
But I was amazed at the surge of strength that greeted the dawn. The reason was a heady cocktail of a beach with nice-looking surf, and several girls overlooking that beach eating their breakfast on the large veranda. This was too much to bear, and I immediately skipped onto the sand, tucked a surf-ski under one arm, and bounded in the approved fashion to the waters edge.
Hurling the surf-ski into the water, I leapt aboard and flailed away with the paddle, racing out to meet the oncoming wave. Id love to say that this wave was a great crackling monster, but actually it would have come halfway up a hobbits hairy shin.
Nonetheless, it had enough of a physical and psychological impact when it arrived to cause me to flail and turn turtle with impressive speed.
As my naked back smacked meatily into the water, I recalled with crystal clarity that the only two surf sites I could name in Bali were called Laceration and Surgery.
A wild-eyed peer sideways revealed the staghorn coral awaiting my hurtling torso just beneath the surface, and made me realise that this was going to hurt. A lot.
It did. As I staggered out of the water bleeding impressively, every croissant paused halfway to slack-jawed mouth on the veranda.
The wounds had to be dabbed with alcohol by Alastair the tittering sound man, while I squirmed and gasped on a sunbed.
The only consolation was the impressive collection of scars that I insisted be incorporated into the show, and were duly filmed from all angles over the next few days.
The mola mola dive was actually a pretty serious affair. It was deep at 45m or so and in a channel subjected to howling currents.
Of particular note were some legendary downcurrents, hurling us deeper as we babbled in a narcotic frenzy.
Our Aussi guide Michael, once recovered from the tears of mirth at the newly carved London Underground map on my back, briefed us in some detail. Caution was the name of the game.
Several people have got it wrong at this site, and the result can create very real problems.
Once in the water, we moved swiftly to the reef wall, and deep into the channel. And there, awaiting us, was the most extraordinary-looking creature Ive ever seen. A giant swimming head, peering at me open-mouthed, hanging diagonally while being cleaned my huge numbers of other fish.
I tend to suffer from nitrogen narcosis at the best of times, so this spectacle took a little while to take in and be processed in the porridge oats that passes as my brain on a deep dive.
As I peered at this giant from the open ocean, a further one sailed in from the blue - then another, and another. A serried rank of six giant sunfish, with me in their midst, spinning wide-eyed and sucking air like a malfunctioning Dyson.
It was a magical end to our filming trip around the world, and demanded a suitably climatic final night out.
Im not prepared to go into detail, but suffice it to say that Im rather good at dancing on tables but, it turns out, not quite as good as I initially suspected at downing flaming sambucas. Though I did discover a rare talent for setting fire to my face.
Its been an amazing trip. Thanks so much to all the dive operators, divers, fishermen, travellers, and strangers who helped us out. I hope the series does justice to everyone who pitched in to make it what it was - the trip of a lifetime.

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