Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bali Trip Report

After spending 8 days on a diving safari all over Bali, I feel like I know a little something about diving in Bali. Bali is a big island with small roads. I spent a lot of time in the van driving from place to place. Notable was the 5am start from Sanur to Menjangan (a 4 hour drive). There wasn't a lot of downtime at all considering all the traveling and the logistics of the dive sites (more on that in a moment).

Diving in Bali is highly varied with pelagic cleaning stations, wall dives, reefs, black sand, wrecks, and everything in between. Each area is dove differently - by the end of my trip I had dove by speedboat (Nusa Penida), large fishing boat (Menjangan), shore (Puri Jati, Tulamben, Seraya), outrigger boat (Amed), and medium sized fishing boat (Padang Bai). The marine life is also highly varied, featuring pelagics (mola molas, mantas, sharks), schooling fish (jacks, rainbow runners), reef fish, and all manner of macro critters. I can't think of many places with this much variety all within a few hours' drive.

Here are my opinions on the major diving areas:

Nusa Penida: Famous for Manta Point, a prolific manta cleaning station, and Crystal Bay, a mola mola cleaning station. We saw 7 mantas for 70 min on our dive at Manta Point. Mola mola season is July-October so we did not see much at Crystal Bay. Nusa Penida, contrary to current practice, is not a place to take beginners. The currents can be highly unpredictable and very strong. It can also be very cold (low 20s C). Go to Nusa Penida to see the mantas and mola molas, which are very special, but there is not much else there.

Menjangan Island: The biggest let down. I had heard all kinds of hype about the beautiful reefs and walls of Menjangan. I would rate Menjangan as very mediocre reef/wall diving. The underwater seascapes can be quite beautiful with large fans and barrel sponges, but there are not many fish there at all. Combined with the remoteness of the location, I would not recommend visiting Menjangan.

Puri Jati: Completely barren black sand area. There is NOTHING there except a few anemones, anemone critters (porcelain crab, shrimp, clownfish), lionfish, and garden eels. It is, however, a relatively common place to see the mimic octopus, which made my day.

Tulamben, Seraya, Amed: These three areas are within 10 min drive of one another in northeast Bali. The wreck of the Liberty is the main attraction in Tulamben. It can be dove from shore and starts at 5m. It is home to large schools of bumphead parrotfish, jacks, and many other fish. All three areas are black sand muck diving heaven. This is where I saw the majority of critters on my list - harlequin shrimp, coleman shrimp, wire coral shrimp and gobies, snake eels, boxer crab, pygmy seahorses, etc.

Padang Bai: Padang Bai is mostly white sand and artificial reef diving. The dive sites are close to shore and are full of trash. The marine life can be good but hit or miss. I saw several rare nudis and clown frogfish here.

I dove with Bali Scuba. They are a bit of a paradox. My dive guide Komang was excellent and responsible. He was always on time and the transfers were flawless. Bali Scuba HQ is rather disorganized, though, and nobody at the office seems to know what is going on. For an outfit that sees as much volume as they do, they don't get a lot of photographers and I was rather annoyed that nobody could advise me on lens choices for the various dive sites.

Our dives generally followed the same profile - descend to 25m and make our way back up to the shallows. Dive times regularly exceeded 60 min and I never felt rushed. Komang knew the dives sites well and has a good eye.

The infrastructure in Bali is quite poor in the north, so bring everything you need and don't count on being able to buy anything.

Would I go back? Most definitely, but I would focus on Nusa Penida (for mantas and mola molas) and Tulamben, Seraya, and Amed for macro stuff.

1 comment:

Jarrett said...

Thanx for the advice. I'll be heading to Bali this november and was looking forward to Menganjen island.
Did you get to Secret Bay? Another bit of hyped up muck diving...sounds intriguing though...
You can get me on

I can give you some great places in australia up and down the east coast from Merimbula to Gove Peninsula!

take care,