Bali,  Diving Trips,  Tips for Divers,  Travel Tips

5 Insider Tips on How to Scuba Dive in Bali and Have a Fantastic Time

Are you planning a vacation to go scuba dive in Bali?  

If you are, allow me to be the first to say, “hurraaaaaaay!” 

Bali is a fantastic vacation destination not only for scuba diving but also for its cultural and art scenes, not to mention the countless landscapes that will blow you away (beaches, waterfalls, rice fields, volcanoes)!  Bali is without a doubt, a dream vacation destination for divers and non-divers alike.

scuba dive in bali - view of mountain
Hilltop view in Tulamben

Heck, I fell so in love with Bali that I decided to make it a home.  After backpacking around SE Asia for 10 months, I became a dive professional by pursuing a PADI Divemaster and PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor so that I can enjoy Bali’s beauty permanently! 

As someone who is obsessed with the underwater world, I can completely understand why divers from all over the world are drawn to this special island.  

Just around Bali alone, you can find some of the most diverse marine life ranging from the tiniest frogfish, to the biggest oceanic Sunfish.   The spectacularness (yes I know I made that up) of the dive environment is parallel to its marine life, ranging from black volcanic sand in Tulamben (with a view of Mount Agung!) to crystal clear waters and cliffs views around Nusa Islands. 

If you are anxious to discover what the Coral Triangle has to offer, Bali will certainly not disappoint.  As a dive professional who has worked in Bali, I often provide tips and suggestions to other scuba divers and online dive communities.   I decided to put these tips in a post, in the hope that it can make a difference to others who are planning a Bali scuba diving trip!

Here are my TOP 5 scuba diving tips in Bali so that you can fulfill on your ultimate dream dive trip.

#1: Avoid the Peak Season

diving in nusa lembongan: a photo of mola mola
photo credit: Christian Nielsen

Over the last several years, Bali’s dive sites have become increasingly popular with the expansion of tourism on Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida.  

Just five years ago when I used to dive at Manta Point in Nusa Penida, crowded days would consist of 3-5 other dive operators.   These days, it’s not uncommon to see up to 35 boats carrying divers and snorkelers around Manta Point, especially during the peak season. 

If this sounds outrageous, it is.  Just imagine trying to see manta rays through bubbles of 70-100 divers at the same dive site.   Some sites are busier than others, but Manta Point and Crystal Bay are almost always a circus.   

So let me discuss the seasons.   

The High Season in Bali (also the best diving season) is from July to October.  During these months, the weather is dry and sunny, and even a bit cool in the mornings and evenings.  This high season also coincides with the “mola mola season,” when these giant fish approach shallower waters to find cleaning stations.  

The Low Season is January to March, which is considered the “rainy” or “wet” season in Bali.  During these months rain is typical, which impacts the quality of diving as it creates murky and poor visibility conditions all around the island. 

While you can scuba dive in Bali throughout the year, the rainy season is not recommended if you want to enjoy the colorful reefs and the marine life.   I personally wouldn’t recommend that you scuba dive in Bali during these months, unless you are keen on muck diving where visibility wouldn’t matter as much 😉  

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The best time to escape the crowd and still enjoy great diving is to go from May to June just before the rush.  Or, an alternative is to go in November after the peak season but before the holiday crowd picks up again.

The visibility during these months is also great – you can essentially enjoy the benefits of a high season without the crowd!

If you’re lucky, you may still get a sighting of mola molas!  In the last few years, it has not been unusual to spot some mola molas outside the season.   And as with any marine sightings, you just never know 😉

#2: Stay at Local Dive Destinations

diving in Tulamben - view of Amed
Coastal view of Tulamben

To optimize the limited vacation time, many scuba divers opt to book a day trip from South Bali.  

Going on a day trip is, without a doubt, convenient.   And while there is nothing wrong with a day trip per se, it is not the optimal way to experience the BEST diving in Bali for two reasons. 

  1. Whether in Tulamben, Padang Bai or Nusa Penida, the day-trip guests generally arrive at the dive site about the same time, which makes dive sites very busy in a short period.

    For example, in Tulamben, dive 1 rush will be about 10:15 am and dive 2 rush is around 1:15 pm after lunch.  During these times, the shore is full of divers, and the wreck can have as many as 50-100 divers. 

  2. In addition to day trip guests arriving around the same time, the out-of-town dive operators generally schedule the same popular dive sites, making the sites even more congested.

    For example, day-trippers almost always do the same 3 dive sites in Tulamben: dive 1 at the USAT Liberty and dive 2 at the Coral Garden or Drop-Off to the south of the wreck.

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If you want to avoid the mob scene and getting kicked in the face by fins of other divers, I highly recommend that you stay locally.  

If you wish to dive in Tulamben, Nusa Penida or Padang Bai, go to that location and stay there!  There are so many advantages to staying locally rather than taking day-trips:

1)    You can create a flexible schedule.  Aside from the two rush times, you have the rest of the day to enjoy the marine life in peace, rather than seeing the fins of divers in front of you.  At the USS Liberty Wreck, for example, the sunrise and night dives are some of the best! 

At sunrise, you can usually catch schooling bumpheads and passing reef sharks by the wreck!

2)    Unlike the day-trippers, you are not limited to only doing 2 dives.  You can squeeze in a third, even a fourth dive if you’re up for it!  After all, you are on a dive vacation, no?  😉

3)    By traveling to different locations throughout Bali, you get to see many faces of the island.  For example, the landscape and ambiance of the fishing town of Tulamben are very different from the seaweed farming island of Nusa Lembongan.   They are both stunning in their own right, and worth a separate visit.

4)    You can explore some of the “uncommon” yet best places to dive in Bali that are usually overlooked by day trip operators.     Which leads me to tip #3…

Check out this comprehensive guide for everything you need to know to plan a trip to Tulamben!

#3: Explore Local Dive Sites

scuba dive in bali - nudibranch
Scuba dive in bali - chromodoris
scuba dive in bali - chromodoris annae
scuba dive in bali - nudi 2

Most visitors who scuba dive in Bali generally request the same dive sites.  The most requested dive sites are:

  1. USAT Liberty Wreck in Tulamben
  2. Manta Point and Crystal Bay in Nusa Penida

It is quite rare to get a request for other dive sites which is unfortunate because Bali has SO MANY more fantastic dive sites if only the guests are willing to spend the time to stick around and explore them.  

Here are some of the best dive sites in Bali that deserves a spotlight:

1)    In Tulamben, Melasti and Seraya offer world-class macro diving that I believe are Bali’s best-kept secrets.   Some of the usual suspects include boxer crabs, painted frogfish, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, and nudibranchs galore.  

If you are a macro lover, try Puri Jati in north Bali for some incredible critter hunting as well!

2)    In Padang Bai, the Jetty is my all-time favorite dive site, where I have seen flabellinas, rhinopias, giant frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish and so much more.   I call The Jetty a “nudi heaven,” as I have seen the most unusual and diverse species of nudibranch there.  If you love these colorful slugs, the Jetty is a must-see!

3)    If you are a fan of vibrant and colorful reefs, do not miss the Menjangan island to the north of Bali.   Due to its distance (about 5 hours north of the Ngurah Rai International Airport), Menjangan is still relatively quiet and remains under the radar of marine enthusiasts. 

Unlike South Nusa Penida where the reefs have been destroyed, the corals of Menjangan are pristine and some of the healthiest around the island.   The underwater conditions around Menjangan Island also offer some of the best scuba diving in Bali for beginners!

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Schedule permitting, spend a few days in each location to dive and explore some of the more uncharted sites.  

Not only will you be blown away by what you will find underwater, but you are guaranteed to enjoy the above-water experience of local cultures and authentic settings away from the tourist hub of Bali.

#4: Choose a Reputable Dive Center

scuba dive bali

If you are planning to go scuba diving in Nusa Penida in particular, please take caution.   The current around Penida – particularly in Crystal Bay and Toyapakeh – can be very challenging and sometimes unpredictable. Nearly every year, there is a report of some accident, drowning, or injury in that area.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend Crystal Bay or Toyapakeh for inexperienced divers.  The down current can be frightening, even traumatizing for beginner divers (or even for experienced divers).   This is not to say that inexperienced divers cannot enjoy Penida – there are dive sites around the island that are suited for every level of experience.  

But you must choose a reputable operator who is knowledgeable about local tides and dive site conditions, and willing to accommodate your preference/experience (as opposed to throwing you onboard with everybody else so that they can conserve fuel and staff). 

With some 30+ dive operators between the three Nusa islands, it can be difficult to weed out the bad ones.   Ask for references, read reviews online, and shop around.   Don’t go with the cheapest option, as cheap is usually cheap for a reason.   

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As I have had personal experience with these operators, I would recommend World Diving or Blue Corner on Nusa Lembongan.  These shops have been established on the island for a long time with a great reputation and guest reviews. 

And when it comes to balancing safety and showing their guests a great time, they know what they are doing!

Also, don’t scrape on travel or dive insurance when it comes to a scuba diving trip.   Of course, you can never know if you will need it.   But it’s one of those things you DON’T want to be without when you do! 

Scuba diving is as enjoyable as you are comfortable.  There are several conditions you should take into consideration when booking your Bali diving packages and preparing your equipment. 

Temperature:

If you scuba dive in Bali between June and October, particularly around Nusa Penida, the water temperature can fluctuate between 17 C° to 23 C° (63F – 73F).  

These numbers may not look that cold to you now, but believe me when I tell you that this can feel cold underwater!   During the 45-minute dive, your body temperature continually drops, and you will inevitably begin to feel the chill.   And if you become cold and uncomfortable, you will no longer be able to enjoy the dive.

Even though most dive shops provide 5mm wetsuits, in the peak season I recommend that you take an added layer such as a hoodie to keep you warm.   It makes a difference!

Entry:

If you plan to dive in Tulamben or Amed, you should note that most of the dives are shore-entry.  Tulamben shore is covered with rocks and pebbles that make it impossible for you to enter without booties.   So if you are packing your own gear, make sure to take booties with you.  Otherwise, plan to rent them when you arrive.

Down Current:

There are many Bali dive sites that appeal to advanced and experienced divers for the pelagics sightings or the thrill of currents and drifts.  But most of these dive sites are also prone to some powerful down currents. 

If you plan to dive in Nusa Penida (Toyapakeh/Crystal Bay/Blue Corner), or Padang Bai (Tepekong/Shark Point), where currents are known to be strong, you may consider taking gloves or reef hooks.   While I do not condone the use of these items on a “leisure” dive, your safety should always be placed first when conditions require it. 

Ready to Scuba Dive in Bali?

You can’t really go wrong by planning a diving trip to Bali.  Bali will certainly keep you entertained underwater with its diverse underwater topographies, abundant marine species, and a rainbow of corals! 

I hope that you found information on this post helpful and useful in preparing for your upcoming scuba vacation! 

If there are topics you would like me to address further, please comment below and let me know! 

Want to explore other amazing islands to dive in Indonesia?

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scuba dive | scuba travel | scuba diving | Bali travel | If you are planning a scuba diving trip to Bali, don't miss these tips on how to make the best of your diving trip! #bali #scuba #scubadiving
Are you a scuba diver heading to Bali, Indonesia? Be sure to check out this Bali guide for the insider's tips on how to create the ultimate scuba diving trip of a lifetime! Find out the best scuba dive locations and sites, and the best way to plan your scuba diving itinerary in Bali. Bali Travel | #scubadive #scubadiver #scubadiving #scuba #balitravel #baliguide #balitrip

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