Scuba diving in Bali is a must-do if you’ve ever wanted to glide alongside a gigantic manta ray. And let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to that? Bali hosts some of the coolest critters in the sea from manta rays to mola mola to quirky nudibranchs that get up to no good in the muck.
In this guide, we’ll take you underwater and tell you why you should go scuba diving in Bali, show you where to dive, and questions many divers are too embarrassed to ask.
Why Go Scuba Diving in Bali?
The marine wildlife is incredible. Come eye to eye with an oceanic manta ray before searching for an elusive mola mola, the world’s heaviest bony fish. It’s not uncommon to see reef sharks, rays, sea turtles, barracuda, and giant trevally swimming in the blue. On the reef or in the muck, peek around for nudibranchs, pygmy sea horses, and other little creatures,
Bali is also home to one of the most accessible wreck dives, the USAT Liberty, a cargo ship that has been reclaimed by the sea. Bali’s formidable barrier reef has also created a gamut of other wreck sites around the island.
The island of Bali plus the Nusa Islands also host great-value dive centers. Dive centers in Bali tend to operate at a high caliber, and with so much competition, dives and courses are priced affordably. Save your money for the dive bar!
The Best Time to go Scuba Diving in Bali
The best time to go scuba diving in Bali is during the dry season, from May to September. This is when visibility tends to be best and currents tend to be calmer. Crowds of scuba divers come in July and August, so expect to blow bubbles alongside tens of other divers at some of the more popular spots.
If you’ve come for the sea creatures, mola mola are found from late-July to October. Manta rays hang around all year long.
Rainy season (October to April), especially from November to January, brings pollution into Bali’s waters. Indonesia lacks a sustainable waste management system, Bali included. Rubbish from rivers and streams often washes into the ocean after a rain. A current sweeping throughout the archipelago also brings trash from neighboring islands.
On Lombok, you’ll hear Sasak folks say the trash came from the Balinese. Balinese will point over their shoulder and say, “Hey! It came from Java!” Javanese will mutter, “I think the trash has Japanese writing on it…” The tourists are like, “Couldn’t have been us!” Nonetheless, plastic pollution is a major problem in Bali which is why it’s worth cutting back waste whenever and wherever possible.
The Best Scuba Diving in Bali: Where to Go
Sites featured move clockwise around Bali starting from the island’s northern point. Don’t make us rank these, because we won’t do it.
Escape the crowds of Bali’s southern peninsula and venture northwest to Mejangan Island. This lonely little island is surrounded by walls of corals accented by lace-like gorgonian fans and feather stars. Reefs are vibrant and home to many anemone fish, pygmy sea horses, eels, lobster, trigger fish, scorpionfish, and more. In the blue, it’s common to see barracuda, reef sharks, and at times, manta rays.
Most scuba dive trips to Mejangan Island spend a surface interval on the island itself, allowing for plenty of time to recoup. Some dive centers offer snorkeling and scuba diving combined group trips, ideal for families and mixed groups.
Pemuteran might be one of Bali’s best kept secrets. This laid-back beach town has all of the beauty and none of the hassle that you might find elsewhere in Bali.
Offshore of Pemuteran is the Biorock, an artificial reef project with hundreds of coral encrusted sculptures. Set up to rejuvenate coral reefs damaged by years of dynamite fishing, an mild electric current runs through a steel structure. Corals are planted onto the structure and grow faster than without the current. Eventually, the metal dissolves, leaving a limestone reef in its place.
Those who want to snorkel in Pemuteran can enjoy the view of the coral structures from the surface. Scuba divers can venture deeper, with many parts of the Biorock coral garden sitting at about 20 meters depth.
You can’t go scuba diving in Bali without diving in Tulamben. Offshore from this quiet town is the USAT Liberty wreck, a US Army cargo ship that was torpedoed by Japanese forces in World War II. Today, it sits on the black sand slopes of Tulamben’s shoreline spanning 120-meters long and 5-30 meters deep.
The wreck has now been taken over by corals who host a range of reef fish macro marine life in their crevices. Freedivers often train around the wreck and it’s common to spot reef sharks and sea turtles meandering around the ship as well.
Amed has a reputation for being one of the best places to go freediving in Bali. With calm conditions and virtually unlimited depth, it’s a freediver’s dream! Amed is also home to a handful of artificial reef structures used to attract fish. Perhaps you’ve seen a picture of an underwater ‘temple’ in Amed? Well, turns out it’s nothing more than quite an intricate mailbox. Proof that everything is more beautiful in Bali.
Amed is amazing for muck diving, especially for photographers who want to capture bright marine life hidden in dark, volcanic sand.
Swimming, snorkeling, and/or scuba diving alongside manta rays is consistently cited as begin one of the best things to do in Bali for a reason. Nusa Penida has many incredible dive sites–especially Crystal Bay where sea turtles run the show and vibrant corals abound. But, you’ve got to go see the manta rays.
The two dive sites at Manta Point often have quite a surge, and are best for experienced divers. If you’re still getting comfortable with scuba diving, it might be best to snorkel instead.
Nusa Penida is also one of the best places to search for mola mola (sunfish), the heaviest known bony fish in the world and a strange sight indeed.
Nusa Penida scuba dives depart from Nusa Pendia, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Lembongan.
Candidasa is not as popular as some of the scuba dive sites listed above, but is well worth a visit! You’ll want to check it out if you’re keen to escape the crowds and explore a handful of underrated offshore islands.
Expect to see healthy reefs and potentially sharks. Whitetip, blacktip, hammerhead, and occasionally wobbegong sharks are spotted here. From late-July to October, you might have a shot at seeing a mola mola!
Discover all scuba sites in the Moon Bali & Lombok Guidebook
Liveaboard trips in Bali
Liveaboard trips are not as common in Bali, but there are plenty that lead to Komodo National Park, East Flores, Alor, the Banda Sea, and Raja Ampat. Because Bali has such accessible dive sites from day trips, we recommend staying on Bali and saving the liveaboard excursions for more remote destinations in Indonesia.
Scuba diving in Bali FAQs
Dive centers in general tend to have high quality rental gear. However, there are a handful of rogue operators with some shockingly shoddy equipment. If you’ll be renting, take a look at recent reviews or visit the dive center in person before committing to a fun dive or a course.
Most dive centers offer both types, but DIN valves are more popular.
Most scuba dive centers use bar, but dive guides are happy to help you recalculate and adjust.
Fun dives tend to be about 500,000 IDR (~$35 USD) per dive. Open Water courses cost about $350-400 USD.
It’s not recommended for non-swimmers to scuba dive in Bali. If you want to do your Open Water course, you will need to know how to swim. You should take a swimming course before attempting to scuba dive, regardless of where you are in the world. It will help you become a more confident scuba diver once the day comes.
Are you ready to go scuba diving in Bali?