Located off the southeast coast of Bali, and just a 30-minute boat ride away from Sanur, lay the charming islands of Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida. All three of them are stunningly beautiful with impressive cliff coasts, beautiful sand beaches, mangrove forests, and a perfect base for your diving adventures. Although most of the diving is predominantly done around Nusa Penida, I decided to stay on Nusa Lembongan, mainly because Nusa Lembongan is super easy to reach by speedboat from Bali, the infrastructure is touristy but the atmosphere still laid back, and although it’s a small island there are a lot of things to see and do during surface intervals.
Diving is probably one of the main things to do around the island and therefore you can choose between various dive centers. I for myself took my underwater adventures with French Kiss Divers Lembongan. As I’ve only been here once and only took my diving adventures with French Kiss Divers it wouldn’t be fair to say one dive center is better than the other, but I can just say the whole crew of French Kiss is amazing and I had a very good time diving with them. On top of that, their diving equipment is top quality and they take every need and level of experience of each diver into account the whole time. The French Kiss Dive Center is located at Jungut Batu Beach inside the PURI NUSA Resort and offers 2 diving trips to Nusa Penida: one trip south to Crystal Bay and the famous Manta Point, and one trip north with reef and current dives. According to that, I originally planned to do one of each trip but ended up with 3 days of diving and 2 trips to Crystal Bay and Manta Point.
After checking in with French Kiss Divers the day before the first trip, I enjoyed roaming around the area, had some Mie Goreng at Lemongrass Restaurant, and ended the day at Jungut Batu Beach with a world-class sunset.
Day 1: Crystal Bay & Manta Point
After getting up early I walked the short distance from my accommodation to French Kiss Divers and meanwhile soaked in the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the awaking island. When I arrived, the equipment was already prepared and we got started right away. After a quick peel into the wetsuit, I met with my dive guide and my two Danish dive buddies – only one of them would be left by the end of the day, to which we will come later. A short briefing about today’s dive sites followed and also the hint that the weather would give us a good swell today. Therefore, everyone got offered a pill against seasickness, which I gratefully declined, not knowing that this maybe wasn’t the smartest decision.
The first dive site of the day was Crystal Bay, known for its crystal-clear water, vital coral reefs, and if you are diving here between August and October, a good place to see one of the obscure looking but super cool sunfish aka Mola Molas. It’s pretty certain to encounter them further down at about 30 meters as they like cold water, but if you are really lucky you get a chance to spot one closer to the surface.
As predicted, the swell was anything but stomach-friendly, especially after the boat stopped and anchored. So, with the boat rocking from one side to the other it was time to get the equipment on fast and hop into the water as quickly as possible so we wouldn’t be immediately hanging over the side of the boat and feeding the fish. Unfortunately, one of my dive buddies didn’t make it fast enough and so the rest of us stood next to her in full gear and green faces and waited for a sign to start our dive. Let’s just say, standing on a wobbly boat in tropical temperatures, fully geared up is nothing you want to experience on a regular basis. Needless to say, my other buddy and I were quite relieved when our guide decided to do the dive with just the three of us. The good thing is, that nausea disappears almost instantly when you are off the boat and in the water. At last, we only could watch our buddy swimming to shore saving herself from the shaky waves. Even though it didn’t hit me as hard as my buddy, I’d highly recommend taking that seasickness pill you get offered. Just in case.
The early complications on board soon faded after jumping into the refreshing blue sea, and the underwater adventure could finally begin. Already during the descent, the first sea turtle crossed our path, and besides that Crystal Bay offers a lot more sea creatures to see. As the current pushed us gently along the reef, we passed beautiful coral formations, numerous kinds of colorful reef fish, and also one or two tiny little sea slugs.
But sadly, we also passed parts of dead reef from time to time. Plus, due to the weather conditions, the visibility wasn’t as crystal clear as the name promised, but nevertheless Crystal Bay is a great dive site with lots of underwater life. Back on board, we went straight to our second dive site of the day: Manta Point.
Manta Point is – as the exceptionally creative name predicts – a point where you have a great chance to see manta rays. It’s a cleaning station, meaning a rock, or platform, where certain kinds of fish live that have specialized in cleaning other creatures. On the way there we passed great cliff formations and hidden beaches, and I have to admit just the waterside view of Nusa Penida is worth the trip. My stomach was still a bit queasy but I looked at the sea and was happy. Arriving at Manta Point there were already some boats anchoring, but not as much as there would be later in the day. Definitely, one of the advantages to start your diving trip early from Nusa Lembongan or Penida is that you get here before all the other trippers from Bali. Besides, the chances to see manta rays decrease the more people are there. I mean who could blame them for preferring to do their body care without masses of spectators.
So, Manta Point is probably the most famous dive site in the area and I too came primarily to Nusa Lembongan to see these majestic creatures for my own. As you can imagine my anticipation was huge when we finally rolled backwards into the water and started our dive. Unfortunately, the bad weather conditions made it difficult for us here, too. The visibility was extremely poor and we couldn’t spot any manta rays through the walls of air bubbles from all the other divers. Just right before the end of the dive, one small specimen swam past us and then it was already time to return to the surface. All in all, not the experience I had imagined but there is never a guarantee to see manta rays, not even if the place is named after them. On the way back to Nusa Lembongan we had our lunch, and my dive buddy and I, both not satisfied with our diving experiences today, decided to come back for mantas the day after tomorrow. But first, we were looking forward to our trip to North Penida.
Day 2: Pura Ped, S.D., & a drift dive at Mangrove Point
The second day I took the north trip with French Kiss Divers, which included two reef dives and one 19-minute drift dive at the north side of Nusa Penida. The weather was perfect and so we headed past mangrove forests and palm tree-covered beaches to our first dive site Pura Ped.
Pura Ped is named after the nearby temple and offers a vital underwater world. The reef here drops down to 50 meters (164ft) and is home to a variety of tropical fish. It’s a nice drift along an amazing coral plateau with a chance to see Mola Molas or even sharks. A few weeks before I came here, there was a sighing of a great white shark for the first time ever, but unfortunately, this one had already moved along. There were also no Mola Molas or reef sharks for us to see, but this doesn’t mean that the dive wasn’t absolutely amazing. Besides countless fish and an unbelievable colorful reef, we saw plenty of sea turtles.
Back at the surface my buddy and I decided unanimously that this dive had totally made up for yesterday’s day. We were both super euphoric and felt that we had rarely seen such a vital reef before (well, my diving experience is still quite limited, but my buddy had already dived half of the world, so that will count). After a short surface interval, we continued diving at S. D. Point, which is pretty much the same kind of dive as Pura Ped. We didn’t spot any sharks here either, which always worries me a bit to see an apparently healthy reef without apex predators. Hopefully, they were just temporarily absent for lunchtime.
After the dive, we also had lunch and afterwards made our way to the last dive spot of the day. Our guide prepared us that the drift dive at Mangrove/Sakenan would be less of an easy-going, fish-watching kind of dive and more like a short roller coaster ride. So, we could choose for ourselves if we wanted to do the dive or just wanted to stay on board or snorkel in the meantime.
Waves & Currents
The current around Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan can be pretty strong and unpredictable. Therefore, beginners or inexperienced divers are advised to dive very cautiously here. Just trust your gut and listen to your guide.
I for myself was super curious about the dive and my guide assured me that he would look out for me. What follows was indeed a roller coaster drift dive. It was certainly fun but also quite demanding, and I felt like little Marlin and Dory on the EAC to Sidney. After exactly 19 minutes the dive was over, we were back at the surface, and on our way back to Nusa Lembongan.
Day 3: Crystal Bay & Manta Point (again)
As mentioned, our first trip to Manta Point wasn’t as magical as expected and for that, I decided to extend my stay on Nusa Lembongan for another day to try my luck again. The day started out perfectly and we headed straight to Crystal Bay for the first dive of the day. Since the water was colder than two days ago the chances increased to see some Mola Molas, so I spend most of the dive out in blue with my guide to look out for them. In the end, I again didn’t see any, but the other divers did at around 30 meters – I really have to get my AOWD soon! Nevertheless, there are no hard feelings when it comes to diving. It doesn’t matter what I see or what I don’t see, being underwater itself is the most amazing thing to me (uh, and it rimes).
Saving the best for the end: Manta Point
I went to Nusa Lembongan to dive with manta rays and on the second try, I got what I came here for. Not long after our descent we crossed the first one and ended up hovering at one place for most of the time to watch the manta rays swim by. They are majestic creatures and there are no words for how amazing it feels to be in their presence. It’s an absolutely exhilarating and once in a lifetime experience, and I’m grateful for getting the chance to be in the water with them. Nusa Lembongan and the marine life around the islands have captivated me within a few days and I will definitely return to this place as soon as I can.