Welcome to Bali, the paradise-like volcanic island of Indonesia in South East Asia, where it’s impossible not to find fun things to do during your holidays. From the stunning Tegallalang rice terraces and the colourful Besakih Hindu temples in the north of Ubud to pristine beaches to relax on from Kuta to Seminyak in the south, the hardest is to choose what to do! Considered one of the cheapest diving destinations in the world, the island of the gods is one of the favourite places to go for ocean lovers who are into surfing or scuba diving.
At world-class dives sites such as Manta Point, Crystal Bay, or the Liberty shipwreck, you will be able to see manta rays, mola-mola (oceanic sunfish) or experience wreck diving. But there are so many other things to do besides diving in Bali like trying some local food, relaxing with a massage, or even attending a traditional Balinese dance show. Here are 15 of my favourites activities to do in Bali as a scuba diver for you to find some inspiration. Note all these activities include places below 600 m of altitude so you can mix scuba diving and sightseeing during your stay in Bali in total safety.
1 – Go island-hopping around Bali
When planning a trip to Bali make sure you include one of the smallest islands that are part of the Bali administrative area. It includes Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Penida in the east, and Menjangan Island in the north.
You can board a speed boat from Sanur which goes to Nusa Lembongan in only 25 minutes. From Nusa Lembongan it takes another 20 minutes to reach Nusa Penida.
To visit Menjangan Island, you need to drive all the way to Pemuteran in the northwest of Bali, from the jetty facing the island, it only takes a short boat ride to cross over, between 5 to 10 minutes.
From Amed, you can also board a speed boat to the Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Menos, Gili Air) which belong to the district of Lombok, but are visited by many scuba divers during their scuba diving holiday in Bali.
To travel between Sanur, Amed and Pemuteran, the most convenient way is to rent a car, especially if you are travelling with your own scuba diving gear. You can easily park your car for free and a low fee while you are on the islands.
2 – Flying underwater with manta rays in Nusa Penida
Of all the Bali diving activities you can do, swimming with manta rays off the shore of Nusa Penida is certainly the most exciting. Accessible to all levels of scuba divers and even snorkellers if conditions allow, if you have never seen manta rays before, this is going to be a life-long memory. The dive site called “Manta Point” can be visited by dozens of manta rays at the same time, so prepare your camera!
You can visit Manta Point by staying directly of course on Nusa Penida, but many scuba divers usually stay on Nusa Lembongan, its sister island. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to reach Manta Point from Jungut Batu Beach on Nusa Lembongan.
If you prefer staying on Bali mainland, scuba diving centres of Sanur also often go diving to Nusa Penida. If conditions allow, they will take you to Manta Point. It takes 50 to 60 minutes by boat to reach the dive site.
3 – Meeting the mola-mola at Crystal Bay
Meeting an oceanic sunfish at Crystal Bay is one of the most unique underwater experiences you can have in Bali. By going diving in Nusa Lembongan between August and October, you will have more chances of seeing one.
The mola-mola or oceanic sunfish is the heaviest bony fish in the world; it can weight up to 1000 kg! However, despite its large size with a diameter up to 3 m, this unique-looking fish is also incredibly shy. Approach them with care without chasing them.
The exact spot of the cleaning station where sunfish like to ascend to from the depths is between Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida at a dive site called “Crystal Bay”. For information, due to the depth of this dive (30 to 40 m) and the currents, it will be for experienced scuba divers only. Besides, as water temperatures tend to be cooler there, between 23 and 25°C, a 5 mm full wetsuit is a comfortable choice to go scuba diving in Crystal Bay.
4 – Wreck diving off the shore of Tulamben
Wreck diving is not often associated with something beginners can do. But in Bali, it is! Due to its fascinating destiny including a Japanese submarine and a volcano, the Liberty shipwreck is the most accessible in the world. Right from the shore, even snorkeller can check it out as its shallowest point is at 5 m below the waves. To get a chance to discover this famous shipwreck, you only need to go diving in Tulamben, on Bali’s East coast near Amed.
The top of the top is to go for a sunrise dive when you are likely to dive the wreck with only your dive buddy and dive guide. In the first hour of the morning, you can get the opportunity to see schools of bumphead parrotfish before they leave the shipwreck for the day. This is why you should try to sleep at least one night in Tulamben during your diving holiday in Bali.
Beyond wreck diving, the Liberty shipwreck has become an artificial reef boasting with marine life. Usually after the wreck, divers go to Tulamben drop-off to see some more. Between the USAT Liberty and the drop-off, you are likely to see a school of jackfish swirling in the blue, many colourful nudibranchs, leaf scorpion fish or ghost pipefish.
5 – Go diving from a traditional jukung boat in Amed
Another unique experience in Bali you shouldn’t miss is going diving in Amed on a traditional jukung fisherman boat. Balance and agility will be necessary to put your scuba diving gear on but the ride is usually not longer than 5 minutes.
From the black-sand beach of Amed, with a super view of Mount Agung in the morning, dive centers will usually take you to the Amed Wall or the Pyramids. These dive sites are mostly about macro critters and muck diving. If you are into underwater photography, bring your macro lens, as you are likely to see nudibranchs, ribbon eels and mantis shrimps.
6 – Discovering Balinese culture at as many temples as you can
You can visit Bali without visiting at least one of its elegant temples. Some are minimalistic, and some are magnificent with breathtaking views, but each of them will give another tiny glimpse of the daily life of Balinese people, which is very much centred around their religious rites. Make sure you put some temples on your Bali itinerary.
The most beautiful temples in Bali include:
- the Besakih Temple
- the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
- the Tirta Empul Temple
- the Goa Gajah Temple
- the Saraswati Temple
- the Uluwatu Temple
- Tanah Lot Temples
Be careful of the altitude in Bali after diving: Besakih Temple is for instance at 1,000 m above the sea level while the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is at 1,200 m.
7 – Walking among the rice terraces of Ceking
There are many places around the island to see the beautiful rice terraces Bali is famous for. Jatiluwih may be the most impressive, but Tegallalang Rice terraces in the village of Ceking, just north of Ubud, is easier to access.
However, being so accessible from Ubud, you have to know that the Tegallalang rice terraces became one of the major tourist spots on the island with many cafés and souvenir shops. There is now an entrance fee to go to Ceking Village and if you decide to take a walk around the rice terraces, most of the farmers will ask for a small participation too as you walk through their fields.
8 – Refresh at Tegenungan Waterfall
There are no tropical holidays without a good waterfall, right? Located between Ubud and Sanur, this waterfall is not the most impressive I’ve seen, but the surroundings are nice and the access easy; A perfect stop when the weather is really too hot in Ubud.
Same as for the Tellalang rice terraces, due to its rather easy acess from Ubud, there is now an entrance fee to visit the Tegenungan waterfall. If you want to have the waterfall for yourself to take pictures, don”t hesitate to go there as early as 6.00 am!
9 – Relaxing with a frangipane oil Balinese massage
If I could, while in Bali, I would do it every evening before going to sleep. With an incredible number of spas around the islands, and especially in Ubud, you will find it so relaxing and so affordable that you may feel the same. Beyond scuba diving and the beauty of the temple, it may be one of the main reasons why I fell in love with Bali.
The delicate fragrance of the frangipani flower in the massage oil works wonder so I recommend choosing this option. I found the spas in Ubud to offer the best treatments at the best price, but having a massage near the beach in Tulamben with the sound of the waves took the experience to another level.
10 – Practising yoga with a view in Ubud
Yoga is a great sport to combine with scuba diving to work on your breathing and hence reduce your air consumption. You can find many yoga studios all around the island, including in Amed where many free divers go, but the most beautiful studios with a view are to be found in the immediate surroundings of Ubud.
Here are a few the most popular yoga studios in Bali:
- The Yoga Barn – Jl. Hanoman, Pengosekan, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Ubud Yoga House – Jl. Subak Sokwayah, Ubud, Kec. Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Intuitive Flow – Jl. Raya Tjampuhan, Penestanan Kaja, Kabupaten Gianyar
- White Lotus Oasis – Jl. Kajeng No.23, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Ubud Yoga Centre – Jl. Raya Singakerta No.108, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
11 – Attending a traditional Balinese dance show
There is nothing more hypnotising than a Balinese traditional dance show. The colours of the costumes and the make up, the complex dance moves sometimes including only hands and eyes, the dreamy sound of the gamelan xylophone, you have never seen anything like this before.
You will find tickets on sale easily in Ubud around the Saraswati Temple. Don’t be afraid if you don’t understand the lyrics, in touristic areas you will normally be handed over a leaflet in English explaining the story that is usually based on Balinese mythology.
12 – Eat with locals at a warung
Bali has become a global centre of healthy and vegetarian cuisine, but if you want to experience what real Indonesian food is while making friends with the locals and cheering on Bintang beers, look no further than the local “warung” at the corner of the street.
My favourite order? The Nasi Campur with a mix of small portions of Indonesian dishes such as the satay skewers and their delicious peanut sauce, or crispy tempeh, which is the Indonesian version of Tofu.
If you feel adventurous and can taste anything, you cannot do more local than going eating to the Gianyar night market, but vegetarians won’t find much to eat there, to be honest. Here are a few addresses around Ubud, to taste some of the best Indonesian food while on a veggie diet:
- NessaWarung – Jl. Gootama, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Warung Sopa – Jl. Sugriwa No.36, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Yuga Organic Warung – Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Warung Semesta – No.9 Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
- Prima Warung – Jl. Penestanan, Sayan, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
13 – Making a customize silver piece of jewellery in Celuk
If, like me, you enjoy bringing back a souvenir of your trip in the form of a piece of jewellery, make it a cultural experience by going to the silversmith village of Celuk on the road to Tanah Lot. You will see them working and can ask for a custom design.
14 – Trying not to get attack by monkeys
I love monkeys but I have to admit that they are unpredictable. And by this, I mean sometimes dangerous beyond being terrible thieves. I can’t help it, I just found the females with their babies so adorable. Best places include Ubud’s monkey forest and the Uluwatu Temple at the south tip of the island.
15 – Visiting the most eco-friendly school in the world
Something definitely out of the beaten path for the last activity on my list. The green school is an amazing project of an eco-friendly school and their educational project to raise responsible citizens for the future. If there is something truly amazing you want to bring back from Bali, bring back ideas that another way of doing is possible! The visits are possible by signing up to a tour.
Are you looking for more inspiration for fun things to do in other budget travel destinations? If so, have a look at these additional pages:
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