The sunken ship looms up ahead. A ghostly shape in the underwater gloom. The Japanese shipwreck from WWII remains here where it sunk 70 years ago. Swimming closer you can clearly see the curved stern of the boat and the remains of the rudder and propeller but the bow is crumpled. Whether through being bombed or repeatedly battered against the shore, is not known. But this wreck is alive. It has been claimed by the coral and is now teeming with sea creatures.
We take one of the ‘jukung’ traditional fishing boats, a crazy-looking spider boat, around the coast to see the former wartime patrol boat. There are several other jukungs already bobbing about in this area. Snorkel tips mark the spot.
Several different types of coral cling to the wreck. Bright orange tree-like coral sway in the current. Round disks of lighter coral attract hundreds of tiny bright blue fish. A school of yellow and black striped fish ignore the snorkelers and swim around the wreck as they have done for decades.
Snorkelling here is like exploring a different world. Visibility is clearer than I’ve ever seen before.
The wreck is now part of the vast coral reef that runs along this coastline.
The coral comes in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Huge disks 20 feet wide, large bulbous brain-like lumps the size of cars. Some look like underwater fairytale castles with fish weaving in and out of the turrets, under the natural bridges and in the coral corridors.
A whole school of trumpet fish swim past with their comical snouts. Blue starfish lay around on the sea floor looking like they were modelled by a child from plasticine. A turtle swims past me, his speckled fins propelling him towards the coral island ahead. I swim with him for a while before he drops down to the bottom and disappears into the shadow. The stripy spiky-looking lion fish menacingly looks out from his little cave. A large school of multicoloured fish swim by looking like they are all wearing that same bad ski suit from the 80s.
I wave at a couple of divers a few metres below me. I don’t see the point in gearing up in all the SCUBA gear when the snorkelling is so good in this area. But they look happy.
Lying barely 50m off the coast just off Banyuning Beach near Amed, the shipwreck is easy to visit because it is so close to the shore and not particularly deep. And you don’t need to have full diving gear to see it. It is interesting to see the wreck from an historic point of view but, for me, the highlight is seeing how nature has transformed this relic into a living coral reef which supports so much life.
Annoyingly, I forgot my underwater camera, so I borrowed the shots for the wreck and turtle from Google images.