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Nusa Penida’s Best Dive Sites

The best dive sites at Nusa Penida offer the chance to see manta rays, turtles, sharks, and the magnificently weird mola-molas. It’s definitely one of the premier spots to dive in Indonesia, especially if you want to see the big stuff. Here’s all you need to know about diving popular sites at Nusa Penida!

Crystal Bay

Diving Conditions

COLD. The water here is quite cold due to an upwelling from the ocean depths throughout the south of Bali. Temperatures can be as low as 22 or even right down to 16 degrees. When I passed the thermocline at Crystal Bay it dropped to a shivering 19! You will definitely need to use a thicker 5mm wetsuit.

CLEAR: But cold water also means great visibility. Occasionally when currents get very strong they can counteract this and cause poorer visibility by picking up silt in the water. But, for the most part, the water around here is startlingly clear and you’ll get a great view of all the gorgeous corals. 

CURRENTS: Respect the currents; they can be strong and unpredictable. When they’re strong, they’re strong — currents gusting 4 knots isn’t rare. It’s mostly drift dives here.

THEREFORE – EXPERIENCE: Generally, Nusa Penida is recommended for more experienced divers (Advanced Open Water onwards). I’ve seen some comments online saying “that’s nonsense, it was fine”, whereas others loudly complain about how strong the current was. Well that’s just the thing – currents change! Some days stronger, some days weaker. I have definitely heard my share of accounts from fellow dive buddies about times nature was a little less kind here. So please, it’s better to err on the side of caution — beginners, there are better places to learn how to dive.

The Sites

Manta Points I and II

– Two dive sites located off the south west coast of Nusa Penida: Manta Point I (aka old) and Manta Point II (aka new). Both are easy, shallow dives and manta rays come here all year round so there is a strong chance of seeing them

– Very popular, often crowded.  

– Manta Point I is in a bay surrounded by beautiful limestone cliffs. The sandy bottom lies at 12-18m, however the manta ray cleaning station (a large rock) is only 5m below the surface.

– Manta Point II is closer to the other dive sites, however it’s a boring dive if the mantas aren’t there – not much to see and visibility can be poor. It is a shallow site with little surge, making it suitable for both divers and snorkelers.

At first I thought I shouldn’t talk about these sites. I saw so many divers and so much boat traffic, I felt guilty about contributing to possible ecological damage. But truthfully, I know there will always be divers coming here. These sites are famous for good reason. Just remember to dive responsibly.

At both Manta Points I and II, I watched tens of manta rays circle their cleaning stations and gracefully pass above and alongside awe-struck divers. I have waited 8 years to see manta rays, having unsuccessfully tracked them around the globe in all the usual hotspots like Thailand and the Maldives. So you can imagine my delight when I ended up seeing numerous mantas at every dive I did at these sites!

These are very easy dives — all you need to do is descend and hang out at around the 8-12m range and enjoy. They are pretty crowded dive sites with lots of divers dropping in throughout the day. I heard that snorkelers have tried to swim down and grab onto the manta rays to go for a ride. Obviously, that is not what we decent human beings here on SJ Explores do. Photographers, don’t go shoving your camera & strobes here there and everywhere — peaceful co-existence is key! There’s no rush; trust me you will be rewarded if you simply stay neutrally buoyant and let them pass by you. 

Crystal Bay

– Best known as a site for spotting the elusive mola mola fish.

– To know about molas: they live deep, and are therefore not so easy to see. It’s more likely that you’ll see one in the distance as opposed to super close – but you never know! 

– The best time to spot them is July/August to October. During these months they come up to shallow waters to be cleaned of their parasites. Still, they can be there all year round. My group saw one when we went in June, during which time there had been frequent sightings. 

– July/Aug to October are the most sought-after dates by divers all over the world. If you plan to come then, book your dives in advance. 

– This one is definitely reserved for experienced divers. Crystal Bay is known to have one of the strongest currents in Indonesia. Be especially careful of the downward current. 

– If you don’t see molas, you can still potentially see some reef sharks, frogfish, scorpionfish, octopus, nudibranchs, and even eagle rays, leopard, wobbegong and guitar sharks. But again, without molas it can be a pretty straightforward dive. 

Crystal Bay

The thermocline at Crystal Bay is no joke. The second I got in the water I thought “damn, this is cold” – and I thought that was the worst it would get. How wrong I was. At around 10-12m we experienced that drastic change in water temperature (a layer called a thermocline). Myself and the diver next to me turned to look at each other, our eyes instantly like saucepans, both vigorously making the ‘cold’ signal.  

I got used to it after a bit of initial shivering. The current was pretty strong and we enjoyed a straightforward drift dive over the reef. The next day it was nowhere near as cold and the current nowhere near as strong. Unpredictable! 

Unfortunately I wasn’t part of the half of my dive team that caught a glimpse of a young mola mola, but that’s ok – I will be back. My creature highlights for these dives were octopus, mantis shrimp and turtles. 

SD Point

– On Nusa Penida’s north coast 

– A nice drift dive over coral plateau around 12-18m deep 

– Absolutely gorgeous, crystal clear, beautiful soft corals 

– Lots of fish to see here. 

– Various reef shark, turtles, octopus, small fish in abundance, nudibranchs, parrotfish, pufferfish, napoleon wrasse, maybe even a whale shark if you are very very lucky, and more. 

This was a lovely site to finish diving my second day at Nusa Penida: turquoise blue water, gorgeous corals and lots of fish. The current was quite strong and swept us far over the reef. Turtles and a wobbegong shark were my highlights here. 

Mangrove Point

– Technically belongs to the northern coast of Nusa Lembongan, but still off Nusa Penida

– Gorgeous corals sprawling across a reef with plenty of fish and light currents  

– It was in better condition prior to 2015, before water-sports offered to day-trippers caused damage 

– Another drift dive 

As with SD Point, this was was a really beautiful dive full of a reef fish and plenty of colourful soft corals, gorgonians and hard corals (including table corals) everywhere. Here you can see nudibranchs, grouper, turtles, reef sharks, and more. 

One of my dive buddies got REALLY lucky two weeks prior to my dive, and saw a pod of dolphins underwater. 

Toyapakeh 

– In Nusa Penida’s North West 

– The area is protected by the Ceningan channel and is known for its great drift diving and wonderful coral formations 

– Nearby is the Bat Cave, which you can enter from underwater and surface inside the cave 

Blue Corner

– Another drift dive. The current here can be very strong. 

– Reserved for advanced divers 

– A steep slope with a plateau around 20m deep, but most of the dive is around 30m

– Creature highlights: shark, rays, mola mola Depending on the dive and current the visibility can sometimes be bad and the water very cold 

So, I didn’t actually get to dive Blue Corner. Bali Scuba, the dive company I was with, doesn’t dive there as the current can be too dangerous. I asked an experienced dive buddy of mine who has dived there what it’s like, he said it’s fantastic diving but the current is “totally strong, have to climb out, can only dive at an exact time otherwise it’s bye bye!”. 

I know this is an extremely popular dive site, though. Here you can find boxfish, pufferfish, manta rays, angel fish, sea snakes, and barracuda amongst others. It gets its name “Corner” from a deep vertical wall, which is always full of fish.

Shot by Mark Wilkinson

There are other dive sites at Nusa Penida such as The Wall, Gamut Bay, Malibu and Vertigo Point. The last two of these can experience extremely strong currents and it doesn’t seem like many divers go there. 

Rookie Mistakes

1. Not wearing a thicker wetsuit (5mm is perfect). A diver on my boat wore board shorts and a rash vest. He had to sit out of our Crystal Bay dive because he was freezing. 

2. Chasing after mola-mola. They are shy and bolt easily. Seeing the outline of a mola in the distance can be pretty exciting, but if you try to chase it you will end up further from the reef in stronger currents and the mola will probably have vanished. Molas will descend – again, don’t follow, you may not even realise you’re rapidly descending. If you see one it’s best to just stay where you are / close to the reef and admire from afar. Your dive guide will reiterate this.  

Where To Stay  

– If you want to be as close to the dive sites as possible you should stay on Nusa Lembongan – it only takes a few minutes to get from there to the dive sites at Nusa Penida. 

– You can also do Nusa Penida diving on a day trip from Sanur, which is an enjoyable 45min speedboat ride. I dived with Sanur-based PADI dive centre Bali Scuba, who were friendly and professional. Most of the divers I made friends with were loyal returning customers over a great many years. 

– From Padangbai it is 1.5 hours in a speedboat. If I were you I’d go with Sanur or Nusa Lembongan. 

These are fantastic, world-class dive sites that will yield so much even if you don’t see a mola. I saw octopus, turtles, sharks, nudibranchs, barracuda, dolphins playing at the surface — the whole experience was amazing! If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment.

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