Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

While I found peace and hints of paradise on land in Nusa Lembongan, the real reason for visiting has more to do with what’s below the water’s surface. The majority of my friends in Southeast Asia work in the diving industry, and over and over again I had heard them sing the praises of the diving off this South Bali island.

I couldn’t wait to jump in myself.

Turtle in Nusa Lembongan

My budget was stretched pretty thin after The Philippines and also I was pretty short on time. Taking those factors into account I signed up for just one morning of diving — one dive spent hopefully swimming with manta rays at aptly named Manta Point, and one spent looking for mola molas at Ceningan Wall. The entire trip, including a tasty lunch of the local specialty mie goreng set me back 602,550 rupiah, or around $62. While that price does include a discount for having my own gear, I did have to borrow a full 7mm wetsuit. My little shortie would not have cut it in these waters!

While I was overwhelmingly lucky to have an out-of-this-world experience night diving with manta rays in Hawaii last fall, I had never seen one during a typical day dive. And they are the kind of creature that has near-mythical status among divers. Once will just never be enough.

So as we suited up and jumped into the rough waters at Manta Point, I anxiously awaited a sighting of that instantly familiar silhouette.

Diving with Manta Rays in Nusa Lembongan

I would not be disappointed. The seas were rough and the visibility poor, making photography difficult. But don’t let the mediocre photographs fool you — this was an incredible, beautiful experience. In fact, the very plankton that muddies the water is what attracts the manta rays in the first place; a good reminder to myself that sometimes pictures aren’t the most important thing.

Manta Ray Dive Nusa Lembongan

Diving with Manta Rays in Nusa Lembongan

Diving with Manta Rays in Nusa Lembongan

We were absolutely spoiled with the show nature put on for us that morning. At times I actually wasn’t certain what direction to look in, because there were mantas coming from so many different directions. Often I’d be lining up to take a photo of one ray, and the current would surge and I’d turn ever so slightly and see another one soaring just inches away from my head.

Manta Ray Dive Nusa Lembongan

Diving with Manta Rays in Nusa Lembongan

Manta Ray Dive Nusa Lembongan

Diving with Manta Rays in Nusa Lembongan

Normally, seeing one manta ray glide by on a dive takes an enormous stroke of luck. So being surrounded by upwards of ten for an entire hour long dive was indescribable. Experiences like this really humble me and remind me how privileged I am to see so much of this great world.

Manta Ray Dive Nusa Lembongan

Manta Ray Dive Nusa Lembongan

Manta Ray Dive Nusa Lembongan

Diving with Manta Rays, Nusa LembonganPhoto by Neil

When it was time to head back to the boat, a puffer fish came by to say goodbye and to remind us that it’s not just the big creatures worth diving to see!

Pufferfish on Nusa Lembongan

While manta rays are very common at Manta Point, we would need quite a bit more luck for our second dive. The shy mola molas are rare to see under even great conditions, and we were not there in the peak season. Still, divers had spotted them twice in the days prior, and so our hopes were high.  The local divemasters warned us that if we didn’t see mola molas, the dive site was rather unimpressive, but it was a gamble we were willing to take.

Right off the bat, I realized that their idea of an unimpressive dive site was very different from mine.

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Within minutes of descending we had spotted colorful pufferfish and angelfish, an elusive stonefish, and a sea snake as thick as my arm. While I was supposed to be staring off the wall into the deep looking for a mola bobbing by, it was hard to tear my eyes off the vibrant reef below me.

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Eventually, we did admit conceit on the molas. It just wasn’t our time — but how could I feel ungrateful after the manta show we had been treated to? I was cheerful and chipper as we swam back towards the boat and visually combed the sand for flounders, nudibranchs, and cuttlefish.

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Diving on Nusa Lembongan was worth every rupiah. I really loved Lembongan Dive Center — they were professional and safe, our divemaster offered to take my camera and take photos of us underwater, and we enjoyed socializing with the incredibly hospitable Indonesian crew in the evenings.

Divers, if you are heading to Bali, you’d be crazy not to make a detour over to Nusa Lembogan. Tell the mantas (and hopefully the molas!) that I said hi.

Nusa Lembongan Diving

Nusa Lembongan Diving

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
40 Comments...
  • Alex, wow, I can never ever get tired of your diving stories and photos. Each and every one of them is incredible, and it makes me want to get scuba certified so I can see all these beauties with my own eyes. Cannot believe just how many mantas you saw! 🙂 what an experience!

    • Alex
      July 6 2013

      Thank you so much Jessica! I love to share 🙂

  • Annie of TravelShus
    July 3 2013

    im not a diver, but the lembongan/penida snorkeling was the best I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Photo Inspiration: The San Francisco Bay

    • Alex
      July 6 2013

      Now that I’ve done the manta dive twice I almost would like to try the snorkeling. Especially because at this site it really seems that the mantas stick to the surface pretty heavily.

  • Skúli
    July 3 2013

    Unimpressive, ha! Both dives look amazing Alex. I just came from Malapascua and now I’ll have to check out Nusa. Who needs a guidebook when they have Alex. THANKS YOU!
    Skúli recently posted..Getting lost at the world’s biggest weekend market [With video]

    • Alex
      July 6 2013

      Haha, what a compliment! I love it, thanks 🙂

  • Julie
    July 3 2013

    I love the silhouette pictures against the sun! I still have a hard time picturing how big Mantas must be even with you guys in the photos. Looks fantastic even if the Molas were no-shows.
    Julie recently posted..Deciding to Hit the Reset Button

    • Alex
      July 6 2013

      I love that sunflare, above water and under 🙂 Thanks Julie!

  • Amanda
    July 3 2013

    Wow those photos are beautiful!! The one of the nudibranch (I think?) in the sand is stunning… those textures! Eeek. Now I am totally kicking myself for skipping diving in Bali, but my budget was kind of screwed after the Philippines too 🙁 Just another reason to go back!
    Amanda recently posted..Pickin’ berries on Sauvie Island

    • Alex
      July 6 2013

      Those budget busting Philippines! 🙂 I know how you feel. My friends couldn’t believe I just did two dives in Lembongan but I was just feeling WAY too poor.

  • Dad
    July 3 2013

    Love the Rays!!!!

  • memographer
    July 3 2013

    Another incredible series, Alex! The show totally worth $62!
    memographer recently posted..Photo Trilogy: Rapa Nui – The Island. The People. The Museum

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Love thinking of it as a show put on by the mantas for us 🙂

  • Ohhhhhhhhhh… NOW I see why people say there are no fish here.

    Also, don’t you feel like manta rays are kind of always going “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” when they’re going along?
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Lady Luck is a Mermaid.

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Actually, I always give them very serious, wise voices in my head 😛 And yeah, don’t start comparing everywhere you go to Nusa — it’s a dangerous game!

  • O.M.G. Kicking myself for not swinging by Lembongan! Am definitely adding this to my dive bucket list! Thanks for sharing Alex.
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..My First Piece of Paradise

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Always a good reason to go back 🙂

  • Alex, this is the post I have been waiting with bated breath (very bad for divers!) to read! Ever since we bought tickets to Indonesia, I have been researching places to dive, and as our first stop is Bali I stumbled upon Nusa Lembongan. I’m thinking it would be a perfect place to do our AOW certification as the prices are incredibly low given the quality of the diving. Plus, we’ll be there during peak mola mola season which I’m just over the moon about. I know nothing is guaranteed with diving, but the price seems good enough that we could probably afford to keep getting back into the water until we get lucky! 😀
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Discovering the Quirky Side of Taipei

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Amazing! This should be a fantastic place for your Advanced Open Water. In fact, a good travel friend of mine just told me the other day that she completed hers there. You’ll love it!

  • Shaun
    July 4 2013

    Unreal! The rays are from another world. Great perspective shots with you (I think its you) in the pictures.

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      I’m the one with the yellow fins 🙂

  • TammyOnTheMove
    July 5 2013

    The mantas look so graceful and magnificent. I am seriously considering fighting my fear of open water to do a little test dive somewhere. Where would you recommend for beginners?
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Zeche Zollverein – From coal mine to hip world heritage site

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Hey Tammy! You’re in Phnom Penh, right? I would say head to Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem for convenience! If you love it… head further afield to Thailand or Indonesia!

  • Hannah
    July 5 2013

    Wow, your photos are breathtaking Alex, what an incredible experience! Definitely worth every penny 🙂
    Hannah recently posted..An adventure by any other name

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Thank you Hannah! And yes, this is what money is made for 🙂

  • Olivia
    July 5 2013

    Ooo! Reminds me of sting ray city in cayman. Fun!

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Ha, except we didn’t get to snuggle these ones!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    July 5 2013

    I can definitely see why diving with so many Manta Rays would be an amazing experience! 🙂 And gosh, are they huge!
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..Birthday Goodies

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      I know! Good thing they don’t have teeth, or I’d be terrified!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    July 5 2013

    And just like that, I am now determined to go see my friend in Indo this winter, no matter what it takes. This diving is AMAZING, and while I’ve seen mantas (always in daylight, never at night), they never get old. Also, PUFFER!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Getting Funky in Florida

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      You would love it! And selfishly I would love to see your photos 🙂 Come to Lembongan and Gili!

  • Maddy
    July 5 2013

    I am totally terrified of diving but this post makes me almost want to give it a shot! Such beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing with us! 🙂
    Maddy recently posted..This creative life.

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Thanks Maddy…. giving someone the idea to dive is the highest compliment I could get!

  • Wow Alex your diving photos are amazing! And manta rays are my favourites too. i call them angels of the sea! my manta experience was in Bora Bora and seeing that there’s a lot of them in Indonesia also, Im pleased to know i dont need to venture that far to see them again. And that’s a huge puffer fish!
    Jean | Holy Smithereens recently posted..Review: Boracay Regency Resort

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      Ah, Bora Bora is totally on my bucket list! Might just hold off and save it as a honeymoon destination someday 🙂

  • CarlaZ
    August 18 2013

    Amazing dives! Bali is a place that I really want to go and diving with mantas it’s for sure in my bucket list. this post and the pictures are fantastic!

    • Alex
      August 19 2013

      Thanks you Carla! I’m flattered 🙂

  • Melanie Belore
    August 23 2013

    On the radio today I heard a story about a mola mola found off the shores of New Brunswick, Canada and couldn’t believe it! Thought I would share 🙂 Great post as always Alex, safe travels!

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2013/08/22/nb-mola-mola-bay-fundy.html

    • Alex
      August 25 2013

      Wow! Awesome news story Melanie, thank you so much for sharing! Crazy story!

Join the conversation…

CommentLuv badge