The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
NE Bali has an isolated, peaceful atmosphere and some beautiful scenery, dominated by Gunung Agung looming in the background. Whilst tourism is important to the local economy, traditional industries such as fishing and salt making are still very much in evidence - in fact, compared to the busy south, the Amed area feels much more like the 'real' Bali.
The many bays along the coastline are sheltered from the strong currents of the Lombok Strait but still have some great diving on offer. Compared to the dive sites of Padangbai and Candidasa, conditions are normally a little easier, the water is warmer and clearer and access much simpler - several sites are reached simply by walking off the beach. The marine life is still very rich and there are some beautiful reefs at sites such as at Gili Selang and Lipah and a classic drift dive around the headland at Jemeluk Bay.
Amed’s best diving lies right off the bay around the headland of Jemeluk. Here the currents bring in plenty go bigger fish and create prefect conditions for coral growth. There are schools of sergeant majors, fusiliers, midnight and red snapper, bannerfish and pyramidfish, small schools of barracuda, hunting bluefin trevally, even bumphead parrotfish in the shallows. There are schools of surgeonfish out in the blue, dogtooth tuna, whitetip sharks, batfish, redtooth triggers, big angelfish and coral groupers - the list goes on! Inside the bay there are also some great areas to dive, with some interesting macro, turtles, small schools of fish, plenty of corals and some pyramid-shaped artificial reefs.
Further along the coast at Banyuning is a pretty, pebble beach jammed with colourful jekungs, and popular with both snorkelers and divers who come to explore the 'Japanese Wreck' which lies only a stones throw off the beach. In fact, the wreck is not much of a wreck. The original boat was small and the wreck has since been broken up and scavenged - there is little real sense that you are exploring the remains of a boat. But the coral is very pretty around the wreck and there are some nice schools of fish - and the remains of the toilet at the stern of the wreck!
At Gili Selang there is a beautiful coral garden on the sheltered side of this tiny island, with big barrel sponges, gorgonian fans, plate corals and undulating fields of brown soft corals. Fish life is prolific, with dense schools of flashing green and blue damsels above the hard corals, big angelfish, and lots of groupers, parrotfish, sweetlips and triggerfish.
Snorkelers are very well catered for in Amed and all of the sites worth visiting as a diver are also well-worth visiting if you are snorkeling only. The reefs in and around Jemeluk Bay have some nice corals int he shallows and plenty of fish life, and the ‘Japanese Wreck’ lies in 10m of water - easily free dived. Gili Selang is also worth a visit by non-divers as the shallow coral gardens are the highlight and are found in just 10m or shallower - perfect conditions for snorkelers.
Amed is actually a string of different villages dotted along the coast for 15km or so, each one sheltering in its own bay filled with colourful jekung. The first village encountered along the road east - Amed - was the first to cater for tourists visiting from the south and its name has now become synonymous with the whole area. However, heading east visitors will find Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah, Lean, Selang, Banyuning and finally Aas, along with a progressively sleepier atmosphere.
As well as tourism, more traditional industries still thrive in Amed and fishing is an important source of income for many people that live in the villages. The brightly painted jekung head out north and east, into the deeper waters of the straits between Bali and Lombok, targeting small tuna and bigger fish whenever they can. Back on land, salt making is also still practiced in many places and the product sold to tourists and restaurants alike.
Amed is easily reached by road from south Bali, taking approximately 2.5 - 3 hours to travel up from Sanur, depending on the traffic. All of the resorts will be able to arrange transfers for you, or visitors can easily negotiate with a driver from the south to take you up.
If you are in no rush, it is worth stopping off at Virgin Beach north of Candidasa, or asking your driver to stop off for some good babi guling - Balinese roast pig - for which this area is well known. From Amed, the main road continues west along the coast to Tulamben and Seraya, then onwards to Pemuteran in the far west of Bali.
Stretching east from where the main road from south Bali meets the coast, a string of small resorts, villas and homestays, as well as free diving schools, yoga centres and restaurants, has developed around Amed. There are now plenty of different options to suite all budgets and preferences and most of the small dive schools in Amed will be able to assist you in finding your perfect choice of accommodation, if they don’t have their own rooms.
Many people visit this part of Bali for a single morning, preferring to stay around Tulamben further west. However, the sites around Amed and towards the east see fewer divers, and have similar conditions – it’s probably better to stay here and make early morning trips to Tulamben, rather than the other way around!
Like much of the north coast, Amed is drier than south Bali and the dry season can be a lot more pronounced - so much so that you will start to see cactuses growing in the fields when you first arrive in Amed. The dry season typically runs from March or April through to November or December and - despite the occasional burst of rain - is normally the best time to visit. Amed is sheltered from the worst of the currents and swell that hit the south and east and so conditions here are generally a little easier. Water temperatures are typically 26 - 28C and apart from a few stormy days, the seas are calm.
Best time to visit: Year round, September to November has great conditions and fewer visitors