World-renowned as an epicenter for top-notch diving, the Indonesian island of Bali offers a wide range of underwater experiences suitable for all levels and budgets.
A wealth of top-side culture and world-class resorts is mirrored in the diverse and exciting diving to be discovered below the island’s comfortable blue waters.
From famous shipwrecks to encounters with mysterious giants, diving in Bali, the ‘Island of the Gods’ never ceases to amaze even the most seasoned scuba enthusiasts.
Explore the World-famous USAT Liberty Wreck at Tulamben
Located just off-shore near the east coast town of Tulamben, the USAT Liberty is home to a breathtaking array of marine species in a unique and fascinating habitat. The wreck itself was torpedoed and beached in 1942 before being washed back to sea by a volcanic eruption in 1963.
Now sitting at a maximum depth of 30m, divers and snorkelers can easily swim from shore to begin their exploration of the shallowest wreckage.
As an artificial reef, the USAT Liberty is spectacular, and after nearly 60 years underwater every surface is festooned in colorful encrusting and soft corals. Large table and mushroom corals add further drama, and the whole seascape is softened by feathery crinoids and tube worms.
Huge schools of luminous anthias, angelfish, and sweetlips swirl and dart between the wreckage, while barracuda and trevally school just out in the blue.
Looking up to the surface, the striking beams of sunlight are almost completely blocked by the silhouettes of thousands of individual fish that make this wreck their home.
Hang Out with Manta Rays and Mola Mola at Nusa Penida
Located off the southern tip of Bali, the small island of Nusa Penida offers up some big marine life encounters. A resident population of reef manta rays can be found year-round at the island’s eponymous dive site, Manta Point, and snorkeling or diving with these gentle giants is an awesome experience.
The mantas at Nusa Penida are huge and seemingly alien as they glide and swoop in gentle spirals around their reef cleaning stations. As dives go, it doesn’t get much easier than kneeling in the soft sand and watching these huge filter feeders go about their peaceful day.
Just north of Manta Point, the gin-clear waters and stunning coral formations of Crystal Bay are one of the region’s best places to sight the elusive oceanic sunfish or mola mola.
These peculiar prehistoric fish emerge from deep waters between July and October for their annual parasite removal treatment, serviced by cleaner fish on the shallow reefs.
Measuring a whopping 2.5m from fin to fin, and weighing as much as 1,000kg, diving with these shy goliaths is a rare opportunity not to be missed on a trip to Bali.
Photograph Fascinating Macro Around Amed
Thirty minutes south of Tulamben, the black volcanic sands of Amed play host to a plethora of macro and some great opportunities for close-up photography.
Sites such as Ghost Bay, Seraya Secrets, and The Drop-Off feature easy conditions with very little current, allowing even the most inexperienced photographers the chance to catch some great shots.
Critter hunters can spot all sorts of weird and wonderful species here, such as flying gurnards, sea moths, mimic octopus, and pygmy seahorses, as well as ghost pipefish and a huge range of brightly patterned nudibranchs. Larger species such as leaf scorpionfish and stonefish can be spotted if you search hard enough.
Experience the Exhilarating Fish Life of Bali’s Gili Islands
If you thrill in breath-taking drop-offs, brisk currents, and all the ocean treasures they bring, it doesn’t get much more exciting than diving the small islands of Gili Tepekong, Gili Mimpang, and Gili Biaha.
A 15-minute boat ride from Padang Bai on Bali’s east coast, these rocky outcrops are a haven for large pelagics and offer some of the best shark diving in the area.
Gili Mimpang, also known as Batu Tiga, features healthy reefs leading to steep walls, offering the perfect habitat for whitetip reef sharks, wobbegongs, and the elusive coral catshark. Much of the diving is between 25 and 30m, and currents can be surprisingly brisk.
The largest island of Gili Tepekong boasts dramatic walls and strong currents, best suited to advanced divers. Large schools of jack, sweetlips, and grouper circle the reefs thriving in the nutrient-rich water, while whitetip and blacktip reef sharks patrol the island’s steep rocky sides.
Four kilometers from Gili Tepekong, the crescent-shaped island of Gili Biaha, enjoys similar topography to the other islands but with the exception of a gently sloping reef to the north.
Smothered in hard and soft corals, the reef here is home to butterflyfish, snapper, triggerfish, and batfish, and well as interesting nudibranchs, cuttlefish, and coral snakes.
Discover the Underwater Museum at Pemuteran
Tucked away on the northwest coast of Bali, the charming village of Pemuteran is one of the island’s best-kept secrets. Boasting diving and snorkeling to rival the top sites in the Coral Triangle, the reefs around Pemuteran are home to a unique coral restoration and conservation project known as BioRock Garden.
For anyone interested in marine conservation diving here is a must, and the project runs a visitor education center and guided snorkeling tours of the newly established corals.
Pemuteran Bay is also home to over 60 underwater statues and monuments, spread across various sites to further enhance the region’s artificial reef. Diving around Temple Garden and Temple Wall will find you face to face with statues of Buddha and Ganesha, and a temple housing dozens of statue heads in a solemn prayer.
Many of these structures are overgrown in encrusting corals and sponges, with large gorgonians established at the deeper sites. There is also some great macro to be found, with a variety of shrimps and crustaceans, some unusual nudibranchs, and frogfish and scorpionfish lurking in the crevices and cracks of this underwater museum.
Where to Stay in Bali
The best dive areas on Bali’s east coast are all within an hours’ drive of each other, and regardless of where you are based, the majority of operators will offer day trips to all of the best east coast sites, and also to Nusa Penida island.
Bali is the perfect destination for a multi-centered or ‘dive safari’ trip, combining two or more locations to experience the best diving across the island.
A wide range of accommodation is available to suit all budgets, from all-inclusive beachfront resorts through to hostel and lodgings for independent travelers.
The northwest coast of Bali is less popular, therefore there isn’t as much choice in terms of accommodation and dive operators. However, this does mean the dive sites are less crowded than those on the east.
When to Go to Bali
Bali is diveable year-round, however, rain and run-off during the wet season of December to March can affect visibility at many sites. Bearing in mind that the summer months can get extremely busy with tourists, visiting between mid-March and May, or from September to November is a good choice.
How to Get to Bali
Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) outside Denpasar receives the island’s international arrivals, and visitors from the US and Europe will normally transit through one of the major Middle Eastern or Asian hubs.
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