Learning to Scuba dive in Koh Tao was one scariest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. Being underwater with a heavy tank strapped to your back wasn’t an idea that filled me with glee – plus, I was terrified of getting water in my contact lenses. “How on earth have I ended up here?” I thought, my nerves turning knots in my stomach as I peered over the side of the boat. I took a deep breath, told myself ‘you got this,’ and jumped into the sea.
After getting my PADI certification in Koh Tao, Thailand, where I thought the reefs were as colourful as can be, I headed to Bali, Indonesia. After exploring the Island for a few days, I headed to Nusa Lembongan where I got my Advanced Open Water certification with Dive Concepts. We then spent our remaining time on the islands enjoying the world under the sea as well as on land. Here are our favourite places we went diving in Bali and the Gili Islands.
Diving in Bali and the Gili Islands is so worthwhile, whether you’re a complete beginner and are looking to learn, or if you’re a pro. Here are three reasons you should consider scuba diving in Bali and the Gilis.
From sharks to turtles to manta rays, plus so many beautiful fish and of course the corals themselves – life under the sea really is stunning in this part of the world. And, whilst the wildlife below the surface is impressive, that doesn’t mean you won’t spot a dolphin or two while you’re on the boat en route to the dive site!
I learnt to dive in Koh Tao, Thailand, where I thought the conditions couldn’t get better. Coming to Bali was like the clarity and saturation of a photo had been turned up! Clearly this depends on the weather, but generally the water here is crystal clear, particularly in Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida.
The standard of the diving schools in Bali and the Gili Islands is next to none. Instructors and Dive Masters from across the globe come to Bali to train and teach others this awesome skill. The equipment is great quality, it’s checked regularly and boats crews although fun take your safety very seriously. In the Gili Islands, you can only dive with local instructors, which means that tourists don’t monopolise these jobs, and the locals know the dive sites like the back of their hands!
This is a shallow dive which is popular for snorkelling too, but is still a great place to see lots of wildlife such as crocodile fish and giant puffer fish – arguably one of the most beautiful spots! Again, this is a drift dive.
This was my fifth ever dive, after getting my PADI in Koh Tao. Santal is located on the North coast of Nusa Penida and is part of a long slope that follows the entire coastline. Santal is a great drift dive – so you can tick off one of your four Adventure dives here! There are loads of incredible animals to see at this site – we saw a beautiful green turtle here, and lots of puffer fish.
This site is another drift dive but is only a fifteen minute journey from the beach! There’s a huge amount to see, with vibrant coral and so many fish.
This was probably my favourite dive site in all of Bali. On the south side of Nusa Penida, Manta Point is home to a cleaning station where the manta rays hang out. You can see them from the boat before you jump in the water and there are SO many of them! They’re up to 3 – 5 meters in length – quite an impressive sight!
Located in the channel between Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida, this is one of the most famous dive sites in Bali as the water is crystal clear! From July to October you can see the giant sun fish (Mola Mola). This was my first ‘deep dive’ – where we descended to 30m.
As the name would suggest, Shark Point is home to many whitetip and blacktip reef sharks. It’s only about ten minutes’ journey from the beach and is a slope with ridges and valleys. If the conditions are right, you can find a shipwreck at 28m depth – pretty cool!
Located on the north side of Gili Trawangan, Halik is one of the most colourful dive sites around the island. Perfect for both experienced divers and beginners, the ridge here descends to 40m. Again, there are sharks here as well as turtles, stingrays, octopus and many fish.
Like the Manta Rays in Nusa Penida, the Gilis are home to many hawksbill and green turtles. Turtle Heaven is a dive site where there are two pinnacles that are home to many cleaning stations. The waters here are usually calm so this is a great spot for beginners.
In the channel between Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, this slope descends to 22m and is a drift dive. At the end of it you may find the Bounty Pontoon Wreckage. This is a popular spot for night dives and was the first spot I dived in the dark. I was surprised just how dark it would be under the water, as we only descended when the sun was beginning to set, but it was pitch black when we came back up! The colours aren’t as vibrant at night and you have to take your torch with you, but it’s still a good experience.
Head to Tulamben in Bali to go scuba diving at the site of the USAT Liberty Wreck. This is a hugely popular dive site as it offers something a little more than just the pretty coral and lots of fish!
Considered one of the best places to go diving in Bali, Amed lost a lot of coral due to El Nino, a water oscillation, in 1997. The water increased in temperature by around 3 degrees celsius. However, the reef has recovered quickly, and this is a great place to see many big fish.
Not a common place to go diving in Bali because people generally choose to go elsewhere, but if you are heading to the West of Bali it’s worth a stop. There are some newly formed corals and a small wooden shipwreck. This is a great spot for deep divers but beginners are welcome too.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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