Diving safaris are becoming the package of choice for those who want to see more of underwater Bali. Previously the preserve of surfers and beach holiday types, nowadays the island sees an increasing number of tourists hauling dive bags around.
Bali’s dive sites offer great diversity: vertical walls and sand slopes, shipwrecks, limestone shorelines and black, volcanic outcrops, peaceful bays and ripping currents, coral-covered ridges, with both shore- and boat-diving. Expect to see mantas, whale sharks and, from July through October, oceanic sunfish.
There is something for everyone; allow yourself to be surprised for you never really know just what you might see in this ever-changing underwater kingdom. Experienced divers will enjoy the thrill of the currents around Nusa Penida, beginners will love the simplicity of the sites in Amed and Padang Bai, and photographers will flock to the muck diving sites of Tulamben.
All of this combined with the friendliness of the Balinese people, glorious weather, white sandy beaches and recent marine protection measures make Bali an increasingly sought after destination by divers from across the world.
The USAT Liberty wreck dive is one of the most popular scuba dive sites in all of Bali. This cargo steamship was armed and torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. Nature took over as the years went by and the site is an extravagant coral reef today. The wreck provides a home and plenty of shelter for a variety of marine species, including parrotfish, batfish, emperors, sweetlips, big-eyed jacks, and a host of corals, such as sponges, sea fans, soft coral trees, and more. The shallower end of the site ranges from 5-10 meters deep, while the middle of the site usually averages around 16-20 meters. At high tide, the lower edge is about 20-28 meters deep.
Night dives are also available here, and because it is an easy dive, it is appropriate for all levels of divers. Access it directly from the beach off Tulamben.
Amed lies to the south, along the eastern coastline. It was traditionally dependent on salt-panning and fishing, and despite the arrival of tourists it’s retained that feeling. There are three main dive sites here; head south to the shipwreck at Lipah fishing village, or a bit further south to the drift dive at Gili Selang, Bali’s easternmost point. Here you can see striped convict tangs, sailfin tangs and orange-lined triggerfish quite close to the Bali shoreline.
This village is tiny and so is the wreck, which can be found at the inner bay drop-off at the north end of Lipah Bay. Divers can take a boat down the coast, or just drive along the winding coast and walk in. It’s full of copper sweepers, a batfish school, hard coral growth and waving sea fans, and can be both dived or snorkelled. Go with a good guide, as the currents can come up fast and strong.
Found at the opposite end of the bay from the Liberty wreck, the drop-off is an old lava flow from the Mount Agung explosion in 1963. Dropping down to an impressive 85 metres, this site is home to an abundance of coral and marine species. Among the flounders, shrimp, Napolean wrasse and nudibranchs, there have been sightings of whale sharks swimming as shallow as 9 meters, and dogtooth tuna when you dive a little deeper.
Blue Lagoon is a great site for divers who are still beginning to gain experience breathing under water, thanks to the shallow reefs there. In fact, reefs start at just 3 meters and the protected area has a calm current. Once submerged, you can find soft leather corals, massive coral bommies, and anemones, as well as lacey scorpionfish. Underwater photographers would surely love it here.
The interesting thing about Gili Tepekong is that it’s a place where divers can feel like they are seeing a lot of Medusa heads underwater. These are actually sea fans, tunicates and sponges resting on a huge volcanic hump. The environment deep there is incredible, especially when the schools of jacks, tuna, sharks, and mola mola are there.
Situated in the West Bali National Park, 10km (6 miles) offshore, this deer-inhabited island offers deep coral reef walls only 45m to 90m (150 — 300 ft.) from shore, with a diversity of gorgonian fans and plenty of small and medium-size fish on view. The protected island is reached by boats staffed by ex-fishermen from the area. The high visibility coupled with the gentle currents make this an exceptional place for the whole family.
Crystal Bay, on Nusa Penida, is protected and relatively shallow, offering enjoyable conditions for divers of all levels. The bay has two entrances and a large rock sits in the centre. Be careful when diving this central rock, or along the outside edge of the bay, as the current can be strong, sweeping divers out along the outside wall into very tricky diving conditions. When near the drop-off, look for larger creatures, such as molas, eagle rays, dogtooth tuna, sharks and an occasional bumphead wrasse. Schooling surgeonfish are abundant in some spots.
Named for a large Napoleon wrasse seen here, Napoleon Reef is in the north near Pemuteran. It can be dived deep or shallow, day or night. On the northeast end is the Ikan Warung fish house, bustling with various schools. Golden sea fans and large clumps of cotton-candy coral grow beside other gorgonians along the slope.
Lucky divers may have a close encounter with the manta rays that are known to traverse this dive site. One of the mantas is pure white, a truly unearthly creature. Manta Point is located along the high and rugged cliffs of Nusa Penida, so it’s not always easy to get there due to the big swells that sometimes hit, but it’s worth it to experience these gentle, graceful creatures.
Whether just learning how to dive or looking for a real thrill, people should visit Bali for these spots. As said, the underwater ecology in the island is definitely spectacular. There should be no room for hesitations.
The Climate and Best Time to Visit
The dry season is between April and October with the coolest months of May, June and July having an average temperature of 28°C. Rainy season is between November and March, with sudden downpours interrupted by periods of sunshine. Tourist High Season is July and August for Europeans and Americans, and December and January for Australians.
You can scuba dive Bali all year round since the weather affects the diving here only in certain areas at specific times of the year. We recommend a visit between April and December.
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