Known as the Island of the Gods, Bali has built its fame on the great surfing beaches, beautiful waterfalls, rich culture and Insta-worthy villas. But many may not realize that Bali is also one of the best places to scuba dive in Indonesia.
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The underwater world around Bali is teeming with marine life, offering incredible scuba diving to divers of all skill levels. Dive sites in the region range from drift dives and wreck dives to shallow reefs, suitable for beginners. But no matter how long you have been diving, you are bound to find dive sites in Bali interesting. The waters around the islands are full of fish and macro life as well as bigger creatures like rays and sharks.
On our recent trip to Bali, we had an opportunity to stay at Lotus Bungalows and check out a number of fantastic dive sites around Bali with their well-equipped dive operator, Gangga Divers. It was here that we learned everything we know about diving in Bali and got a chance to experience the underwater world surrounding this part of Indonesia.
Best Time to Dive in Bali
Diving in Bali is good year-round. But the best conditions are between May and November. The water is typically a bit colder during this time of the year (average 26-27°C) and the visibility tends to be better. Between November- April, water temps can reach up to 30-31°C.
Coral gardens and reefs will be teeming with fish no matter what time of the year you visit, but if you are hoping to encounter some bigger fish on your dives consider this:
- Sharks, are more common in colder waters, between July and November.
- Mantas are typically encountered in the months of September/October/November.
- Turtles are more common between April and September
- And the sunfish, Mola Mola, tends to be more frequently spotted in August/September/October.
Scuba Diving in Bali
There are over 40 dive sites scattered around Bali and the nearby islands. A number of dive sites are scattered along the East Coast as well as in the Northwest part of the island. Nusa Penida and the surrounding small islands also offer a variety of dive sites accessible from Bali.
Nusa Penida, as well as the other smaller islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, offer great diving conditions and a number of very popular dive sites.
One of the most famous dive sites near Nusa Penida is Manta Point, that features a manta cleaning station and offers divers an opportunity to witness these beautiful creatures up close. At certain times of the year, this area is also famous for the funny-looking ocean sunfish, known as Mola Mola.
You can reach Nusa Penida with a dive boat in about 45 minutes from Bali.
North East Bali (Tulamben and Surroundings)
The northeast coast of the island is also a great place for diving in Bali. Sites like Amed, Tulamben, Kubu Reef, and Seraya are full of vibrant undersea life and are accessible to all divers with an open water certification. This area is also common for new divers taking their Open Water Certification.
Candidasa and Padang Bai
The sites off the coast of Candidasa and Padang Bai offer some of the best diving in Bali. The dive sites here are thrilling with deep reefs, tall walls, and some fast-moving waters. There are deep-sea caves here as well as some awesome macro life to check out, too. Due to currents and depths, these sites are recommended to advanced divers only.
Western Bali near Menjangan
If you like wall diving, northwest Bali is the best place to go. There are some awesome drop-offs as well as wrecks to be seen here, and some unique underwater creatures that you won’t find in other parts of Bali, such as eels in their famous eel garden.
Top Dive Sites in Bali
During our visit to Bali, we had an opportunity to check out many of Bali’s top dive sites, but to gather the list of the best dive sites in Bali, we turned to the help of a professional.
Jan, the manager of Gangga Divers at Lotus Bungalows, sat down with us to chat about his favourite dive sites in the region. Having now spent many years diving in Bali, we trust that Jan knows the best spots!
Manta Point, Nusa Penida
As the name implies, Manta Point is one of the best places to see manta rays in Bali. Located on the south side of the island, Manta Point is accessed by a 60 mins boat ride from Candidasa. The boat ride can be a bit choppy, but the gorgeous views of the coastline more than makeup for the bumpy ride.
The dive site is quite shallow at just 10-15m deep, but the waters are usually pretty cold (18-22°C). The dive site offers an opportunity to spot the majestic manta rays who gather around the shallow cleaning stations. In addition to the mantas, there are a number of blue-spotted rays, some octopuses and lots of nudibranchs.
SD, Nusa Penida
Sekolar Dasar, or SD for short, is a drift dive on the northern coast of Nusa Penida. The currents here are strong and can be quite unpredictable, but the dive site offers a chance to see large pelagic fish such as white-tip shark and black-tip shark, tuna, barracuda, and giant trevally. In the right season, this is where the oceanic sunfish, Mola-Mola, can also be spotted.
The dive site is 15-30m deep and usually offers great visibility, but due to strong currents, the dive is recommended to advanced scuba divers only.
Malibu Point, Nusa Penida
Malibu Point is located on the northeast side of Nusa Penida and is considered another great place for seeing manta rays. It’s also one of the best places to see sharks in Bali.
Malibu Point is typically done as a drift dive and can experience extreme currents in some places.
Toyapakeh, Nusa Penida
Toyapakeh is another great drift dive site around Nusa Penida. The site is a steeply sloping reef face with beautiful hard and soft corals and an abundance of fish life. Schools of fish, as well as the famous mola-mola (oceanic sunfish), can be spotted here in cold water season between August and September.
Due to strong currents and depth of 10-30m, this dive site only suitable for advanced open water divers.
Gili Biaha, Candidasa
Gili Biaha is another drift dive suitable only for advanced open water divers. The dive site is best known for its turbulent blowhole that spouts jets of water and makes it look like a whale. There is also a cave on the eastern side of the site where divers can enjoy the company of frequented by white-tip reef sharks. The corals on the wall are a good place to spot nudibranchs.
This is another dive site frequented by the mola-mola sunfish in the colder months.
Gili Tepekong, Candidasa
Tepekong is a wall drift dive suitable for all levels of divers, including those with an open water certification. The dive site is covered in bright corals, rocks, and pinnacles. A number of caves frequented by reef sharks can be found at depths of 15-30m.
While the main dive site is suitable for all levels, the canyon, at the southwest side of the island, is a more challenging site known for unpredictable currents. Currents at this dive site attract schools of fish, including sweetlips, snapper, and surgeonfish, fusiliers as well as trevally, and groupers.
Gili Mimpang, Candidasa
Another steep wall dive, Gili Mimpang is a lovely dive site suitable for all levels. The site is covered with hard and soft corals and is a great place to spot sharks, eels, and other big fish. It is also known for schools of blue lines snapper, unicornfish, and butterflyfish. Mola-mola, the ocean sunfish, are also commonly spotted here in August and September.
Drop Off, Padang Bai
If you like muck diving, try exploring the Drop Off, a dive site with a mix of sandy slope and wall. You’ll have the chance to see small and colourful creatures like nudibranchs, sponges, crabs, shrimps, as well as lots of “Nemo” fish, octopus and even some cuttlefish. Drop off is a popular dive site for night dives.
Jepun, Padang Bai
Jepun is a great dive site known for good muck diving. You’ll also find rays, wrasse, and other larger fish at this dive site as well. This site is suitable for all levels and is easily accessed from Padang Bai port.
Liberty Wreck, Tulamben
Just 30m offshore, the Liberty Wreck, found only 30m off-shore, is one of the coolest places to go scuba diving in Bali. Max was lucky enough to dive here back in 2012 when he first got his scuba diving certification and he still raves about it to this day.
The wreck is a WWII ship that beached ashore during the war and some 20 years later was pushed into the ocean after an eruption of Mt Agung. The ship lies close to the shore with its stern sitting at just 5m deep and bow at 28m deep. The flexibility in depth makes this a great dive site for both advanced and open water divers. Since its sinking, it’s been nearly completely covered by corals. Fish here are very accustomed to divers and tend to be rather curious and friendly. The Liberty Wreck is the most popular wreck dive in Southeast Asia.
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Where to Stay
Ubud, Kuta and Canggu may be the most popular areas to stay in Bali, they are NOT where you want to stay if you are planning of diving in Bali. For convenience and easy access to the majority of dive sites in Bali, you want to stay close to the port of Padang Bai.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), the area around Padang Bai and the neighbouring, Candidasa is not well developed and accommodation options in this part of Bali are quite limited.
During our recent visit, we stayed at Lotus Bungalows, conveniently located just 15 mins from the port of Padang Bai in the heart of a small town of Candidasa. Lotus Bungalows is one of the nicest accommodation options in this part of Bali and one of the few with a PADI Five Star Dive Resort.
The resort consists of 20 bungalows, each with elegant furnishings, a Balinese-style open-air bathroom with hot and cold water, and private verandas.
There is an open-air restaurant on site as well as a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean. We found Lotus Bungalows to be an ideal spot to base ourselves while diving in Bali.
Where to Eat
There is a restaurant on-site at Lotus Bungalows that serves up excellent food, so we didn’t venture out too much during our stay. For breakfast, they offered a nice selection of fruits, cereals, as well as a selection of eggs and sides. For lunch, we enjoyed ordering from their extensive a la carte menu that featured delicious pizza, pasta, and a variety of salads and fresh fish.
There are some other restaurants in the Candidasa area, that you could check out if you get tired of eating at Lotus Bungalows (we didn’t).
Diving in Bali is one of the best things to do on the island. With such a variety of unique places to see under the surface, there is something for everyone here. We’ve been fortunate to dive in a few spots around the island and would highly recommend it to divers of all levels!
Have you ever been diving in Bali? What is your favourite dive site in this area?
Disclaimer: Our stay at Lotus Bungalows and our dives in the region were provided courtesy of Lotus Hotels, however, all opinions expressed in this article are our own.