While the currents can be very strong and the water relatively cold for Bali, Candi Dasa offers a selection of snorkel and dive sites, with a plethora of dive operators and boatmen willing to take you to the hot spots.
If you are staying at one of the beachfront hotels in Candi Dasa, it’s possible to snorkel right in front of your hotel as there’s reef along most of the coast. The seawall is where the bulk of the action is. Beware: it gets very shallow in low tide. At times currents can be very strong. For better snorkelling you’ll have to go by boat.
Equipment can be hired from some hotels and from boatmen along the small bays for 50,000 rupiah for a set. Several of the shops on Jalan Raya Candi Dasa have inexpensive sets for sale, which may be more economical if you are planning on a few days of snorkelling and don’t want to bring your own equipment — you can always donate it to the boatmen when you leave.
Almost directly in front of Candi Dasa are three small rocky islands: Gili Biaha, Gili Tepekong and Gili Mimpang. These all offer superb snorkelling and diving, however the latter is only for experienced, advanced divers as currents can be extremely strong. Don’t take the warnings lightly as there is real risk of being swept out to sea. As far as on top of the water goes, we would also only recommend snorkelling around the islands for strong swimmers.
Visibility is excellent and there is very good chance of seeing sharks in this area — the islands are collectively known as shark point.Shark species include whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, wobbegong shark, cat shark and hammerhead if you are lucky. In season there’s also a possibility of seeing mola molas, the giant sunfish (August to October). The water can be very cold. For more protected snorkelling sites, the local boatman will offer to take you to Virgin Beach or the easier snorkelingl sites in Padang Bai.
We went with one of the local fishermen to the islands for 300,000 rupiah with equipment included. Trips further afield, which usually include Blue Lagoon or Tanjung Jepun near Padang Bai, cost 450,000 rupiah. It really is spectacular swimming amid schools of large fish, but the currents can make it difficult to move between the open areas. Closer to the rocky islands is a more protected area, and there are more fish. We did swim into a school of jellyfish, which was unpleasant and hard to get out of due to the current, but they were not too stingy. We felt confident however, as we had one boatman in the boat watching out for us, and one in the water, who was spearfishing but on hand if we needed assistance. There were no lifejackets on the boat, so you will need to ask beforehand if you want to ensure these are on board.
For divers, the islands offer some drift diving, and Gili Biaha and Gili Tepekong both have cave diving sites.
Dive operators line the main drag in Candi Dasa, and some of the hotels in the Jalan Pantai Indah area have on-site operators. All offer open water certificates, but you are usually taken to Blue Lagoon near Padang Bai, as currents are too strong in Candi Dasa for beginners. Below are a selection.
Divelite: Jalan Raya Candi Dasa; T: (0363) 41 660; (0812) 3779 3578; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.divelite.com.
Japanese operated. Very friendly and helpful and seemed professional. Two dives including lunch: US$100.
Bambu Divers: Jalan Raya Candi Dasa; T: (0363) 41 534; email@example.com; www.bambudivers.com
Friendly and seemed professional. Bambu Divers have package deals for divers stay at their attached resort. Two dives including lunch: US$90 (minimum 2).
Benthos Bali: Jalan Raya Candi Dasa; T: (0363) 438 1002; (0877) 6209 4750; (0878) 6268 3813; firstname.lastname@example.org?; www.benthosbali.com.
Friendly and seemed professional. Benthos Bali have package deals for divers staying at their attached hotel, and offer further discounts in low season. Two dives including lunch: US$85.
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 28th March, 2016.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.