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Finally diving around Bali to your liking.

Finally diving around Bali to your liking.

On simply hearing the name, Bali evokes visions of tropical paradises. Writers keep inventing adjectives to describe Bali but few can surpass the words of Indian prime minister Pandit Nehru who named the island “the morning of the world”. A world born out of the sea, delivered by the power of volcanic force. There is a deep world, a world within, the true morning of the world, a whole different world that belongs to Bali. A blue world of tranquility, of stillness, a world that lets you forget the world…

As Indonesia’s most famous tourist destination Bali has remained a somewhat underestimated diving destination. To believe this would be a mistake.

If you dive Bali you will see that the diversity of Bali’s reefs are awesome. When diving in Bali, allow yourself to be surprised. As far as diving in Bali is concerned, Bali’s greatest charm is its wide range and variety of dive sites. Shipwrecks, drop offs, sand slopes, black volcanic seascapes, roaring currents and quiet bays… all tastes are accommodated.
Now at last you can discover Bali’s underwater world in a personal and complete way with Dive Around Bali.

There are four main diving area’s in Bali that you will explore, with the best Bali dive sites.

map-lembonganNusa Penida:

Nusa Penida and the neighbouring island of Nusa Lembongan offer some of the finest Bali diving. Nusa Penida is a large island located in the southeast of Bali, across the Badung Strait. The Balinese consider this dry, rough island to be haunted, but it is the diving around this Island of Bali, in it’s clear, current swept reefs thats the main attraction.

With its adjacent deep water trenches, the main attraction at Nusa Penida is the common encounters with the curious and otherwise very rare oceanic sunfish, or Mola Mola, that come close to the reef to visit cleaner stations.

There are a great many dive sites to choose from. In the season we can try to find the illustrious Mola Mola, but the heartland of Nusa Penida diving offers stunning visibility, healthy reefs, and pelagics. And you won’t even have to swim a lot here, as almost every dive is a drift dive.

Currents are often strong because the islands lie right in the path of the Indonesian Throughflow. The Lombok Strait separates the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok, it is the second most important strait through which water is exchanged between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The best times to dive Nusa Penida are when the tides peak at slack and high, when water movement is the least.

Click for Nusa Penida dive sites

map-padangbaiAmuk Bay (Candi Dasa &Padangbai):

Amuk Bay, with the villages of Padang Bai in the south and Candi Dasa in the north, is about 6 kms across and located along the south side of Bali’s eastern point. Close to Candi Dasa there are two larger islands, Tepekong and Biaha, as well as an area with small rocks called Mimpang or Batu Tiga.

The islands in this bay are actually little more than current swept rocks, and have an untamed beauty. The bay, which is fed by the rich south Bali upwelling, hosts sharks, mola mola and schools of fish, making these Bali dive sites quite exciting.

If you are interested in special small critters you should be diving around Padang Bai. This tiny inlet is fringed with reef which starts as a shallow ledge at a depth of ten meters. Macro fans will have fun diving around Padang Bay and the Blue Lagoon, where all manner of critters can be found in the shallows. The sheltered bay is also an ideal location for night diving.

The diving in this area is astonishingly rich. There are also several excellent dive sites for sharks, rays, large schools of fish and this is one of the places where Mola Mola ocean sunfishes are regularly sighted from August until October. Water temperatures are quite chilly, there is always a bit of surge but visibility is normally quite good.

Click for Amuk Bay dive sites

map-amedAmed and Tulamben:

Tulamben, about 2.5 hours drive from Kuta, home of the famous WWII wreck, is the most known and the best loved diving site in Bali. Tulamben Bay, is situated in the world’s richest marine biogeographic zone with more than 2500 different species of fish and 700 corals. Situated on the northeast coast, the bay receives very plankton rich water from the major ocean current that moves from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and vice versa.

Amed is located east of Tulamben, closer to the lombok strait. From a landscape point of view, Amed is much prettier than Tulamben. You will see many rice fields along the way, traditional salt-panning and also sandy beaches as opposed to Tulamben’s stony beaches. The diving in Amed is still untouched and you will encounter few fellow divers on these dive sites.

There are also excellent dive sites that extend from Tulamben to Amed and almost all the way to Bali’s eastern tip, some recently discovered, many still waiting to be explored. The black sand bottom offers a dramatic backdrop for the amazingly rich fish life.

Click for Amed or Tulamben dive sites

map-menjanganMenjangan Island:

The reefs of Northwest Bali around Menjangan Island are some of the most protected on the island.

Clear calm waters, a mysterious old wooden shipwreck, and rugged, gorgonian covered walls in excellent condition, make Menjangan Island on Bali’s northwest coast, a premier dive site. About 14 dive sites to choose from with clear water and calm conditions. Menjangan is part of the West Bali National Park.

The coral walls around Menjangan drop vertically to between 30-60 meters, before gradually sloping outwards. The reef surface is very rugged with caves, grottoes and crevasses breaking up the coral walls, textured with little nooks and crannies. Gorgonians of many kinds reach large sizes here, and huge barrel sponges are abundant. Soft corals blanket the colorful walls all the way down.

Menjangan’s western tip holds a deeper, but equally interesting dive on an old wooden shipwreck. Called the “Anker” it is just off the island shore, close to a small Park Service dock and guard post.

More to the west, Gilimanuk offers some fantastic muck diving in Secret Bay and back towards Lovina, there is an equally interesting muck site at PJ’s.

Click for Menjangan dive sites


mola molaNusa Penida & Nusa Lembongan dive sites:

Toyapakeh: A very nice underwater topography made up of great coral boulders and pillars. The fish life is excellent and the deeper areas offer chance encounters with mola mola and other pelagics. Clear and simple, a great Bali dive site!

Gamat Bay: The water of this tiny bay is always crystal clear, and the reef, a steep, rugged slope leading up into the bay, is exceedingly rich in hard and soft corals and fish life. On a bright day this reef simply glows.

Like other sites of Peneeda, currents can be tricky here. Unfortunally, the surface often looks like a washing machine, even if it is just fine under water.

Crystal Bay: There is a white sandy base to the reef, covered with anemones and soft corals. Following the north side of the bay into the corner, at a depth of 12 metres there is a cave which opens to the sky that has bats asleep in it. Most of the time there are reef sharks inside the cave. From the bat cave continue following the wall (the reef is not particularly rich) looking out for lobsters that have made their home in the hard coral. The bay is vulnerable to swell, creating up and down currents. When the current is present there is the opportunity to see white tip sharks, leopard sharks, mantas and eagle rays.

SD and Ped: These two sites are also extremely popular for their steep walls and prolific marine life. Drift diving along the steep sloped coral encrusted wall with sponges, hard and soft corals, gorgonians and myriad reef fish is awesome. Larger pelagics such as barracuda, tuna and jacks often put in an appearance here.

Malibu Point:
The dive site is small and often tricky to dive if currents are strong but it is one of the better places to see sharks. Also big dogtooth tuna, rainbow runners and mackerel to be found at this spot.

Blue Corner on the northwest of Nusa Lembongan is a very popular drift dive location. The current can be strong here and can try to pull you downwards. The dive starts east off the point where the lighthouse is. Descend to the slope which starts at 10 metres where you are swept in a drift towards the corner in a westerly direction. At the corner there is a vertical wall with a depth of around 30 metres plus. The main reason to dive this site is because ocean sunfish can be seen here from April to September, but there sre marble rays, eagle rays and other pelagics. This is big boy country.

Manta point: The name says it all… This is a limestone rock off the southwest coast of Nusa Penida. The above water scenery is dramatic with limestone cliffs that descend straight into the ocean. This is the place for the big manta’s, but if the manta’s are not present, there is noting much to see accept your buddy. Swells can be really big here, so this site has to be dived at the right time.

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white tip reefsharkAmuk Bay, Candi Dasa & Padangbai dive sites:

Tepekong: Dive site The Canyon is a striking structure of angular black boulders. Explore the canyon you’ll be able to see an area with huge schools of sweetlips, batfish, snapper, bumphead parrotfish, unicornfish and big-eyed trevally, all of which can nearly fill the canyon. Sharks are relatively common in this area, usually white tip reef sharks and sightings of Mola Mola is possible. It is very rare not to have a current here. (note: this site can ONLY be dived under good conditions, it is probably one of the most exiting sites in Bali but probably also the most dangerous one. It is nicknamed “the toilet”.)

Mimpang: is remarkably varied, combining wall and sloping reefs. The reefs here are amongst the richest in the whole of Bali, (reminding of the famous sites of southern Komodo and Rinca). The fish life is exceptional, including schooling fish, lots of sharks, and even Molas. A very fine diving area.

Gili Biaha: This tiny island is one of the most beautiful of the Amuk Bay sites. A steep drop-off reef, nicely fissured and terraced in places, rings most of the island. There are fascinating smaller species as cuttlefish, octopus, nudibranch, and rich soft corals, gorgonians, and black corals, many with commensals.

The Blue Lagoon is the location that less experienced divers are usually taken to first, as the dive sites in this area are generally much less exposed to the strong currents experienced at the other sites. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that this is a second rate area – it’s not. with healthy bommies and terrific general marine life. More of a macro than a wide angle area, there are frogfish, leaf scorpion fish, moray eels, scorpion & stone fish, blue spotted stingrays and lots of nudibranchs. Blue Lagoon is popular with tourists from Candi Dasa who go there to snorkel. The more correct name for the area is Tanjung Sari and there are a number of sites to dive, not just the bay in front of the resort. The relative lack of currents and maximum depths of around 1-18m offer a pleasant combination of an uncomplicated dive site but with plenty to see.

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Tallfin batfishAmed dive sites:

Amed walls: These sites are actually reef slopes combined with walls at the two sites of quiet idyllic Jemeluk bay. Incredibly rich in fish life and always a possibility for pelagic around. Trevally, dogtooth tuna, spanish mackerel, eagle ray, cruise amongst swarms of smaller reef fish above a gorgonian and barrel sponges covered reef slope and wall that drops to 60 metres.

There is also a delightful easy dive on old artificial reefs that where put there by the local villagers. Early proof of how well very simple artificial reef structures work. These are just concrete pyramids, about three metres high, but have a dense coral coverage and attract an astonishing amount of reef fish and act as nurseries.

Bunutan: This dive site is something special, but has as most important feature the most hallucinating amount of fish imaginable. Clouds of banner fish, surgeon fish and redtooth trigger fish surround you and actually block your view of the reef. Stingrays are everywhere. Cruising white tip sharks and great barracuda are always there. The start of the dive before you descent to 30 meter where there is a deep reef, is in shallow water at a sandy bottom where you swim trough the biggest field of garden eels you will ever see. There are thousands of them. Then there is the big fish show while you drift with the current for a while before you arrive for the last portion on a very rich hard coral reef flat.

Deep Blue: From here on the exploration diving of Amed starts. This dive site is only dived by a very few local dive operators. You will likely be the only divers here. This a drift dive with an amazing diversity and number of fish. Sharks are also relatively common.

Japanese wreck: In Banyuning bay (Not Lipah Bay as it is told in many guides!) the wreck lies of a small steel freighter. It rests in very shallow water and is nicely encrusted with gorgonians and soft coral bushes. The actual dive site is the reef next to the wreck and is also very rich with soft corals, gorgonians and sponges and shallow fields of staghorn and table corals. It makes a calm wonderful dive, although this dive site is very easily affected by visibility.

Gili Selang: This little island looks like it just broke away from the mainland. This is a very nice dive site and covered everywhere with soft corals – probably the healthiest corals in Bali – but also a lot of fish and a good chance to find turtles, bumphead parrotfishes, tunas and whitetip reef sharks. You dive in a very current-swept area, so this dive is only for experienced divers.

Kafe Garam: Amed has some very decent muck-diving that is rarely visited and we would like to keep it that way. You dive from the beach on very fine gray volcanic sand and among purposely-dropped rubbish. Ghost pipefish and mimic octopus, stonefish and even the Ambon scorpion fish can be found here.

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liberty wreck baracudaTulamben dive sites:

US Liberty Wreck: the federal shipbuilding company in Kearny, New Jersey built The Liberty. She was 120 meters long, 17 meters in beam, drafted 7.3 meters and grossed 6.211 tons powered by a 2500 horsepower steam turbine engine. Early in the morning of January 11th 1942, the Liberty was motoring across the Lombok Strait, bringing war material from Australia to the Philippines. At 4.15 am the ship was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-166. Although crippled by the blow, the Liberty did not sink. Two destroyers tried to tow the ship toward Singaraja where it was hoped she could be repaired, however the ship was taking in too much water so she was beached at Tulamben. Over the coming year anything of value was removed.

In 1963, Bali’s highest and most holy mountain, Gunung Agung, erupted creating a powerful earthquake that rolled the ship in to deeper water and broke her at the bow and stern. The Liberty now lies almost parallel to the beach, the shallowest part of the wreck touches the sandy slope at 7-9 meters and the deepest part is at 28-30 meters. It’s a lovely, easy wreck dive that is popular for photographers as it is totally encrusted in anemones, gorgonians and corals. Tulamben’s black sand provides an excellent colour contrast for the incredible variety of marine life. It’s quite difficult to list what you will see on this dive because you will come across just about everything in any Indo-Pacific reef guidebook. The variety is amazing with minute angelfish, nudibranchs, pipefish and gobies through to the areas of garden eels, huge schools of big-eyed trevally, sweetlips, batfish, butterflyfish set against hard coral, black corals, sponges and sea fans. Current is rarely present and at most it will be mild. The wreck is great for night dives, particularly if the moon is full. You may see Spanish dancers, flashlight fish, or sleeping parrotfish and will notice the different behaviour of marine life compared to the daytime.

Drop-off: The Drop Off is an old lava flow from Mount Agung leading out from a temple onshore. It is located at the opposite end of the bay from the wreck. The dive starts off on a steep sandy slope with nudibranchs, flounder and shrimp (be careful with your fins) at 10 metres. There are big sponges with many varieties of shrimp and lionfish and continuing to the right, the slope develops into a reef with very impressive topography, becoming a vertical wall from 15 metres and descending to below 60 metres. The wall has nice, craggy structure and is exceedingly rich. At a depth of 28 metres you will find a sea fan that is almost 2 metres across.

Octopus, Bumphead parrotfish, scorpion fish etc. Are all quiet common here.

Batu Kelibit: Just around the corner from Tulamben bay, this beautiful site consists of steep, coral covered ridges separated by valleys of bright white sand. The best site in the area to see big animals.

Coral Garden: Just in the front of Tulamben resort in 5- 12 metres of water is a delightfully rich little patch reef, which is dominated by hard coral, including some large table and fire corals, interspersed with anemones and sponges. There is a little bit of everything here. Blue ribbon eels are a very easy find here. The black sand slope to the deep makes an interesting area for good critter findings. It also is an excellent night dive.

Seraya secrets: Notorious muck diving site with seahorse, frogfish, harlequin shrimp and a great number of nudibranch species.

Kubu is a small fishing village north of Tulamben that is very rarely dived but is becoming justly more popular. There are two dive sites and the coral reef is extremely rich with an abundance of fish life.

There is more diving in Batu Niti that lies about half a kilometer to the east. Batu Niti is a volcanic ridge with a lava flow that drops into the sea. Exploration diving!

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fuselierMenjangan Island dive sites:

Garden Eel point: is one of the more popular dive sites where coral growth is healthiest. Longnose hawkfish can be found on the gorginians here and whitetip sharks are often seen on the sandy bottom at around 35 meters. The garden eel colony is on a slope in roughly 20 meters of water.

Pos II (park service guard post), off Menjangan’s most southeasterly point, is usually done as a drift dive in the gentle current along the wall. An explosion of colour from the wall of soft coral can be seen here and thermoclines are present where upwellings of cold waters from the deep are met. This often brings in bigger visitors such as mantas and sharks. Just west of Pos II are a couple of caves at around 18 meters that are worth a look.

The Anker Wreck: This wreck is actually named for the anchor that still lies about 6-8 meters from the surface. Follow the anchor chain down the steep slope to the flattened remains of the shipwreck at 35 – 50 meters, which lie across about 60 meters of sand. The Anker is a 25 metre long 19th century wooden ship, that carried ceramics and copper, parts of which can still be seen across the site.

thorny seahorseSecret Bay, North Bali muck-diving:

Secret Bay is located approximately 3.5 hours drive from the south in a small bay called Teluk Gilimanuk where the ferries from Java dock. It is about 2 km across and very shallow with most of it less than five metres deep. Gilimanuk Bay is the only bay off the narrow Bali Strait, where currents can reach 7 knots. This means that it acts as a catch tank for many larval fish and other plankton sweeping between Java and Bali.

Be prepared – you are diving on fine black and gray volcanic sand and rubble and not on a coral reef! This place is a great place for the rare and unusual. On offer are a number of rare jewels for the macro photographer including gobies, frogfish, dragonets, nudibranchs, seahorses, juvenile Batavia batfish and many other organisms.

Night diving at Secret Bay is a truly magnificent experience! You will see some unique creatures that you won’t see on the day dive. This is a shallow dive site with no rich coral growth and limited weed and coral beds. The water can be cold and visibility can be very low due to the dark mud/sand bottom.

robust ghostpipefishPuri Jati (PJ): A relatively new dive site for muckdiving lying west of Pemuteran.

You dive from the beach on very fine gray volcanic sand and some seaweed similar to Seraya, Gilimanuk or Lembeh. There are snails, slugs and seahares and even frogfish among the seaweed. You reach a large flat area with sea grass. There are coconut octopuses, hiding in burrows made with shells and pieces of rubbish. On this flat area (6-10m) you also find seahorses, several types of eels, flying gurnard and with good eyes, some hidden scorpionfishes, mostly lionfishes but also the rare Ambon scorpionfish.

There is also a small river close by where you can take a dip.

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Isabelle Hardeman & Michel De Ruyck
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