(Menjangan, Pemuteran, Gilimanuk, Lovina) For the maps (print version) click here / Back to main page about the northwest of Bali
The northwest of Bali is known mainly for the beautiful wall diving around Menjangan island. Actually it is well worth staying a couple days in this area. On the very western tip is another excellent dive site for people that like rare and unusual animals: Gilimanuk bay. True, the water is awfully cold here but there are real treasures to be found like frogfishes, special scorpionfishes, nudibranchs, ghostpipe fishes and a lot more.
Menjangan (Deer Island), a 1,5 km long and 500 m wide island is situated in the northwest of Bali and is part of the Bali Barat National Park. This park is actually quite large, it encompasses much of Bali's western end and is also worth a visit. You will find forests, savanna, mangroves and the rich marine habitats of the Java Sea. Here also lives the endemic Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) a beautiful and nearly extinct bird with white plumage and a mask of turquoise (only about 12 individuals still live in the wild, others can be seen in the bird parks in Bali) lives here. You can also see rusa deers, wild boars, long-tailed macaques and leaf monkeys.
The dive trips start from the Labuhan Lalang Jetty, from where it is about a 30 min. boat ride to the Menjangan island and it's dive sites. Dives range around 20 to 30m, mostly wall diving. The waters are clear and calm with a rich variety of fish and since there seldom is that much current, also a good place for beginners. Fixed moorings are build at the dive sites. Lunch is usually taken on a small beach near Pos I or the temple.
Eel garden: this dive site is named after a large colony of garden eels and lies on the western point of Menjangan. It is also called Pos I for the nearby guard post of the park service. The dive starts on a nice wall (about 40m) with a lot of beautiful gorgonians and other sea fans. Then you continue your dive over the top of the reef to a stretch of white sand. Take your time to observe the white garden eels. At one occasion we also discovered a small ghostpipe fish just where the reef starts again. From here I like to turn either right to the reeftop or follow the edge of the sandy area to the left. There are several large blocks of coral which are cleaner stations with cleaner shrimps a plenty beneath them.
Anchor wreck (Kapal Budak), also called the Anker, is an old wooden ship wreck which sits on the western tip of Menjangan at 40 meter. The name comes from a heavily encrusted anchor, which sits at about 6m on the top of the reef nearby. There is a second anchor closer to the wreck at about 30m. The wreck lies on a fairly steep slope in bits and pieces, the bow towards the shore (30m), the stern at about 46m depth. There are some pieces even further down around 50m. The ship is small (perhaps 30m long). The dive guide said, it might be sailor boat, probably from the 19th century. There are glass and ceramic bottles in cooper receptacles, that might have contained palm whisky or arak. We visited only the upper part of the wreck. Twice we saw a large humpback parrotfish, so the dive was nice but a bit deep. Some guides lead the divers from the first anchor not to the wreck but along the wall which is also nice.
Underwater caves: These caves lie west of Pos II at about 18m. On the way we saw a yellow frogfish on a sponge, that made my day! We also saw a large gray and green Notodoris nudibranch (about 10cm) and also a banded snake eel. The cave was nothing out of the ordinary, but there are quite a lot of nice grottoes and crevasses, nooks and crannies with gorgonians and sponges all over Menjangan.
The drop off east of Pos II is a wall dive. We saw a batfish, a juvenile still with its edge a fiery orange and some scorpionfishes and large angelfishes. An interesting sight were masses of small dwarf hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco) on a huge sponge. In the right season you can supposedly also see mantas and sharks here.
Gilimanuk is a large town and lies on the tip of a peninsula that borders the Bali Barat National Park in west Bali. It is an important port town for the ferry that connects Bali and Java. Gilimanuk Bay (Teluk Gilimanuk) is about two kilometer across and very shallow, less than 10 meter deep with an average of 4 to 5 meter. There are two small islands inside of the bay: Pulau Kalong (the name means flying fox - these are large fruit bats) and Pulau Burung (Bird Island). These islands are actually barely more than sandbars. The bay and it's surrounding mangrove areas are a nursing ground for fish, the water is fed by upwellings brought by the daily tidal changes from the Bali Strait that are rich with plankton but cold. There is no dive operator in Gilimanuk but on request some dive operators in Pemuteran (40 min by car), Kuta and Sanur (day trip) also offer diving here.
Secret Bay: This dive site is located in front of the docking area of Gilimanuk Harbor. Be prepared - you are diving on fine black and gray volcanic sand and rubble and not on a coral reef! This place is a great place for the rare and unusual. This so called muck diving is one of my favorite pastimes since I like macro-photography best. Here you find frogfish (we found 4 species on one dive: A. hispidus, A. striatus, A. maculatus and A. nummifer), special nudibranchs, ghostpipefish, the rare picturesque dragonet and gobies, several species of sand eels, stonefish and devilfish, mimic octopus and even the Ambon scorpionfish (Pteroidichthys amboinensis), crabs and shrimps and many other critters that like to live on sand. Actually a new species was introduced somewhere between 2005 and 2006, the endemic Banggai cardinalfishes (Pterapogon kauderi). This is a beautiful fish which is used in aquariums, but I don't approve, if you introduce it someplace completely else, probably just so some photographers can make nice pictures!
Look around the pieces of half rotten wood, among the sponges and specially under the garbage (inside the metal drums for example) and in the metal structures put up in several places. These objects act like a small oasis where animals can hide, so they are a good place to find camouflaged animals such as the frogfish or seahorses. I noticed, that there are seasonal changes at the Secret Bay dive sites. On one visit a place would be just full with certain nudibranchs on the sea grass, an other year only a few could to be found.
You can also charter a small boat and visit one of the dive sites further inside the bay. Ask the boat driver to show you the place for the rare picturesque Mandarinfishes. The night dives are really good too. The dives are very shallow (no more than about 9m) and visibility is not always that good (5 to 15m). The best time to dive is around high tide or on the incoming tide when visibility can sometimes be up to 20m. The water is always very cold (about 23 to 25°C,) so use a 5mm wetsuit, hood and gloves!
This dive site is similar to special dive sites I have visited in Sulawesi (Indonesia) and the Philippines. Look at my favorite dive sites and at the travelogues about Lembeh strait in Sulawesi or Dauin (in Negros) and Cabilao (in Bohol) both in the Philippines or Mabul-Sipadan in Borneo.
Coming from Lovina in the east, Pemuteran is located just a few kilometers before the Labuhan Lalang Jetty (starting point to the Mejangan island). As part of a coral restoration program there were several biorock coral nursery structures installed on the house reef - you can check them out by snorkeling to the left of the beach (click here for a detailed account). There is also a turtle sanctuary located at Pemuteran and one of my dive buddies saw a dugong (from far) while snorkeling.
The three reefs, Pura Tembok, Close Encounter and Napoleon Reef are all located close to the resorts in Pemuteran, no more than a boat trip of about 15 minutes away. The small reefs are covered with soft corals, gorgonians and sponges as well as many fishes (sting rays, shrimp fish, scorpion fish, lionfish, ghost pipe fish, batfish, groupers and even sometimes mantas). Nice but not spectacular.
Pemuteran house reef: A special experience here are the colorful Mandarin dragonets that can be seen in the late afternoon. This is the time they come out from theeir hiding places to forage. Sometimes shortly before night falls they rise up and do a mating dace together. Night dives are around the house reef straight from the beach.
Puri Jati (PJ): A relatively new dive site for muckdiving lying a couple kilometers west of Seririt (close to the Zen Hotel). It can be reached either from Lovina or Permuteran but several dive companies do trips including diving here. There are no dive facilities on place, but a small Warung which supplies fresh water to rinse your equipment, toilet and a shower. There is also a small river close by where you can take a dip.
You dive from the beach on very fine gray volcanic sand and some seaweed similar to Seraya, Gilimanuk or Lembeh. First you swim out in shallow water - look closely, there are snails, slugs and seahares and we even found a small while frogfish (probably A. striatus) among the seaweed on one of our dives. Soon you reach a large flat area with sea grass. We found more than half a dozen coconut octopuses, hiding in burrows made with shells and pieces of rubbish. One octopus used a piece of glass instead of the shells and we could see his suckers clearly. On this flat area (6-10m) you also find seahorses, several types of eels, flying gurnard and with good eyes some hidden scorpionfishes, mostly lionfishes but also the rare Ambon scopionfish and on one dive we even saw a stargazer by day.
Towards the west there is also a deeper are, mostly just sand with some fields of broccoli corals and a occasional hydroid bush. If you want to spend some time here you have to swim straight away here from the beach and visit the shallow parts later, because you want to go get quite deep, up to 30 meters or so. We found three ghostpipefishes among the broccoli corals and interesting slugs (Doto sp.7 and Melibe) and a real find - several gurnard lionfishes. This species I had only found once in the Philippines, so I was really happy. My dive buddy Eddy saw his first mimic octopus here - I found him in his burrow and on another dive he was out and about, busy probing in the sand for prey with his arms.
Conditions in Puri Jati were varied, on one dive we had a lot of current (change of tides) and if there are waves, visibility drops a bit and in the shallower parts it is difficult to make any photos, because you get thrown about a bit. With luck you can also see larger fish, we saw a group of mackerels and some large groupers and the usual mullets.
Puri Jati west: Along the beach a small road goes west for a short stretch. We made an explorer dive here to see if there was anything interesting to find. The flat plateau is here not so extensive but abruptly stops and forms a steep slope, probably the continuation of the slope east of it. Not much grows here, but there is rubbish all over. Mainly wood and bamboo, but also old clothing, plastic and cans - real "muckdiving"!
It is always astonishing what can be found even in places like this - from small slugs to 2 species of ghostpipefishes (Solenostomus cyanopterus and Solenostomus leptosomus) and crabs. Again I found a mimic octopus and we could follow it for long time while it was hunting at the edge of the slope. Suddenly we saw a second mimic, the arms stiffly held, so it towered above its lair menacingly large - our mimic had invaded the territory of his neighbor and the second mimic didn't much care for that! he jumped towards the first mimic very fast, grabbed him and chased him off, then immediately returned to his lair, where he hunkered down and put one arm out (it looked like a snake) while watching vigilantly, if the first mimic would return. Since our mimic was much smaller he disappeared straight away down the slope.
Conditions on this dive sites are not so good. The sand here is very fine, mixed in with pieces of rotten wood and the slightest movement worsens visibility. I wouldn't want to dive here if the current or the swell is strong, it would probably be impossible to see anything.
There is a small reef off the beach in Lovina and it is possible to do a night dive right off the shore. But all dive operators (see this list) offer mainly trips to other and better dive locations in the west or east. Lovina is more a place to stay and enjoy nice food and the night life, than to do any serious diving!
A word about conservation: on the beach they sell a lot of shells and Nautilus shells. Don't buy them! These are not shells that have been picked up on the beach! The living slugs are caught with bait and then the animal is killed and the shells cleaned and sold. The Nautilus belong to the cephalopod family and are very seldom seen. They are endangered, so don't buy them and tell other tourists not to buy them also!
There are also several boat operators that offer rides to see the dolphins. What this means is, you get up early in the morning and disturb the dolphins while they are feeding. Boats chase them around, it is noisy from the boat motors and the tourists yelling. Please leave them in peace!