The Indonesian Archipelago lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the world's hotspot for marine biodiversity, and Bali sits halfway along this sprawling archipelago, receiving warm currents from the Java Sea to the north and colder currents travelling up from the south. These unique geographical conditions combine to ensure the diving in Bali is as varied as it is beautiful: the north coast features tropical temperatures, volcanic sand and a WWII wreck; while the south is cooler with strong currents and plenty of pelagics; and the east coast is a happy medium between the two. But where is the best diving in Bali? It will depend a little on what type of diving you prefer - whether you are looking for strong currents, gentle sandy slopes, muck and macro critters, or stunning coral dives, Bali, quite literally, has it all...
Best Coral Diving
Menjangan Island lies within the boundaries of Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park), which was established in 1985. The island is named after its population of wild deer and is home to some of the best coral diving in Bali. The island is famed for its colourful walls, which are festooned with vivid gorgonian fans. With the bright tropical sun penetrating the crystal-clear waters around the island, you can enjoy the kaleidoscopic coral growth in 'Ultra HD'. When it comes to finding the best diving in Bali, Menjangan Island will certainly have the coral enthusiasts purring...
Best Muck Diving
A stone's throw from Menjangan Island is a small promontory that serves as the western gateway to Bali. Gilimanuk is the location of the ferry port which links Bali to Java and is also home to Bali's best muck diving site. Secret Bay is a protected area on the inside of the headland, and its dark, silty sand is home to myriad muck diving critters. Frogfish and seahorses can be found in different shapes and shades, while photographers will enjoy snapping away at Ambon scorpionfish, Donald Duck shrimp and picturesque dragonets.
Best Macro Diving
For macro photographers, Seraya Secrets may hold the key to unlocking the best diving in Bali. The dive site is located between Tulamben and Amed, and its volcanic sandy slope is littered with weird and wonderful macro subjects. You can find an assortment of nudibranchs with their vivid colours perfectly contrasted against the black sand, frogfish of all sizes and colours, and pairs of harlequin shrimp surreptitiously devouring starfish in cracks and crevices. Just make sure your camera and strobes are fully charged before jumping in...
Best Wide-Angle Diving
While Menjangan Island's gorgonian-clad walls offer great wide-angle photography opportunities, the twin islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida in the south are arguably the best wide-angle sites in Bali. The southern sites in Bali can be a little more advanced, with occasionally very strong currents, but the underwater scenery is quite spectacular. If you have never dived in strong currents with a big camera complete with strobes, you should have a chat with your guide first, but Penida and Lembongan offer the chance for big pelagics and excellent wide-angle photography. Head to Manta Point for an epic manta train shot, and Crystal Bay for the bizarre mola mola visiting the cleaning stations.
Best Drift Diving
The stronger currents on Bali's southern dive sites allow for some epic drift diving too, with the site known as Mangrove being one of the best crowd-pleasers. The dive starts near the mangroves on the northeastern tip of Nusa Lembongan and, depending on the strength of the current, can be a gentle drift or a more exhilarating, faster push along the extensive reef. The visibility is usually superb, and the reef is healthy; while leaf scorpionfish, titan triggerfish, turtles and crocodilefish can be seen scrolling past, and the odd glance out into the blue may reveal a special surprise, with eagle rays, reef sharks and even occasional dolphin sightings all possible...
Best Wreck Diving
It's impossible to talk about the best diving in Bali without mentioning the USAT Liberty wreck in Tulamben. It's one of the most famous wreck dives in the world, and for good reason. The ship was a United States Army cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in January 1942. The captain managed to steer the stricken vessel to the beach at Tulamben, and ran her aground on the sand. The ship, which served in both World Wars, remained on the beach until 1963, when the tremors from the eruption of Mount Agung pushed her back below the waves. The wreck now lies 100 feet from the beach and is accessible to divers and snorkellers, with the bow rising to within a few feet of the surface.
After sixty years on the shallow seabed, the wreck is now a thriving marine ecosystem. The main structure is covered in coral growth, with the colourful soft corals-pinks, yellows and purples-contrasted against the black volcanic sand. And with chances of seeing turtles and reef sharks to complement the almost-guaranteed bumphead parrotfish, nudibranchs, ribbon eels, batfish and angelfish, the dive seldom disappoints. It's a sizeable wreck, and one dive is never enough. The dive site can get busy in peak season, but dawn and dusk dives allow you to enjoy the wreck in relative tranquillity.
Best Night Diving
Padang Bai is a sleepy fishing village located halfway along Bali's east coast, between Sanur in the south and Tulamben in the north. The small village boasts some of the best diving in Bali, and if night diving floats your boat, it's a great place for a post-sunset dip below the waves. The dive site called Blue Lagoon is one of the best for a night dive. The reef starts in the shallows and gently slopes down to more than 20 meters. With very little current, you can take your time exploring all the nooks and crannies in the reef, as your torch light reveals frogfish, moray eels, mantis shrimp, stonefish and maybe even a white-tipped reef shark or two cruising by.