BALI’S BEST DIVE SITES
Bali is the unsung hero of Indonesian diving. It does have it all; muck diving, wreck diving, coral reefs, and wide-angle-worthy pelagics all feature in dive locations around the island.
The distances between dive locales mean either choosing one location or spending a few days each in a number of your chosen spots. Bali also has islands, the closest of which are Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan and, for most purposes, are included in the general region when diving in Bali is discussed. To give you a flavor of what Bali has to offer, here is our pick of dive sites.
The Liberty Shipwreck
The wreck of the USAT Liberty always makes it into a charting position when best wreck dives are discussed. The wreck itself is very broken up but still discernible as a vessel. It’s encrusted with coral growth and pulses with life but the icing on the cake is its relative simplicity as a dive. The wreck languishes in shallow water directly off the beach in Tulamben. Yes, you can walk to it. You can snorkel and free dive effortlessly and you can even enjoy it on your open water course. Depth ranges from 5-30m (16-100ft).
It’s not really a secret and most likely never was but Secret Bay does hold secrets both tiny and unusual. Secret Bay lies close to the mouth of Gilimanuk Bay on the north west of the island itself. Here the currents of the Bali Strait have conspired to produce an environment welcoming to some most unusual marine life. This is muck diving macro hunting heaven; snake eels, sea snakes, seahorse, ghost pipefish, cockatoo fish, frogfish, dragonets, nudibranch and sea hares are all waiting to be discovered. The dive is 10m (30ft) deep at the most which means very long bottom times; ideal for capturing photographs of the myriad of creatures you are likely to come across. Don’t expect coral reef though; you’re hunting around rubble, within seagrass and along the fine black volcanic sand.
No prizes for guessing what you’re likely to see here and while there’s no guarantee sightings are consistent with peak numbers showing up between March and June. The site itself often experiences big surge which can complicate entry. The maximum depth for the dive is 15m (50ft), but the manta action is a lot shallower and mostly between 4-6m (13-20ft). Manta Point is closest to Nusa Penida, one of the islands off Bali’s southern tip.
Crystal Bay Divers flock here in their hundreds for the chance to see a Mola Mola or sunfish. These prehistoric looking giants of the ocean come to Crystal Bay for cleaning; July to September is the best time to catch a glimpse. Currents here can be erratic and downward flows are not uncommon, so it’s not a wise choice for newer divers. If you want to see a Mola Mola, don’t put all your hopes on one dive. Hang out for a few days and give yourself a few chances to spot these 2000kg fish and don’t leave disappointed. Crystal Bay is accessed from Nusa Penida.
South of Tulamben lies a dive so rich resorts have been built to accommodate divers who can’t bear to be more than a few steps away from its entry. A shore dive, Seraya’s Secrets start to be revealed in less than 1m (3ft) of water. To the untrained eye, there’s nothing there but sloping black sand, yet to critter hunters it’s paradise; a rainbow of nudibranch, shore crab, mimic octopus, decorator crab, lionfish, juvenile morays, harlequin shrimp, anemone shrimp, needle shrimp, boxer crab, ghost pipefish and much much more lie in wait. Cleaning stations dot the sand and have even brought whale sharks in.
On Bali’s north coast Pemuteran Bay has around nine dive sites and offers some great diving with, overall, fewer divers. While this makes it a destination by itself, I have included it because of the reef restoration project started here in 2000. Eighteen years makes the Biorock and surrounding structures ‘old’ in relation to similar projects and therefore quite interesting to see what the benefit of such initiatives can be in time.
This little gem lies in Padang Bai and is an effortless dive full of wonder. Frogfish, stonefish, nudibranch and star gazers make their home here. It’s a sandy bay dotted with coral that makes a great night dive too; keep an eye out for Spanish Dancers.
Current and topography make this a dive for the more advanced. A series of three large rocks and six smaller rocks offer shelter for the wobbegong sharks, trevallies and tuna. Some operators rate the site with an 80% chance of seeing sharks. In season you can catch Mola Mola here too.
Like close by Gili Mimpang, Gili Tepekong offers much of the same spectacular diving as its neighbor. The nice thing is that when the conditions at one render it un-diveable – conditions are usually right at the other. Again, it’s a great shark spotting dive with lots of barracuda and the chance to see Mola Mola and manta rays.
This dive lies at the foot of Nusa Penida; it’s not for the faint-hearted, and it’s not to be taken lightly. Currents abound on this tremendous drift dive and bring that frenetic marine action synonymous with high octane dives of this ilk. Around the 30m (100ft) is where you’ll encounter sharks, rays and hopefully sunfish.
Where have you dived in Bali? Which were your favorite spots? Have you dived at any of our favorite spots? Tell us about it.