Information before you go
Ideally located in the 'coral triangle' the Bali scuba diving and snorkeling sites are one of the richest in the world. While more isolated sites in Indonesia such as Komodo, Bunaken, Wakatobi and Raja Ampat sound attractive for adventurous divers, Bali's winning point is not only its species richness, but also the variety of it diving sites. Ship wrecks, drop-offs, volcanic outcrops, lime shores etc provide an exciting mixture for divers and snorkelers.
Most of these sites are located on the east coast of the island which are known for its black beaches. Other places which are ideal for snorkeling and diving are Nusa Penida and Menjangan island.
The conditions of the Bali dive sites are often determined by currents caused by wind and rain patterns. Theoretically the south east monsoon (May to September) brings dry air from Australia which triggers the dry season, while the north west monsoon (November to March) brings moist air from the South China sea causing the wet season. However with the changing of the climate, the dry season tends to be longer. Additionally the East Coast and Nusa Penida island get a bit more rain compared to the other sites.
Another point you should consider are high and low tide. Bali has two tides a day, of unequal heights. However this character of the tides differ per location as well. The moon also has a big affect on your overall diving experience as it can cause extreme diving conditions. Double check if your diving operator knows the conditions too before heading out. Go during flood time when the reef is the most active and you are much likely to have amazing sightings.
While clear visibility might seem the most ideal circumstances for diving, remember though, that poor visibility can also be caused by plankton rich water which will attract the sea life you hope to see, such as manta rays.
Clockwise the order of scuba diving sites in Bali are:
Pulau Menjangan (Deer Island) and its surrounding water is part of National Park West Bali. It is considered the best conserved coral on the island and up till now we have experienced the best snorkeling in Bali right here. The visibility is great and the number of different fish are amazing, just as the coral walls. We just couldn't get enough of it!
From the mainland the island looks nearby but it still takes 30 minutes by boat. The best time to snorkel here is early in the morning when the water is at its clearest.
At the Labuhan Lalang jetty...
As for divers, visibility is quite consistent with 40-50 meters. The water conditions are also pretty good throughout the year with the period between April to November being the best. Try to avoid January and February as the waves can be somewhat rougher.
Despite being located in a marine park, the diving sites around Menjangan island are not the richest site in Bali. Don't expect to see a Mola Mola or manta swimming by. However the clear water, calm conditions, vertical soft coral walls plunging to 35-60 meters deep, caves, cavities and cracks covered with corals and amazing sponges make this Bali dive site not to be missed.
This diving spot is also ideal for beginner divers because the reef is found 2 meters below the surface and stretches itself out for 100-150 meters without any waves or strong currents.
If you are an experienced diver you might want to consider heading to the north-western side of the island where you can find a shipwreck named the Anker. The wreck is 25 meters long and is located on a hill where you also find caves, soft corals and other marine life. Make sure you take the time to explore this site and get closer to the wreck to fully appreciate it.
At Pos II, the coral garden
If you plan to go diving at Menjangan island, it is best to stay at the nearby villages such as Pemuteran and Lovina. But even dive operators in Amed and Sanur arrange Bali diving trips to this part of the island, so you can basically enjoy this site where ever you are staying.
If you plan to go snorkeling only it's easy just to head to Labuhan Lalang harbor yourself. It's a small harbor located 20 minutes west from Pemuteran. There are many boats leaving daily from here, starting from 08.00 AM to 02.00 PM. At the entrance of the harbor you can arrange a permit, park guide (which is obligatory since you are entering a national park), boat and even snorkeling gear.
This is what we did and at the end the whole trip including gear etc was Rph 60.000 for the two of us. Everything at the harbor office is well organized and there is no need to bargain for a price as it is all written down clearly.
We were one of the first to leave from the harbor and we were glad we did because the water was still clear and we had seen about everything before the big crowd arrived around 10 a.m.
Ask the guide to take you to Pos II first where you can see the coral garden and then head to Pos I where you can check out the drop off. This sequence is best considering the current.
If you are planning to go diving or snorkeling with a tour or independently and you want to make it cheaper then you could of course try to find several other travelers to share the boat with. This will save you a lot of money. Up to 10 people fit in the boat and five if you are having diving gear with oxygen bottles.
Tulamben is the diving center of Bali. Those seeking a diving holiday will eventually end up here as this is Bali's most famous diving site. Divers from all over the world come here initially for one thing: USAT Liberty ship.
You don't even have to carry your gear in Bali!
The attractive aspect of the Tulamben ship wreck is that it is located just 30 meters of the coast, stretches itself out over 100 meters and runs parallel to the beach. The top of the ship is located only 3 meters below the surface with its lowest point on the bottom of the sea at a depth of 30 meters
You can walk into the water and swim to get there. Hence this makes wreck diving accessible for beginner divers who will easily spot marine life with names such as swirling silver trevally, ribbon sweetlips, bumphead parrot fish, sponges and beautiful soft and hard corals.
Tulamben is one of the most popular places for diving in Bali
What makes Tulamben also attractive is the black sand. A lot of divers aren't used to it, but if the sun is shining the dark back ground increases the colors of the coral and marine life. Underwater photography is there fore ideal here.
Water clarity isn't always ideal. It can be an average of 15m but can change dramatically due to to mixture of warm and cold water and plankton. However the diversity and richness of the diving sites is exceptional, making it easy for divers to spend a couple of days here.
At Tulamben there’s also a coral wall rich with a wide variety of tropical fishes where you can also have the chance to see reef sharks, occasionally manta rays and sometimes even the rare oceanic sunfish, called Mola Mola on Bali.
Other sites are the Batu Kelebit and the Seraya. The first is located around the corner of Tulamben Bay and has coral covered ridges separated by valleys of white sand. You will also bump here into various tropical fishes and the famous parrot fishes.
The dive site Seraya isn't far from Tulamben, but you need to hop on a boat. Here you can find sea horses, honeycomb eels, nudibranchs, harlequin shrimps, sea months and lion fishes.
The waters around Tulamben just in front of the many guest houses are also good for snorkeling with coral gardens, ribbon eels, beautiful nudibranchs and other coral fishes.
As expected several dive operators are located in in this popular diving village and organize tours to these sites. You can also book tours in Sanur or Kuta but it will cost you more.
Padi dive courses for all levels are offered here as well and other dive packages including accommodation and transportation to other dives sites in Bali.
If you are planning to do some scuba diving or snorkeling in Amed then you don't need to worry. There are dive operators in abundance. They can help you with your gear and take you to the best diving spots.
If you are just want to go snorkeling, like we did than you can easily arrange a traditional boat which can be found along the entire Amed coast. Every hotel can help you arrange a snorkeling trip plus gear, or you can pop in one of the many dive operator shops.It's about Rph 150.000 for 4 hours. At the dive operator store you can hire a snorkeling set for Rph 50.000 for a whole day. Other deals, usually through staff at the hotel are Rph 30.000 for a day.
Arrange a Jukung boat and snorkel anywhere you want...
In Amed there are two popular scuba diving sites. The first one is at Jemeluk, which is located at the most eastern tip of Bali. This reef is one of the richest in Bali particularly the east part where reef sharks and bumphead parrot fish are spotted occasionally among the huge gorgonians and sponges.
The second popular site is the Japanese wreck with a variety of fishes such as parrot fishes, trigger, grouper and soft corals, gorgonians and sponges. If the conditions are right, you can expect a visibility of 25+ meters.
At the Japanese wreck it's easy to watch the fish swim by as they seem to be used to seeing people checking them out daily.
The shore where you can find the Japanese wreck...
The Japanese wreck is located pretty near the shore so you can also just go to the beach and walk into the water from there. We were pretty disappointed by this site because the current brought a lot of rubbish. On top of that, since it's one of Amed's most popular sites it got pretty crowded. So be there early...
Luckily our boatman brought us to another site more east of the Japanese wreck. Here the coral and fish were more diverse and the water was clean. This site is only good for snorkeling and is located just in front of the Coral View Villas at Pondok Vienna Beach in Lipah.
There is nice coral at Lipah beach too...
An other site that attracts many divers is Salang island, south of Amed area. Experienced and advanced divers often come here for its current, that can easily push you around the island. But it can also be tricky because if you are unaware, it can slowly pull you down without your realizing. Here you can find moray eels, sharks, hard and soft corals and a variety of tropical reef fish.
There are a couple of dive operators in Amed who organize tours to these popular scuba diving sites. Eco Dive is located in Jemuluk bay and also offers dives to various bays in Amed, but they have dive safaris to other sites on the island and a variety of dive courses too.
Biaha island is located east of Candidasa, more towards Amlapura. The water here is usually very clear and the coral is healthy. If you go diving here chances are you will find barracudas, tunas, cuttle fish, napoleon wrasses, hard and soft corals and white tip reef sharks in a shark cave at just 12 meters below the surface.
Head to the east side of the rock island and dive towards the south around the tip to explore the deep walls.
While this sounds very attractive, this site is one of the most trickiest places to go diving in Bali. The currents from the Lombok Strait can make diving difficult if not dangerous. So only experienced divers should venture these waters.
Arrange a trip through the diving operators in Amed, Candidasa or Padangbai.
Candidasa is located along Amuk Bay and just off the coast you can see three small rock islands called Mimpang. Unlike other parts of Bali, diving here isn't what you expect from a tropical island. Despite the coral reefs looking less vibrant, almost a bit plain they are healthy and diverse. The currents of the Lombok strait brings plankton attracting the under water life divers love to see.
Mimpang islands in front of Candidasa's coast
If you are aiming to see sharks, then you are likely to do so at the southern tip of the Mimpang reef. If you are lucky you might even spot manta rays and Molas.
About a kilometer south east of Mimpang you have Tepekong, which can be considered the upscale version of Mimpang and is a popular site for divers from Candidasa and Padangbai. The most interesting site around this rocky island is The Canyon, where rock formation have created a different and unusual under water world with fish such as sweetlips and reef white tip sharks swimming in between. Diving conditions are usually not optimal, so a lot of patience is needed if you want to have a go. The water should be a quiet as a lake with no waves crashing on the rocks before you are able to experience it.
Beware that dive operators often take divers and snorkelers to another spot at Tepekong and claim that this is the famous Canyon. While the diving conditions here are more stable, this area is less interesting and therefore many don't understand why it was such a must to visit it.
Gazing at the islands you will soon see that they look rough and bare. Currents are the most trickiest here and is mainly determined by the moon. Also while the best time to see the big Molas are during the dry season it is also the less desirable time to go diving. So plan your dive accordingly and discuss the conditions thoroughly with the dive operator.
Make sure you are also wearing the suitable wet suit as the water can be much colder then you are used to when diving in tropical water.
Padangbai diving sites are located around its bay and on the western tip of Amuk bay, known as Tanjung Sari. The popular diving and snorkeling spots are either accessible from the village it self or is located just at the next bay on the other side of the hill.
Rent a boat to take you along the Tanjung Sari diving sites
There are numerous dive operators and boats that can take you out for a day trip to all the sites located in the area called Tanjung Sari. They are also the one to give you up to date information on the currents and other diving conditions of the sites.
Just like the diving sites around Candidasa, Tanjung Sari isn't known for its stunning coral reef but more for the fish gathered here. Those who are able to dive patiently and are willing to take the time to look closer, will be rewarded with unique surprises.
This is the case for the first sight: Blue Lagoon. It is a popular stop during dive trips. At a first glance you aren't likely to appreciate the sandy bottoms and scarce coral, but if it permits you will be treated with sharks, octopus, eels, nudibranch etc. Snorkelers will enjoy it here too.
If you want to go snorkeling but don't want to join a dive operator or a local fisher men to take you then you can walk to Blue Lagoon (also known as Pantai Kecil, meaning Little Beach). This beach is easily accessible by a 10-minute short cut walk over the left hill in the direction of the Bloo Lagoon resort. Snorkeling is not guaranteed here since there can be tricky currents.
My sister and girlfriend at Blue Lagoon
Other sites are found more south of Tanjung Sari towards Tanjung Silayuti, where the reef often makes way for sand and vice versa. You'll encounter marine life such as reef white tip sharks, cats harks, Napoleon wrasse, and reef rays.
For those who really want to tick of the list of unique fish sightings then you should let your dive operator know that you are eager to see the endemic Indonesian saw tail, Prionurus chrysurus. They are considered the largest of the Acanthurids genus and are usually found on their own or in pairs. They have been spotted in Amuk Bay, especially around Tanjung Sari.
If you do plan to go diving around Padangbai be aware that it is a busy ferry port and there are many boats coming and going. Your dive operator should know the specifics about this too.
Water Worx dive center in Padangbai
Just 20 km from Sanur beach there are the islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida. It is one of the exciting places to go diving and snorkeling around Bali, particularly the stretch between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Cenignan. The water is crystal clear, the reef is healthy and attractive but the currents do make it only accessible for the faint hearted.
The most popular diving and snorkeling site is north of Nusa Penida, just east of Toyapakeh. The current is quite strong here and is a favorite spot for sharks and oceanic sunfish/Molas (between June and November). The strong current results in drift dives and is only suitable for experienced divers who are accompanied with dive operators that know the sites well.
You can also stay at Nusa Lembongan and organize a diving or snorkeling trip there
Diving at Toyapakeh itself is also a treat however again the current can be very tricky here. If you get it wrong you will pass the good reef in minutes or even worse, end up lost in the Lombok strait. Unfortunately there have already been dramatic stories of divers getting lost, some of them never returning. So make sure you know exactly what the conditions are at every site.
That said, it remains a popular diving trip as this place is known for its Molas, batfish, sweetlips, jacks together with exceptional gorgonians and soft coral bushes. For shark sightings go to Malibu Point along the east coast. However it is scary to dive here, not because of the sharks but if you make one slight mistake the current will sweep you away and you will loose control resulting unfortunate consequences.
The last and probably the most trickiest diving site in the area is Manta Point. The swell makes it a dangerous place to go diving yet some do, as this is the place where you a likely to see manta rays and nurse sharks. Again, only for fearless experienced to advanced divers.
Towards sunset Nusa Lembongan beach is full with boats
There are several boat operators that organize tours such as the Scoot II from Sanur and the Bali Hai cruises from Nusa Dua. Dive operators in Padangbai, Sanur and Kuta even arrange drift dives around the Nusa Penida island. But the best choice is of course to go with a dive operator in Nusa Lembongan, as they are the most familiar with with snorkeling and diving sites. Go to Blue Corner Dive which also offers eco-accommodation or Wold Diving Lembongan who have be operating there since 1998.
Snorkelers can easily arrange a snorkeling trip a day before at their accommodation at Nusa Lembongan. The rates are still very reasonable compared to those on Bali. A local fishermen will take you, or you can join one of the diving boats. Just like the divers, you have to be aware of the currents. Luckily for those who are snorkeling, you can always keep an eye on the boat and raise your hand if you feel like you are drifting off.
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Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
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