Talking to an experienced diving instructor in Bali, I learned some tips that I have already passed onto one person. Bali / Lombok has some decent diving but it is not earth-shaking, like some of the spots in Eastern Indonesia. For someone who is looking to travel around Bali a bit and do some diving, here’s a plan.
Kuta / Seminyak / Sanur / Nusa Dua has plenty of dive operators willing to organize a trip around Bali for you. This is the most user-friendly way to go as they take care of transportation, give you a good recommendation on accommodation, provide equipment, tank refills and safety. You can drive yourself around, if you don’t want your trip to be entirely dive-oriented.
Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida
Starting out in the southern part of Bali, you might take a day trip out to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida. One of the dive spots on Nusa Penida, ‘SD‘ is known for its amazing soft and hard corals. On a day where the visibility is good, this site can compare with Komodo or other famous dive sites. The wet season tends to make visibility less than perfect, although Bali enjoys good marine visibility.
To get to Nusa Penida, you can take a boat from Sanur. In the mornings it’s always low tide, meaning you have to haul your your gear out onto the mud and walk through a mass of sea-grass. Could be a good option to drive to Padangbai, catch a fast boat to Nusa Penida then spend the night in either Padangbai (simple cheap accommodation) or Candi Dasa (better standard of modern accommodation). Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida get strong currents which mean experienced divers only.
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Amed & Tulamben
Amed / Tulamben is only an hour or so away to the East, each place offering dive operators and places to stay. Tulamben is great because you can walk out from the each and live on the sunken USS Liberty.
Menjangan Island & Gilimanuk Bay
Following the coastal road round and heading west, you’ll get to the best dive spot on the north coast, Menjangan Island. A good idea is to spend at least 2 days at this location as the drive from Tulamben is 2-3 hours as is the drive back to Kuta. I’ve heard that the best place to stay is the Waka Shorea on the mainland just down from Menjangan. For people who enjoy tiny marine life, Gilimanuk Bay has some unique varieties that may be of interest.
So for a newcomer to Bali, with very little pre-planning you can access amazing corals in fast flowing clear currents, dive a wreck straight from the beach, 40m-60m wall dives and tiny marine life. Not bad for a small island that is also one of the world’s top surf spots.
People planning to travel further afield to places such as Manado and Komodo to join live-aboard boats, don’t plan your trip down to the day as air-flight cancellations are common. Bali also has a Gay & Lesbian divers operation that caters to mostly small / mid sized groups.