While Bali’s coast is best known for its incredible surf beaches, it also has reputation as a unique and varied dive destination. But, if you’re not keen on slugging a tank on your back and learning to SCUBA, Bali’s underwater world has plenty to offer those who prefer the less technical sport of snorkeling, from beginners to the keenest enthusiasts.
Bali (and in fact all of Indonesia) is considered by scientists to be part of the ‘coral triangle’. This means that they are part of the most biodiverse hotspot for marine life in the world.
Still, if you’ve been to Bali, you’ll know that in some places, the water can be rough, murky and definitely no fun for snorkelling!
So if you’re dreaming of exploring Bali’s coral reefs on your next vacation, you’ll need to know exactly where to head first.
Explore our list of Bali’s 7 best snorkelling spots and you’ll discover pristine reefs in crystal clear water, WWII shipwrecks, baby sharks and giant mantas, and even the largest man-made coral reef in the world!
Slap on a snorkel, stick on some fins and dive right in, Bali’s underwater world has so much more to offer than you think!
1. Wreck of the USAT Liberty, and The Coral Garden – Tulamben
1-a. See vibrant coral and fish life – Wreck of the USAT Liberty, Tulamben
Tulamben is probably the most famous destination among divers in Bali, being home to the American warship wreck, the USAT Liberty that torpedoed during WWII while traversing the Lombok Strait.
The Liberty eventually made it to Bali but had taken on too much water and eventually beached off Tulamben and sank.
Photo by Christian Loader via Scubazoo
The bottom of the wreck is at around 30m, making the deep part of it accessible only to advanced SCUBA divers and expert freedivers, but the top reaches up to 5m, and when the water is clear, much of the huge 125m long wreck can be seen from the surface.
The best thing about the Liberty for snorkelers though, is the huge amount of fishlife that have made the wreck home – now an artificial reef completely overgrown with vibrant, healthy coral.
Because Tulamben’s economy is heavily tied to the dive industry, the locals have agreed not to fish on or near the wreck, and as a result, the fish population has exploded.
Photo Via Ludovic
With swarms of tropical reef fish and loads of interesting history, the Liberty is easily one the best snorkelling wrecks in Asia.
Photo Via Mihtiandr
Video by CrazyAboutScuba
1-b. Snorkel right above an ocean garden – The Coral Garden, Tulamben
Being Bali’s premier dive destination, there’s more to Tulamben than just the wreck of the Liberty. In fact, the highlight for snorkelers is probably the Coral Garden, a shallow reef that starts almost as soon as you step into the water.
The coral garden is a mixture of original rocky reef and man-made structures, placed on the site by dive resorts to help promote coral growth and repopulate the (now unofficially protected) reef after decades of fishing.
The 150m reef is very shallow, with soft and hard corals from 3m down to about 12m.
Photo Via Delaip
Come at different times of the day and you can spot schools of damselfish and butterflyfish, clownfish, eels, octopus, squid, barracuda – and maybe even the reef’s resident school of trevally. A spectacular sight as impressive numbers of bulky, silvery fish whirl about in the shallows.
Photo Via Foscadivers,Danangshutama,Emmamcbean
Be sure to look out for the ‘underwater temple’, now brimming with colourful marine growth. The Coral Garden is literally right off the back of several of the resorts.
Photo Via Sue Hen
Where else in Bali can you have your morning coffee overlooking one of the island’s best dive sites? A snorkel-lover’s paradise indeed.
Photo Via Tiomax2. Manta Rays, and a Fish Nursery – Nusa Islands (Penida, Lembongan)
2-a. Watch huge manta rays get cleaned – Manta Point, Nusa Penida
Off the rugged coast of Nusa Penida lies Manta Point, the only place in Bali where huge reef manta rays are sighted on a regular basis.
Photo Via Corcaigh39
These gentle giants (known for being curious and friendly around humans) emerge from the deep to have their skin plucked of parasites, by a resident army of cleaner fish. Imagine the car wash scene in ‘Shark Tale’, only with giant rays instead of sharks!
Photo Via Ximeamayac
The cleaner fish are stationed on a coral mound a few metres below the surface. If the mantas are in the mood for a clean, they will circle this mound repeatedly until the cleaner fishes’ work is done.
Photo Via Viarobertacfaria
Being so close to the surface, snorkelers can easily witness this fascinating behaviour up-close – but please respect the wildlife and never chase or touch mantas. This can scare them off and ruin the experience for everyone.
Photo Via Robbie Hunter
There’s not much else to see here, and if you’re unlucky, Manta Point can be a real bore, but if the mantas are around (which is most of the time, fortunately!) – swimming so close to these enormous, intelligent creatures is one of the most amazing human-animal interactions you are ever likely to experience.
2-b) The natural nursery for baby fish – Mangrove Point, Nusa Lembongan
The reefs around Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan are often affected by strong currents, which can often make snorkelling a challenge, or even unsafe, without a reliable spotter on your dive boat to look out for you.
Photo Via Indahdona
Mangrove Point is located on the north side of Nusa Lembongan, and the currents on this side of the island are usually much milder – meaning snorkelers can enjoy drifting gently with the current without too much worry of being swept away.
Photo Via Lilie_09
If you’ve never experienced drifting in a current, it’s a bit like gliding through the air like superman, only in water! A good boat operator will have someone stationed on the boat to keep an eye on you at all times, so you shouldn’t have to swim back to the boat against the current.
Photo Via Wah_yoga
The site is named after the nearby mangroves, which serve as a shallow nursery for thousands of baby fish before they venture out onto the current-swept reefs further around Lembongan and Penida.
Photo Via The_pakd
3. Swim above an Abyss, and catch Wild Sea Turtles – Menjangan
3-a. Incredible visibility as you swim above an abyss – Pos Dua, Menjangan Island
Considered the most pristine dive destination in Bali, Menjangan is located off the coast of the beautiful Bali Barat National Park.
Only visited by a fraction of Bali’s tourists, it boasts superb variety of uncrowded reefs. The most spectacular of which is Pos Dua, famous for having incredible visibility of 40m or more at times.
Photo Via Zulfikar Aleksandri
Pos Dua starts as a shallow reef adjoining a gorgeous white sand beach. A short swim leads you to a majestic underwater canyon with a coral-encrusted wall that drops all the way down to a dramatic 40m.
Photo Via Menjangan Paradise
Despite the canyon’s colossal depth, the walls come up as shallow as 1m, and are completely covered with hard coral and swarming with rainbow-hued reef fish.
Photo Via Taufiq.afiq
The ‘drop off’ is an exhilarating experience as you swim over the shallow reef-top before it drops away beneath you into the abyss. Pos Dua is famous for its gigantic gorgonian fan corals and the chance to meet larger fish like napoleon wrasse and white tip reef sharks.
3-b. The ocean garden with wild sea turtles! – The Coral Garden, Menjangan Island
The second ‘coral garden’ on our list, this one is located on the north-western coast of Menjangan and is probably the best snorkel spot on the island for beginners as well as more experienced underwater explorers.
Photo Via Daley
The garden starts from just 5m below the surface, and is covered with thousands of anemones, the flower-like relatives of the coral family that frequently serve as homes for families of clownfish (aka Nemo fish!)
Photo Via Ferdi de Gier
While the many tiny fish and crustaceans that flit around the reef can keep you distracted for hours, keep an eye out into the blue, as sometimes larger fish cruise past the outer edge of the reef, including reef sharks, tuna, eagle rays and stingrays.
Photo Via Tanyabaracchi
Menjangan is also reputed to be the best place in Bali to swim with sea turtles. So if swimming with wild turtles is on your bucket list, it’s worth making the long trip out to Menjangan and asking the guides if any have been spotted lately.
Photo Via Scubazoo
4. Wrecked WWII Japanese Patrol Boat, and Crystal Clear Sapphire Waters – Amed
4-a. See the wrecked WWII Japanese patrol boat – Lipah Bay, Amed
This tranquil black sand bay near the quiet resort town of Amed is home to a wonderfully rich reef brimming with soft and hard corals and a variety of fish.
One of the easiest snorkel spots in Bali, simply walk straight off the beach and with a few kicks – you’ll be right in the middle of a beautifully preserved reef, which gently drops down to a shallow, sandy bottom.
Lipah Bay is also the resting place of a wrecked WWII Japanese patrol boat. The top of the wreck is at just 6m depth, and on a day with a good visibility, much of the wreck can be seen from the surface.
Photo Via Diveplanit
Photo Via Josh Krancer
The bottom of the wreck is just 12m deep, making it easily accessible for freediving. The wreck is covered in growth, with staghorn corals on the shallow part of the wreck playing host to a variety of fish, crabs, octopus and other tropical critters.
Photo Via Amyadventures
While Lipah Bay is a protected, gentle site ideal for snorkelers of all experience levels, the abundance of marine life here comes from the rich nutrients that pass by a by further away along the reef.
It’s quite safe to snorkel here without a guide, but be sure to stick close to the reef and not venture too far into the deeper ocean.
Photo Via Sorrelclaire
4-b. Crystal clear sapphire waters – Jemeluk Bay, Amed
If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing Bali retreat, with beautiful, easy snorkelling as a priority, Amed might just be your best bet.
Photo Via Kamumma
Jemeluk Bay is another calm, crescent shaped bay in the Amed region, and is possibly one of the most picturesque beaches in Bali, with the loomic volcanic uprising of Mount Agung in the background.
Jemeluk is closer than Lipah to most of the resorts, and most people snorkel there simply by walking a few steps from their resort to the beach.
Photo Via Nandubcn
Jemeluk’s waters are usually a crystal clear blue, making its myriad of marine life easy to spot. Most of the corals range from a depth of 12m down to 22m. On the right side of the bay is a gently sloping wall populated with spectacular sea fans and black corals.
Photo Via Valentin.ayupov
Just off the reef are some artificial ‘FADS’ (fish attracting devices), called ‘pyramids’ thanks to their shape. The pyramids are starting to be covered in soft marine growth and sometimes attract moray eels, napoleon wrasse, trevally and even the odd turtle.
Photo Via Prsclls
Video by tuamigoenbali
5. The largest Biorock artificial reef project in the world – Biorock Reefs, Pemuteran
Off a small fishing village on Bali’s remote north east coast is scenic Pemuteran Bay.
Photo Via Indonesia.travel
Off the main tourist trail, and best known as the jumping off point for trips to Menjangan Island, Pemuteran has a laidback rural charm of its own.
Photo Via Sammymcgold
While the dive sites here are often ignored in favour of Menjangan, lately, it’s been attracting the attention of marine scientists, as well as in-the-know divers and snorkelers.
Photo Via Mikeportnoy6
Why? Sleepy Pemuteran Bay is in fact home to largest Biorock artificial reef project in the world!
Photo Via Leonislanders
Biorock is a cement-like substance used to create structures that provide the perfect habitat for corals, oysters, clams and other marine creatures – often bringing back to life reefs that have previously been decimated by storms, coral bleaching and overfishing.
Photo Via Scuba_chic
There are several Biorock structures around Pemuteran Bay and all are thriving and helping to restore fish populations in the area.
As an added bonus, this isolated stretch of coast is also one of Bali’s best places to encounter larger creatures like sea turtles, reef sharks and on rare occasions, the elusive whale shark.
6. Great for newbie snorkelers and packed with tropical fish – Blue Lagoon, Padangbai
Apart from Tulamben, Padangbai on the mid-east coast, is the other main centre for diving and snorkelling in Bali. Popular because of its proximity to the world-class sites at Nusa Penida, there are also very good snorkelling opportunities closer to Padangbai itself.
The most famous of the Padangbai sites for snorkelers is the Blue Lagoon.
Photo Via Berthginting
While the name is somewhat misleading (it is not in fact a lagoon but a shallow coral reef), Blue Lagoon is one of Bali’s most popular snorkelling spots – thanks to its location a five minute boat ride from Padangbai’s main beach.
Almost always flat and calm and packed with tropical fish, it offers plenty for experienced and newbie snorkelers who like to get up close with the wildlife.
Photo Via Thomas Koper
Some of the boat operators at Blue Lagoon feed the fish here, so they’re quite tame and definitely not afraid of swimming up to snorkelers for a closer look themselves!
Being in the midst of a fish feeding frenzy is quite the experience!
7. Snorkel with the sharks – ‘Shark Island’, Serangan
Sadly, unregulated shark fishing is still a fact of life in Bali, and it’s now very rare to see the once common reef sharks that prowled across Bali’s coral-fringed coasts.
Bali Sharks is the island’s first shark conservation program, offering an alternative fate for young sharks being killed and sold as food in local markets or shipped overseas for their fins.
Photo Via Bali Sharks
The founders of Bali Sharks have created an artificial ‘shark island’ in Serangan, a few minutes by boat from the bustling township of Sanur.
The mostly black and white tip reef sharks are kept in large sea pens in the open ocean. Sharks arrive at the sanctuary after they have been purchased from fishermen, or rescued from being tangled in nets. Eventually, the healthy sharks are released back into the wild.
Photo Via Bali Sharks
Guests embark on a 3 hour eco tour, which includes jumping in for a quick snorkel with the sharks.
If you’ve never swum with sharks, we highly encourage you give it a try!