How to Dive with Mola Mola
Bali holds some of the worlds most exquisite dive sites. With an abundance of vibrant colors, sea life and plenty of shipwrecks, you’ll certainly want to submerge yourself into this thriving underwater world. Divers will often see manta rays, sharks, turtles and a beautiful range of tropical fish… however, another reason why Bali is extremely popular with scuba divers is because of the large ocean sunfish that live in waters around Bali and her sister islands of Lombok, Nusa Perdida, and Nusa Lembongan.
Usually known as Mola Mola, these creatures are the largest and heaviest bony fish in the oceans, and can way more than a car, reaching over 1000 kg (2200 lb) in weight. Females lay up to 300 million eggs at a time, the most of any animal, and they can live over 10 years.
Although Mola Mola can be found in Bali year round, the best time for divers to see them is August through to the end of October. During this time, divers have the opportunity to drift through the shallow waters, swimming in the company of these strange ocean fish. Outside of this time, the currents and temperature of the water is not suitable for them, and they migrate further into the depths of the ocean, and far too deep for recreational diving.
We live in a time where we are currently facing the consequences of Global Warming and other challenges that have a direct impact on the marine world, with coral reefs being damaged and many species of marine life under threat, therefore, it is absolutely crucial that we as scuba divers, try to educate ourselves on how to properly respect and live alongside other sea life. This article will hopefully give you some essential tips on how to swim with Mola Mola
Keeping yourself safe and the nature safe should be a top priority for people throughout the world, and divers especially, it is safe to say, as divers we are lucky enough to be even more involved. We are able to have amazing, intimate interactions with marine life whenever we dive. As we do this, it is essential that every diver behaves appropriately and follows two main rules to ensure a successful exploration. Firstly, respect the well-being of marine life around you and be fully equipped with knowledge and the necessary equipment to keep yourself safe.
So how do we as scuba divers dive with the ocean sunfish.
1. Keep Your Group Small
Mola Mola are found in Bali during the months of August to October. If you are lucky enough to spot one, organize yourselves into a small group, of no more than 4 divers. Ocean fish do not like the air bubbles released by diving regulators and it actually causes them distress. However, don’t let this discourage you, for swimming with these species is an experience like no other. Another tip when swimming in your small group is to try to keep your interactions in between 5 to 10 minutes. When trips are made shorter, the Mola Mola are more likely to linger in the area and be more at ease with divers who respect their space.
2. Stay Cool And Keep An Appropriate Distance
Divers usually come across Mola Mola in their “cleaning stations”. This is an area where small fish groom the skin of the ocean fish, eliminating any parasites. The Mola Mola enjoy this time so much, it puts them into a somewhat comatose state, they are fully calm and much more relaxed allowing divers the opportunity to approach them. During this time, it is very important that divers keep an appropriate distance; the recommended space being about 10 ft or 3 meters away, and when the Mola Mola returns back to its normal, more alert state that distance should be increased to approximately 30 ft or 10 meters.
Ocean fish are huge, beautiful creatures, but they do collect a lot of mucus on their skin in order to protect them from parasites and infections, it is therefore very important we do not touch the Mola Mola if they happen to approach as this can damage the mucous layer leading to a possible infection.
3. Proper Positioning For Underwater Photography
As explained above, the “cleaning stations” are clearly the best areas to achieve the closest shots of Mola Mola. However, to ensure we do not upset the ocean fish or cause them any type of harm, it is important to note that divers should not take any flash photography or cross the 3-meter proximity boundary mentioned above. Another rule to follow by is in how and where we swim around the Mola Mola. For example, do not swim below the animal, the air bubbles will travel upwards, underneath and around the ocean fish, causing them extreme discomfort, this behavior is so distressing for the fish, that swimming below Mola Mola fish is considered to be aggressive diving behavior. Imagine going for a massage and having someone below the headboard with a flashlight in your face blowing air… how long would it take you to get up and run quickly outta there?
4. Research The Best Dive Operator Options
To ensure the most successful dive with the ocean fish, it is important to understand the appropriate etiquette expected in this dive and how to properly interact with these incredible animals. Therefore, local professional dive operators are available and fully equipped with the knowledge, experience, and tips to help divers get the most out of their experience with Mola Mola. They will teach you how to prevent any damage to marine life and how to remain at a safe distance. Whenever you plan this magnificent dive trip, review what options are accessible to you and thoroughly check all references you can obtain. It may also be helpful to contact the dive operators beforehand and reach out to other divers who may have previously traveled to this location, for any additional tips and insights to make sure you have the best dive possible.
Have fun, stay safe and dive on!