Bali is one of the few destinations where it is easy to pack a 2 week holiday with at least 5 exciting scuba diving sites while visiting at least 8 breath-taking places. With so much diversity, you can feel overwhelmed with what to see, what to do and where to dive in Bali. Here is the most scenic and efficient itinerary I can recommend based on my 2 trips there.
A 2-week scuba diving road trip in Bali
Ubud / 4 days
When landing at Denpasar Ngurah Rai Airport, please skip Kuta/Legian/Seminyak and go directly to Ubud. You’ll save time, money and a wrong first impression about Bali. Many people stick to Kuta because the International Airport is actually in Kuta and “this is where everyone goes, right?” In this blog post, I explain why I love Ubud and Bali so much and why I avoid Kuta.
Only 1 hour driving away from the airport, the amazing town of Ubud, in the middle of the rice fields is waiting for you for a relaxing and mesmerising first experience of Bali. There is no public transportation from Denpasar Airport, so you need to take a taxi. You can ask your hotel, or you can take one directly at the airport. Don’t be surprised at the arrivals, you’ll see a crowd of taxi drivers ready to pick-up your luggage. Up to you to use their services but be aware there is an official office where you usually book you taxi just at the exit of the arrival terminal if you want to avoid to be ripped off. If you wish to save time, you can negotiate with one of these drivers, if you get your ride to Ubud for 350,000 Rp (£17/23€), this is a good price.
Waking up in Ubud on your first morning will be an ideal start of your trip. Being in the centre of the island, a bit in altitude and surrounded by forests, the climate In Ubud is always milder than on the coast. A day in Ubud will be a mix of walks between the temples and the rice fields, yummy healthy meals from traditional Indonesian food to organic raw specialities, yoga classes and Balinese oil massages. Rent a car or a motorbike for some fabulous day trips to Goa Gajah, Tirta Empul or the rice terraces of Ceking (top picture of this article). It will be an excellent introduction to Balinese culture even if they tend to be touristy. One key point to enjoy these sites in better conditions is to do them early in the morning around 7 am to 9 am (I know, I know… but peace and silence in these places are priceless)
To make the most of your time in Ubud, here are the 2 top activities you can pre-book before your trip:
- A guided bike tour: this is the best way to enjoy the magical rice field landscapes that made Ubud’s countryside so famous. The tour starts at beautiful Ceking rice terraces and even includes sampling Balinese products at a local plantation.
- Mount Batur Sunrise Trek: You will need to wake up during the night, but the beautiful show of the sunrise on top of Mount Batur is worth all your efforts and will be an unforgettable experience. Ideally, do it at the beginning of your stay in Bali before you start scuba diving to avoid any decompression illness.
2 – Pemuteran / 3 days
From Ubud to Pemuteran, the fastest road takes you to Bedugul at 1500m in the mountains. While stopping at Pura Ulun, the temple on the shore of Bratan Lake, you will enjoy a cooling temperature and a soft breeze. Make sure to taste the altitude grown strawberries. On the way down to Singaraja, the second biggest city of Bali, you can also stop to explore the beautiful Gigit Waterfalls. After Singaraja, while driving along the north coast, you will pass Lovina, famous for the dolphin watching tours. I’d like not to recommend to go even if it is very tempting. Too many boats harass the poor dolphins; it looks like a hunt. Instead, for a visit off the beaten before Pemuteran, go to Banjar, where you can visit Bali’s largest Buddhist monastery. The temple has different levels along the hill with prayer rooms, gardens and a couple of stupas. The highest level is a stunning outdoor meditation area surrounded by frangipani trees and with a grey stone stupa similar to the style of Borobudur Temple in Java.
Pemuteran will be your base to explore the West Bali National Park and the Island of Menjangan. If you are not a certified scuba diver, this is the ideal place to pass your open water. You can also extend your scuba diving exploration in the Bay of Pemuteran and Gilimanuk.
Here is my detailed post about exploring Menjangan Island underwater from Pemuteran: Coral Wonderland in Menjangan Island, Bali.
3 – Tulamben & Amed / 4 days
Make sure to let 12 to 24 hours before hitting the road again after your last dive in Pemuteran. The safest option to go to Tulamben is to follow the coast. The advantage is that east of Lovina you will discover a wilder side of Bali rarely seen by other travellers.
To dive in Tulamben and Amed, you can choose to stay in only one of these 2 villages. They are only 15 minutes of driving from each other.Nothing special in Tulamben but it is the best place to stay if you want to go on a sunrise dive and be the first on the famous USAT Liberty Wreck in the morning. On this website, you can pre-book a 3 dive package that includes lunch and shuttle bus from and to your hotel. Between Tulamben and Amed, it is a paradise for macro underwater photography lovers at Seraya Secrets. Amed is a more charming place with its long black sand beach. The interesting part about diving in Amed is to go to your dive site with a local jukung boat. You can also book here a 3 dive package in Amed.
You can use some of your days for an extra adventure to the Gili Islands. Once in Amed, a speed boat takes you there in an hour. Unfortunately, coral reefs have been heavily damaged by dynamite fishing, but it is still a great place to see turtles and whale sharks while enjoying pristine white sandy beaches.
4 – Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida / 3 days
Nusa Lembongan is the cherry on top of the itinerary as this is where you can dive with the shy mola-molas and the gracious manta rays from August to October. It takes 2 hours and a half to drive from Amed to Sanur, you can board there a fast boat taking you in 25 minutes to Nusa Lembongan. Golden sandy beach, Sunset with a view of Bali’s volcanoes, Mangroves and Cliffs: Lembongan and its little sister linked by a suspended bridge, Ceningan, are amazing places to explore.
There is so much to say about the diving here that the best is to read my post “Mission Mola-Mola in Nusa Lembongan”.
5 – Uluwatu / half a day on the way back to the airport
As you know, on your last 24 h, you cannot dive. Boring? No, just take the opportunity to go on one last adventure!
(Check here my top tips about flying & scuba diving)
Take the boat back to Sanur, and just south of the Ngurah Rai Airport, there is a beautiful site you should not miss if this is your first time in Bali. Rather than going to Tanah Lot, which is overcrowded, I always like to recommend Uluwatu instead. The south tip of Bali is famous within surfers, less within scuba divers. The temple of Uluwatu is right at the top of a high cliff. The view is breath-taking, you feel like floating on the ocean. Be careful about the monkeys! They can jump on you to steal your sunglasses or your flip-flops. Carefully hide any loose items. The male can be aggressive but I saw a couple of adorable mama monkeys with their babies. After your visit that should be less than an hour, you can be back to the airport in only 40 minutes.
If after all of this you still have time, you can do the same I did during my first visit to Bali and book a last-minute flight ticket to one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world: Komodo!
Best time to visit Bali
You can visit Bali all year-long. My first trip was in January which is supposed to be the worse period of the monsoon. Honestly, it rained mainly at night and maybe one hour of the day on average. Because it was the low season, I could easily find very cheap accommodation everywhere and the weather was still warm. July and August are great months from a climate point of view, but obviously, because of the summer holidays, it is the peak season when everything is the most expensive and any place overcrowded. The best compromise is September and October when it is the right season to see the mola-molas in Nusa Penida!
Where to stay in Bali?
Bali is a great place for every type of travellers, whether you are looking for a simple and cheap accommodation or splurging in luxury. You can quickly find charming guest houses with swimming pool for less than £15/20€ a night on booking.com.
In Ubud, I’d like to recommend Dewangga Bungalows. Right in the centre of Ubud, it is on a quiet side street. The gardens are beautiful, and the swimming pool in the middle is the perfect place to be after a day of wandering.
In Pemuteran, Arjuna Homestay offers a luxury experience for a very affordable price. Rooms, so tasteful and comfortable, are located along the swimming pool. The delicious breakfast served on their top terrace with the view of the mountains make every penny worth.
In Tulamben, Matahari Resort, right on the beach, is my favourite with their beautiful spa where you hear the sound of the waves during your Balinese massage.
In Lembongan, I went to Pondok Baruna as it was a friend’s favourite. I directly understood why. Large rooms with an extremely comfortable bed in a small one-floor building with only 6 rooms next to a swimming pool. 1 min on the right I had my dive centre, 2 min on the left I could go to the long beach of Jungut Batu.
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