Diving & Snorkeling in Bali

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About Bali

Bali, one of the top 10 diving and snorkeling locations in the world, is a medium-sized island in Indonesia. About 150 km (93 mi) wide east to west and 100 km (62 mi) long north to south, it lies 3 km (2 mi) east of Java, the massive island with Indonesia's capital, Jakarta. Being just 8 degrees south of the Equator does have advantages: Bali enjoys a mild climate year round. Daytime temperatures on the coast linger in the 20-33 °C (68-91 °F) range. The balmy ocean temperatures, on average 27-29 °C (81-84 °F), are even better news for snorkelers.

Bali is surrounded by coral reefs and smaller, uninhabited islands with even more reefs, a truly magical place for divers and snorkelers. All of the hundred or so dive sites are accessible from any starting point on the island if you don't mind an hour or two of travel in the morning. It is fun to criss-cross the island and see tropical farms, jungles, volcanic mountains and Hindu temples on your journey. You can also choose to stay close to a specific diving hub for a few days and only move on to the next region when you've had enough underwater adventures to last a lifetime.

Situated right in the middle of the Coral Triangle, Bali boasts over 2,500 fish and 700 coral species. There is a world-class wreck site, the USAT Liberty near Tulamben on the east coast. There are family snorkeling spots in front of the trendiest holiday resorts. Muck diving in nutrient-rich estuaries. Daily dives with a surreal diversity of marine creatures. Challenging drift and current dives among large pelagics like tuna, sharks and the oceanic sunfish.

Diving in Bali

There is a number of towns, villages and peninsulas that act as starting hubs for diving and snorkeling activities. Starting in the south of Bali and going counter-clockwise these include:

  • Kuta - party central in the South of Bali with several diving schools offering international diving certifications;
  • Nusa Dua - easy-to-access snorkeling and family diving sites especially for short trips when you don't have time to travel to the northern and eastern coasts of Bali;
  • Sanur - still party central and many dive centres with excellent learning facilities and boats for diving trips all around the harbour;
  • Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan - Two tiny islands a 30 min boat ride from Sanur or Nusa Penida, each of them only a couple of kilometers or miles across but offering dozens of superb diving sites, many with stunning numbers of large fish due to the oceanic currents flowing past the islands;
  • Padangbai - Blue Lagoon, say no more. Ferry port to Lombok and gateway to minuscule islands (Gili Tepekong and Mimpang) that offer some of the world's best current dives, also has great dive sites just around the port;
  • Candidasa - Just across Padangbai another few snorkeling spots and dive sites and boats to the current dives;
  • Amed - black sand beaches on the northeast coast of Bali, calm waters and plenty of fish and coral for snorkelers and divers at all experience levels;
  • Tulamben - A huge 125 m (411 ft) shipwreck that is accessible for snorkelers too, fantastic night dives, astonishing marine diversity;
  • Lovina Beach - The north coast of Bali with good night dive opportunities, a lot of coral and boat dives to more remote spots. Also accommodation for dives starting from Pemuteran and Pulau Menjangan;
  • Pemuteran - Boat trips to Pulau Menjangan, Bali's first internationally recognised dive location and excellent muck-diving near the port; and
  • Pulau Menjangan (Menjangan Island)- also known as Deer Island in the Bali Barat (West Bali) National Park. The best underwater visibility in Bali, often exceeding 50 m (230 ft) in October and November. Gorgonian corals, batfish, snappers, whitetip sharks and the Anker wreck make this a must see for your Bali diving or snorkeling trip.
Stonefish (Synanceia) waiting for prey in Padangbai, Bali

Popular Diving Locations

The most popular sites for diving and snorkeling include:

  • Secret Bay near Gilimanuk Harbor in the northwest of Bali, a legendary muck-diving site where you can find the juvenile version of many creatures in the protected waters but you may also glimpse seahorses or scorpionfish;
  • Eel Garden near Tulamben on the northeast coast of Bali with millions of eels covering a sizeable area on the ocean floor;
  • Jurassic Point near Nusa Lembongan where you can find the gigantic ocean sunfish, the mola-mola between August and November but you can also meet tunas, eagle rays, tunas and sharks any time of the year;
  • Manta Point, Nusa Penida where even snorkelers may be able to see groups of manta ray gliding gracefully;
  • Blue Lagoon near Padangbai, rhinopias, leaffish, stonefishes, blue-spot rays living on hard coral bommies near the ferry port;
  • Kebun Batu (Rock Garden) in northwest Bali where invertebrates frequent the diverse coral patches; and
  • Fantasy Wall near Tulamben with schools of bioluminescent fish at night and a sheer reef wall covered with coral for a great second day dive after your encounter with the USAT Liberty wreck.

Discovering the Underwater World

Most of the 4,000 fish species living in Indonesian waters also frequent the sea around Bali. Biologists have counted over 2,500 fish and 700 coral species in Tulamben, East Bali over a 2 week period and declared it the world's richest marine biogeographic zone. In addition to large and small tropical fish living on the reef among the reef sharks, turtles and rays some of the boat dive sites with ocean currents also attract large pelagics like tuna, whale sharks, dolphins and the weird-shaped mola-mola, the ocean sunfish that can grow to 3-4 m (10-13 ft). For those interested in pygmy seahorses or tiny bottom-dwelling creatures, there are muck-diving sites with nutrient-rich volcanic silt, especially on the north shore of Bali.

Top Underwater World Attractions

  • The USAT Liberty wreck in Tulamben or the Anker wreck near Pulau Menjangan;
  • Ikuan Island (Gili Biaha Point) where hundreds of blue yellowtail fusiliers can surround you;
  • Padangbai West with cuttlefish, gray reef sharks, mackerel, small tuna and stingrays;
  • PED near Nusa Penida with a cornucopia of tropical fish and hard and soft corals on a steep reef;
  • SD (Sekolah Dasar) Point near Nusa Penida for expert divers only: currents bring plankton that are eaten by small reef fish that are eaten by large fish that dart away from sharks, tuna and trevally;
  • Kebun Chris (Chris' Garden) an easy night dive among sea fan corals or a last shallow dive for a busy diving day spent photographing crabs, lionfish and eels; and
  • Blue Corner off Nusa Lembongan where black rays ride the current and giant sunfish munch on purple jellyfish occasionally.
Coral formation in Tulamben, Bali

Gonnadive recommends for snorkelers

There are numerous snorkeling opportunities all around Bali. If you'd like to experience something extraordinary then you could head north to Pemuteran and take a boat ride over to Pulau Menjangan (Deer Island) located in a national park, there are various dive sites around this small island, almost all of which are superb snorkeling locations as well. Astonishing amounts of hard and soft coral (barrel, gorgonians, etc.) and hundreds of tropical fish species like batfish, boxfish, angelfish, cardinalfish, pufferfish and parrotfish munching on coral. There is usually no current and visibility often exceeds 20 m (65 ft).

Experience the Best Family Dive Vacations

If you'd like to take your family away from the resorts and easy-to-reach snorkeling spots near Sanur in the south of Bali you could do worse than going to Amed on the northeast coast of Bali for some relaxed diving. At the Amed Dropoff shore dive, there is an amazing diversity of tropical fish starting from about 10 m (32 ft) and a good amount of coral. You will see schools of yellowtails and fusiliers that often swarm around you to check you out. There are also angelfishes, blennies, chromis, and butterflyfishes and another few hundred species. Moray eels are guarding their crevices on the coral so check for the inhabitants before you decide to reach into any holes. This is an easy dive as you can find your own depth anywhere from snorkeling on the surface down to about 27 m (90 ft) as you move along the slope. If you're leaving Amed through the mountains after your dive, don't forget a proper safety stop even if you were in shallow depths due to the elevation you will be heading toward.

Gonnadive travel tip

Bali is an ideal base for a longer Indonesian diving or snorkeling holiday. It has an international airport (Ngurah Rai) near Denpasar, Bali's capital, offering direct flights to and from many cities in East Asia and Australia. There are several flights to nearby Singapore, a major international flight hub. Domestic flights enable you to hop to different islands in Indonesia. You can also continue your diving trip by taking a fast boat to Lombok, Bali's even more laid-back neighbour. Fantastic diving opportunities await you there or on the tiny Gili islands near Lombok.

Gonnadive safety tip

While all the hundreds of kilometers of Bali's coast line look very inviting for snorkeling and diving we only recommend guided activities through reputable operators. Your guides will not only direct you to the best spots but more importantly they know everything about local conditions like tides, currents, cold water upswellings and such. As Bali is at a crossroads between a shallow seabed and deep ocean there can be dangerous currents everywhere, even between the bay you are holidaying in and that small island or reef that seems to be a few minutes of breaststrokes away.

Green ceratosoma nudibranch in Padangbai, Bali

Experience the Best Adventure Dive Vacations

Gili Tepekong and Pulau Kambing (Goat Island) are tiny islands close to Padangbai on Bali's east coast. Both offer a couple of dive sites that are really only for the experienced thrill-seekers. There are deep walls, rock pillars, a swim-through cave and strong to very strong currents (including upswellings, undertow and surges) here. Though you need to equalise constantly and you will have to buckle up for the ride of your life you will also have a chance to see the large pelagics - whitetip sharks, batfish, sunfish, whale sharks - that are attracted to the current or the plankton in it. Thanks to the current visibility is usually amazing. There is so much coral here that you won't be able to rest on the bottom. Both places can be challenging at full moon and new moon due to the down currents.

Best Time for a Scuba Diving or a Snorkeling Vacation

Bali is one of the rare places in the world that offer year-round diving and snorkeling opportunities. There is a wet season from October to March and a dry season from April to September. The best underwater visibility is in the dry season until about October, the waves are also smaller then. However, the wet season may offer more large fish encounters due to the silt and plankton in the water. The start of wet season is also unpredictable, it can be October, November or even later in some years. Check our recommendations at the specific diving locations. Also, the main tourist seasons are July and August for European travelers and Christmas and New Year for Australian travelers when you may be competing with non-divers for accommodation at the most frequented places in the south of Bali.

Check out our Tulamben page for world-class wreck diving and some lovely diving spots nearby.

Bali - The locals call it the Island of the Gods. We won't disagree with that.

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