Where to dive and snorkel in Bali.
Bali’s east coast is home to beautiful reefs that create a veritable underwater fantasy world inhabited by frolicking sea horses, giant trevally, schools of barracuda, clown frog fish, reef sharks, turtles and a diverse range of hard and soft coral. The thriving marine life is attributed to the phenomenon known as the Indonesian Through flow which links the Indian and Pacific oceans with streams of nutrient rich cold water that nourish the reefs of eastern Bali. Day trips are easily organised from the south of Bali, but conditions can change rapidly and currents are strong in these waters, so make sure to use a reputable dive company, and follow their advice. (NOTE: you might rather say, ‘your villa manager will be happy to organise a day trip for you…..’)
The harbour town of Padang Bai is gateway to Lombok and also home to a picturesque small cove known as Blue Lagoon – an animated underwater world where a plethora of friendly fish make colourful company. While the reef here is not quite as vibrant as those further north in Amed, it’s still a wonderful place for snorkelling (you can rent gear from the warungs on the beach.) Expect to see astonishingly big fish, including chunky rainbow-hued parrot fish and titan trigger fish, as well as lavender table corals, purple-tipped staghorns, and fluttering copper-hued spinal corals. Speaking of big fish, divers also explore the waters of this region on the look out for the illusive oceanic sunfish – the world’s largest bony fish which can weigh in at a hefty 1000kg. Manta Rays are often spotted at Manta Point on the tip of Nusa Penida , where an army of ‘cleaner fish’ provide a swim-through service for these graceful sea creatures as they nibble off parasites and dead skin.
The coral encrusted Liberty shipwreck in Tulamban on Bali’s north eastern coast, is one of Bali’s most impressive dive sites, while Shark Junction in the nearby islands of Gili Mimpang is also a hit with those looking for an adrenaline surge. Both divers and snorkelers will find much to explore in the sheltered coves of nearby Amed, including a Japanese wreck at Banyuning which nestles on a pretty coral garden filled with sea fans and soft pastel corals just a few meters off the beach. Jemaluk Bay boasts a plethora of tropical fish, as well as pygmy seahorses, while the steep slopes that descend from its rocky headland are known as the ‘drop off’ and are covered in giant gorgonian fans and red barrel sponge corals. Jemaluk is also home to Bali’s first free-dive school, Apneista which teaches the art of diving unencumbered by a tank, allowing a far more intimate and natural experience with marine life.
Located on the island’s northern coast, Pemuteran sets the scene for one of the world’s most fascinating coral reef restoration projects, Karang Lestari (Everlasting Reef.) Here, ancient reefs blown apart by dynamite fishing in the 90’s have been rejuvenated by a revolutionary technology called Bio Rock which uses electric currents to stimulate the growth of coral. Snorkelers and divers can explore close to fifty large steel structures shaped in the form of a caterpillar, whale, igloo, dome, flower and a goddess, all covered in a profusion of brightly coloured coral. Starfish, lionfish, snapper and cheeky little Nemos dart in an out of the corals which thrive on the structures and in the reefs surrounding them. The island of Menjangan is close by and provides some of Bali’s best wall dives.
Recommended Dive operators.