Diving in Bali: We’re about to soil our wetsuits and suck our oxygen tanks dry just thinking about it. After all, it’s called the Island of the Gods for a reason.
Bali’s dive sites are ideal for beginner divers and Scuba masters.
Think of Bali as the sushi train of diving. There are simple options and more extravagant ones that only the gastronomically brave consume. Much like this proverbial sushi train, Bali offers a smorgasbord of sites for you sample at will. Shore dives or deep-sea drift adventures, muck diving and wooden wrecks, you name it you can dive it in Bali.
The biggest and most endearing – but undoubtedly the ugliest – star of Bali’s underwater world is the Mola Mola.
Mola Mola, aka the Ocean Sunfish, are prolific around Bali. Scarcely bigger than a grain of sand at birth, these wide-eyed and gaping-mouthed fish – often likened to giant swimming heads – grow to gigantic proportions and weigh more than any other bony fish in the sea – adult Mola can reach 1000kgs.
As their name suggests, Sunfish love nothing more than to catch some rays on the ocean’s surface, and with so many blue-sky days, Bali is the ultimate spot for these Vitamin D hunters.
Bali Dive Schools and Operators
Like most things in Bali, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a dive school or operator. You’ll need to shop around and scroll through online reviews to find one that meets your requirements.
Over 130 accredited dive operators can be found around Bali, adhering to industry standards on staff training, safety procedures (including decompression) and up-to-date equipment.
All the usual courses can be obtained in Bali. These include, but are not limited, to:
- PADI and SSI Open Water certification
- Night Diver
- Rescue Diver
- Dive Master – if you are studying to become a dive instructor, check out the internship programs offered by many of the bigger schools. It can help reduce costs and increase time underwater.
NOTE – PADI courses generally more expensive than SSI alternatives.
Average Diving Costs
The following prices are just a guide. Costs vary from operator to operator, and season to season (you can always bag a bargain during the wet season).
- IDR = Indonesian Rupee. 1AUD = IDR
- PADI Open Water: 5,000,000 IDR
- PADI Advanced Open Water: Rp 4,400,000 IDR
- SSI Open Water: 3,900,000 IRD
- SSI Advanced Open Water: 3,300,000 IDR
- Nitrox Course: 1,980,000 IDR
- Single site dive: 1,300,000- 4,900 IRD
- Rescue Diver: 3,590,000 IRD
- Equipment Hire: 335,000 IRD
Dive Season and Weather Stats
In a nutshell, September to November boast the best diving conditions, while January through March rate as the worst.
More specifically, experts claim the ‘transition’ months of April and October are the best months for diving. But don’t be dismayed if you are unable to visit during these times. With a healthy dose of patience, a knowledgeable guide and skilful tide analysis, you can dive safely all year round. June to September is Mola season and if you’re looking for manta rays, the months between April and June see prolific numbers (although they are present all year).
Underwater Visibility: 10-40+m. Nusa Penida and Palau Menjangan are said to provide the best visibility in the region.
Underwater temps: average 26-28 degrees Celsius.
A closer look at Bali’s tropical climate
Terrestrial temperatures are consistent and range from a balmy 30-32 degrees Celsius during the day, dipping into the mid-20s at night.
Dry Season: May-September
Wet Season: November-March (stronger winds and rougher diving conditions). Dive sites off Bali’s Northwest coast are affected hardest, with scant visibility and strong tides expected in January and February.
Rainfall: Rain is a major disrupter to underwater conditions, often leading to murky visibility. The good news for divers is that the Dry Season lasts up to eight months in some parts of Bali. The proof is in the 15cm pudding. The north, northeast and west coasts of Bali receive fewer than 15 centimetres of rain annually.
Meanwhile, the Wet Season comes early on Bali’s east coast, where rainfall is heavier than anywhere else on the island.
Be guided by the moon and Bali’s lunar calendar. Known as Saka, this calendar accurately predicts the best times for diving based on the phases of the moon.
So, think like a surfer and monitor the tides at your targeted sites carefully. Most tour operators will do this for you, but it never hurts to arm yourself with as much information as possible.
WATCH OUT! Potential dangers and minor annoyances to keep in mind
Protect your feet. You might love the feeling of water between your toes, but you’ll despise a stonefish slash or urchin sting. Cover up those footsies with flippers or diving shoes to keep injuries at bay.
Beware dangerous currents. Bali is known for it’s unpredictable currents, which can go from strong to impossible within minutes. Consult a ‘tide table’ to pinpoint the best times and spots to dive.
Many travellers adopt a cloak of invincibility when they travel. They’re dangerously fearless and do things they’d never dream of attempting at home (riding a scooter sans helmet? Craziness). Dive to your experience level and leave sites like Amed to advanced divers.
Best Places to Bed Down
From 5-star extravagance to cheap-and-cheerful budget options, your choice of accommodation should reflect your diving itinerary. For example, if you plan to visit mostly northeast dive sites, then you should book accommodation on Bali’s northeast. In fact, divers are encouraged to bypass the hustle and bustle of Kuta and Seminyak completely. Not only are these spots swarming with people, but they’re inconvenient starting points for reaching most of the top dive sites.
Bali’s dive spots aren’t exactly undiscovered, and you may battle crowds at some of the more popular spots. In the first half of 2016 alone, tourists numbered 2.27 million.
The neighbouring Nusa Islands of Lembongan, Penida and Ceningan offer peaceful retreats less crowded (and generally cheaper) than Bali, even it’s quieter regions.
Diving safaris are another way to go. From two nights to two weeks, this option allows for more tailored diving, more time under water and more Mola encounters.
Top Bali Dive Spots
Ranked among the top dive destinations on earth, Bali’s premier sites lie on the south, east and northwest coasts.
TIP: A number of these dive sites (Amed, Padang Bay) double as safe snorkeling grounds.
South Coast Dive Sites
The Nusa Islands (Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan) host the best south coast dive sites.
Diving around Nusa is favourable all year long with visibility ranging from 20-30m. Water temps are stable at 25-26°C, but things can cool down to the low 20s. These cooler waters attract Mola Mola in bigger numbers.
- Malibu Point. Fall in love with Malibu Point as you dive between 10 and 40m. Sharks are the main attraction here; as well as the usual black and white tipped reef sharks, Malibu welcomes treasure sharks and the occasional Whale shark. Mola Mola reign from July to September.
- Crystal Point (depth: 10-25m)
- Buyak (depth 7-30m)
- Manta Point 1 (depth: 10-30m)
- Sental Nusa Penida (depth: 10-30m)
A stone’s throw from Penida is the long and slim Nusa Lembongan.
- Blue Corner. See Mola Mola, Napoleon wrasse and eagle rays. Depth: 10-28m.
Ceningan Wall is a gorgeous dive where blankets of coral abound. Think tube and whip corals and soft orange beds surrounded by crabs and shrimp. In terms of fish, there are triggers and banner fish, plus bigger species on rare occasions. Depth: up to 30m.
East Coast Dive Sites
Appropriate for beginners. Top site include Padang Bay, Tanjung Bungsil and Jepun (just 50 from the Bay). Roaming these depths are sweetlips, featherstars and sea squirts.
- Tanjung Sari (depth: 5-30m)
- Tanjung Jepun (depth: 5-27m)
- Blue Lagoon (depth: 5-20m)
- Ferry Channel: (depth: 10-20m)
The Candidasa region of Bali is an overachiever in terms of dive sites. Mola Mola are the mayor draw cards, but sharks also flock to these rocky island sites in surprising numbers. As well as reef sharks, you might catch sight of an elusive cat shark or wobbegong shark. Maybe even a hammerhead or two.
A few favourite sites to see these giants include:
- Gili Biaha
- Gili Mimpang (depth: 5-30m)
- Gili Tepekong (The Canyon) (depth: 10-30m)
- Gili Tepekong (The Plateau)
The northeastern village of Tulamben has a bit of everything. A number of sites can be found just off the pebbly beach: a wall dive, a wreck dive and a coral garden.
Tulamben experiences the best conditions from April to early July, and between October and November. Visibility up to 30m is standard during these months.
- The Wall (depth: 5-30m)
The Wall doubles as a prosperous snorkelling site. Morning divers are usually treated to the best visibility of between 15-20m. The Wall is covered with nudibranches, sponges, black coral bushes and gorgonian fans deeper down.
Shrimp, boxer crabs, ghost pipefish and reef sharks cover the ‘big’ and the ‘small’ of the Wall, while Lionfish trawl the area each afternoon.
- Liberty Ship Wreck/USAT Liberty (depth: 8-30m)
The Liberty is a beginner-friendly wreck that regularly lists as one of the top 5 wreck dives in the world. The 120m-long ship rests a mere 30m from the shoreline. Unfortunately, the ship is in a state of decay leaving it unsafe for boarding, but you’ll still be able to glimpse the guns and boilers from the ships exterior.
- The Coral Garden (depth: 5-20m)
Sandwiched between The Wreck and The Wall is The Coral Garden. This shallow reef dive is so simple even the kids can do it. With anemones of all shapes, colours and sizes, you’ll feel like your floating inside a giant fish tank. Night dive the Coral Garden for a chance to see bioluminescent flashlight fish and vibrant Spanish Dancers.
- Seraya Secret (depth: 5-25m)
- The Drop Off (depth: 10-30m)
- Jemeluk (depth: 10-60m)
Amed is located at the Bay of Cemeluk. A steep wall dive dropping to 40m is found just off the shore. You can swim with cardinals and convict tangs, ribbon eels and triggerfish while navigating the impressive staghorn corals. A Japanese Wreck with a depth of 6-20m is found nearby. Ask your dive operator to include this in your itinerary.
Just south of Amed you’ll find the tiny islet of Gili Selang. The small rock, or volcanic cone, is like an underwater mirage. Sparkling with hard and soft coral, Gili Selang’s ecosystem supports cardinal fish, anthias, parrotfish, hairy squat lobsters, damsels and sea snakes.
Leather and bushy corals coexist with barrel sponges, brain corals and xenia.
Lying off Bali’s most eastern point, strong currents make this site perfect for advanced divers. Strong down currents batter the south of Gili Selang. The northern side of the islet is more approachable as it is protected from winds and current.
North-west Coast Dive Sites
Menjangan Island (Pemuteran):
The tiny island of Menjangan lies within the pristine West Bali National Park near the Pemuteran region. Gentle currents and clear conditions characterize the northwest. Beginners or experienced divers can join snorkelers in some parts.
Macro life takes centre stage; so don’t expect big fish encounters. Instead, focus on finding pygmy seahorses and tiny mandarin fish hiding behind ggorgonians and lush soft coral beds.
Menjangan and surrounding northwest sites to target:
- Budak Wreck (25-40m)
- Pos 1 (depth: 5-20m)
- Pos 2 (depth 5-25m)
- Secret Bay, Gilimanuk (depth: 1-10m)
- Temple Wall (depth: 10-40m)
- Temple Garden (depth: 15-30m)
- Bat Cave (depth: 4-40+m)
- Eels Garden (depth: up to 30m)
- Secret Bay (depth: 3-9m)
- Puri Jati (depth: up to 20m)
Best Beginners Dives: Inexperienced divers should submerge themselves in calm waters. Menjangan Island and Padang Bai have some of the gentlest currents and beginner-friendly conditions in Bali.
Best Experienced Dive Sites: Strap on tight for exciting drift dives around the Nusa Islands.
Best Spots For Underwater Photography: Macro lovers and underwater photographers achieve the best results at sites like Padang Bai, The Liberty Wreck, Jepun and Secret Bay.