Diving enthusiasts rarely rave about Bali, but we reckon it’s because they haven’t tried it. It’s understandable that most of the admiration happens on land with the island’s beautiful beaches and awesome surf waves.
That said, the glistening turquoise waters surrounding Bali are home to an array of excellent dive sites scattered all around the island. There’s something for every diver here – from warmer waters with gentle currents where beginners can dive safely, to low temperatures and stronger currents better suited for experienced divers. Here are some of the best dive sites you’ll want to check off your itinerary, and get ready for an underwater journey that you won’t soon forget!
One of Bali’s busiest diving destinations, visibility at Tulamben averages at 10 to 30 metres. Coupled with its gentle currents, it makes a site well suited for beginner and advanced divers alike.
The highlight is undoubtedly the USS Liberty wreck; a 120 metre shipwreck located just 50 metres off the shores of Tulamben. You can also expect an abundance of marine life, corals and nice swim throughs. Into night diving? Keep a look out for sightings of shoals of bumphead parrotfishes and flashlight fishes.
The ‘Drop Off’, a rugged wall that stretches out towards the sea and descends down to a depth of over 70 metres, is another must-see at Tulamben. Be captivated by myriad corals, gorgonian sea fans and whips, as well as large shoals of mackerels and bumphead parrotfishes. Keep your eyes peeled for various types of reef fishes, like pygmy seahorses, tuna, lionfish, stonefish, and octopi. Visibility here averages at about 15 to 20 metres.
In between the ship wreck and the Drop Off lies Paradise Reef, both sides of which are flanked by black sand slopes with plenty of nudibranchs. The reef itself is home to a large variety of marine life – from blue male ribbon eels and pygmy seahorses, to tiger shrimps and ovulidae.
Located off the western shores of Bali, Menjangan Island draws divers with its amazing visibility (it averages at 20 to 50 metres), as well as the diversity of marine life and corals. Divers can expect moderate currents, and the dive sites around the island are suitable for beginner and advanced divers.
At the westernmost point of the island lies the intriguing-sounding Eel Garden. Most divers start from the northern end, drifting on towards the west coast and up to the channel sandwiched between Bali and Menjangan Island. Currents are unpredictable, and can be mild or strong, so this is a site best suited for experienced divers. Those who venture to these waters will catch sight of a diversity of fishes and coral, like the garden eels, turtle, pipefish, snubnose pompano,and reef sharks.
Don’t miss the Anker wreck and Pos 2 either. The former is a 19th century wooden ship located at a depth of 35 metres. Experience is needed to reach the depths of the sea, where you’ll find the flattened remains of the wreck. The latter is a 40 metre coral-covered wall containing numerous caves that promise to offer a fascinating underwater exploration. Here, you’ll be drift diving, letting the gentle current take you along the wall as reef turtles, manta rays and sharks come to sight.
Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida
Set off the southeastern shores of Bali, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are paradisiacal islands boasting sparkling blue waters – perfect for surfing, snorkeling and diving. The dive sites located off the islands are best suited for experienced divers, as the waters are colder than most places in Bali, and currents can get very strong. Spotting the sunfish or mola mola, a rare two-metre long bony fish with a unique appearance is the highlight here.
Crystal Bay, Manta Point and Blue Corner are popular sites that ranks at the top of the list of any avid diver. Diving enthusiasts will enjoy crystal clear visibility at the aptly named Crystal Bay, with sightings of white tip reef sharks, eagle reefs, schools of anthias and batfish, and stunning corals. The elusive Mola-Mola has also been sighted here between July to September.
And just as its name suggests, Manta Point is where you’ll find groups of manta rays circling the waters. The currents can be very rough, the water murky from plankton (what the graceful underwater gliders feed on), and there isn’t much else to see – but watching a large school of manta rays swimming around you can be surreal and mesmerising, and is a sight that you won’t soon forget.
Divers brimming with a sense of adventure will enjoy the adrenaline surge that comes with diving at Blue Corner. Let the wild currents take you on a roller coaster ride – and keep your eyes peeled for marble rays, sunfish, sharks and eagle rays in the process!
Amuk BayAlong East Bali lies Amuk Bay – a stretch of white sand beaches that stretches out from Padang Bai to Candidasa. The diversity of marine life here offers something for every diver, and the waters are suitable for beginner and advanced divers alike. Visibility averages at 10 to 30 metres. Currents are moderate, but can be strong closer towards the neighbouring islands.
Beginners will enjoy discovering the underwater beauty of the Blue Lagoon. The site is sheltered, and less exposed to the strong currents prevalent at other dive sites in the area, making the waters here safe for less experienced divers. And with a great diversity of frog fish, leaf scorpion fish, morays, stonefish and nudibranchs, your dive will be far from a boring expedition.
Ready to take on stronger currents? Get ready for an unforgettable dive session at Gili Mimpang, Gili Tepekong or Gili Biaha. These renowned dive sites are isolated, rocky islands surrounded by the fast waters of the Lombok Strait. Exposed to the currents of the north, the sea conditions at these sites may change rapidly, so these venues are best explored by certified and experienced divers.
Gili Tepekong, with its swirling downdraft currents has garnered a reputation for being one of the most dangerous dive sites in Bali. The southwestern part of the island, known as the Canyon, is particularly dangerous – when a downdraft current hits, there is a possibility that divers may get dragged down along with it into the depths of the Lombok Strait. Yet a spectacular diving expedition awaits; the site offers plenty of schooling fish and breathtaking underwater rock structures that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere.
When the conditions at Gili Tepekong aren’t suitable for diving, most divers will head off towards the waters surrounding Gili Mimpang (dive conditions are seldom in sync at both sites). Teeming with colourful marine life and soft corals, the waters here are also mola mola and whitetip reef shark.
If you’re certified for cave diving, and should the currents allow it, explore the waters of Gili Biaha. Popular dive sites here include the shark cave and Biaha slope. The former is a resting place for whitetip reef sharks, and as you explore the cave you’ll also catch sight of lobsters and lion fishes.
And after you’re done exploring, dive further along the Biaha slope, where a feast for your eyes await. Here you’ll find hard and soft corals, large gorgonians, blue marlin fish, mola mola, barracuda, blacktip reef sharks, nudibranchs and more!
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Top image courtesy of Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten.