Diving in Nusa Penida, Bali

What I remember most:

  • Freezing water
  • Beaaaauuutiful reefs and marine life
  • Drift diving, less effort ūüėõ
  • Strong currents that could kill
  • No manta rays, no mola-mola ūüė¶

Nusa Penida is an island southeast of Pulau Dewata Bali (I heard the stewardess referred Bali as Pulau Dewata, somehow it got stuck in my head). Its an inhabited island with the people mostly doing seaweed plantation as their means of living. Its a beautiful hilly island with coastal cliffs, different from what I’ve seen in Malaysia.

To get there you’d need to ride a 40 minutes speed boat from Sanur in Bali, but most of the time only divers go there.

Why Nusa Penida?

“There are more than 20 identified dive sites around the island, the most notable including Crystal Bay, Manta Point, Toyapakeh, Suana Bay and Malibu Point. The rich waters around the three islands support no less than 247 species of coral and 562 species of fish.

Many dive operators based in Bali and neighbouring Nusa Lembongan offer specific dive trips to Nusa Penida. Special attractions include fabulous Mola Mola (Oceanic Sunfish) in season and large Manta Rays year round. Mola Mola are migratory fish and most likely from July to October although sightings are reported all year round. There is diving available here for beginners but most of the dives require a decent level of experience as currents are strong and unpredictable.”

-an excerpt taken from Wikitravel

I really wanted to see manta rays and the nearest dive site that I could go to from Msia is Nusa Penida in Bali. Thus when Airasia has offered a promo tix for only RM166 return, I grabbed it fast; bought in Feb & travel in Nov.

So I booked a dive trip with Bali Scuba (upon searching over the internet, this one provided me with an affordable rate, some other dive operators even quoted in GBP!). Initially we agreed on diving at Manta Point, Crystal Bay and SD sites for USD145 exclude the equipment charge.

A little insight on dive sites at Nusa Penida (taken from Dive the World and Bali Scuba websites) :-

1. Manta Point (South Coast area)

Here the sea is quite shallow, cool and can have strong surge. The water is often quite murky too due to the plankton which attracts mantas, often in small groups. The manta rays come here to feed and often stay for quite a while, seemingly oblivious to the attentions of observant divers. If you give them space then you can watch them circling about for most of the dive in depths ranging from 18 metres up to the surface.

2. Crystal Bay (channel between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan)

Crystal Bay¬†is perhaps Nusa Penida’s best dive site. It is located in the south west of the island and features a shallow bay, carpeted in corals. The bay provides shelter from current and is a good place to start your dive. Apart from the superb corals in the bay, the big attraction here is that this area is a favourite spot for¬†mola mola, which gather to be cleaned on the slopes of the reef just outside of the bay.

3. Ped (North Coast area)

Ped is the most popular dive site on the nearby Nusa Penida north coast, as it tends to offer currents milder than some of the other sites at Lembongan. Healthy low lying hard coral reef banks slope gently to 20 metres, then down to 40 metres. Occasional manta rays and schools of chevron barracuda add to the rich variety of smaller fish which seem to prefer the calmer waters of Ped.

4. SD or Sekolah Dasar (North Coast area)

The most dived area of Nusa Penida, and rightly so. Rich & healthy stands of coral which are home to an amazing variety of reef fish. Good coral diversity, including long spiraling Wire Corals, Tables and Domes. A great place to see Mola mola in season, and the best drift diving in Bali. This entire North Coast is one long stretch of healthy reef with at least five distinct dive sites.

So I went there on 14 November, which means the mola-mola or sunfish season is over. Oh well. Mola-mola is ¬†migratory by nature, so they’ve probably migrated to colder water somewhere, perhaps Australia. And yes, no mantas as well.

“Airnya jelek sekali”, that’s what I was told by Bagong the Dive Master. Said for the past four weeks the water at Manta Point has been very murky; vis. is about 1m only. Oh well, never mind that. There are always other opportunities, plus the reefs and topography of the island are beautiful, hence resulted in a rewarding experience for me.

Bali Scuba team picked me up at my guest house at around 7.30am. After settling the balance of payment plus rental and inspection of the equipments, we were then transferred to a large boat to start our diving. There were only 3 lady divers (me, J from Seoul and Maripe from Manila) with 2 DMs. As J and I have about similar logs – < 30, we were grouped together with Bagong as our DM. Maripe has about 100 logs (!) so she was coupled with another DM. Its funny that all of us are from different nationalities but we have similar passion in travelling. Maripe has been saying that we were bunch of crazy girls doing crazy things independently, but both J and Maripe are the crazy survivors! J has spent one year doing RTW (oh how I wish I could!) and Maripe is a single mother of 3 kids, the eldest is 15 (!) and she’s a physician in a province area in Philippine.

Prior to this dive trip, I have been doing research on the dive sites at around Nusa Penida. Crystal Point terrified me a bit, as there were divers drowned in the area, with the most recent case reported in August 2012. Everywhere that I read there are warnings on the condition of the water at the dive point; strong current and very cold, with temp reported up to 16c. But determined (and out of¬†curiosity) that I was, I made a point that I should at least experience it as I was hoping to see mantas or mola-mola there.¬†¬†Bagong assured me, saying that an advanced diver should be fine there, for as long as I follow him and practice safe diving, as in¬†don’t¬†dive further that 20m, etc.

But oh my god I was seasick..haha I never thought that I would be sea sick as I am used to the sea conditions. I puked 4 bloody times in Crystal Bay alone, both before and after diving. Crazy. J was not sparred too, in fact she was a lot worse that I was. Nevertheless lucky for us that we had an awesome dive there despite of the nausea and headache. Oh as I was warned about the freezing water there, I put on a 5mm shortie on top of my 3mm suit. I felt huge, heavy and restricted, as I am used to diving with only tops and shorts. Upon descending I have felt the strong current fighting my way down, but luckily I had no problem equalising and made it to the bottom of 12m. After that everything else was forgotten and nothing seemed to be significant anymore; my mind was shifted to exploring the beautiful reefs and at the same time trying to locate any interesting fishes. Still, I was hoping that we could get lucky and spot mantas. And then the water turned cold. Damn it was freezing,  I wished I had gloves with me. Interestingly the water temp changed few times, warm to cold and back to warm again. Alas we could only managed to dive around 35 mins as our air was running out; fighting the current and the cold temp made us consumed more air. Safety stop was a bit challenging too as I kept on fighting the  current pushing upwards. Yes guess what, I vomited again after we were back on the boat. Damn you currents!

Next dive was drift dive! Yes this could be fun..I’ve never done any drift dive before. I was feeling bit better this time at the next point, Ped. Had no problem equalising, it wasn’t a deep bottom; kinda like shallow then ¬†moved to deeper bottom. I like Ped instantly..very pretty underwater life, effortless dive that I¬†didn’t¬†have to do much kicking to move, the current pretty much brought you along the way. It was rather hard to stop and look at the creatures, as you were being drifted. The downside is when I kept on going deeper than 25m, that I had a bit of¬†narcosis¬†surge (I had felt narcosis before when I was doing my Advanced OWD training). Bagong kept on calling me asking me to move up and maintain at his level and at one point we switched position where I was heading the direction, J was on top of me and Bagong behind me at about 5m-10m away. Gosh it was difficult to switch back to position myself behind Bagong so we remained in that positions throughout the way. I saw puffer fish, giant ass moray, white color scorpion fish, lobster (!), trigger fish, etc. Nice, very nice dive.

After that we had our lunch break on the boat. J was feeling really sick, that she kept on vomiting. But this is a very determined girl; still wanting to dive our last dive at SD. Cool beans. Luckily we were told that SD point is also a drift dive, nothing too rough like Crystal Bay. True enough, I had fun diving at SD point, or rather, drifting away ūüôā But I had a bit of trouble equalising at the beginning, so Bagong and J had to wait for me down below. After that everything was fine and I was able to dive at ease. I think I enjoyed SD the most, eventhough its not as pretty as Crystal Bay but this is less effort for us divers. Again, I was separated far from Bagong as I somehow took the lead. The current was quite strong and we were drifting really fast that it was hard for us to stop and pause to look for creatures. Our air consumption in both Ped and SD were better so we were able to dive longer. And oh, the water is cold in SD. I didnt know this but I had already stripped the 5mm shortie since the dive in Ped..so I was shivering a bit in SD. But it was okay with me, I really had fun there.

We finished diving at about 2pm and we were transferred back to Sanur. If God’s willing I will come back again to dive and witness the majestic mantas and mola-mola, probably during their season. Or I could go to Tulamben or Amed or Gili islands. Perhaps?

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