If you are looking for the best diving in Bali, you need to put Menjangan Island on your itinerary. Located at the north-west end of Bali, the island of the deer (meaning of its name in Indonesian) is the dream place for snorkelers and scuba divers avid of clear turquoise waters and colourful coral gardens away from the crowd.
“Wait a second…There are deer in Bali?”
Yes, I was so surprised! Nevertheless, you will need to be lucky to see them sunbathing on the beach.
West Bali National Park: a protected park since 1917
The park was initially created in 1917 as a Bali nature park. It is only in 1941 that it becomes the West Bali National Park recognised by the state of Indonesia. Menjangan Island is only a tiny part of this protected area that starts after Pemuteran and stops before Gilimanuk, where you can take a ferry to Java. It covers an area of 190 km², about 5% of the surface area of Bali. To explore the park, it is compulsory to book a hike with the official guides. Whether you decide to walk or dive in Menjangan Island, the entrance ticket to the National Park is now 200,000Rp (£9.50/13€) since July 2014.
Around Menjangan Island are a mix of beaches, cliffs with bat caves and mangroves, and a beautifully carved white Ganesh temple just right by the turquoise water. That is why, while waiting to embark to Menjangan, you will see a lot of Balinese people in traditional costume arriving at the same time with offerings.
Thanks to the early creation of the West Bali National Park (Taman Nasional Bali Barat), the coral reef offers biodiversity I rarely saw in other scuba diving locations. More than 110 species of coral have been identified in Menjangan! If you add underwater visibility that can reach 50m, it must be on the bucket list of any scuba diver visiting Bali and this is why I put on my list of the best diving in Asia-Pacific.
Menjangan Island: many dive sites for all levels of scuba divers
The island might only be 39km² but it is surrounded by dive sites that are more interesting than each other. You can drift dive, you can wall dive, you can deep dive and if you are into underwater photography or videography you are just going to want more! The frustrating part is not to be allowed to do more than 2 dives a day in Menjangan Island. Each of the two I dived, Eels Garden and POS II (POS just means “position”, there is POS I and POS II in Menjangan), were very different and offered so much variety. Usually, the captain of the boat will choose the dive sites of the day according to the sea conditions. Don’t be sad if you cannot choose your dive site, they are all interesting.
You start from a wall going down to 30-40m loved by the lionfish and the frogfish, to follow by a sandy slope inhabited by the garden eels and the sand moray eels. The coral pinnacles are a real pleasure for the marine biology enthusiasts: each type of coral offers a fauna hiding nearby it.
There is no strong current in Menjangan, but a gentle continuous stream made my two dives an excellent drift dive. As my guide, my dive buddy and I were doing great on air consumption, it meant that we almost did 2 sites in one dive. My first dive at Eels Garden was at a maximum depth of 25m. With an average depth of 15m, we remained underwater for 58 minutes. For the second dive, with a maximum depth of 21m and an average depth of 12m, we did not reach the surface before 73 minutes!
A distinct advantage of Menjangan Island, beyond being rather protected from mass tourism due to its distance to the crowded south of Bali, is how much family friendly and non-scuba-diver-friendly it is. I was there with two friends, and even if they could not be with me underwater, every time I came up to the surface, we could share the same excitement about all the beautiful fish they could see while snorkelling.
How to go scuba diving in Menjangan Island?
If you want to go scuba diving in Menjangan Island, the best is to contact the local dive centres of the nearby village of Pemuteran. I drove my rental car from Ubud to Pemuteran the day before we went to Menjangan Island. We took the road of Bedugul, high in the mountains, where you can visit the famous Pura Ulun Temple on the Bratan Lake. Bedugul being at an altitude of 1500m you will enjoy refreshing temperatures and juicy strawberries. Be careful, to avoid decompression sickness, you cannot take this road right after diving! In addition to being the most scenic itinerary to the North of Bali, this road is also the shortest. Including a stop of 30 minutes at Pura Ulun, we made it in 4 hours to Pemuteran.
The next day, we left Pemuteran with the van of our dive centre at 8.15am, to go to the Jetty of Labuhan Lalang only 15 minutes away. This is where you instructors and Divemaster will pay the entrance fees of the National Park and the local boat to take you to Menjangan for the day (all included in the price of the dive trip). Just another 15-20 minutes of boat is necessary to approach your first dive site. After a lunch on the beach, prepared by the dive centre, you can head for your second dive. Nice and easy for a day in paradise!
If you want to live the same adventure, I recommend you to contact Dive Concepts. Located in the same building than the beautiful hotel Arjuna, their installations, quality of the rental gear and the kindness of their staff will make you want to extend your stay by a day or two!
Phone: +62 812 3766 6971
Where to stay near Menjangan Island?
Pemuteran is 4 hours driving away from the south of Bali via a road at 1500m of altitude. So if you want to go back to the south on the same day, it means you have to leave at 6.00 am to be there at 10.00 am. Then, because you cannot go in altitude, you need to take the south coast road via Medewi, which takes more than 6 hours! No, you do not want to do that, I recommend staying in Pemuteran!
There is a luxury resort right in West Bali National Park, but it is not for all the budgets. Lovina is further away and is by far more touristy because of its horrible dolphin harassing tours. The best option is the charming and quiet village of Pemuteran.
Pemuteran has a splendid bay that is also full of interesting macro diving spots where you can see mandarin fish! At the end of your day, you can go to the heights of Pemuteran for a breathtaking sunset on the volcanoes of East Java. This part of Bali is much dryer than the rest of the island. From the hill I was watching the sunset from, the view made me think of pictures I saw of South Africa.
I stayed at Arjuna Homestay which the hotel of Dive Concepts Pemuteran. It 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.
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