Bali is my favorite island in Indonesia. I have been there multiple times, and each visit always brought me into something different. There is something about the island that will cling to: the warmth of the Balinese people, its culture that deep rooted in their everyday lives, its island nature from mountain area to beach area and its beautiful underwater life.
While Bali dive sites are mostly located on the south-west end of the global centre of marine biodiversity, Coral Triangle Area, its underwater life was impressive to dive and snorkel. Bali dive sites are varied for beginners to advance scuba divers; from calm waters to drifting dives; from small critters such as nudibranch, harlequin shrimps to huge marine species like mantas or Mola-Mola (sun fish).
The dive sites in Bali stretch in four regions of Bali: West, North, East, and South-East (Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan), as you can view on the wiki travel map below. By far I have been diving in the East and South East regions. We stayed at Candidasa in the East region during our diving week. Candidasa used to be a small fishermen village but now it is mix of tourism and traditional fishing industry. The area of choice for tourists who would like to stay away from the hectic South of Bali. It is about 65 km from the South.
The East: Tulamben, Amed and Padangbai
The most famous dive site in East of Bali is in a small town called Tulamben (around 45 minutes from Candidasa): USAT Liberty shipwreck. It was a United States cargo ship attacked by a Japanese submarine in 1942 during the World War Two on Lombok Strait. It was stranded on Bali’s beach in Tulamben. Scuba divers can access the dive site on shore. The place was really beautiful. The wreck is covered by corals with lots of fish and turtles as residents. And those school of fish….
There are more dive sites to visit in Tulamben such as Kubu, Coral Garden, Drop Off, Seraya, and it continues to Amed (around 20 minutes driving from Tulamben). Amed has a long extend Coast area with the black stone beach. Its beach is similar to Tulamben, not for a sun-bathing activity like other Balinese beaches such as Nusa Dua, Geger, Jimbaran, Dreamland or Sanur. Tulamben and Amed have calm water, so these places are perfect for snorkeling and beginner scuba divers.
Another beautiful area to dive is Padangbai, which is also a ferry terminal area that connected Bali and Lombok. Located around 12 km from Candidasa and in Lombok Strait, the dive sites in this area could have a strong current. I was falling in the area during full moon time, and we were just drifting following the current. It was fun, although I was unable to take any picture. Dive sites surrounding Padangbai are Blue Lagoon, Jepun, and Ferry Channel.
About 15 minutes by boat from Padangbai, there are three very tiny islands: Gili Tepekong, Gili Mimpang, and Gili Biaha, where each island has several dive sites. I wish to dive in Gili Tepekong back then – I have heard that mola-mola is regular visitor – but unfortunately on that day all dives to Gili Tepekong was considered too dangerous due to strong downdraft current (Gili Tepekong is well known as “the toilet” because of this downdraft current). Well, next time I hope!
The South East: Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida.
Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are two small islands located in the southeast of Bali. Nusa is Sanskrit word that means island. Nusa Penida is larger than Nusa Lembongan with better infrastructure. While Nusa Penida is now having quite numerous villas and resorts, Nusa Lembong is quieter than Nusa Penida.
I did not stay on either island. Dive sites in Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan can be accessed by boat from Padangbai. It took us 45 minutes boat ride to reach two famous dive sites in the area: Manta’s Point and Crystal Bay.
While the weather temperature back then was 30 degree Celsius, the water temperatures in Manta’s Point and Crystal Bay was below 25 degrees C!! We were prepared with 7mm wetsuit, and yet I was still feeling cold. Brrr..if I remember those diving times there.
However, my suffering to dive in 22 degrees C cold water in Manta’s Point was rewarded by seeing seven mantas swam on the surface and they made a circle! What a beautiful sight! Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera to capture that moment.
Crystal Bay dive site was colder than Manta’s Point. I think it even dropped to 16-17 degree C. This dive site is popular for Mola-Mola sight. We were told that earlier in the day, some scuba divers saw the Mola-Mola in Crystal Bay. The dive site was not only cold but also had a strong current. The water was amazingly clear with the white sandy bottom. There was a huge rock with beautiful colorful corals where divers can hide from the super strong current. But, oh well, no Mola-Mola for us to see…
While Diving in Bali
One thing to be aware when diving in Bali is the current in the area of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Gili Tepekong. I have heard numerous news of missing scuba divers in Bali like what just happened recently to Japanese scuba divers group. It is important to choose dive centers who take safety seriously and know the area very well when diving in these regions. I used Orca Dive Center in Candidasa and Paradise Dive Center in Padangbai. Both has good service with well experienced local dive guides (master and instructor levels) and taking safety seriously as I noted in their briefing before we dove. Also, I consider that diving in a smaller group like four to six scuba divers would be safer.
Above of all, diving in Bali is worth to try; the dive sites are beautiful with the variation of diving skill levels. Safety precaution during diving is important; therefore you can enjoy the beauty of underwater life safe and sound.