Bali treats visitors to breathtaking natural landscapes above and below sea level. Ocean life ranging from majestic manta rays to bizarre sunfish to the shy pygmy seahorse thrive in Bali’s warm waters and take sanctuary among its brusque, rocky outcrops.
Unlike many famous scuba destinations, Bali caters to divers of all levels, from absolute beginners to the technically advanced. Dive schools in Kuta, Seminyak and Jimbaran Bay offer open water courses and run trips to coral-covered shipwrecks and other top dive sites alive with sea creatures.
Here is the best scuba diving in Bali, and some tips for beginners hoping to experience an underwater adventure. When you’re ready to really dive in, check out these beautiful Bali hotels.
Wreck diving off Tulamben
Covered with soft corals, the sunken vessels below Bali’s calm and clear waters teem with shoals of colorful tropical fish. The most iconic skeleton of tangled metal in Bali is the USS Liberty.
Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off the seaside village of Tulamben in 1942, this US Navy cargo ship has been colonised by delicate corals and is active with sea life by day and by night. First-time wreck divers would struggle to find a better place to dive. The 125 metre-long ship rests on the seabed close to shore in shallow waters, from 3 to 30 metres deep.
By day, shimmering bigeye trevally fish make swirling splashes of silver and seahorses flit in and out of the corals. But if you’re looking for thrills, why not kit up and slip into dark water for a night dive inside the tangled wreckage? During this adventurous dive, bumphead parrotfish and Spanish dancers float by in the void, illuminated by divers’ torches.
Swimming with mantas
Diving with manta rays is a privilege. These gentle giants soar effortlessly through open water, feeding on microscopic plankton. In Bali, you can take day trips from most dive schools to Nusa Penida, on the island’s southeastern tip. This spot attracts manta rays visiting Bali’s rocky cleaning stations. This some of best scuba diving in Bali and best suited to experienced divers.
Tropical fish and bright coral are scarce at Nusa Penida, and the craggy rocks and choppy waves can become monotonous. Your first manta sighting, however, will be worth the wait.
Nearby Crystal Bay, on the other hand, is a tropical wonderland filled with healthy soft coral. Here, divers may encounter reef shark or the rarely spotted seasonal sunfish (mola mola).
Macro diving: Small is beautiful
Bali is famous in diving circles for its world-class ‘muck’ or ‘macro’ diving. Divers flock to Bali in hopes of spotting some of the smallest and brightest sea life species in the ocean, including neon nudibranch, tiny shrimp and porcelain crabs.
Black volcanic sand and sediment are characteristic of Bali’s muck diving scene. Sifting through nutrient-rich sediment and hunting inside sea sponges for the smallest species in the sea is all part of the fun. You’ll find muck divers hanging in the current, photographing tiny creatures with huge underwater cameras or bewitched by pygmy seahorses flitting through the seagrass.
The best way to try muck diving for yourself is to join a dive school safari to Menjangan Island, Pemuteran or Gilimanuk, in northwestern Bali. All three rank highly with macro divers and are among the best scuba diving in Bali.
Bali’s best sites for beginners
An open water scuba diving course teaches you how to kit up and take your first breath underwater so you can explore coral reefs, drop-offs and shipwrecks with your dive buddies. Bali’s dive schools range from serious and sporty to family-friendly and relaxed. You’ll start your adventure in the confines of a swimming pool, breathing and swimming underwater for the first time. Once you graduate to ocean diving, you can combine your lessons with leisurely time out by the beach.
The best scuba diving in Bali for beginners is found off Sanur, Nusa Dua, Padangbai and Menjangan Island. Thanks to gentle currents and warm water, these sites offer easy adventures. Nusa Dua Point, 5 minutes from Tanjung Benoa Beach, has clear waters alive with coral and tropical fish. This tranquil barrier reef is popular with new divers and snorkelers. Beginners can also dive the sites of Sanur, an easy transfer from the west coast beaches of Seminyak, Kuta and Tuban.
Menjangan Island, in northwest Bali, is famed for its healthy coral reef and clear, warm waters. Hop on an organised safari to Menjangan and you could encounter turtles, wide varieties of tropical fish and reef shark. Menjangan dive safaris can include 4 dives and an overnight stay within West Bali National Park.
Resting up after your dive
Divers can decompress from scuba trips by catching the waves on Kuta Beach. You’ll find surf schools, surfboards and bodyboards for hire the length of Kuta’s wide sands. The only kit you’ll need is a rash vest, sunblock and a laid back attitude. At the end of an exhilarating day relax and watch a fiery Balinese sunset from the shore.