There’s no disputing that Bali has some of the best diving and snorkelling sites in all of Southeast Asia. In fact, how could it not being an island surrounded by warm, nutrient-rich tropical waters? From dramatic drop-offs to colourful coral gardens, schools of exotic fish and beguiling shipwrecks, the underwater world here is almost as vibrant as the unique culture and vistas you find on land. Although there are countless spots where you can get your aquatic kicks, we’ve narrowed down a few that stand out from the rest.
Located within Bali’s only national park, the tiny island of Pulau Menjangan is surrounded by several spectacular underwater sites. Stick close to the shore to do some snorkelling amid brightly hued sea fans and sponges and playful parrotfish, or head out to the 30-metre wall to see soft and hard corals, manta rays and the occasional whale shark. The best place to base yourself for an excursion to Menjangan is nearby Pemuteran, where you’ll find plenty of guesthouses, restaurants and tour operators offering diving and snorkelling tours.
If you’re into wreck dives, Tulamben is your spot. Here you’ll find the hulking shell of the USSLiberty, a WWII freighter that was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1943 and later beached on the shore in East Bali. The ship was left untouched until 1963, when the eruption of Mount Agung split it in half and carried it 50-metres offshore. Now divers and snorkellers alike flock here to explore the coral-encrusted hull. Amed is the closest and most convenient base for trips to Tulamben, although many companies also ferry the crowds from Lovina and Candidasa.
The northern side of Nusa Lembongan is great for both divers and snorkellers, as there are plenty of shallow reefs teeming with fish, as well as turtles, sharks and the elusive mola mola (sunfish) that only makes an appearance between the months of July and October. For those who want to learn to dive or enhance your underwater skills, Nusa Lembongan has many highly respected dive companies offering a range of PADI courses.
Expert divers may want to check out the Ceningan Wall between Nusa Penida and Ceningan Island. This is one of the deepest natural channels in the world, so it brings cold water in along with interesting sea creatures like octopuses, emperor angel fish, tuna, barracuda and leopard sharks. However, be aware that this is no spot for beginners or novices—the current here can be extremely strong and accidents have happened in the past.
Lively Gili T is a paradise for divers and snorkellers, as there are a bevy of world-class dive schools and shops on the island and a number of interesting sites just a short boat ride away. Fancy doing away with all that cumbersome equipment? Freedive Gili offers 2-day courses that teach you to hold your breath for long periods of time and dive up to 15 metres sans oxygen tanks or snorkels.