At the end of November the same year, for the first time since the major eruption of 1963, Agung erupted again and thousands of people within a five-mile zone were evacuated.
The airports were closed for several days and many tourists were left stranded. Tourism more or less came to a standstill, and places like Scuba Seraya had no choice but to close.
However, it is now open again and we’re here again in April 2019 as if nothing has happened in between.
A few days into our visit, however, we watched with amusement at breakfast the room-cleaners busily dusting off the plants and bushes outside our rooms – Agung had been spewing ash all night.
Our suits at the dive-centre looked as if they were suffering from a severe bout of dandruff. My room-mate and I couldn’t help but make strategic escape plans in the event of A, a tsunami and, B, a volcanic eruption, both of which would involve running very quickly, at short notice, in opposite directions.
Goby in a bottle (left) and Blenny, also in a bottle.
Because of my deteriorating eyesight, in common with many divers of a certain age, the Sean the Sheep nudibranch had so far managed to elude me, but on this trip, having discovered the innovation of Hydrotac lenses, I was determined that this omission would be a thing of the past.
Armed with my new bifocal mask, suddenly underwater macro life was transformed beyond what I ever thought possible. I was even able to spot my own sheep!
So here is how a Woolf hunts her sheep. In an otherwise fairly barren, gravelly, grey underwater volcanic landscape, look for a tatty green leaf about 5cm in diameter, then see if it possesses a white dot about the size of a full stop.
Take a photograph to determine whether or not the dot is a “thing” and, if it is, you will need to establish which is the head end. This could easily involve taking another couple of shots before you’re sure.
Then you can fire away until you’re satisfied with the result, before moving on to another leaf.
Sometimes, you can actually find one leaf with two nudibranchs on it, as I was lucky enough to do. And they’re not always white; exotic versions also come in crazy colours such as dark green with purple tips, or blue and yellow, or with dreadlocks.
It soon became apparent that great care is needed with the Hydrotac lenses, which can be dislodged far too easily, especially if mishandled accidentally by an uninformed dive-boat helper. It remains a mystery to me anyway how they could ever be expected to stay in place in a dive-mask with a single drop of water.
It’s surprising how the brain adapts, however, and you can manage with just one lens if you have to. I would say that they’re good for an emergency, but next time I’ll invest in a proper optical mask.