Nov 20 2012
Located in far northwest Bali, within the confines of Bali Barat National Park, Menjangan Island is famous for its diving, with divers regularly listing it as one of the best places around Bali to dive because of the beautiful coral formations. But what if you don’t dive but enjoy snorkelling? No problem.
The main diving site on Nusa Menjangan is a 40-metre wall known as Pos Dua, but the top of the wall is barely a metre or so below the surface, so as long as you can dive a little bit, there is plenty to see — the super-fine coral fans that jut out into the deep blue are magnificent and the volume of fish impressive. To make it even better, the drop-off is walking distance from the beach (well, a few steps then a short swim) meaning you can spend a couple of hours here having a rest in between — and yes, it is worth hours.
The second snorkelling point is the coral garden. This is a 10-minute boatride around to the east from the drop-off and is a long relaxing drift snorkel. Your boat will drop you at one end and then either float with you, or motor down to the pickup point a couple of hundred metres away. Your boatman will probably show you the bat cave on the way there — as you may have guessed, it is a cave full of bats. They don’t dive.
The bottom in this area has some massive coral fans (hence the name) and, while we didn’t see any, is reputed to be a good spot for seeing turtles — friends saw a turtle here the day after we visited. This area isn’t as critter and coral rich as the drop-off, but it still makes for excellent snorkelling. We did two drifts here, one after the other and on the second drift spotted a trio of divers on the bottom.
Neither site gets all that crowded; aside from the divers at coral garden, we were alone there, and while there were perhaps a dozen people snorkelling at the drop-off it didn’t feel at all crowded. Visibility, at an easy 20 metres, was excellent.
One issue, not unique to Menjangan unfortunately, is floating plastic. Your snorkel guide will collect it as you go (and encourage you to do the same) but if the wind is blowing onshore, expect a lot of floating refuse — especially instant noodle packets.
There are two piers (both are signposted from the main road) that send boats to Menjangan and regardless of which you go from you are required to hire a snorkelling guide to accompany you in the water. This sounds like a bit of a drag, but it is actually good as they tend to be very good at pointing out interesting critters that you may otherwise miss.
We used the pier at Labuhan Lalang 12 kilometres west of Pemuteran and as we were the only one around, had to charter a boat to reach the island. If you are on a budget, definitely rustle up a group in Pemuteran or get to the pier early and wait for others to arrive and jump on their boat.
Prices are slightly negotiable and include a boat that can hold a maximum of 10 people for three hours, guide, snorkelling gear and park entrance fees. Rates start at 465,000 rupiah for one person, 525,000 rupiah for two and 60,000 rupiah for every extra person after that, so it really pays to rustle up three to four people to make the trip more affordable. Gear is in a reasonable, though not excellent condition, so if you are picky, bring your own.
While there is accommodation near the piers and in the national park, most people choose to stay in Pemuteran, which has a good range of accommodation from backpacker orientated through to quite fancy resorts. There is also snorkelling off Pemuteran, including a coral rehabilitation project, but it is far better at Menjangan.
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