Chasing Dreams, Diving With Mola Mola & Living the Island Life!



Have you ever dreamed of leaving everything behind to start a new chapter? If so, then this story is for you.


Sometimes, you reach a point in life when you feel stuck and need to find a purpose again. And when that thought hits your brain, you must trust your gut and follow your intuition. This is precisely what I did 5 months ago.


I decided to quit my job, sold my car, put my precious belongings into boxes and bought a one-way ticket to Indonesia. The craziest part is, I did it during a pandemic. And guess what? It turned out to be a life-changing decision.


After turning 30 in 2020 and going through yet another heartbreak, I realised that maybe I wasn't living the life I truly wanted to live. So I started to ask myself big existential questions.


I then delved into an array of self-help books, attended healing workshops, practised yoga daily, learned to meditate and bought a tarot deck – but that's a story for another time. What truly happened is: I realised that I had no idea who I was and what I wanted in life. After spending 12 years in the same city, I needed to escape. I felt like I was suffocating.


I was craving adventures and new challenges. I wanted to travel, meet new people, and learn new skills.


Not that my life was monotonous; in fact, it was quite the opposite. I was living a comfortable life in a beautiful part of the world (Perth, Western Australia). I was working full time in Marketing for a prestigious winery, a job I thought was my dream job. Until one day, I woke up and realised that I didn't want a 9-5 job anymore.


I no longer wanted to work in an office, and I didn't want to continue living for the weekends.


Most importantly, I wanted to do something more meaningful. My social life was always hectic, but again I felt I wasn't doing enough of the things I enjoyed the most.


So, I started to ask myself: where do I want to be right now, and what do I want to be doing? And all I could think of was "I want to live on a tropical island and be able to spend time in the ocean every day". So, from that moment, I started to research how I could achieve that objective.


 

Turning Dreams Into Reality


I spent long hours on the internet late at night reading stories about people who've followed their passion and ended up living the life they always dreamed of. I first needed to get inspired and see that other people, somewhere in the world, were indeed doing it.


So I started looking at Dive Master internship programs in tropical destinations. I wanted to learn more about ocean conservation and maybe even help a coral restoration project with my Marketing skills. I wanted to become a better "water-woman" and get involved with ocean conservation one way or another.


I had enough savings to allow me to live overseas without a job for 6 to 8 months. However, to be on the safe side, I had to pick a country where the living cost would be low but where I could still receive the best diving training. Then one day, I found the link to the Indo Ocean Project – an ocean conservation project based in Indonesia that offers a unique Research Dive Master Internship.


After reading reviews of past interns and looking at a few photos and videos on their website, I was sold. I managed to contact one of their ex-interns, a girl from New Zealand who happened to be working for a Whale Shark tour company a few hours away from where I was living.


So, I got in touch with her, and we met up. She took the time to share her experience with me and encouraged me to sign up for the program. I came back home feeling even more confident about what I had to do. So, I signed up for the internship, and a few days later, I received the confirmation by email that my application had been accepted.


I started to get information on how to leave Australia and enter Indonesia during a pandemic. It wasn't easy, but I made it happen with a sound visa agent and the selfless help of random people on a Facebook group.


Three months after signing up for the program, I was on a plane to Jakarta. Everything happened quite fast. I gave my boss four weeks' notice, said goodbye to my friends, made plans for my new boyfriend to meet me in Bali at the end of my internship, and left my beloved Australia.


I was starting a brand-new chapter, and damn it felt good!


After 5 days of quarantine in Jakarta, I landed in Bali. But Bali looked very different from the Bali I used to know. The streets were quiet and almost empty. Kuta (the tourist mecca of Bali) had become a ghost town.


The coronavirus outbreak has led to massive job losses and reductions in income across Bali. Leaving many Balinese in despair. It was a big slap in the face for me. I had just left a golden jail, where I was feeling safe and living a relatively normal life since the start of the Pandemic. Still, things were very different here in Indonesia.


I spent a couple of weeks in Bali before heading to Nusa Penida, where I would be doing my Dive Master and Conservation internship. I was travelling solo but quickly met some lovely girls thanks to Girls in Bali's Facebook group.


Big kudos to Alexa West from Solo Girls Travel Guide for starting this awesome private group. The girls were all supportive when I told them my story, and I promised them that I would keep them updated on my big adventure.


 

Diving In Nusa Penida


I moved to Nusa Penida on 17th May. On day one of the program, I was welcomed by the program coordinator, Michaela, and the head of the IOP program, Serena, at the main harbour in Sanur. A 40min bumpy boat ride took me to my new home.


Nusa Penida is a relatively undeveloped island southeast of mainland Bali. You won't find snazzy beach clubs, organic cafes, or trendy restaurants here.


However, Nusa Penida is still totally worthy of a visit.


It houses some of the most picturesque sights in Bali and some of the best dive sites in the world. Diving around Nusa Penida is just fantastic! From August to October, you have great chances to see the famous and rare Mola Mola, also called Oceanic Sunfish.


One of the most famous dive sites around Penida is Manta Point, where numerous manta rays come all year round to enjoy the cleaning station. Seeing Manta Rays there is not always a 100% guarantee, but they are there almost every day, so you have a good chance of spotting them! Diving Manta Point is relatively easy and suitable for all divers.



Another popular dive site is the beautiful Crystal Bay. Although many know it as a hot spot for mola mola interactions, it's an exciting site at any time of year.


The north and east coast of the island is famous for drift diving. Something I had never experienced before, and I must admit I was a bit nervous about diving there at first.


The currents around the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan can be powerful and unpredictable. After spending 3 months diving in these waters, I can confirm that some dive sites are not recommended for beginners and inexperienced divers, however, there are still many sites that even first-timers can experience.


Doing your Divemaster internship in Nusa Penida means you will become an excellent diver!


What's so special about diving in Nusa Penida is that you could pretty much see anything there. From hammerhead sharks, green sea turtles, schools of barracuda, the rarest nudibranchs, thresher sharks, whale sharks, manta rays, Tahitian rays, sunfish and many others.


The strong currents constantly bring the most amazing wildlife to the fringing reef attracting divers from all around the globe.



 

The Indo Ocean Project (IOP) Program


As an IOP intern, we had to commit to the internship 6 days a week, with only one rest-day allowed. However, we ended up having a few more rest days due to the Indonesian Government's new lockdown rules during my time there. Nevertheless, I still managed to do a total of 80 dives during my internship!


The workshops were all super interesting and covered various subjects, from nudibranchs, shark, manta, and turtle conservation, mangrove restoration, mola mola knowledge, and coral restoration.


Days spent diving were called wet days, and days spent in class were called dry days. I'll let you guess which one we preferred…Each time we would take the boat and go diving, everyone would get super excited. Diving around the island was incredible! I got to see many amazing wildlife such as mola mola, mangrove whiprays and brown-banded bamboo sharks for the first time in my life.



During the internship, we first learned to be a boat assistant, then a boat master, then a dive guide. We conducted many research dives such as BRUV (baited remote underwater video) dives, fish ID dives and CoralWatch dives. We took part in the local coral propagation program and earned the status of Coral Gardener.



We dived for fun, science, and education! Some dives were spent rescuing the reef from ghost nets and other pollutants. Other dives were spent maintaining the coral nursery and mapping the biodiversity of dive sites - collecting essential data for IOP's newest project CorAlliance.


We learned to identify key fish species on the reef, their unique characteristics, and the critical role they play in this complex ecosystem. We visited many dive sites with various topography, strong/mild currents, and up/down currents, learning a lot from those experiences!



IOP has recently partnered with Reeflex Divers, an eco-friendly dive centre located on the island's west side, around 2km from Crystal Bay Beach.


This dive centre is the first and only one in Bali to have a chemical-free, natural pool. We were the first to use it, and I can't wait for more people to discover this fantastic dive centre when the borders reopen.


As part of the program, IOP provides free shared accommodation in cute little cabins near the dive centre. Each room can accommodate up to 5 people. However, a few of us had decided to book our own private bungalow for more privacy. So I was staying in a beautiful place for 3 months. A locally owned hotel called Mamaras Guest House for only $250AUD (£133) per month. A bargain!


 

Mermaids & Mermen of IOP


I met incredible people from all around the world during the program. My time on the island would have not been the same without them. I made life-long friendships and will cherish those memories for years to come.


There were people as young as 20yo and people as old as 50yo enrolled in the program. Some of them were still at university and needed to get credit for their degree, some wanted a career change, and others were just doing it for the experience.



However, we all got along and spent most of our free time together, exploring the island, learning about the local culture and trying local food. They became my Penida family.



 

Highlights of My Internship


It's a scary thought to leave everything you know to start something new. But as my good friend Breanne told me at the start of the year: "Feel the fear and do it anyway". And I intend to live by this motto for as long as I can.


Nusa Penida is a true paradise, and the local people have the kindest hearts. They will welcome you with open hearts, make you feel part of their family and share the beauty of their island with you.



The experience you will gain is priceless. We say money can't buy happiness but investing in this internship gave me more than just a new certification. I've had a fantastic life experience where I learned not only about diving but also about myself. This experience made me realise what kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to live.



The skills you will develop as a diver and the knowledge you will acquire is of the highest standard and will be helpful in the rest of your diving journey. So whether you decide to continue diving just for fun or want to become a professional dive instructor, you will be well-prepared for the next step.



 



Written by Delphine Fant (@delogypsy)


BIO:

Hey there! My name is Delphine Fant and I am 31 years old. I was born in the south of France and grew up on Reunion Island.


When I turned 18, I decided to move on my own to Australia. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my university fees, so I applied for a scholarship and moved to Perth to study. I have a Diploma of Business and a Bachelor of Marketing and Advertising.


Shortly after graduating I got offered a sponsorship and decided to stay in Australia. I have been calling Western Australia home for the past 12 years and became an Australian Citizen back in 2016. I spent 8 years working in the corporate world but recently decided to change my life and chase other dreams. So I quit my 9-5 job and booked a one-way ticket to Bali.

I recently became a Dive Master and completed a 3 months internship with a marine conservation project on the island of Nusa Penida. This experience was incredible and made me want to do more to save our beautiful oceans.


I am a bit of a serial hobbyist...I love learning new skills and exploring the world. I'm a big oceanholic and like to spend most of my spare time in the ocean either freediving, spearfishing, scuba diving, and surfing. I also enjoy photography (both on land and underwater), cooking for people I love and listening to music.

My goal for the rest of the year is to live a more sustainable lifestyle, learn new skills, explore Indonesia and create a business that will give back to the planet.



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