I decided to book a last minute solo budget trip to good old Tulamben in July, and what a pleasant surprise it was! My friend introduced me to Kadek Kocek, a freelance guide who lives there, and he helped me book my accommodation at Pondok Mimpi, a small villa with extremely friendly staff, managed by Radja, who was hard at work tending to the grounds every day I was there. The price I got was much lower than those found online too!
I used to be a little tired of Tulamben, but now I know it's all about choosing the right guide. On my very first dive Kadek spotted a rhinopia at 29m. There was a bunch of insane divers from another resort staying at that level at 10 bar, and didn't want to leave even though he warned them, and I was quietly happy they didn't get to see the rhinopia haha. Bumblebee shrimps were abundant at 5m, and I returned to them on a night dive when the swell was gentler to get better photos. Emperor shrimps seemed to be in season because they were crawling all over sea cucumbers and the larger nudibranchs. Even though the harlequin shrimps were no longer living in the same spot at Seraya, Kadek's eyes managed to find others at other sites!
Believe it or not (but believe la because I have photos to prove it), after expressing my desire to see all the octopuses one could find, Kadek found me the mimic, mototi and wonderpus octopuses at a particular mystery site. We even found one that moved exactly like a hairy octopus, and it was of the right size too, although its frills were not as frilly. Still, many species have stark variations when it comes to these things, so it may very well have been that elusive creature. Frogfish were also everywhere, especially the pretty juveniles. I lucked out and saw the juvenile warty frogfish (or the 'clown frogfish') at Segara.
The usual suspects were also around, and I did manage to spot robust ghostpipefish of different colours that I had never seen before. I even saw two large shells slowly devouring a small frogfish after ensnaring it in their mucus!
Overall, dives were excellent. Kadek would fix up and wash my gear and drive me to and from the villa. Dives were typically more than an hour long and he really knows which sites to go for your creature of interest. I was really full of gratitude for the top notch service, so much so that I would sincerely recommend him to anyone wishing to dive in Tulamben (you can pm me for his number).
I had my best meal at Segara Tegeh, and it's nice to see that they have expanded and now have 5 rooms behind their restaurant. Order anything that's barbecued and you will not be disappointed..you can also tell them what fish you would like to eat and they'll get it from the market for you the next day, at prices that are several times lower than a tzechar in Singapore. The other value for money and tasty meal was at Warung Komang. Can you believe that their ~5SGD nasi campur has tempe, tofu, vegetable soup, pork satay, grilled fish, and deep-fried chicken? I've been to Tulamben enough times to know this is as good as it gets unless a local takes you to a very different kind of warung.
Now I just can't wait to go back for more macro, and I hope this has been helpful to the many people who want to dive in Tulamben:)