Bali is known for its epic scuba diving spots, though so often the wonders of snorkeling are overlooked! Sure, it might not fill you with the same romantic images of being submerged in another world for long periods of time. But Bali has an amazing coral reefs perched along its coastline, many within a flippers distance of the shore. Plus, it takes a hell of a lot less work to become a great snorkeler.
Many dive spots in Bali have some fantastic opportunities for snorkeling. And this makes it perfect if you are traveling in a mixed ability group. Tours and independent adventures become far easier to organise, and you can stick together.
Join us as we explore the heady world of coral reef snorkeling. What kind of fish can you hope to see? Where are the different kinds of coral located? And where will you stay between visits to the ocean? Uncover the great spots that feature some pretty interesting marine habitats, including the odd shipwreck! And finally, we give you the low-down on where to find (and possibly avoid) sharks.
Let’s get started.
Blue Lagoon, Padang Bai
When snorkeling in Bali, it’s best to get used to the waters before diving headlong into a full day tour. So pitching up on a nice calm beach with good marine life is a great place to start! Padang Bai on the east coast is a very good place to stay when heading out or returning from Lombok and Gili islands. As a port town, it has many decent hotels, and many within walking distance of Blue Lagoon beach! This is a great spot for families and novice snorkelers, as the waters are very easy going and the reef is close to the shore.
Whilst the beach is a lovely spot to chill on anytime, make the most of your snorkeling session by heading out early morning. This is when there are less people around, and the seas are often at their calmest. By the afternoon, the waves can get a little choppy, meaning impaired vision under the water. It also creates higher chances of getting hurt when pushed against the coral. More adventurous travelers may also like to embark on a night snorkeling tour, however! This is where guides will show you the hidden wonders of the nocturnal wildlife hiding amidst the marine flora.
Virgin Beach just up the coast is another great spot for snorkeling from the beach. Known also as a hidden beach, it has become more popular of late, though travelers can still make it here in the morning to get a good snorkel in before the rest of the rabble arrive.
This is where the fun really begins! Now that you have your sea legs (flippers?), you can go in for more adventurous snorkeling in Bali. Tulamben beach is an hours drive north of Padang Bai, facing out towards Lombok. The diverse and plentiful marine life in the bay, including the occasional hammer-head and whale shark, is a big draw to snorkelers, as well as scuba divers. Easy access to the Coral Gardens from the beach means snorkelers get a really exciting view of this stunning biodiversity. But that is not all.
Many people are drawn to the magic and mystery of a shipwreck. And at Tulamben, the USAT Liberty shipwreck has become just one of those magical spots for travelers to encounter. The boat sank off the coast in 1963, and has since become home to many fish and species of coral.
The wreck is submerged around 30m under the surface, though its peak is only around 5m below the surface. On a clear, calm day, the crystal waters mean incredible visibility down below. So this becomes as great a snorkeling area as any! And because of its value as a dive spot, the local fisherman have agreed to not fish around it. Ensuring a truly safe environment for all forms of life!
It’s actually fairly safe for both humans and marine life. So, those who might be wondering about lurking aggressive sharks can keep fears at bay (pardon the pun). The shark is actually not even on our top list of the most dangerous animals in Bali! Watch out for those stone fish though.
Ramping it up slightly with a little island hop, this spot gives snorkeling in Bali a little twist of adventure. And this tip-off gives you two spots for the price of one! A three-hour boat ride from the northwestern tip of Bali sits the island of Menjangan. This is where we find the dive site of Pos Dua. A glorious white sand beach combined with a thrilling sea of color and life. The crystal clear waters make this a snorkeling spot par excellence! Dare to swim above the abyss—a 40m drop bedecked with a great wall of coral reef. Or stay close to the shallows and revel in the wildlife and supporting reef floor there.
In some areas, this reef of hard corals is just one metre from the surface. It is also famed for the huge Gorgonian fan corals, and swarmed with rainbow colored reef fish and all manner of wildlife. You might even be lucky enough to spot a reef shark over this way!
The second spot on this island is also worth a look. With the possibility of seeing wild sea turtles swimming the reef in search of tasty snacks, it would be rude not to! The second of the coral gardens of Bali, it can be found on the north west of Menjangan. This part of Bali’s waters is lesser traveled, so you can be sure to find fewer people, and more wildlife here.
This northwesterly spot in Bali is also where you will find west Bali National Park, also known as Bali Barat. A treasure trove of interior and exterior wildlife as well as coastal flora and stunning picturesque views. It is arguably a setting to rival some of the most picturesque spots in Bali. If you are planning to move around whilst staying in Indonesia, this is certainly a place to spend a few days.
Lipah Bay, Amed
On the northeastern shore of Bali sits Lipah Bay in Amed. This bay is one of a few black sand beaches in Bali, and has an incredible mix of both hard and soft corals. It is also home to the wrecked WWII Japanese patrol boat. The top of which is just 6 metres from surface, resting at the bottom 12 metres below. With crystal clear waters on a good day, adventurous snorkelers with decent lung capacity can dive below the water for a better peek at this underwater theme park.
This underwater world is alive with all sorts of marine life. Even octopus and crabs can be seen close to the surface thanks to the staghorn corals that have made the sunken ship home. Here, the calm waters and proximity to the coast mean guides are not required. The reef is mere steps away from the beach, congregating in a sandy bottom that gently slopes from the shore.
Snorkelers of all abilities are welcome here! And hotel and resort areas dotted along Lipah bay and the neighbouring Jemeluk bay make this area a worthy holiday home. In fact, Jemeluk is also home to reef and wildlife, so the two beaches should keep families entertained for the duration of a stay.
Biorock Reefs, Pemuteran
Heading back along the coast towards the island of Menjangen, Pemuteran is a snorkeling spot in Bali with a bit of a difference. This is home to the largest Biorock artificial reef project in the world! Close to a small fishing village, and rather off the well-trodden tourist track, it is Bali’s best kept secret. Though admittedly it has lately been getting more attention lately. Best to head there soon, lest it get swallowed up by hungry tourist hoards!
So named because of the material that forms the bedrock of the man-made reef, biorock is cement-like, allowing it to be moulded. These structures can then be placed on the sea bed, becoming a new habitat for all marine life. This is often introduced in reef locations decimated by storms or global warming side-effects. The result is a boost to the marine life and coral health that is really quite stunning!
This is one of the best places to get photos while snorkeling (providing you have a decent waterproof camera) due to the many interesting structures submerged below. Casts of deities, bikes and more litter the floor, becoming home to vibrant marine life. The now 300 metre stretch of of biorock starts in shallow waters, and can be followed through the waters at various depths. A passion project of the local community started in 2000, it is certainly one to tick off the bucket list. It even attracts many marine biologists, who marvel in the growth of new life.
If it’s a snorkeling tour in Bali you are after, we have a stellar idea for you. Lombok and the Gili Island’s are calling! There’s no need to resign yourself to the coasts of Bali to get your coral fix. Day trips or even a two day trip can be organised from Bali, with an overnight stay and meals included. The three Gili Islands can be visited in one day, and boast a tremendous amount of marine life including varieties of sharks. These tours often take in some time on Lombok too, so you’re getting a lot for your money.
There are many spots worth visiting off these islands beaches, some which are more for the advanced snorkeler or free-diver. Though many are close to the shore. If you are hoping to spot some sharks, Gili Mimpang and Biaha are your best bets. The latter has a shark cave! There is a fantastic range soft and hard corals in the reef, as well as a high chance of seeing Moray eels, turtles, resident reef sharks, napoleon wrasses, tuna and even octopus.
If you are lucky, you could even take a trip to Gili Air, where the waters and beaches are said to rival even the most beautiful spot in Bali. The best snorkeling spot in Gili Air is said to be Nemo City, a shallow coral garden close into the shore, and right outside some of the main resorts. You could even spot a few manta rays.
Heading out for a day or two also gives you a chance to compare the Islands of Bali and Lombok for yourself. Though our handy guide can also help with that!
Serangan’s ‘Shark Island’ (south)
The last in our run-down of top snorkeling sites in Bali is located in the south. And similar to the biorock reefs, this was built with a mission at its heart.
The people at Serangan’s ‘Shark Island’ take shark conservation seriously. And if you love them as much as they do, this is the best place to see some ultra-wild marine life and also give back. spending your money here for a visit gives money back to the conservation project, so they can rebuild the numbers of sharks in Bali’s oceans. It is mot secret that overzealous shark fishing in Bali is still a big problem. One trip here can leave you feeling a bit smug that you have spent your hard earned cash somewhere that is going to do some good.
The sad fact is that it’s becoming rare to find sharks prowling the reefs off the coast. But Shark Island aims to change this with their ambitious conservation program. Sharks are often brought here after being freed from nets, or even having been bought from fishermen. Some of them are merely baby sharks! They are then kept in large pens whilst they are nursed back to good health. Many are then released back to the open waters.
A visit to this island involves taking part in a 120 minute tour with guides. This is followed by a splash around with some of these misunderstood beasts. Whilst many come with trepidation, seeing their grace and beauty turns this emotion to sheer delight and wonder. Follow it up with a trip to the neighbouring turtle conservation centre, and you have yourself a day to remember!
Is Bali good for Snorkeling?
With tremendous reefs sitting close to the shore, especially in the northeastern and western parts of Bali, it can be a snorkelers haven! Many spots that are perfect for scuba diving have points that are close enough to the surface to entice free-divers and snorkelers. And with those signature crystal clear waters, snorkeling in Bali is the gift that keeps on giving!
Where should I stay in Bali for Snorkeling?
There are many places around the coastline which are great for snorkeling in Bali. For hearts set on days spent snorkeling, head to the northeast of Bali. Padang Bai and Talumben beach hold the perfect mix of calm waters and reef close into the shore means all levels of experience are safe to explore. And as you get more adventurous, you can perhaps schedule in a group tour that will take you to some of the more hardy dive spots.
The popularity of diving and snorkeling in this region means you will often find hotel accommodation and resorts dotted along the bay. And where there are lovely beaches, you will always find great resorts. This means you can simply stroll out of bed in the morning, and hit the reef for an early morning of marine life watching. Followed by a spot of breakfast. What could be better?
What time of day is best for Snorkeling in Bali?
The best time of day to go snorkeling often depends on the location. Though a good rule to follow is to head out in the morning. Not only will this allow you greater space with fewer tourists, but often the waters are calmer. In top snorkeling spots like Padang Bai, the sea can get choppy later in the day. It can also get busy and noisy, especially when there is a whole host of water sports available.
That being said, there are many spots along this coastline, and on Blue Lagoon beach itself, where night dives bring huge amounts of pleasure, and lasting memories. Watching the nocturnal fish peeking through the coral is something you aren’t likely to forget in a hurry!
What is the best weather for Snorkeling in Bali?
The best weather for snorkeling is always calm days during the dry season. With low winds, and glassy waters, there is less chance for the currents to whip up sand and debris. This leaves you with clear views and curious wildlife to encounter.
If you are planning to do a lot of snorkeling in Bali, ensure to go between April and September. You might also wish to avoid the school holidays around July and August. This is when it is apt to be busy with holidaymakers, and far more expensive to stay! May, June and September are calmer, and often more cost effective.
Is Nusa Dua good for Snorkeling?
Nusa Dua and the south aren’t so great for coral reef snorkeling in Bali as north and west regions are, though you can still find some fun! Kids and beginners can enjoy snorkeling at the Tanjung Benoa reef—a subdued reef, but great for an afternoons entertainment. Alternatively, head out for a full day trip to Nusa Penida!
Further out to sea, this reef houses a host of tropical fish and wildlife, including sea turtles and the odd manta ray! There are also some lovely little reef enclaves close into the shore in certain areas. The vibrant colors of the coral and underwater flora and fauna will leave you speechless. Arrange tours through operators within Bali, and top spots include Toyapakeh Wall Point, as well as Crystal, Gamat and Manta Bay.
There are a host of wonderful spots to snorkel in Bali. But a good phrase to remember when seeking out your own is ‘what is good for the surfer, is bad for the snorkeler’. Those perfect surf beaches in Bali are likely to leave the waters churned up and murky. Turbulent waters can get you harmed if you’re thrown into coral. It can also harm the local wildlife!
But now you know this distinction, follow this handy guide to the best snorkeling in Bali, and perhaps find some of your own along the way. The time has come for you to start planning, share this with your adventure buddies and away you go!