Growing up surfing with my mates, I always thought that the worst possibly feeling you could ever experience will out on the board was the feeling you get when you wipe-out, go under, and scrape or touch something that is unexpected or sharp.
Yikes. All those times it happened to me it was harmless coral, or some sort of friendly animal – but chances are I have actually missed out on a fair bit of pain! It is recommended that beginners should head to places where there are adequate rescue services available like Gerupuk Bay in Lombok where there are many boats occupied by trained rescue personnel ready to react immediately.
They say that knowledge is power, so today I will be arming you with everything you need to know about the dangerous creatures that lurk below the surface in Lombok. Surfers beware!
1. Sea snakes
Believe it or not, there are around 52 different known species of sea snakes throughout the world. The species that you will want to look out for while surfing in Lombok is called the banded sea snake. Going off the name, I am sure you can imagine what one might look like, but most commonly they will appear to have black and blue rings running horizontally across the body. Importantly for you, sea snakes are docile and not actually dangerous – however just like most other sea creatures, they are designed to protect themselves when they feel threatened. Stay clear of this one!
The magnificent Saltwater crocodile has been proven to have been prevalent in Bali and is said to have been particularly abundant within Ekas Bay in Lombok during the 1930’s. However, we believe you can rest easy as a surfer, because most modern evidence suggests that they have been mostly expelled from these areas, although media reports of itinerant (travelling) crocodiles have been increasing in recent years. The best course of action is not to be worried but remain vigilant when visiting Lombok.
3. King Cobras
Now it is time to discuss what you might run into when you spend some time off your board and on the island. Luckily, the King Cobra can only be found in western Bali, but it is good to have some knowledge about what is around if you are travelling in the area. These animals are best not disturbed. The King Cobra is very reluctant to waste venom and will ‘wet bite’ (with venom) only about 5% of the time. The pain is described as immediate but not too severe, followed by nausea and headache. Unfortunately, the bad news is that immediate treatment is required to prevent death. The good news, however, are the statistics. There has been only one recorded death in the last 20 years from a king cobra bite in Bali, so your chances are good.
4. Tiger Sharks
In any ocean environment, the risk of sharks being present will always be higher than zero. Though, sharks in and around Lombok have very little reason to be hostile towards humans and are hunted quite systemically in the area for their fins. All this means is that sharks that find themselves in the area are actually in a lot more danger than if you or I found ourselves in the same situation. A very lucrative farming opportunity keeps these islands relatively shark free. Unless your name is Chief Brody you should be okay.
Amazingly, Stonefish can go from appearing to be a harmless rock lying on the ocean’s floor to a stone-cold killer in a flash, making it more of a dangerous chameleon than anything.
Known for being the most venomous fish in the world, the stonefish makes its home in the shallow water among the coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans off Africa and the Red Sea to Northern Australia. When enjoying Lombok, if you find yourself diving around the Gili Islands you will probably spot one of these beautiful creatures, just do not get too close!
6. Fire Coral
Fire coral gets its name because of the “fiery sensation” you feel shooting up your leg after you encounter the member of the species. The mild to moderate burning that it causes is the result of cnydocites embedded in its calcareous skeleton that contain nematocysts that will fire when touched, injecting their venom. In my experience, the burning experience will often last for about 3-4 hours, but you should be good after that.