Dive Nusa Penida, in this Entry: Best conditions for seeing Mola mola. Manta dives and snorkeling. Where is the best place to dive from; Padang Bai, Nusa Penida or Lembongan? Dive operators, sites, prices, accommodation.
This is the largest (17km long) of 3 islands separated from Bali on the east side by The Bandung Strait. Here is an awesome itinerary for backpacking Bali. The water around Nusa Penida is fairly cold due to a deep upwelling south of Bali and the nutrient-rich deep-water trench is renowned as one of the top places in the world to spot mola mola, the giant oceanic sunfish. The strange looking mola mola looks like a big head swimming around without a body. It is the heaviest known bony fish in the world. These fish usually live very deep but they come up to shallow waters to be cleaned of skin parasites.
In South Africa I have been lucky enough to see a mola mola, but in Bali we were very unlucky and arrived a day after the dive center saw nine mola molas during a single dive! We did however see many more manta rays than we did while diving in Komodo National Park. During a different kind of amazing dive at the site PED, Alya and I got engaged to be married during a drift dive in mild current, you can see the video below.
Best conditions for seeing Mola Mola in Bali, Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida is one of the best places in the world for seeing Mola Mola also called Oceanic Sunfish. The high season to see them is from August to October. Tides and current will determine if mola is around. The best time is just between new moon and full moon during long slack tide. The day of full moon (we arrived a day late) our dive leader saw nine molas! We dived for the following three days without having any luck.
Dive sites for Mola Mola
The best dive sites to see them are Crystal Bay, Gamat Bay, Toyapakeh and Ceningan wall in the Ceningan channel and Blue Corner in Nusa Lembongan. If you have to pick one site Crystal Bay is the place to go. They come up from the deep in cold water, so you want temperature below 25C and these big “swimming heads” don’t like current, so little current or look in a bay where they can hide.
How to dive Nusa Penida; from Bali (Padang Bai), Nusa Penida or Lembongan
Diving the sites around Nusa Penida is much cheaper from the island itself than from Padang Bai or Nusa Lembongan, see prices below. We enjoyed staying on Nusa Penida, it has some beautiful sites, see our entry Nusa Penida, Bali 20 years ago, for things to do, prices, accommodation and photos of this beautiful island. Since Manta Point is just around the corner snorkeling with these beautiful beasts is not very expensive and you can do it everyday! There is a lot more to do in Bali then diving, here are a couple more ideas for responsible travel activities around Bali.
Dive operators and Prices for diving Nusa Penida
Penida Dive Resort, Toyapake – IDR 400 000 ($30) per dive
IDR 150 000 ($11) snorkeling with mantas
They offer accommodation and a restaurant see our Nusa Penida entry.
Professionally Czech run dive resort with very experienced Czech instructors.
There is a local run dive center with friendly staff and similar prices on Toyapake beach.
Bali (Padang Bai)
OK Divers – IDR 1 500 000 ($110) for 2 dives = $55 per dive
Nice dive center, very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff.
Lembongan Dive Center -IDR 500 ($37.50) per dive
Crystal Bay Dive Site
Max Depth: 29m, Avg Depth 15m, 23C, viz 20m
Hung on to the wall at 25-30m for most of the dive waiting for mola mola. The water was cold enough but the current was very strong on both our dives, maybe explaining the molas not showing up. We saw some white tip reef sharks, a turtle, a tuna and the coral was nice.
At the end of the second dive here we finished in the shallows and saw nice coral, lots of nudis, garden eels and a variety of reef fish.
Blue Corner dive site
Max Depth: 38m, Avg Depth 16m, 23C, viz 20m
One of the most famous dive sites in the area, conditions not always favorable, strong currents, experience required some dive operators require proof of 100 dives. Blue Corner has a smooth deep slope with terraces, a fast drift dive. Mola mola often seen in season, we were hoping they are hiding from the current around the corner, but unfortunately did not make it around the corner – no Mola mola. We did however see eight big marble rays! They were swimming at 38m.
Excellent place to see manta rays. There are two sites called Manta point; Manta point (Manta point 1) and Manta point 2 (Manta 66). Manta Point 1 is shallow (10m) and very close to the rocks. Many mantas can be seen swimming here from the cliff above. The peak season is from March to June, but the mantas are here all year round. Some dive shops give a money back guarantee for seeing them. Our decision to go snorkeling instead of diving was a good one. You can talk to the boat that spots them and swim in that direction. We had a few mantas swimming around us on the surface for a while.
Beautiful sloping reef covered in hard coral. Dived it twice, current was medium and strong. We saw large variety of reef fish, turtle, white tip reef shark, if A thermocline is present mola mola can be seen here in season.
I asked Alya to marry me diving on this reef, see video below.
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