10 July 2019.
Scuba diving in Bali was my first foray into the underwater world following a two year hiatus and it’s safe to say this beautiful island certainly reignited my long-harboured obsession.
Walls of brightly coloured corals, nurseries of tiny, curious fish alongside enormous creatures of the deep, a goldmine of micro critters for those patient enough to look, one of the world’s best wrecks and the unbridled joy of exploring more of our beautiful marine world.
Bali perhaps doesn’t have the diversity or richness of somewhere like nearby Komodo National Park, but there’s certainly a lot of beauty to be dicovered and enough to keep the inquisitive diver occupied.
These are three awesome spots to go scuba diving in Bali!
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Anchored off Bali’s far north-east corner, within a stone’s throw of Java and with a striking backdrop of volcanoes, untamed jungle and brilliant turquoise waters, Menjangan Island makes a wonderful place to spend the day, above and below the water.
As you drop down you’ll find a steep reef wall adorned with plenty of colourful corals rich in macro life. There isn’t quite the variety or abundance of fish you’ll find elsewhere in Bali, so take your time, dive slowly and keep your eyes peeled for the tiny critters that call this beautiful marine environment home.
How To Get There
To dive Menjangan Island, you can base yourself in either Lovina or Pemuteran. There are daily shared shuttle services from the south of Bali or Ubud to Lovina (125,000IDR, €8). Book your shuttle here.
The Lovina terminal is a short way from town so you’ll need to organise a taxi for the last leg of the trip.
For Pemuteran, wave down one of the local buses that ply the route between Lovina. Whether you’re staying in Lovina or Pemuteran, most dive shops include the transfer to Menjangan in the cost of your trip.
Who To Dive With
I went with Arrows Dive Centre in Lovina based on a number of excellent online reviews and would happily recommend them. Their prices are slightly higher than elsewhere in town but all equipment was in good condition, the team was professional and friendly, they carried out thorough safety checks before each dive and kept group sizes small. Menjangan Island trips cost 1,350,000IDR (US$96) including hotel pick-up, transport, 2 dives, all equipment and lunch.
Also note that several dive shops in the area have a fairly terrible online reputation so be sure to do your research thoroughly before deciding and try not to let that decision be based purely on price.
Where To Stay
Summer Guesthouse | If you’re on a budget, Summer is an excellent choice in Lovina. Bright, spacious rooms are set around a courtyard pool area, breakfast is included and the upstairs sun deck offers up lovely views across the lush surrounds. Location is a short walk from the main road, close to the restaurants and dive shops. Dorms are around 150,000IDR ($11) while privates start at 400,000IDR ($28).
For something more special, there are dozens of beautiful villas and bungalows set in the jungle-clad hills surrounding Lovina as well as up and down the coast. Search here for more accommodation options in Lovina and Pemuteran.
With the striking silhouette of Mt Agung looming overhead and tranquil, black sand beaches that climb into lush rolling hills, Amed is a pretty darn beautiful place to while away a few days. It’s also one of the most popular spots for diving in Bali and with good reason.
A short swim from the rocky shoreline of Tulamben, just 25-minutes north of Amed, lies the wreckage of United State’s Army cargo ship USAT Liberty which is regularly listed among the best wreck dives in the world.
While sailing from Australia to the Philippines during World War ll, the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the channel between Bali and Lombok. After being towed some distance she was beached at Tulamben but was eventually shifted offshore in 1963 during the eruption of mighty Mt Agung.
Today, the wreck is teeming with life and certainly lives up to its reputation. Expect to see bumphead parrot fish, oriental sweetlips, and bluefin trevally, as well as plenty of macro life like orangutan crabs, electric clams, golden mantis shrimp and nudibranchs.
As someone who doesn’t dive wrecks very often, catching that first glimpse of the enormous hull looming through the darkness is a sight I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
TOP TIP | Unsurprisngly, the site gets incredibly busy with eager divers. Beat the crowds by taking a sunrise dive of the Liberty and you’ll be able to have the place virtually to yourself. By the time I resurfaced after the second dive, the first round of morning divers were already making their way through the wreck and the beach was crowded with others gearing up, listening to briefings and clambering into the water. Trust me, the early alarm will be well worth it!
Wrecks aside, there are plenty of other great sites near Amed. Many are focussed around artificial reef development, which ultimately aren’t as beautiful as a natural wall or coral bombie, but they are rich in marine life with some beautiful corals and plenty of small fish and macro life to hold your attention. Muck diving is also possible here.
How To Get There
Amed is easily reached by shuttle from Ubud or any of the main hubs in southern Bali. You can book online here.
From north Bali, the easiest option is via shared taxi. Several people at my hostel in Lovina were travelling the same way so we managed to share a ride for 150,000IDR ($11) each.
Who To Dive With
Adventure Divers Bali has a steller reputation and were one of the best shops I dove with in all of South East Asia. Owners Liselotte and David run a well-organised operation and do their utmost to cultivate an atmosphere of familiarity with a warm welcome from the minute you walk through the archway of their tropical garden entrance. Along with experienced dive guides and top-notch equipment, small touches like hotel pick-ups and included extras like breakfast, lunch and drinks offered at every opportunity round out an already wonderful experience.
They’re also one of few dive shops that offer sunrise dives to the USAT Liberty which should be incentive enough to choose them. Prices start at $60 for shore dives or $70 for sunrise and boat dives which includes 2 dives, breakfast and/or lunch, drinks and snacks between dives and hotel pickup.
Where To Stay
Once again, you can choose to stay in either Tulamben, a very sleepy seaside town, or Amed which is still rather quiet but has several more options in the way of restaurants and accommodation. The stunning setting of Amed meant this was an easy choice for me.
Bali Sari Homestay | I stayed at Bali Sari Homestay which is a decent choice for those on a budget. Rooms are spacious with a small terrace area and breakfast is included and served at their beachfront restaurant a few minutes walk away. Check here for rates and availability.
D’uma Amed Homestay | The spectacular view onto Mt Agung is reason enough to stay here, but the warm hosts and impeccably clean facilities also mean it’s one of the best rated options in Amed. Check here for rates and availability.
Diving around Nusa Lembongan is best known for one thing – manta rays!
The colder, nutrient rich waters around that arrive around this cluster of islands just south of Bali provide a perfect feeding and cleaning ground for manta rays. They can be seen here all year round, though the best time is generally said to be mornings during the dry season (May to November) when seas are calmer.
Between July and October, Mola Mola also rise up from the deep to visit the cleaning stations scattered around the area. Crystle Bay off of Nusa Penida is another popular dive site with a pretty reef wall.
How To Get There
It’s possible to dive the Nusa Islands on a long trip from Amed, better though is to visit from Sanur or directly from either Nusa Lembongan or Penida. Ferries from Sanur take just 30-minutes to Nusa Lembongan or 45-minute to Nusa Penida.
Where To Stay
I’m not someone who travels with a full bag of dive gear, but there are a few essentials that I always like to bring along, whether I’m travelling with checked luggage or carry-on only.
Olympus TG-6 | As well as being super durable, this compact waterproof camera takes fantastic underwater shots with dedicated underwater modes including wide-angle, macro and microscope to help you capture everything from enormous mantas to the tiniest nudibranch. The high-resolution screen and manual settings also give you a high degree of control for shooting any environment and subject.
PT-059 Underwater Housing | Though the TG-6 is waterproof to 15m, for diving you’ll need to use the underwater housing which is surprisingly compact and easy-to-use and can be taken down to a depth of 45m. On its own, this setup will achieve great results, but more experienced photographers may consider adding strobes to maximise its potential, particularly in low light situations like Liberty sunrise dive.
Dive Computer | Every diver’s best friend, a dive computer is an easy piece of kit to travel with and allows you to keep track your dive, every single time.
Mask | Nothing messes up a great dive like having a bad mask, one that constantly leaks or fogs up. Find one you love and travel with it always.