Scuba diving in Bali, full review of areas and spots

Pez loro búfalo
Humphead parrotfish in Bali

When you hear the word “Bali” what comes to your mind is a tropical island paradise, Buddhist temples and vast terraces of rice plantations. The cordial smile of its inhabitants and a colorful and exotic culture are known throughout the world. But Bali also has one of the most exciting landscapes in the world on its seabed. With as much richness, color and variety as the one that is presupposed on the surface.

Its coral reefs are home to the smallest and most colorful creatures and also to large pelagics with whom every diver dreams of sharing a dive. The largest sunfish, nudibranchs of a thousand colors, whale sharks, the extraordinary mimic octopus, lush coral gardens, manta ray cleaning stations or millions of reef fish. Bali is a must scuba diving destination for lovers of the big blue.

Bali island is a province of Indonesia located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Its waters rich in currents loaded with food have created a unique setting for diving and snorkeling. From easy diving a few meters away that allows you to see the frenetic life of the coral reef, to caves, wrecks, currents and vertiginous walls for the most demanding diving lovers.

Diving in Bali is divided into three areas: South (with Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Sanur), East Coast (with Padang bai, Candidasa, Tulamben, Amed) and Northwest Coast (with Menjangan, Pemutaran, Lovina and Gilimanuk).

South BALI: NUSA PENIDA, NUSA LEMBONGAN and SANUR

Nusa Penida is a small island located southeast of Bali. It has extraordinary diving spots where lovers of the largest pelagic species will be completely satisfied. July to October is the best time to dive with huge sunfish that come close to the surface in “Cristal Bay”. If you are lucky enough, it is also possible to find whale sharks.

This area lives up to its name with crystal clear waters full of beautiful hard coral formations occupied by a multitude of reef fish. Beautiful Moorish idols inhabit the reef, but they will not be able to take center stage from the great star of the dive: the giant mola mola.

frog fish
Nusa Penida is full of colorfull frogfish. Source

Another prominent dive in South Bali is the “Blue Corner”. There we can also find the sunfish, but the great attraction of this reef is its strong and exciting currents only intended for the most expert divers. These food-rich currents attract schools of rays and barracuda, sunfish, sea snakes, dolphins or reef sharks. All of them performing in a beautiful setting of sponges, corals and sea fans.

In “Manta Point” the biggest stars are the manta rays, which show up in all sizes, ready for the wrasses to make their lives a little easier by deworming them.

“Manta Point” the manta ray cleaning station show

In “Pura Ped” we can enjoy the contrast with the previous dives as this one overwhelms with the profusion of colorful coral reef life. Spectacular species such as napoleon fish, scorpion fish, parrot fish, turtles, white tip sharks have a sanctuary rich in food in “Pura Ped”.

Sanur is located off the island of Nusa Lembongan and is the perfect place to dive in Bali when you don’t have much time to go north or take long boat trips. Among its simple dives, “Jeladi Wilis” stands out, which does not exceed 20 meters in depth. Its dives have good visibility, being very interesting for fans of macrophotography due to its colorful invertebrates. At this point we can also carefully approach poisonous species such as spotted rays or scorpion fish.

“Sanur channel” is one of the most suitable areas of Bali for diving courses since access is very easy and it does not have strong currents. Although it does not offer the best of diving in Bali, you will find beautiful coral formations full of life. In “Penjor Reef” we find a coral reef with a great explosion of life full of anemones, soft and hard corals, gorgonians and the most diverse reef fish, highlighting the clownfish, sweet lips and the mimic octopus.

East coast: PADANG BAI, CANDIDASA, TULAMBEN, AMED

In Padang Bai “The blue lagoon” stands out. In this small bay with a white sand bottom you can do easy dives with an incredible profusion of marine life. You will find huge napoleon fish, several types of reef sharks, the dangerous stone fish, sweet lips, angel fish, surgeon fish, a great diversity of moray eels, colorful nudibranchs, rays, squid or octopus. A true delight for lovers of macro photography! And if you dare to do a night dive you will find a completely different bay where the frantic activity for survival is amazing and chilling.

Other essential dives are those that take place in the area comprised by Mimpang, Tepekong and Biaha. Here, surrounded by very healthy and crowded with reef life, pelagic species such as the ever-present Bali sunfish along with whitetip sharks show up.

In a reef where black corals, barrel sponges or large gorgonians proliferate, the most colorful reef fish congregate. Multitudes of angel fish, trumpet fish, pipe fish, unicorn fish, butterfly fish, parrot fish, clown triggerfish, schools of tuna or spotted rays swarm the east coast of Bali.

Diving off Candidasa, on the other side of Padang Bai Bay, can only be described as exhilarating. Life in this area is frenetic and is starred by large pelagics. After diving through the rocky islands of Gili Tepekong, Biaha Gili, Gili and Mimpang Selang Gili, and with excellent visibility, we are immediately surrounded by large numbers of whitetip sharks. It is also possible to see other sharks such as black tips, cat fish, carpet shark and with a bit of luck great hammerhead sharks.

It is also a great diving areas if you like drift diving along walls full of corals, caves where large moray eels live and where different species of sharks breed, strong currents and large schools of tuna. Candidasa is synonymous with strong emotions not without color and small creatures.

Home of one of the best wrecks in the world

If there is an area that has given world fame in the field of diving to Bali, it is Tulamben. For something it is visited every year by the most renowned underwater photographers in the world. Tulamben Bay has the greatest biodiversity in all of Bali thanks to being very rich in nutrients brought by the currents that come from the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Black volcanic rocks in shallow waters full of plankton give shelter to countless corals and gorgonians that hide the stars of macro photography. You cannot leave Tulamben (and once you go, you will return) without entering the Liberty wreck. This 120 meter long freighter torpedoed by the Japanese during World War II is home to more than 400 species of fish, numerous giant gorgonians and countless corals.

Tulamben’s smallest life, living treasures

Another must-see area on the east coast of Bali is Amed, which offers very interesting dives for both beginners and experts. Its shallow “Coral Garden” is full of hard and soft corals that are visited by turtles, parrot fish, spotted rays, clownfish, surgeon fish, angelfish, pipe fish… A true Eden that can also be enjoyed through snorkeling .

“Ghost Bay” is the most suitable place to find the rarest creatures of our oceans that will leave you speechless and that also has a curious history of reef reconstruction behind it. Clown frogfish, mimic octopus, razor fish, large stone fish, schools of lion fish, boxer crabs or pygmy seahorses are just some of the extraordinary creatures that live here. A fixed place for professional photographers from all over the world.

NORth easT: MENJANGAN, PEMUTERAN, LOVINA Y GILIMANUK

The northwest of Bali has extremely clean and crystalline waters that favor calm diving and for all levels. This area is part of a 19,000 hectare National Park which makes it the most protected diving area in Bali. Place of pilgrimage for fans of macro photography. It is also visited by large pelagics such as the ever-present Bali mola mola and whale sharks.

Menjagan Island is an excellent opportunity for wall diving. There we can dive into walls, which range from 20 to 60 meters deep, loaded with sea fans, sponges, gorgonians and caverns aimed at the most expert divers. Although the effects of “El Niño” did a lot of damage to this area, little by little it is recovering and marine life continues to come to take refuge and feed. The good visibility and lack of currents makes easier than anywhere else in Bali diving with whitetip sharks, triggerfish, cavity-hiding moray eels, blue-bottom sunfish, or batfish.

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