Padangbai (Padang Bay) is a small beach town in the southeast of Bali, Indonesia, known for its sheltered port with boat services to Lombok and many small islands. There are fantastic diving and snorkeling sites just around this lovely, languid community including Bias Tugel (Secret Beach), Ferry Channel, Blue Lagoon or Baong Penyu (Turtle's Neck), Dropoff and Jepun.
This area offers astonishing visibility for macrophotography. The rays of the sun penetrate the water to a depth of almost 20 m (65 ft), assisting divers to capture that special shot of fishes, critters and coral they have been chasing since arriving at Bali.
Padangbai also doubles as a diving hub once you've had your fill of tropical reef fishes, coral and green turtles right in front of the beaches. There are ferries, boats and diving trips to some of the world's best adventure dive locations such as Gili Tepekong, Gili Mimpang, Gili Biaha, Kambing Island, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, all involving tricky currents and large pelagics.
Blue Lagoon also known as Baong Penyu (Turtle's Neck) is a great place for snorkeling or beginner dives but also perfect for macrophotography and night dives or even better: macrophotography done on night dives! This is a sandy bay with soft coral and hard dome coral that is home to Napoleon wrasse, clownfishes, moray eels, pipefish, stonefish, green turtles, frogfish and a hundred other species. You can practice perfect buoyancy above the sandy bottom then have a relaxed dive among the bommies surrounded by an unbelievable cornucopia of tropical fish and invertebrates. You can choose your own safe depth at 5, 10 or 15 m (16, 32, 50 ft) and be mesmerized by the abundant marine life there. On night dives flutemouths and other fish may chase the light emanating from your torch and cuttlefish, octopuses and snails will go about their business. Snorkelers should keep inside the bay as there can be currents beyond the protected shallows.
You will find hundreds of tropical fish species, reef critters and dozens of coral types. Frogfish, crocodile fish, basslets, leaf scorpionfish, mantis shrimp, pygmy seahorses, coral catshark, cardinalfish, jackfish, pufferfish, vibrant nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, tubeworms, crabs, tuna teem around Pandangbai, often in shallow water, away from currents. When the water is a bit cooler in the dry season even Wobbegong sharks make an appearance.
A less than two-hour bus or taxi trip will take you from Denpasar Airport or Kuta to relaxed Padangbai where you can set up residence for the next two days or even two weeks of diving and exploration. After your last daily dive and before you head out to the restaurants and bars, it's worth discovering Padangbai's temples, the oldest of which is Pura Silayukti, dating back to the 11th century.
If you stand at the port and face the sea then to your right there is Bias Tugel (Secret Beach) just around the headland. The Ferry Channel dive site is in front of you near the left hand side of the bay. There are four great dive sites around the headland on the left which is called Baong Penyu (Turtle's Neck): Tanjung Sari (closest), Blue Lagoon, The Wall / Dropoff and Jepun / Frangipani Temple (farthest).
Toward northeast there are Amed and Tulamben, both magnets for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. Southwest you will find the party central of Bali, Sanur and Nusa Dua with several convenient dive sites near big resorts. The boats in Padangbai harbor can transport you to incredible dive adventures around smaller islands like Gili Tepekong, Gili Mimpang, Gili Biaha, Kambing Island, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. If you are not in a great hurry to head home, go over to Lombok for a completely different island experience and another world of diving to be discovered.
All year round based on water temperature which is usually a balmy 26-29 °C (79-84 °F) but if you want the dive sites mainly to your group try the off-season months of April to July and October to November. Note that the water temperature can drop to 20 °C (68 °F) in the area sometimes necessitating a thick wetsuit.