In collaboration with Sanctum Nusa Penida
Usually the most amazing dive sites are located in remote places, which are accessible only by several flights and boat trips. Nusa Penida Island in Bali is an exception to this rule: it’s possible to travel there in two hours from Ngurah Rai Airport. Anyway, Nusa Penida isn’t really off the beaten track anymore. I found this island very peaceful and authentic (compared to several destinations in Bali). The underwater world of Nusa Penida is maybe the best you can find from Bali: manta rays, sea turtles and healthy coral reefs make the diving here very enjoyable. We explored the island with Sanctum Nusa Penida, which is owned by a Finnish instructor Emmi. I feel that our diving days here were very well organized.
Sanctum Nusa Penida – a dive center in the northern coast of Nusa Penida
We left for two tank dives every day around 9-10 in the morning and came back around 14-15 in the afternoon. For some people, this timetable could be a bit late, but it’s perfect for those who hate early wake ups and like to enjoy hotel breakfast. Our dives were usually one hour long (or even more, depending on air consumption) with Manta Point as an exception, which is usually a bit shorter. During surface intervals we enjoyed pancakes on the boat. After having done diving from a small, two seat fishing boat, I really enjoyed the proper boat of Sanctum Nusa Penida, which enabled easy access to dive sites even though there was swell. We did all dives in small groups.
Sanctum Nusa Penida has also an on-site restaurant, which was convenient after an intensive diving day. Sanctum’s restaurant offers both local and Western specialities, smoothies and healthy fresh juices. There was also a possibility to do yoga, but during my stay in January there were not regular classes.
Manta rays at southern coast of Nusa Penida
The main reason for divers traveling to Nusa Penida is mostly to see manta rays. The possibility to see mantas is actually quite good! On the first day, we headed directly to the Manta Point, a famous dive site located in southern Nusa Penida and were lucky: we encountered totally six majestic manta alfredis (reef mantas). We were lucky to witness cleaning moment of mantas and they didn’t feel like disturbed about our presence.
Because Manta Point is nearby the open sea which continues all the way to the Antarctis, the water temperature is usually lower than in northern sites of Nusa Penida. If you wear normally a 3mm wetsuit, you may need something warm under it at southern dive sites. Southern dive sites are also exposed to higher swell, so some divers may need travel sickness medication. The visibility at Manta point is usually a bit lower than in northern sites. During our diving it was around 10 meters.
In addition to Manta Point, we dove at Chrystal Bay, where we saw a bamboo shark, a new kind of shark for me. This diving site is also known for huge mola mola fish, but during our stay it was unlikely to see mola molas because it wasn’t their season.
Sea turtles and colourful reefs at northern Nusa Penida
The dive sites in northern Nusa Penida are different compared to the southern side of the island. We dove dive sites called Buyak and Ped, which can be found 15 minutes boat trip from Sanctum Nusa Penida. Both dives were comfortable coral wall dives with mild current. In the first dive site we saw many sea turtles, which made our dives very enjoyable. In the northern coast there is no need for warmer wetsuits, as the water temperature reaches 28 to 29 degrees Celcius.
Travelling in Nusa Penida during the rainy season
We were travelling in Nusa Penida in January, which is statistically the rainiest month in Bali. Even though one afternoon was pouring with rain, we had only two rainy days in total during three weeks stay in Bali.
After holiday season, January is the most silent travel month in Bali. In Nusa Penida this was positive thing: dive sites were not full of divers (compared to high season). Because there are no rivers on these islands, possibly heavy rainfall isn’t really affecting the water visibility.
Where to stay in Nusa Penida?
Because Nusa Penida is quite a big island, it’s wise to choose the accommodation carefully. We chose a place with excellent reviews from a hill next to Toyapakeh village. Views from there were amazing, but small roads around there were in very bad condition and thus poor for driving with a scooter. It’s easiest to move around when choosing accommodation nearby the main street.