I've never been real impressed with snorkelling in Bali. The best I've done has been in the small bays of western Nusa Penida and I found coral and fish here way below world's best. But people kept telling me I haven't seen Bali's best because I haven't been to Menjangan Island - so this latest trip I made a point of making the long trip (for Bali) to the north-west corner to check it out.
And yep, it was pretty good, probably the best I've seen in SE Asia**. Maybe some of the stuff in the Marine National Park HQ snorkelling area at Malaysia's Redang Island is as good, but that is much more limited - a couple of good patches in a 500m enclosure with plenty of ordinary and dead coral. Menjangan on the other hand had good coral and okay fish for the whole 2km we drifted along the northern coast. No really big fish though and although I checked under about a hundred ledges etc none of those big (or little) striped tropical lobsters. Which left me perplexed - why are these absent in a marine national park?
I went with Kokak Dive which was associated with the fine place I stayed at in Pemuteran town, Badini Homesay. We started at 0800, drove 20 minutes to a small pier in a sheltered mainland spot near the island, took 20 minutes to get out to the island, went to the far north west corner for the first snorkel, finned/drifted the first km, had the inclusive lunch on-board tethered to about a dozen other snorkel/dive boats and then did a second snorkel the other 1km to the north east corner of the island. Cost was 300k (about $us32) all inclusive (there is also a National Park entrance fee) - the 4 divers on out boat paid about 700k for their 2 dives. They had a dive guide, we had a snorkel guide. Kokak are pretty professional.
Pemuteran is a linear town stetching along the main north coast highway for about 3km. Before diving/snorkellingetc it was mainly a fishing town and this industry is still big. It has the usual combination of resorts, restaurants and other businesses along the highway. There are also some resorts down by the beach. I find towns which attract divers expensive and this is the case for Pemuteran accommodation - which also was heavily booked some time ahead. Badini tends to be pretty good value for the town and has an excellent restaurant which attracts lots of people from other resorts.
A highlight of Pemuteran Bay is the very good coral right off the beach in the Bio Rock coral restoration zone - the biggest coral restoration scheme in the world apparently. I thought the coral here was nearly as good as Menjangan's - although you may have to swim 20m off the sand to get out of the murky conditions stirred up by people in the nearby swimming zone.
The beach along the central bay is black sand although a few hundred meters west it turns yellow, as was the case at and around Menjangan further west.
**I haven't snorkelled further east than west Flores. People tell me it gets really good past there.