Bali dive travel in a nutshell
The diversity of Bali above and below water, combined with a friendly local population, relatively low cost and a myriad of topside activities make Bali one of our favorite places in the world to visit, for diving or non-diving.
Intro to Bali
Bali is a small island in the country of Indonesia, and the only island where the population is primarily Hindu instead of Muslim. Bali is well known for extremely friendly people, excellent food, a wide-range of accommodations at all price levels, and significant numbers of specialized craftspeople making instruments, works out of teak, gold, silver, etc. Bali also as extensive temples, volcanoes, beautiful rice patties, and countless other cultural gems.
Underwater, you can find a plethora of big and small animals, ranging from Mola mola and Manta Rays, to tiny macro subjects. It is rare for a diver to visit Bali with a camera and not come home with many great photos.
Typical Dive in Bali
Balinese dive sites are almost always along the shore, or along one of the close smaller islands such as Tepekong, Mimpang, Biaha, Nusa Penida, or Lemborung.
Boat sizes range from tiny jukongs that hold 2 divers, to larger speedboats that can hold 8-10 divers. Diver to guide ratios are generally small, and the guides are usually local Balinese divers. Dive sites range from walls to slopes, sandy to rocky, and include wreck dives, rubble, reef, black sand, and hard coral. Generally, you will find that most dive sites gradually drop in depth to well past 120ft deep, with prolific marine life at that depth and deeper. Currents range from mild to very strong, and visibility is generally 30 – 70ft, sometimes more at Nusa Penida.
Since Bali has a large amount of marine life between 50 and 90ft depth, it is the perfect place to use nitrox. Most, but not all dive facilities will offer nitrox tanks.
Shore diving Bali
Bali offers some of the best shore diving in the world, particularly in the northeast areas of Tulamben and Amed. In fact, there is in general excellent diving all along the shore along the entire northern and eastern coasts, resulting in many, many new and unexplored dive sites.
Bali dive safari
Overview of Bali dive areas
Nusa Penida is an island surrounded by fantastic dive sites full of healthy corals and healthy currents. Expect lots of fish, and some occasional big animals. One of Bali’s top dive sites, Crystal Bay is here, home to the Mola mola cleaning station. Currents can get strong, and divers have died here befoe.
Padang Bai is a quaint little village, and is also where you get the ferry to Lombok. Visitors looking for more upscale accommodation can stay in nearby Candidasa, but Padang Bai has a much more local feel to it. Local dive site have a great variety of fish and macro, and the Gili Islands and Nusa Penida are short to medium length speedboat rides away.
Not to be confused with the Gili Islands of Lombok, The gili islands (in Bali) consist of Tepekong, Mimpang, and Biaha. Fish life is prolific, and currents can be fierce, including dangerous downcurrents. Tepekong can have exception fish life and visibility, and when the current picks up the schooling fish are quite a show.
Amed / Gili Selang
Amed is 30 minutes from Tulamben. Along the road from Tulamben to Selang, there are numerous dive sites with muck, macro, walls and healthy corals. Selang is a strong-current drift dive where hammerheads have been spotted before. Because of the currents, and where they can take you (far away), do not dive Selang unless you really trust your guide.
Tulamben is home to the Liberty wreck, one of the most famous wrecks in the world. This is no ordinary wreck dive – it is a very large wreck, easily dove from shore, very shallow (20ft) at the top, deep at the bottom, with an amazing variety of big and small animals including resident bumphead parrotfish, a resident school of jacks, and a resident great barracuda. Other nearby dive sites are also excellent, including the famous “drop-off”, and the well known muck site “Seraya secrets”, in front of Scuba Seraya.
Liberty Wreck: The liberty wreck is enormous, and definitely deserves several dives. It is usually dove by shore. Super-strong Balinese women will carry your tank for you on their head, some times even with a child being held in their other arm. Once near the wreck, you enter the water over rocky pebbles. If you are wobbly with a big camera, your dive guide will often carry the camera in/out of the water for you. Sunrise dives at the wreck are the absolute best, and well-deserving of an early wake up call.
Secret Bay: The main dive site here is secret bay, a shallow muck site with many good critters such as bobbit worms and dragonets.
Perlematan: Coming soon
Mengangen Island: Mengagen is dove only by boat. It has very healthy corals and fish, although there is nothing particularly unique that you can find other places in Bali, except for less crowds.
Bali Marine Life & Underwater Photography Subjects
The question is not what can you see in Bali, but what can’t you see? Bali is not really the place for whale sharks or schools of hammerheads. Other than that, pretty much anything is possible.
Bali is one of the world’s top destinations for Mola mola and Manta Rays. The Molas and Mantas in Bali are big, huge, giant.
Going to the right dive sites and the right depths can consistently produce larger animals like Bumphead parrotfish, Napolean wrasse, Tuna, skittish reef sharks, schools of jacks, wobbegong, great barracuda, and trevally. Tulamben, the Gili islands and Nusa Penida all have spots for sightings of these animals.
There are very few indo-pacific macro critters that have not been found in Bali. Anilao and Lembeh offer slightly better critter diving, but with the right guide it can still be very good in Bali, and there are good critter sites in all of the major areas of Bali.
Bali underwater video of Mola Mola
Footage of mantas and molas filmed in one day!
Underwater video of Liberty Wreck in Tulamben
Jacks at 1:12, garden eels at 1:18
Best Time To Dive Bali, Water Temps And Visibility
Bali is diveable all year round. Dec/Jan is rainy season, and visibility may be down in some places because of run-off, but the marine life is still there. Tulamben gets less rain then other places in Bali. Aug/Sep is Mola-mola season, but Molas can be seen in other months also in the Gili Island / nusa penida area.
We think a great to visit Bali is during their low season, when there are less tourists. This corresponds to the months of March - May & October - November.
Bali Water temps
Temps are usually in the low 80’s, and a full 3mm wetsuit is recommended. In Nusa Penida there can be thermoclines that lower the temps into the 70’s.
How to get to Bali
There are direct flights from most major Asian cities, like Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. Once you land and get through customs, you can be in Padang Bai in 90 minutes suiting up to dive.
Options for combination trips
Leave Bali, really? Once in Bali, you would be crazy to leave, unless you were forced to. For example, because of the expiration of your 30-day Indonesian visa. Still, if you feel compelled to do another location, Komodo would be the best choice, either by land or liveaboard.
Bali Non-Diving Activites
Where to begin? Spend a day hiking through unbelievably photogenic rice paddies. Spend a day, a week, a month in Ubud eating at fabulous restaurants, and going to inexpensive spas. Stay in a beachfront cottage in a small village where you get to know all the locals within a few days, and look forward to their morning greetings of “Salamat Pagee!”. Buy a sarong, visit some temples, have a fisherman take you out at sunrise to see the fantastic colors of the fishing fleet boats. Do a night hike up a Volcano so you arrive to the top at sunrise. Hire a driver to take you around the island.
One word of advice – I often find that the further I get from the airport, the more I enjoy my time in Bali. For many people, the area near the airport including the touristy town of Kuta can be skipped entirely.
Bali essential facts
Find out more
Bluewater Travel owner Scott Gietler has visited Bali 3 times, for extended stays. He would like nothing more than to help you plan the best trip of your life there, we promise you will wonder why you waited so long to go!