Whilst it gets little coverage compared to the other amazing activities that you can do in Bali, scuba diving and snorkeling are actually a few of the more rewarding things to do, because you don’t actually expect to see the incredible beauty of the underwater ecosystem in Bali for what it truly is. The exotic marine life constantly surprises people with its depth of visibility, numerous mysterious creatures, and gorgeous coral reefs.
You can pretty much snorkel through or dive off almost the entire coast of the island, however, there are certain areas that are known to have the best water conditions for you to get the most out of your underwater experience.
Some sites, like the ones situated around Amed, a small eastern beach town, hosts prime scuba diving environments, so much so that people often make the trek there just to spend a few days dedicated to diving deep in the waters to explore the wonderfully concentrated marine life and unique shipwrecks.
If you’re keen to do something a little different in Bali, why not give snorkeling and/or scuba diving a try? Almost all ages can participate in snorkeling, and if you’ve got absolutely no experience in scuba diving but am passionate about wanting to give it a shot, there are plenty of programs out there developed specifically to give a relaxed introduction to scuba diving. If you’re an experienced diver looking for another great adventure, there are so many different sites to discover, it’d be crazy not to start now. Whatever your experience level is, below we’ve covered the top 5 best spots on the entire island that you need to try!
1. Bali Scuba Diving at the Majestic Tulamben Liberty Wreck (Tulamben)
Located at the small fishing village of Tulamben in the north-east coast of Bali is one of the most famous shipwreck diving spots on the entire island. The unique somewhat salvaged condition of the ship in addition to its accessible location makes it a must-do for enthusiastic divers who are after experiencing something other than schools of exotic fish.
The history around this shipwreck is that it was once a US Army Transport ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942, and thus now lies just off the shores of the beaches in Tulamben.
The ship itself lies 30m underneath the surface of the water, with the top point of the ship being only 5m below water, making it certifiably appropriate for divers of all ages to attempt to explore this site. On a good day during the popular season, which is between April – July and October – November, up to 100 divers visit this site.
In addition to being able to explore the wreckage up close and personally (just like you see them do in the movies), there is a wide variety of corals and invertebrates within the wreck itself, and often you get mola mola and whale sharks as well as black-tip reef sharks visiting. If you have an underwater camera, bring it along, because there will be plenty of schools of fish to capture, such as the big-eyed trevally, jacks, gobies, lizardfish, and barracuda.
The Tulamben Liberty Wreck can easily be accessible if you’re staying in Amed, which is where most visitors choose to stay. There are many more accommodation, food, and other activity options to choose from.
Access: To access Amed, once you arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport, you can hire your own transport with a driver to take you to Amed which will take 3-hours to drive to. Otherwise, you can take a taxi. If you’re coming from Lovina or Candidasa, you can take a shuttle bus to Amed.
Our Recommended Tour: Bali Scuba Diving at the Majestic Tulamben Liberty Wreck
Included in the Tour (6 hours): Introductory course with supervision of a professional dive instructor, short theory lesson, a pool session, 2 dives (one in Coral Garden and one in the Liberty Shipwreck), CD of your underwater photos of the dives.
2. Snorkeling and Swimming with the Manta Rays (Nusa Penida)
The majestic manta rays of Nusa Penida are legendary. Their exoticness makes them a target attraction for people visiting Nusa Penida, with almost everyone picking up a snorkeling session to try and capture the beauty of the manta rays at least once in their lives. Nusa Penida is the prime location because of its impressive concentration of manta rays and active efforts to preserve the marine life.
As this is a very popular activity, expect to see other boats at the destination also. Once you gear up, you’ll be able to jump straight into the water to start exploring and trying to spot manta rays immediately! Keep a keen eye out, because they don’t stick around for a long time.
Over the course of the full day, starting at 7:30-8:00am until 5:00pm, you will be exploring three of the top sites for manta ray spotting (the decision on the sites of the day depends on the water conditions of the day) – they include Crystal Bay, Toyapakeh, Gamat Bay, Manta Point, and Mangrove Point. There is an included delicious lunch at Paradise Beach in Nusa Lembongan, and even an included kayak, paddle board or private gondola ride in the mangroves (activity depending on availability of numbers).
This is one of the best tours that guarantees that you get the most of your day in Nusa Penida. Book it now for a 25% off discount to guarantee your spots on the boats for the most memorablye manta ray spotting session ever!
You’ll be picked up at your hotel and will take a boat ride out to the ocean. The dive will start at Manta Ray. The coastline is gorgeous. The water is clear. The day would not have even started yet and you’ll already be having a good time.
Book Our Recommended Tour: Snorkeling and Swimming with the Manta Rays (25% off!)
Included in the Tour (9 hours): Pick up and drop off from your hotel (included locations listed above), snorkeling at three different sites around Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, beach-side lunch at Paradise Beach in Nusa Lembongan, mangrove tour.
By the way, if you are looking for diving in all Indonesia, you can check out this: Indonesia’s underwater wonders.
3. Magical Snorkeling Adventure in Nusa Lembongan (Nusa Lembongan)
Easily credited as one of the best snorkeling spots in the entirety of Bali, Nusa Lembongan offers a respite from the busier cities of Kuta and Seminyak for people seeking to indulge in more activities within nature. Snorkeling rates highly in the top things to do in Nusa Lembongan, and it’s obvious why: its close location to marine life hotspots such as Manta Bay, Crystal Bay, and Mangrove Bay makes it the prime spot to easily book in a half day or full day tour to see as much of the well-preserved ecosystem there as possible.
The highlight of your trip might be the spotting and close-up viewing of the majestic manta rays in the shallows of the waters where you are snorkeling, but keep in mind that the colourful coral reef ecosystem and the fish inhabitants around this coast has been hailed as one of the most beautiful and diverse in the entire island.
Our recommended tour (currently offering 25% off all bookings) employs experienced and passionate professionals to oversee the entire day, and to make sure you get the most out of your experience by pointing out various points of interest.
As with many of the tours in this area, you will be taken to three top spots for spotting marine life around Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida (the location of the sites depends on the water conditions of the day), and you will get to spend around 30-minutes at each spot to snorkel amongst the fish as much as you want. Work up an appetite and dine at the much-raved about Warung Paradise on Lembongan Beach, and you can even kayak or paddle board your way through the mangroves.
Access: You will be picked up at your hotel (Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur and Canggu) at 7:30am-8:00am, depending on its location. Once you book, you will be able to select where.
Book Our Recommended Tour: Magical Snorkeling Adventure in Nusa Lembongan
Included in the Tour (9-hours): Pick up and drop off at your hotel (included locations listed above), boat transfer from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan, tuba diving session in three different areas around Nusa Lemongan and Nusa Penida, lunch on the beach at Warung Paradise, kayak or stand-up paddle board or private gondola ride through the mangroves.
Want to record everything you see during your diving experience? Check out this article to discover the best underwater cameras on the market right now.
4. Explore Menjangan Island on an Overnight Dive Trip (Menjangan Island)
Want to try something completely different to just a few hours snorkeling at Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida. Why not try an overnight trip packed with diving opportunities around the warm waters of Menjangan Island, one of the most sought after spots on the island of Bali.
The waters there are a sparkling turquoise blue and are crystal clear, the beach sands are as white as can be, the skies are almost always clear, and even the abundance of fish you’ll encounter will seem happier and livelier.
Some of the most gorgeous marine life exist in the expansive ecosystem here, including beautiful coral formations, turtles, filigreed gorgonian fans, and clownfish-filled anemones.
Whilst many tours only allow you to snorkel on the surface of the water and get a mere glimpse of what life under the waters is like, diving the Menjangan Islands means you will be able to explore miscellaneous caves, various nooks and crannies, and crevices in the water to your heart’s content.
The deep drop-offs and complex rock formations just add to the lure factor of this island. Boasting an average year round visibility of 20 – 30 metres makes it the perfect location to spend an entire two days diving.
To visit the Menjangen Island, located in the far northwest of Bali, unguided means having to hire a park guide and permit, however, our recommended tour includes all of the logistics for you, so you don’t have to worry.
Access: You will be picked up from your hotel from Day 1 and transported to and from.
Book Our Recommended Tour: Explore Menjangan Island on an Overnight Dive Trip
Included in the Tour: Return hotel transfer, boat ride to Menjangan Island, four dives over two days, lunch for two days, insurance, all dive equipment, marine park entry fees, community contributions and porter fees, underwater guide by PADI dive master.
Not Included in the Tour: Overnight accommodation (accommodation will basically be an extra $75USD for a double room. Availability will be searched amongst partner hotels once the tour has been booked. Partner hotels include Doubleyou Home Stay, Tirta Sari Bungalows, Taman Sari Bali Bali Resort & Spa, and more).
5. Snorkeling Package at Padangbai with Lunch (South Denpasar)
Padangbai, located on the western coast of Bali, is a popular small fishing village that’s got a thriving port due to its fast boat services over to the Gili Islands, another popular tourist destination in Bali. It’s a wonderful region for snorkeling, with prime water conditions in areas such as Blue Lagoon, Jepun, and Ferry Channel.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot animals such as white tip and black tip reed sharks, turtles, cuttle fish, frog fish, robust and ornate ghost pipe fish, frogfish, moray eels, many variations of the puffer fish family, porcupine fish, pipe fish, clown fish, banner fish, angel fish, and so many more other reef fish.
Unlike its counterpart Tulamben, of which Padangbai is often compared with, Padangbai is characterized by its pure white sandy beaches and crystal clear azure blue waters, unlike Tulamben’s black volcanic stones beaches. The drive is only 90-minutes from Denpasar, or a 60-minute drive from Ubud.
If you’re after an underwater experience that won’t draw in the crowds as expected at Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, then Padangbai is the way to go. Whilst its got a busy port, the quaint fishing village is relatively off the grid, and the professional tour operators will ensure you’re getting 5-star service in an incredibly well-hidden gem.
Access: Hotel pick up and drop off is included in the package (included locations are Ubud, Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa, Jimbaran, Legian, Kuta, Tuban, Sanur, Denpasar, Canggu and Seminyak).
Book Our Recommended Tour: Snorkeling Package at Padangbai with Lunch
Included in the Tour (8-hours): Hotel pick-up and drop off (locations specified above), bottled water, professional snorkeling instructor, experience riding on an authentic Indonesian-style ‘jukung’ boat, snorkeling opportunities at Tanjung Jepun and Blue Lagoon, traditional Indonesian lunch, all snorkeling equipment
Many people will have a tunnel-vision heading to Bali, seeing it as an island that’s supreme in areas like sun-baking on the beach, parties with international DJs, jungle waterfalls, and dedicated surfing beaches, and whilst all of the above is 110% true, snorkeling and diving are often graded to the backseat without consideration. Next time you head to Bali, pop this activity on your itinerary – the one day you spend out in the waters exploring the marine life will probably be one of the best days of your trip.