As one of the main hubs for crossing to Lombok and the Gili Islands, Padang Bai benefits from tourists flocking the area regularly. But it was not until the recent boom in underwater photography and social media that the full extent of the area’s beauty became widely known.
Tulamben and Nusa Penida are the two main sites that divers traditionally go to Bali for. The former is famous for its historical, decades-old USS Liberty Wreck and the latter is one of only very few places in the world where giant manta rays and the elusive oceanic sunfish can be spotted regularly. There is another area that is yet to be crowned with such fame, but it is slowly getting good traction. Padang Bai is blessed with healthy coral reefs which are protected by the bay. The area’s dive sites are ideal for those who have just started diving to enjoy Bali’s underwater scenery and to have a possible encounter with friendly turtles and reef shark. A wide variety of aquatic life are easily seen such as lionfish, cuttlefish, schools of small barracuda and sweetlip and many more.
For underwater photographers, depending on season, rare critters that inhabits the sites are more easily seen. They make for good, colourful models for macro photography. Rare Bornella nudi branches (sea slugs), colourful tiger shrimp, and the photogenic pygmy seahorse are among the few that divers can feel confident of spotting. On better days, leaf scorpionfish and the highly sought after rhinopiases stay for months to greet lucky divers. For wide-angle opportunity, the corals (and current), and the pelagic-infested water around Pulau Tepekong and Mimpang Reef are a mere 15 minutes boat ride. There you will get a chance to see schooling sharks and even the rare oceanic sunfish between July – October. Non-divers are also still in for a treat when staying in the area. The port of Padang Bai is surrounded by two semi private beaches on each side: Blue Lagoon and Bias Tugel set as perfect getaway for sunbathing spots of the area. Snorkelers can easily swim off Blue lagoon beach for a quick and easy dip, or rent a boat to visit other nearby snorkeler sites.
How to get there
From Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, a 1.5-2 hour drive will take you to Padang Bai. Local shuttle services are available in variety of tour outlets in most of south Bali destinations.
The dive spot
Padang Bai is famous for entry-level diving due to its relatively easy nature, gentle current and good visibility – ten- 25 meters. Most of the critters can be found in these dive sites, although more diving experience is required for diving in the neighbouring Pulau Tepekong and Mimpang Reef due to their offshore location and the nature of the current. Also, because the area is close to a busy harbour, extra precaution is highly advised.
- Reef Shark
- Rhino Red
- Whip Coral Crab