Diving & Snorkeling in Nusa Lembongan

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About Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan is a small island, situated close to its larger neighbor, Nusa Penida, off the south-eastern coast of Bali, Indonesia. Though a mere 8 km2 (3.1 mi2) in size it has world class diving and snorkeling sites such as Lembongan Reef (Jungut Batu), Mangrove and Blue Corner. They range from a sheltered bay for beginners to challening "washing machine type" dives for expert divers with fantastic drift dives in between. With life being much slower here than on Bali, Nusa Lembongan offers an unspoilt tropical paradise.

If you can't miss the nightlife in Bali you can do daily boat dives in Nusa Lembongan and return to Bali for the evening. If you'd like to relax and be close to nature, consider staying on Nusa Lembongan for a night or two so you experience the amazing landscapes, sunrises and sunsets here. Surfers will also find a break or three.

Nusa Ceningan is an even smaller island (3 km2 or 1.2 mi2), located between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. It is linked to Nusa Lembongan by a suspension bridge for walkers, cyclists and motorbike riders. Spectacular views and scenic roads await you there as well.

There are seaweed farms in the tidal channel between Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. On the other side of Nusa Ceningan, the Toyapakeh Channel toward Nusa Penida is 250 m deep (820 ft) and attracts all kinds of large pelagics like mola molas, tuna and sharks. Most of the dive sites here are for expert divers only due to the unpredictable or strong currents.

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Best diving and snorkeling spot around Nusa Lembongan - Blue Corner

The Blue Corner is the wildest dive site around Nusa Lembongan, described as a ride in a washing machine or even a flush in a toilet bowl. Strong currents, yay! For expert divers mainly or advanced divers who will keep their guide at arms' length.

The current is absolutely unpredictable here. It can change from relatively calm waters to 7-12 km/h (4-8 mph) blasts on the same dive. There are upwellings and down, up, sideways currents involving temperature drops from 26 °C to 15 °C (79 °F to 59 °F). Sometimes holding on to your mask or regulator is a major challenge. Battling the rushing water is half the fun but there is also an astonishing diversity of marine life here.

This boat dive starts off at 8 m (25 ft) and leads to tidal flats at 18 m (60 ft). This is the shallow part of Blue Corner where intermediate divers can discover hundreds of tropical fish species and other creatures living around the healthy coral bommies.

Past these flats the real Blue Corner begins with flat terraces leading to a vertical wall from 30 m (100 ft). A large colony of black stringrays live in this area. They are not always buried in the sand. They also like to hover in the wild currents, wolfing down food as it zooms by. You have to take utmost caution when the current pushes you into a school of stringrays as their tails can cause dangerous injuries.

In addition to the stingrays, the mola mola can be observed here, usually in August and September. The huge ocean sunfish is hunting purple jellyfish, its favorite delicacy, and also visits the cleaning stations around the reef where smaller fish will remove parasites from its unwieldy body.

Sharks and other large pelagics may make an appearance, dialing up your adrenaline level on this wild underwater safari.

The carnivorous Fimbriated Moray Eel leaves its lair at night to hunt along the reefs of Nusa Lembongan

Exploring the Underwater World

These crystal clear waters, famous for high visibility dives, are teeming with marine life. Four species of sea turtles live here. Stingrays, manta rays, white tip reef sharks, nurse sharks can be seen on most dives. Hammerhead and whale sharks appear once in a while. Reef fish are in abundance - fusiliers, surgeonfish, clownfish, moray eels, mandarin fish, Moorish idols, rainbow runners, unicorn fish, marbled stingrays, angelfish, lionfish, etc. There are muck diving sites where you can see the young of each of these fishes and shrimps, lobsters, nudibranchs. The massive mola mola or ocean sunfish is a frequent visitor, especially in August and September.

Gonnadive travel tip

Nusa Lembongan is around 20 km (13 mi) from Bali's southern coast. The dive operators located in south and east Bali usually organise day trips to Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and/or Penida. It takes about an hour to get to the first dive site from Bali ports like Sanur, Nusa Dua or Padangbai. Don't eat too much if you know you will climb on a speedboat right after breakfast! These boats offer two dives on the same day, usually in two different spots with lunch taken and surface interval spent on the boat.

The alternative to the Bali dive boats is to stay on Nusa Lembongan and enjoy its amazing natural beauty. There are some backpacker or bungalow type places near Jungut Batu and Mushroom Bay, the two most popular beaches. There are also a couple of upmarket accommodation opportunities with infinity pools or standalone villas, especially close to Dream Beach. No matter your price category, the slow, relaxing lifestyle and the tropical scenery will mesmerise you. For starters, there are no cars here except a few pickup trucks used for the heavy lifting of supplies. Both Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are small enough for walking around them if you are in good condition.

Dive sites around Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan is excellent for underwater macro photograpy
  • Lembongan Reef (Jungut Batu) - This dive starts in a protected bay and is suitable for all levels, including snorkelers. There is a sandy bottom stocked with a large number of coral bommies providing shelter for all sorts of marine life. Hundreds of small fish species live here and you can also spot unique frog fishes or large moray eels and lobsters. Serious wildlife photographers may decide to spend the whole dive around a couple of coral bommies to document the diversity of life here. This is also a great night dive location with a different set of creatures active at night compared to the daytime.
  • Mangrove - A boat dive near the north east of Nusa Lembongan, starting at 3 m (10 ft) and offering fantastic diving experiences down to 40 m (130 ft). There is a shallow area for snorkelers or beginner divers with plenty of fish, sea fans and barrel sponges. There are also currents at deeper sections of the reef that are challenging for even expert divers. Schools of sweetlips are drifting around divers. In the distance whitetip sharks or tuna can be seen occasionally. The corals can have weird shapes as they were formed in the relentless currents. Ride the drift and have your camera ready to capture memories of the crazy variety of fish and coral species.

Dive sites around Nusa Ceningan

  • Ceningan Channel - For expert divers only. An adrenaline rush due to the unpredictable currents. There is muck diving near the mangroves and seaweed farms where you can see juvenile reef fish, mudskippers and sea stars. Toward the deep larger fish can be observed, groupers, tuna and sharks. Due to the two channels between three islands the currents are completely random or take you north toward the open sea so you will spend most of your energies just fighting the whirlpool.
  • Ceningan Wall - For expert divers only. A remarkable coral wall starting from the limestone cliffs situated on the east side of Nusa Ceningan. The healthy coral and fish life are fed by nutrients from the mangrove forests and the ocean currents from the deep. The wall goes down to 180 m (590 ft), though, needless-to-say, recreational divers are not allowed to dive deeper than 40 m (130 ft). This is a difficult dive so stay close to your dive guide and don't stretch your limits here. The current can also pull you toward the open sea so it is essential that a dive boat with an expert captain follows the underwater action.
Redtoothed Triggerfish swims at the coral reefs of Nusa Lembongan

Best Time for a Scuba Diving or a Snorkeling Vacation

All year round for stringrays, manta rays and reef fish, though visibility is best April to November, in the dry season. July to October is the season for mola molas, with the best months being August and September when they come closer to the reefs for cleaning or mating.

Gonnadive safety tip

Even though Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are visibly close to the Bali landmass, there are erratic currents here due to the depth of the waters around the islands and the direction of deep ocean currents lashing these shores. You will need to dive with a reputable operator and follow instructions closely.

The boat captain and the dive guide will have the final word about the suitability of a dive site on a given day. Should there be safety concerns they will take you to a different spot on the other side of the island for example. As these are some of the clearest waters in the tropics with hundreds of fish species, you will not be disappointed anywhere in this area.

If you have a few dozen dives under your belt, try the Blue Corner. Fasten your non-existent seat belts and enjoy the ride!

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