Indonesia is the global center of marine bio-diversity according to scientists. The eastern part of the country particularly is an undeveloped underwater paradise waiting to be explored. Bali itself has dive sites, with varying conditions. The main diving locations in Bali are:
The dive starts in a flat area of about 3-8 meters in a wonderful coral garden, with a mild current the drop off falls down to 30 meters. It is beautiful and features soft coral and a range of reef fish. 2 hours from Kuta and 10 minutes by small boat to sites.
Nusa Dua / Sanur
Soft coral and colorful fish can be seen in 3-20 meter deep water. The slow current makes it ideal for every level of diver. 15 minutes by boat to the site.
Nusa Penida & Nusa Lembongan
Diving at these islands will give you a good chance of encountering larger fish. Barracuda and mantas are frequently sighted and occasionally, the weird Mola-mola (Oceanic Sunfish). 2 hours from Kuta and 30 minutes from the sites.
Padangbai / Gili Tapekong
The drop off is grown with hard and soft corals. Many nudibranchs and some flatworms can be found here. The Blue Lagoon at the left side of Padangbai harbor, the reef drops vertically to 20 meters and continues in a sandy area. Gili Tapekong is known as Shark’s Point. Mixed reef and walls with gentle current. About 1.5 hours from Kuta and 10 minutes by boat from the sites.
It is 1.5km long and 500 meters wide at Northwestern Bali. It also part of the Bali Barat Nasional Park. Coral walls are vertical down to 30-60 meters and then slope outward. 3.5 hours from Kuta and 30 by boat to sites.
The most visited dive site has a 395 ft long wreck, the USS Liberty that is sleeping under a coral blanket at 5-28 meters. This is a beach dive and the wall starts from 1 meter and drops, almost vertically to 40 meters. 2.5 hours from Kuta.
Talking to an experienced diving instructor in Bali, I learned some tips that I have already passed onto one person. Bali / Lombok has some decent diving but it is not earth-shaking, like some of the spots in Eastern Indonesia. For someone who is looking to travel around Bali a bit and do some diving, here’s a plan.
Kuta / Seminyak / Sanur / Nusa Dua has plenty of dive operators willing to organize a trip around Bali for you. This is the most user-friendly way to go as they take care of transportation, give you a good recommendation on accommodation, provide equipment, tank refills and safety. You can drive yourself around, if you don’t want your trip to be entirely dive-oriented.
Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida
Starting out in the southern part of Bali, you might take a day trip out to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida. One of the dive spots on Nusa Penida, ‘SD‘ is known for its amazing soft and hard corals. On a day where the visibility is good, this site can compare with Komodo or other famous dive sites. The wet season tends to make visibility less than perfect, although Bali enjoys good marine visibility.
To get to Nusa Penida, you can take a boat from Sanur. In the mornings it’s always low tide, meaning you have to haul your your gear out onto the mud and walk through a mass of sea-grass. Could be a good option to drive to Padangbai, catch a fast boat to Nusa Penida then spend the night in either Padangbai (simple cheap accommodation) or Candi Dasa (better standard of modern accommodation). Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida get strong currents which mean experienced divers only.
Amed & Tulamben
Amed / Tulamben is only an hour or so away to the East, each place offering dive operators and places to stay. Tulamben is great because you can walk out from the each and live on the sunken USS Liberty.
Menjangan Island & Gilimanuk Bay
Following the coastal road round and heading west, you’ll get to the best dive spot on the north coast, Menjangan Island. A good idea is to spend at least 2 days at this location as the drive from Tulamben is 2-3 hours as is the drive back to Kuta. I’ve heard that the best place to stay is the Waka Shorea on the mainland just down from Menjangan. For people who enjoy tiny marine life, Gilimanuk Bay has some unique varieties that may be of interest.
So for a newcomer to Bali, with very little pre-planning you can access amazing corals in fast flowing clear currents, dive a wreck straight from the beach, 40m-60m wall dives and tiny marine life. Not bad for a small island that is also one of the world’s top surf spots.
People planning to travel further afield to places such as Manado and Komodo to join live-aboard boats, don’t plan your trip down to the day as air-flight cancellations are common. Bali also has a Gay & Lesbian divers operation that caters to mostly small / mid sized groups.
My friend Toby told me he was hoping to do some snorkeling while in East Bali. Thinking about our options, Padangbai, Candi Dasa and Amed would all work. I’d never go snorkeling in Bali without a boat, after reading too many stories of lone Europeans gone for good, not able to get to shore after renting a snorkel from a local.
According to my guidebook, 2 of the islands off of Candi Dasa (Gili Tepekong & Gili Biaha), are good for diving. However, there are currents and the water is cold. Last time I was in Candi Dasa I saw waves, but the local guy on the beach was telling me “good you go snorkeling now, flat.”
For a better snorkeling experience, try Blue Lagoon, the small bay at the eastern end of Padangbai. The 3 little islands close to Candi Dasa (Gili Mimpang) are also good. You can organize snorkeling through your hotel, although it will cost more than going directly to the boat owner. also, dive shops will take you snorkeling. The cheapest way is to go on a local boat. East Bali has hundreds of boats parked up on the beach and running into someone saying ‘Hey Boss you want to go snorkeling?” isn’t hard. You should always shop around and negotiate. Make sure you know where you are going, and that the equipment is included in the price.
Other places that will work for snorkling are Pasir Putih Beach in Perasi and many of the beaches in Amed. Nusa Lembongan has good snorkeling too and can be accessed on a day trip from the port of Benoa (Bali Hai Cruises)
Candi Dasa is located on Amuk Bay, which is a popular place to dive. The tiny islands in Amuk Bay (Gili Tepekong, Gili Biaha, Gili Mimpang) offer the best diving experience and that’s where the operators aim for.
As any dive operator will tell you, currents are strong and unpredictable, making some places unsuitable for beginners. The ‘washine machine’ effect can freak people out, so its necessary to wait for the right conditions.
Here are some of the diving operators in Candi Dasa:
•Baruna – located in the Puri Bagus Candi Dasa Hotel and on the main street.
•Calypso Dive Bali – Located at Hotel Candi Dasa
•Divelite – Located in Candi Dasa.
•Maoko Dive Center – They also provide waterskiing, paragliding, jet-ski, fishing.
•Pineapple – Located at Candi Beach Cottages
•Spice Dive – Located at Balina Beach Resort
•Stingray Dive Center – Located in Senkidu and on the main street.
•Yos Marine Adventures – Located in the Asmara Hotel
FAX (0363) 41929
Lovina has a selection of dive centers, offering trip to Menjangan island to the west and Tulamben to the east. Local watersports can be located at ‘Spice Beach‘, owned and operated by Spice Dive (0362) 41969, in Kaliasem. Services offered include banana boat rides, parasailing, waterskiing, wake-boarding and knee-boarding. The banana boat needs a minimum of 4 people. The restaurant on site is called Cafe Spice, and the Spice Girls serve the drinks…joking!
Dive operators in Senggigi run daily trips up to the Gili Islands whih are only a few kms up the coast. Like a pizza menu, they offer the whole shabang of dive courses including Open Water (don’t watch the movie the night before) and Dive Master. An Open Water course might cost you something in the region of $350.
Many operators offer snorkeling in the Gili’s for around $25. Check with any of the following dive operators for the latest prices. Diving in the Gili’s is supposed to be okay, but its far from the best in Indonesia. For more serious divers, Manado in Sulawesi, Komodo, Ambon, Banda and Irian Jaya (West Papua) are highly recommended.
Dive operators in Senggigi:
• Albatross (0370) 693399
• Blue Coral (0370) 693441
• Blue Marlin (0370) 641609
• Dive indonesia (0370) 693367
• Divetastic (0370) 692004
• Dream Divers (0370) 692047
• Lombok Dive (0370) 693002
The Gili Islands are never going to win any prizes for the quality of marine life, ask anyone in the diving business. If you are looking for spectacular diving, go to Manado in Sulawesi, Komodo, Ambon, or West Papua (Irian Jaya).
Still, there are dive operators on all 3 Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Gili Air), and there is a developed industry there, with well-known dive spots and plenty of supporting infrastructure as far as transport, hotels and food places.
The Gili Islands are surrounded by reef and located on the northern side of Lombok, are sheltered from big swells. The depth is around 25 meters, with visibility around 15 meters, water temperature warm.
Gili Trawangan offers a white sand island, surrounded by turquoise water. There are no cars or motorbikes, no police, no nightclubs, but there are many restaurants, many showing evening movies and some having live music. Some of Bali’s most famous restaurants have branches there including Ryoshi and The Beach House. In all Gili Trawangan offers a good place to get a taste of diving in Indonesia, before moving onto more challenging sites.
Learning to dive in something that many tourists have on their agenda. A 4 day PADI course will get you your Open Water certificate, allowing you to rent equipment and fill tanks anywhere in the world. Gili Trawangan has several dive shops offering Open Water courses, many with their own training pool. It always pays to check out your dive opertaor and choose one you trust.
Operators on Gili Trawangan
Small personal outfit catering to small groups.
(0370)632424 FAX (0370)642286
High end dive operator with all the bells and whistles. Offers PADI courses, Instructor Development Courses and IANTD (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers) courses.
(0370)642289 FAX (0370)642328
Great faciliities including pool and restaurant. Offering usual PADI courses.
High-end dive center offering an array of dives for beginners and experienced divers. Also, have a trip to southern Lombok.
Relaxing atmosphere with plenty of dives for experienced divers.
Vila Ombak Diving Academy
(0370)642336 FAX (0370)642337
Offers dive and stay packages at the Vila Ombak hotel. High-end dive center offering up to IDC level instruction.
With such a high density of quality dive operators, you will have ample opportunity to compare quality and cost. Feel free to negotiate, there’s nothing like a customer with money in his hand to get a business owner excited.
Last night I chatted with an Australian couple who have been diving in Indonesia recently. Everyone has their favorite places and experiences with dive sites, operators and supporting infrastructure.
The couple had spent time in Gili Trawangan, which is a cozy place for divers to go, given the choice of operators in a small area, relaxed area, and restaurants. Gili Trawangan is not one of the best dive sites in Indonesia, but the couple said they had good diving.
Spending 7 days on a liveaboard boat in Komodo, which included the session of heavy winds we felt recently, they raved about the diving out there. The husband told me fish were so thick you couldn’t even see a person 2 meters away. There were rays, sharks and many types of coral. A nightdive they did was specatacular with the multitude of colors that came about. As a bonus, they even got to see the Komodo dragons ashore.
Komodo doesn’t have any facilties for tourists, so you’re basically just passing through and divers have to go on a liveaboard. The couple used a boat operated by Blue Marlin, who has an office in Gili Trawangan and recommend it, they booked on line.
Eastern Indonesia, whether it be Komodo, Ambon, the Banda’s or Irian Jaya, offers the best variety of marine life in the world.