Nusa Penida near Bali offers a fantastic opportunity to dive with mola mola (the oceanic sunfish) and manta rays, two of the most remarkable large creatures to swim within the ocean. In this article, we discuss our diving experience here, where is the best place to dive from Padang Bai, Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan, the best mola mola and manta season for Nusa Penida, dive operators, dive sites around Nusa Penida, dive prices and accommodation. We also have a nice guide for Snorkeling with manta rays at Manta Point and Manta Bay for all about tours from Bali, and all the Nusa islands. For the best diving all around Indonesia see our Complete Indonesia Dive Guide.
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Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Lembongan are three small islands separated from Bali on the east side by The Bandung Strait, a spot not to miss when traveling to Bali. Nusa Penida is the largest of the three at 17km long. There is a lot to explore around the island, impressive cliffs, pristine beaches, bat caves, temples, and waterfalls, but for us, it was all about diving from Nusa Penida island.
Diving Nusa Penida
There is some fantastic diving around Nusa Penida, the highlights are the incredible cleaning stations at Manta Point and swimming with mola mola at Crystal Bay. This little neighbor to Bali has a lot more diving to offer than sunfish and manta rays.
We did some of the longest drift dives we have done around the world, gliding over the beautiful reefs surrounding Nusa Penida. I will recommend the drift dives around Nusa Penida for more experienced divers since the currents can be strong and unpredictable.
The water flowing around the island is an up-welling from the deep and is often cold water with temperatures in the low twenty degree Celsius range, even dropping to 16C! I will recommend diving here in a 5mm wetsuit (your dive center should provide one). Water temperatures are the lowest from June to October and higher from November to February.
The visibility is good diving in the area, ranging between 10 and 40 meters!
Most of the diving is done at depths ranging between 10m and 20m, there are some deep dive sites all the way to 40m.
For more awesome things to do in the area see this Bali travel itinerary.
Best time of year to Dive Nusa Penida
January and February are the peak of the rainy season and not the most pleasant time to be on the island. Diving is good from November to May when the sea is calm. Manta Rays can be seen from Nusa Penida all year round. August to October is the best time of the year to dive with Mola Mola from Nusa Penida, we discuss this later in the article. Check out our comprehensive Bali Guide for all the information needed to Dive and Travel to Bali.
Marine Life Diving Nusa Penida
The island is known for Mola mola (the oceanic sunfish) and manta rays, two enormous bucket list animals for most divers to swim with! Mola mola, commonly known as the oceanic sunfish is the heaviest known bony fish in the world weighing up to 1,000 kg. These animals are native to tropical and temperate waters around the globe. The mola mola appears similar to a fish head with a tail, and its main body is flattened laterally. Manta rays are large rays belonging to the genus Manta. The larger species, M. birostris, reach up to 7 meters in width. Both these animals can be very large and make fantastic photo subjects! If you remain calm and swim slow they can come very close!
This is not the only remarkable marine life found diving around this amazing little island. Silvertip and Grey Reef sharks often swim in the currents around Nusa Penida. Hawksbill turtles and a variety of puffer fish and lionfish are commonly encountered floating over the reef. Check-in holes and crevasses, Giant Moray eels live here. Don’t just grab or put your knees on any piece of reef, scorpionfish live on the reef and the sting is very poisonous. Bright-colored anemone fish make anemones all over the reef their home. Keep an eye out for a variety of beautiful nudibranchs (sea slugs) if you have a good guide he will point some out. In sandy areas swim carefully to spot blue spotted stingrays and garden eels, they are difficult to photograph since they pull back into the sand as soon as they sense you. We were lucky to swim with some big marble rays while doing a deep dive in a strong current.
If you enjoy wreck diving check out our post on diving the Wreck of the USAT Liberty from Bali.
Manta Point Nusa Penida
When talking about diving with manta rays around Indonesia Komodo and Raja Ampat are always the first places mentioned. I knew there were mantas somewhere around Bali, but never would have imagined a cleaning station visited by so many manta rays as Manta Point from Nusa Penida. Plenty of manta rays come all year round to enjoy the cleaning station. It is an amazing place to dive or snorkel with Manta rays. They really are plentiful here, if you stand on the surrounding cliffs you can spot many mantas close to the cliffs.
Mola Mola Nusa Penida
The water around Nusa Penida is fairly cold due to a deep up-welling 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 swim with mola mola on several occasions, 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 currents will determine if mola mola are around. The best time is just between the new moon and the full moon during long slack tide. On the day of the 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 from Nusa Penida
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. The mola mola comes up from the deep in cold water, so you want temperatures below 25C and these big “swimming heads” don’t like current, so little current or look in a bay where they can hide.
Diving Nusa Penida from Bali (Padang Bai), Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan
Diving the sites around Nusa Penida from the island itself is a good idea since it is cheaper than diving from Padang Bai or Nusa Lembongan with a speed boat, as you would expect. We enjoyed staying in Nusa Penida, it has some beautiful sites and healthy reef, see our entry Things to do in Nusa Penida, for all about 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 every day! There is a lot more to do in Bali than diving, here are a couple more ideas for responsible travel activities around Bali.
Dive Centres and Prices for Diving Nusa Penida
Because Nusa Penida is located close to both Nusa Lembongan and Bali the sites around Nusa Penida can be dived as day trips from either of these islands. Is this your first dive? Manta Bay and Nusa Penida diving is a great place for beginner divers with a good chance to see manta rays year round at the famous manta point dive sites. Check this Discover diving tour.
We did go to several dive resorts in Nusa Penida before deciding on a dive center to dive with for 3 days. We went diving with Penida Dive Resort; professional, organized, friendly, knowledgeable dive professionals and off-course good prices.
Dive with the renowned Pure Dive Resort in Nusa Penida to explore the deep blue, whether you are open water or more advanced, a professional dive master will show you the treasures of the different dive sites around the islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida.
Bali (Padang Bai)
Padang Bai is the place to dive from if you want to dive around Nusa Penida from Bali itself. OK divers was a nice dive center in Padang Bai. You can easily book a tour to pick you up at your accommodation in Bali such as this Scuba Diving in Nusa Penida Island and Manta Point tour including pick-up and drop-off from your Bali hotel.
Accommodation Nusa Penida
- Dragonfly – Great budget stay, AC, dormitory beds, and rooms
- Tunjung Hill Cottage – beautiful place, close to the beach
- Pandawa Beach Resort and Spa Luxury – Delux suites with sea view.
Dive Sites Nusa Penida – from my logbook
Crystal Bay Dive Site
Max Depth: 29m, Avg Depth 15m, 23C, viz 20m
One of the best dive sites of Nusa Penida in mola-mola season. Strong currents over the coral reefs, waiting at 25-30m for most of the dive waiting for big stuff – mola mola and sharks to come past with our dive guides drift diving. The water temperature was good for the main attraction the rare mola mola, it was cold but the current was very strong on both our dives, maybe explaining the molas not showing up. We saw some white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, a turtle, and a tuna in fairly deep waters on this dive trip.
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 around the island of Nusa Penida. Conditions are not always favorable. Strong currents are better at this dive site and this is a site for advanced divers. Some dive operators only take scuba divers with more than 100 dives on a day trip to Blue Corner. A popular site with a smooth deep slope with terraces and a fast drift dive. Mola mola is 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.
One of the best spots to see majestic manta rays in the rich waters of the manta cleaning station. 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 healthy coral. Dived it twice, the current was medium and strong. We saw a large variety of reef fish, turtles, white-tip reef sharks, if A thermocline is present mola mola can be seen here in season.
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The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.