Tiny, volcanic Bali is one of the most enchanting islands in the world. It entices a million tourists a year, drawn like moths towards an exotic flame. A flame fed by a fascination with the unique Hindu-Balinese culture of a gentle people, the legendary beauty of a land chequered by verdant rice fields studded by ancient temples, and the allure of coral seas alive with marine life beyond imagination.
The truth is, there is no better place than Bali for an introduction to Indonesia's under-water wonderland. And no harder place to decide between time on land or under water.
In the traditional tourist stronghold of the Kuta/Nusa Dua/Sanur triangle, divers have a reef at their doorstep. It is a moderate drop, an undemanding dive made thrilling by a surprising range of fish.
There is more at Nusa Benida, 1.5 hours away by boat. Upwellings mean good visibility, bracing waters and challenging currents. Abundant and varied hard corals hug drop-offs and steep slopes rife with sweetlips, mantas and sharks. Lucky divers may glimpse the bizarre and rare oceanic sunfish and hawksbill turtles.
But the best of Bali's waters lie beyond the tourist triangle. Discover Titan triggerfish and blue-spotted stingrays in Padang Bais mixed reef; coral walls of an underwater canyon at Candi Dasa; a kaleidoscope of fish at Cemeluk's coastal reef; friendly fish at Tulamhen's picturesque Liberty Wreck; and craggy reef walls blanketed by soft coral in Menjangans mind-snapping clear waters.
Hard-core divers can escape the established dive zones with a hired boat. A long ride north brings them to the Kangean Islands, to a world of coral knolls rising from sandy beds.
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