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 ...
A short boat ride away from Bali, at the edge of the current-swept Lombok Strait, lie the islands of Nusa Lembongan, Cenida and Penida. These islands - with their dramatic cliffs, swirling drift dives and beautiful beaches - attract tourists throughout the year, but it is during the summer months that the diving is at its best. For only then, when the waters are icy cold, do divers stand a chance of encountering the incredible Mola mola.
Diving around the islands is dominated by the currents that sweep past these exposed islands at every change of the tide. The huge volume of water that flows through the Lombok Strait creates cold, nutrient-rich upwellings that support the prolific life that has made these islands so famous - from the schools of reef fish, sharks and turtles, to the giant mantas and extraordinary Mola mola.
The majority of the more well-known sites are concentred around Lembongan and along the channel that runs between Lembongan and Penida. Sites such as Blue Corner, Mangrove, Gamat bay and Crystal Bay offering incredible drift diving in strong currents, and are great sites for encounters with bigger fish - Mola mola, big marble rays, reef sharks, eagle rays, tuna, Spanish mackerel can all be spotted, particularly in the deeper areas. There are also beautiful schools of redtooth triggers, bannerfish and pyramidfish, surgeonfish, snappers, fusiliers and trevally, and lots of other species of reef fish - all to be expected on these high-energy dive sites. The shallow areas also have some good corals whilst Crystal Bay has a sheltered area in the shallows were divers can recover after a current swept dive.
Along the south west coast of Penida are several known manta sites where these graceful rays congregate to feed in the nutrient rich waters, or visit cleanings stations in the shallows. These sites have mantas year round but like the Mola mola, the diving is generally better at the manta sites during the summer months.
Running along Penida’s north coast are some beautiful reefs sheltered by the strong swell that reduces coral growth in the south. Sites such as SD, Pura Ped, Sental and Buyuk all have colourful hard and soft corals, as well schools of redtooth triggers, bannerfish and pyramidfish, different species of surgeonfish, snappers, grouper, sweetlips, batfish and angelfish, as well as leaf scorpionfish and giant frogfish. And this being Penida, turtles, sharks, rays and Mola mola can all be seen!
Some of the dive sites around these islands can be challenging to the extreme - currents can be very strong and unpredictable, animals are often encountered deep and the good visibility can lure divers down. Always be aware of your depth, time and air. Also, given the popularity of some of the sites, be careful of passing boat traffic when surfacing.
Snorkelling is extremely popular around Lembongan and Penida, particular in Lembongan Bay, Crystal Bay and around the pontoons set up at places such as Mangrove. A lot of these locations cater for big groups and fish are typically fed by the visitors or guides - something we do not condone. However, there are some fabulous locations away from the crowds and sites along the north coast of Penida offer fantastic snorkelling. Simply drop off the boat and drift with the currents along the reef, spotting the occasional turtle, shark and plenty of reef fish. The manta sites are also fantastic for snorkelling as the big rays will often feed on the plankton concentrated in the shallows. Be aware of the the swell and surge along the base of the cliffs at these locations, as well as boat traffic.
The rocky limestone islands of Nusa Lembongan, Cenida and Penida are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait and lie at the edge of the deep Lombok Strait. All are much less developed than Bali’s south and offer a much more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere - particularly when the day-tripper boats have left for the day and calm descends on the beaches.
Before the arrival of tourism, the Balinese living on the islands made a living farming seaweed and fishing in the prolific seas surrounding the islands. In the 1980’s the islands became popular for surfers keen on exploring different locations and it was not long after that divers followed to explore the current swept reefs. Dive tourism really began to take off in the 1990’s - especially after the discovery of the Mola mola cleaning stations - but despite getting busier every year, these beautiful islands still retain some of their original, relaxed atmosphere that first attracted many visitors.
Lembongan, Cenida and Penida are all reached from Bali by boat. There are many private companies operating from both Sanur and Padangbai, all offering pickups from your hotel or resort in the south and onwards to meet the boat. The boat trip takes around an hour, although this can be longer if the seas are rough. All of the resorts on the islands will operate in partnership with a preferred company - one with a strong safety record - and can help to arrange transfers.
These islands receive less rain than Bali but otherwise have similar weather patterns - the wet season running from December to March, and the dry season from April through to November. The windy months of May or June to September can mean rough seas, but this is when cold upwellings hit the islands and the diving - and chances of seeing mola mola - is at its best.
Day time temperatures range from 28 - 32C whilst water temperatures vary between 24 - 28C, but be prepared for much colder upwellings during the summer months - blasts of frigid 20C or lower is not unusual. Bring a 5mm wetsuit if you are planning on searching for Mola mola!
From the original beach shacks around Mushroom bay on Lembongan, tourism has slowly spread across all the islands and there are now many choices on Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Accommodation ranges from tiny home stays and private villas, to more luxurious resorts - although the latter are always small and these islands have yet to see any huge developments springing up. Many of the dive centres work alongside small resorts or homestays but the best options are those resorts with their own in-house dive centre.
The prefect Ceningan weekend getaway for those looking for a quick diving trip. The package includes 2 nights accommodation in a twin or double Deluxe bungalow, 2 dives with full equipment, all meals and round-trip transfers from Bali. A family bungalow is also available and guests can also book optional afternoon or night dives at the resort.
The perfect length of time to explore all of Lembongan and Penida’s amazing dive sites. The package includes 6 nights accommodation in a twin or double Deluxe bungalow, 10 dives with full equipment, all meals and round-trip transfers from Bali. A family bungalow is also available and guests can also book optional afternoon or night dives at the resort.
6 days in paradise staying in a beautiful Garden Lumbung - a traditional Indonesian thatched room - at the perfectly-located Hai Tide Beach Resort. The package includes 10 dives, giving you plenty of time to explore all that Lembongan and Penida have offer. Upgrades to the beachfront Lumbungs and single accommodation are available - contact us when you make your booking.
This 5 day, 4 night package includes your PADI Open Water course, as well as an extra day of diving to enjoy Lembongan’s reefs. Accommodation is in a beautiful Garden Lumbung - a traditional Indonesian thatched room - and is for a minimum of 2 people. Upgrades to the beachfront Lumbungs and single accommodation are available - contact us when you make your booking.