Pulau Menjangan is a tiny, uninhabited island located in the northwest of Bali, Indonesia. It became Bali's first internationally renowned diving location in 1978. Along with most of Bali's northwest, the West Bali National Park (Taman Nasional Bali Barat) encompasses this tropical paradise and the pristine coral reefs surrounding it.
On world class diving and snorkeling sites such as Eel Garden, Pos 1, Pos 2 and Anker wreck, you will experience some of the best coral gardens and wall diving that Bali offers. If you only have 1 or 2 days in the north of Bali for diving then this is the place for you. Most Pulau Menjangan dive sites are suitable for snorkelers due to the shallow reefs circling the island with absent or mild currents.
Turtles, stingrays, sharks, tuna crop up in your field of vision in the deep blue sea if you can take your eyes off the fantastic coral walls and its many colorful inhabitants. There are cities, fields, mountain ranges of healthy coral everywhere. Hovering over them in warm, crystal clear water feels like being in a small airplane and watching a strange new country unfold in front of you.
Located near the southeast side of Pulau Menjagan, Pos 2 is one of the best wall dives in Indonesia if not in the whole Coral Triangle. It may start as a shore dive from the boat mooring or a boat dive a couple of minutes of motoring away from the island.
A steep slope will lead you to an almost vertical wall that is stocked with lush soft and hard corals, hundreds of fish species and other smaller and larger critters everywhere you look. There may be a light current that allows you to float horizontally at a nice 17-20 m (55-65 ft) depth. Just observe the fantastic diversity of marine life on the wall. If you don't move around a lot you may preserve enough oxygen to last a full hour or more in this wonderland.
You will often see lionfish, triggerfish, trunkfish, boxfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, rabbitfish, basslets, angelfish, bluespine unicornfish, dottybacks, bigeye soldierfish, surgeonfish, batfish. Moray eels in their crevices. Different species of nudibranchs every couple of minutes or so. Large big star and black-spotted pufferfish cruising around the fan corals. Platter corals will hide hundreds of juvenile reef fish. In fact you will probably encounter representatives of all reef fish families in the first three minutes of your dive. Let us know if you spot a pygmy seahorse while you are there!
If you turn your head away from the wall you will see schools of medium sizes reef fish in the deep blue sea. There are also tuna or whitetip reef sharks speeding alone or in pairs in the depths. You may come across large lobsters or turtles feeding on sponges at the sloping sections of the wall. In addition to the variety of fish and coral species, their sheer numbers are also staggering. You may find a single gorgonian coral with three or four lionfish hooking their fins into it - and two different species of lionfish at that. By the time you finished photographing them your dive companions would have identified twenty more fish species or found three completely different neon-colored nudibranchs.
There may be dolphins in the area that sometimes follow dive boats. Look away from the wall if you hear squeaking sounds in the water. If you are very lucky you might also catch a glimpse of manta rays gliding around the wall.
The sea around Pulau Menjangan is teeming with reef creatures, boasting one of the highest biodiversity in fish, invertebrate and coral species found in the Coral Triangle. 110 species from 18 coral families were recorded around the 1.5 km (0.9 mi) long island, including 22 out of the 29 species of mushroom corals known globally. 27 species of Acropora coral was observed by marine biologists in a 0.02 km2 (0.07mi2) area - you would cover more ground in the first half of a dive.
On a two-hour snorkeling session you should see as many fish as on any average Asian scuba dive. On a one-hour dive you will come across several species in each of the reef fish families and a few large pelagics like rays, sharks, tuna or barracuda.
Some species and families that will keep you entertained on your dive are reef sharks, stingrays, moray eels, snake eels, ribbon eels, lizardfish, soldierfish and squirrelfish, trumpetfish, lionfish, jawfish, dottybacks, anthias and basslets, groupers, bigeyes, hawkfish, cardinalfish, trevally, fusiliers, sweetlips, butterflyfish, angelfish, damselfish, chromis, anemonefish, wrasses, parrotfish, gobies, spadefish, batfish, rabbitfish, surgeonfish, unicornfish, Moorish idol, triggerfish, boxfish, pufferfish and porcupinefish. (Many thanks to the 350 pages of the Reef Fishes of the Indo-Pacific book for allowing the author of this article to keep his sanity.)
Most of the fish are unperturbed by divers around them. Even turtles, that appear on every second if not on each dive, are happy to graze on the reef with a group of divers watching them. Sea stars, sea urchins, leopard sea cucumbers, shrimps, crabs, lobsters, flatworms, sea slugs and nudibranchs fill every nook and cranny.
Back in the boat you will rave about the hundreds and thousands of fish and invertebrates you have seen on your dive while your dive buddy who was a meter away from you or had her head turned in a different direction will ramble on about a thousand different things she has spotted. Often favorably compared to Palau and the Great Barrier Reef, Pulau Menjangan is truly the pinnacle of healthy tropical marine habitats.
The name of the island, Menjangan, means 'deer' in Indonesian. The locals observed deer swimming approx. 2 km (1.2 mi) from Bali's coast to the tiny island on their annual migration. There are a few groups of deer on the island - you will see them if you walk around the island during your surface interval or on a break between your snorkeling sessions. The deer may also come down to the beach and provide you with a fantastic photo opportunity. Pulau Menjangan is only 0.8 km2 (0.3 mi2) in size so you can walk around its forests and beaches in an hour and half.
It has a beautiful Hindu temple called Puri Gili Kencana that you can easily visit between your two dives if the diving boat is docked at the southeastern mooring of the island. You will have to walk up the eastern path from the mooring. You might even come upon some deer lazing about in the shadows of the trees.
At the temple you will be asked to wrap yourself in the skirt they provide and respect the areas you are not allowed to enter. There is a massive Ganesha statue on the cliff facing the sea. If you walk briskly enough you will be able to return to your diving boat by the end of your surface interval without frustrating the rest of the divers or your dive guide who stayed on the boat.
If your boat is moored at the western corner of the island, it is worth walking on the coast to the north of the island during your surface interval. The western corner itself is an amazing coral beach with nice views toward Bali's mist-shrouded mountains - make sure you take a desperate castaway or intrepid explorer selfie somewhere. The northern side of Pulau Menjangan is a mangrove forest with a swampy area behind it at low tide. If you walk around slowly in your diving boots or a firm-soled beach shoe you will discover many small critters hiding in the swamp. Tiny ribbon eels, crabs, juvenile fish dart around when they notice you. Slow down your movements to be able to observe them and take lots of pictures. Again, get back to the boat before the surface interval is up otherwise you may exasperate your fellow divers or your dive guide with your tardiness.
Most Pulau Menjangan dive trips leave from Lovina or Pemuteran in the north of Bali. You can jump in the dive operators' vans at the dive shops or they can probably pick you up from your accommodation based on prior arrangement. If you are already staying at one of the two resort hotels at the West Bali National Park, then it is quite easy for the vans to pick you up. You can also join the diving group at the small Labuan Lalang jetty where the dive boats leave for the island trips.
This jetty has a small roadside restaurant with toilet and shower facilities. You can buy some snacks and drinks there while the crew transports the diving and snorkeling gear to the boats. If you brought some snacks or fruit with you, you can eat it at the restaurant tables without any issues.
There are no shops on Pulau Menjangan. You will get water, soft drinks and a light lunch from your diving operator as part of your package but this restaurant is the last chance to purchase something yourself. Note that there are rudimentary toilet facilities on the island.
The boat ride takes 30 minutes from the jetty to the island. Some of the dive sites are shore dives starting in the turquoise waters right where the snorkelers are getting ready. Some other ones are boat dives. The diving boat may drop off the snorkelers at a mooring then head out for a 5 minute trip around the island to the first diving location. The cost of your dive or snorkel trip should include the national park fees collected for each person.
From Lovina to the Labuan Lalang jetty the westbound car or bus trip takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Don't be frustrated if the driver tells the passengers that it will take about 45 minutes. They reckon that is probably the longest time that travelers are prepared to look at small towns, roadside shops, tropical farms, forests and mountain ranges rushing by. In fact, the trip is quite enjoyable as it gives you an insight into how the Balinese live, work and travel in the north.
Pemuteran is only half an hour's drive away from the jetty to the east but has much fewer accommodation and entertainment options than Lovina. If your dive van or bus came from Lovina, there is a high chance that it picks up additional divers or snorkelers in Pemuteran. Watch out for the monkeys near the waterfront there. They will be long gone by the time you get your camera ready and you will forget to take a snapshot on the way back as well.
If you are coming up from the south of Bali and you would like to dive at Pulau Menjangan on the same day then the vehicle has to leave quite early. Taking Nusa Dua as the southernmost example, it is 102 km (64 mi) to get to Lovina on narrow mountain roads full of scooters and trucks through busy, interlinked villages. It takes at least 3 hours to make this trip, the earlier you start, the faster it goes. You are looking at a 4 or 4 30 am start to make it to Lovina by 8 am and sort out your gear in a dive shop there. Of course it is exciting to watch the mountains, the rice paddies, the small villages and wildlife in the jungle. Try to enjoy instead of endure this drive and the one between Lovina and the jetty.
Note that you may need to take a slightly longer route down south after a diving day because you would be traveling through high mountain ranges with residual nitrogen still in your blood - see our safety tip below.
The Coral Gardens also doubles as a great snorkeling site. You can drift with the mild current with the boat floating alongside you or waiting for you a short distance away at the end point of your session. You don't need to be a diver to see lots and lots of fishes, in fact you may even see turtles here.
We suggest that you spend 2 full days at Pulau Menjangan to see half of these amazing dive sites. You can stay overnight in nearby Pemuteran or Lovina or, if your budget affords it, in one of the two 5-star resorts located at the national park.
There are also wonderful dive sites around both Pemuteran and Lovina that are well worth exploring. At the western end of the national park there is another interesting dive site called Secret Bay or Gilimanuk Bay. This is a muck diving site, the water much colder here than in Pulau Menjangan. The drawcard is the variety of small critters like ghostpipe fish, frogfish, scorpionfish and nudibranchs.
Pulau Menjangan is an all-year-round diving location with high visibility and warm water (usually 29 °C or 84 °F). The best time to visit is April to October in the dry season so you can also experience the other Balinese diving locations at their best. Horizontal visibility can be an astonishing 50 m (165 ft) or more in October and even in November before the rain starts pouring down.
These dive sites are pretty safe thanks to the high visibility and the warm, calm waters. The island is generally protected from winds and currents. If there is any mild current present then it just helps you to drift effortlessly and with minimal oxygen consumption along sumptuous reef walls.
The dive guides will know if there are any issues with the currents just by glancing at the top of the waves from the dive boat or jumping into the water for a dip. As there are at least seven superb dive sites around the island they should find two good spots for the day without too much hassle.
If a mild current is present you will get to experience a nice drift dive leading back to the diving boat. Should the current change during your dive, you will notice that progress slows down and the dive guide might rearrange the underwater route to place the current behind you.
The boats are tied together at the Labuan Lalang jetty and at the Pulau Menjangan moorings. Mind your hands when you are resting on the boat so your fingers won't be crushed if two boats bump into each other. Also take care when you are entering or exiting the boat - focus on your balance and have your personal gear in a backpack or shoulder bag instead of holding it in your hand.