The necklace of Indonesian islands is bejewelled by 2 gems: Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. If you do not mind refreshing in the underwater thermocline, you will be rewarded by a chance to see such ocean giants as Manta Ray and Mola Mola as well as a wide variety of rays and sharks: Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Shark, Wobbegong Shark, Bamboo Shark, Nurse Shark, Guitar Shark, Eagle Ray and Marble Ray.
A group of 3 small islands consisting of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan wedge itself in between Bali and Pulau Lombok. Nusa Lembongan is the biggest of the three pushing Nusa Penida to the second place. They are separated by a Badung Straight from Bali and by a Lombok Straight from Pulau Lombok.
The most common way of getting to one of these Islands is about 30-minute transfer by boat from Sanur, Padangbai or Kusamba at Bali or about 90-minute boat transfer from Lombok. If you prefer to arrive at the Islands by a more exotic and expensive way then you can hire a helicopter. Public and charter boats are used for traveling between Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.
One of the most important straights connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean is the Lombok Straight. It brings nutritious waters from the deep making this area on the one hand full of marine life and especially large pelagic while, on the other hand, bringing the cold streams of water from the deep.
Most of the dive sites are situated in the northern part of Lembongan and Nusa Penida facing the main currents. Diving in this area is recommended to experienced divers because of walls and slopes going down to 1300m (4265ft.) as well as strong and unpredictable currents.
Local dive clubs recommend using 5mm wetsuits with gloves and a hood as you should expect thermoclines below 20m (65ft.). While usual average temperature closer to the surface tends to be 26°C (78°F), you can face 18°C (64°F) or even 15°C (59°F) on a larger depth.
It is best to dive just before, during or right after high tide because currents are less strong. In this connection, it might be better to dive with local clubs from Lembongan who can be flexible with the planning of the dives and who know well the currents and tide schedule. Dive clubs from Bali have to follow a strict boat departure schedule; thus, they might be less flexible with diving spots and timing. Among dive clubs from Lembongan, there are Big Fish Diving, Blue Corner Dive, Ceningan Divers, Lembongan Dive Center, World Diving Lembongan, and some others.
Best Dive Sites Overview
Blue Corner (Lembongan)
It is a wall and usually a drift dive along a steep wall with overhangs and soft corals. This dive site is recommended for experienced divers as currents might be very strong and the first plateau is located at the depth of 20m (65ft.). Visibility is about 15-30m (49-98ft.). Strong currents attract Reef Sharks, Eagle Rays, Giant Trevally, Napoleon, and Tuna. Little current and cold water give you a chance to see for Mola Mola. It is also possible to see big Marble Rays here.
Crystal Bay (Nusa Penida)
The dive site is located in the Channel, currents can be very strong and water might be cold. The reef is full of Staghorn Corals, Sponges, Gorgonia, and Mushroom Coral attracting Moorish Idol, Angelfish, Frogfish, Purple Firefish, Sweetlips, Lobster, and Banded Sea Snake.
Among the larger marine inhabitants, you can expect Mola Mola, Manta, Whitetip Reef Shark, and Eagle Ray. On sandy areas, you can try to find Wobbegong Shark and Guitar Shark. If you reach Bat Cave which goes from the deep up to the surface you can spot sleeping Reef Sharks in it. Crystal Bay can be crowded in July and August due to the boats arriving from Bali.
Manta Points (Nusa Penida)
There are two dive sites on the southwestern coast of Nusa Penida named Manta Point I (Batu Lumbung) and Manta Point II. These sites are famous for their Manta cleaning stations which attract these gracious giants. The stations are located between the depths of 4-12m (13-39ft.). Wrasse is the one who performs Manta cleaning. It is also possible to spot Tuna, Mackerel, Blue-spotted Stingray, Octopus, Bamboo Shark and Nurse Shark. There were a few cases when Mola Mola was seen here.
Malibu Point (Nusa Penida)
Malibu Point is located in the western part of the Island and it is exposed to the strongest currents. Diving conditions can be difficult so not many dive clubs go to this site. Nevertheless, the chance of seeing Mola Mola, Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Sharks, Mantas, big Tuna, Jacks, and Rainbow Runners is very high. If you are lucky you might even come across an occasional Thresher Shark and Whale Shark.
Sampalan, Ped and Sekolah Desar (Nusa Penida)
These are shallower dive sites on the northern side of Nusa Penida, though still under the influence of currents. They are often used for drift dives. The coral reef is covered with Staghorn Coral, Sponge, and many soft corals with Moorish Idol, Lionfish, Morays, Sweetlips, and endemic east Bali Yellowtail Surgeonfish. The area attracts Mantas, Barracuda, Trevally, Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Shark, Napoleon, Eagle Rays, and occasional Mola Mola.
Toyapakeh (Nusa Penida)
The dive site is located in the north-western part of Nusa Penida. It is better protected from the currents, so the visibility can be very good. The reef starts at 6m (19ft.); and you can try to spot small creatures like Orangutan Crab, Blue-ribbon Eels, and Nudibranchs there. Marine life is represented by Scorpionfish, Trumpetfish, Trevally, Sweetlips, Jackfish, Batfish as well as by occasional Mola Mola and Turtle.
Best Dive Season
You can dive at Nusa Penida and Lembongan all the year round. The heaviest rains are usually in January and February, so it might be better to avoid these months.
Manta and other types of Rays, as well as most of large pelagic, can be seen year round. While the best season to see Mola Mola is August-September.
Dive conditions at Nusa Penida and Lembongan can be rather challenging due to the changing currents, tides and thermoclines of cold water. In average, the water temperature stays between 26-28°C (78-82°F). However, below 20m (65ft.) you can face 18-20°C (64-68°F).
Due to the strong currents photography might be difficult. Most of the dives are drift dives. The average visibility is between 15-30m (49-98ft.).
Nusa Penida and Lembongan are famous for their diversified marine life. There are about 250 species of corals and more than 500 species of reef fish in their waters.
The main attraction of the area is Mola Mola (aka Oceanic Sunfish) belonging to the family of Pufferfish. It can grow up to 3m (9ft.) in diameter and it can live up to 100 years. Sunfish eats plankton, jellyfish, and squids. They prefer cold water and no current. They usually appear in August and September to be cleaned by Schooling Bannerfish in Crystal Bay, Gamat Bay, Toyapakeh, Ceningan wall and Blue Corner. Some marine biologists think that this might be Sunfish mating season.
The large pelagic is presented by Rainbow Runners, big Tuna, Jacks, and Mackerel. Among the other big creatures you can meet Manta, Napoleon, rare Olive Ridley Turtles, Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Sharks, Eagle Rays, Marbled Rays, occasional Thresher Shark, Wobbegong Shark, Guitar Shark and Whale Shark.
Most of the accommodations at the Islands are located at Nusa Lembongan though there are a few resorts in Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan. You can choose from Hotels, Villas, and Dive Resorts.
Nusa Ceningan Dive Resort
This is the only 5-star PADI Dive Resort integrated with Ceningan Divers on Nusa Ceningan. You can choose your accommodation in one of the 8 Bungalows built in Balinese style. The facilities of the Resort include pool, restaurant, bar, and Shisha Lounge. The Resort has its own pier. All types of diving and snorkeling services, as well as surfing and kayaking, are provided at the Resort.
Penida Dive Resort
There are 11 Bungalows to choose from at the Resort. Each of them has a small terrace, a shower, and a toilet. Guests of Penida Dive Resort can visit the nearby Turtles Sanctuary. You can help with taking care of the rescued turtles.
Scuba Center Asia
This is a 5-star PADI Dive Resort which provides basic accommodation at Nusa Lembongan. There are 5 Rooms with a shared bathroom where you can choose from either air-conditioned room or a room with a fan. There are a bar and a lounge on the territory of the Dive Resort.
Coco Resort Penida
The Resort is situated close to the Crystal Bay Beach. It offers 18 Lumbungs with a terrace or a patio. The facilities include bar, restaurant, BBQ, and different water sports.
Villa Pisang is located close to Mushroom Bay and Tamarind Bay on Nusa Lembongan. It can accommodate up to 6 persons. The facilities of the Villa include sun terrace, fully equipped kitchen, and pool.
If you wish to enjoy diving in several areas between Bali and Komodo, then liveaboard is the best option for you.
Sea Safari VII
Sea Safari VII is a 37m (121ft.) long liveaboard. Up to 14 guests can be accommodated in its Cabins. There are 4 decks including a restaurant, a sun deck, and an open-air lounge. She is usually based in Bali. The itinerary covers sites at Bali, Lembongan, Satonda, Moyo, Komodo, Flores, and Sumbawa during a 7-day trip.
If you prefer to cover many dive spots around Bali, Nusa Penida, and Lembongan, then you can join a dive safari. Unlike liveaboard, you will be staying at a land accommodation for the night while the dive club will take care of all your transfers between the dive destinations. You can check with Two Fish Divers, Bali Dive Safaris, Dive Concepts, Bali Aqua, and others for such type of dive safaris.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
Nusa Penida is famous for Birds Sanctuary where the birdwatchers can enjoy Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Bali Starling, Mitchell’s Lorikeet, Java Sparrow, and other endangered species.
Nusa Lembongan has been discovered by surfers and it still remains one of the most famous surfing spots in Bali area.