It’s known for its drool-worthy, Instagram-perfect landscape shots, like the ‘T-Rex’ at Kelingking Beach, the dreamy Rumah Pohon treehouse or the death-defying staircase at Diamond Beach. But Nusa Penida island is equally admired for its teeming sea life; think parrot fish, angelfish, loads of turtles and – if you’re lucky – manta rays! Whether you’re already on the island or want to do it as a day tour from the Bali mainland, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to snorkelling Nusa Penida.
What to expect from Nusa Penida snorkeling
First up – you don’t need to just stick to Nusa Penida. You might know that Nusa Penida is only one of the three islands making up the Nusa Islands: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Actually, if you had to ask us, we’d quickly tell you that it was our least favourite of the three!
So, when people talk about snorkelling Nusa Penida, they often mean spots around all three of the islands, accessible via local boat, car or motorbike.
We’ve indicated in each spot whether it’s accessible via land or whether it has to be done as part of a boat trip or tour. By the way, we’ve got more information below but we highly recommend you book this one in advance.
In terms of the marine life, there is a lot to see. The sea bed here is home to nearly 300 types of coral and over 500 types of fish. Many avid divers (and snorkelers, of course!) make the pilgrimage to the Nusa Islands to spot manta rays or the moon fish ‘mola mola’, which appear between July and October.
The state of the corals really depends on which spot you choose but, on the whole, they are in an okay condition; as best as you could expect from an area which enjoys a lot of tourism. This isn’t untouched Raja Ampat but it’s still beautiful and worth time spent underwater.
List of Nusa Penida Snorkeling Spots
Crystal Bay – Nusa Penida
This quiet bay is set in a protected bay just between the two islands of Lembongan and Penida. The beach itself is on the west coast of Nusa Penida and is a great stretch of sand to relax – it’s got beautiful palm trees and a few small warungs (local restaurants) to get snacks and a fresh coconut.
It’s a safe area to snorkel, plus you don’t need to venture very far to see multi-coloured fish and some corals – you can just walk in from the beach. The water is also usually very clear – hence how Crystal Bay got its name – so you should enjoy good visibility.
The area is actually quite famous for mola-mola sunfish and, of course, manta rays, but you’ll most likely need to go scuba diving to see those.
Accessible from land? Yes.
Manta Point and Manta Bay – Nusa Penida
We were lucky enough to see giant mantas as they floated gracefully just below the surface of the water. However, as any tour operator on the islands will tell you, spotting a manta ray near Nusa Penida is not always a given.
Due to the increase in tourism in the area, you’ll find that the mantas have become a little shy and are increasingly sticking to the ocean floor. This means you’ve got a better chance to see them if you can scuba dive.
The two main spots where you’ll go to spot manta rays are Manta Point and Manta Bay, neither of which are accessible via land.
Both areas are not really designed for snorkelling to see corals – the water is relatively deep and can be quite choppy. The main attraction is the mantas, so you’ll usually visit this site only to visit these ‘devilfish’.
Accessible from land? No.
Gamat Bay – Nusa Penida
Known as Crystal Bay’s little cousin, Gamat is a wilder, more inaccessible version. This secluded, slightly untouched beach itself is usually quite quiet although the snorkelling area attracts more visitors, as it’s usually part of the standard snorkelling tours offered in the area. It’s also busier in poor conditions as tour boats skip Crystal Bay and Manta Point in favour of the calmer Gamat Bay.
Gamat is particularly good for scuba divers (it has a beautiful coral garden at about 8 metres) but you could be lucky and see a bamboo shark if you’re snorkelling here.
Accessible from land? Yes.
Mangrove Point – Nusa Lembongan
This is one of the better snorkelling points in the Nusa Lembongan area, because of its proximity to mangroves, meaning that loads of fish and marine life live in the vast coral gardens near the mangroves, and thus make their way out to Mangrove Point. You aren’t likely to see manta rays but you’ll definitely see a lot of colourful fish here.
Mangrove Point does have a light current which carries you along the breath-taking coral reefs. You probably won’t need to do much swimming here (we didn’t!), since the current will drift you down the reef.
This spot is entirely safe but on the day we did it, the current was a little stronger than usual, so be prepared!
Accessible from land? Yes.
Toya Pakeh – Nusa Penida
The last one on the list, this is probably a snorkelling ‘given’ if you’re departing from Penida itself. Toya Pakeh is the ‘pier’ or at least beach where all the ferries and boats come in. Most local tours will start here but even if not on a tour, you could wade into the ocean and try your hand at swimming for sea life.
Accessible from land: Yes.
Ways to snorkel Nusa Penida
Let’s be honest – the best way to see the various snorkelling spots on Nusa Penida and the surrounding islands is through a boat tour. Yes – I know – we’ve given you all the land-accessible options but you’ll miss out on key places like Manta Point. That said, there are really three ways you could get your snorkel fix in.
Trick’s in the name – you guide yourself. Take your pic of the snorkelling havens that you can reach via motorbike, and spend the day beach-hopping!
Motorbikes are easy to rent on Nusa Penida and usually cost between 50, 000 – 70, 000 IDR (3.50 – 5 USD / 2.75 – 3.85 GBP). A very stern word of warning though: The roads in Nusa Penida are very difficult. They are bumpy, hilly and full of potholes – even the most experienced of motorcyclists has trouble with them. So only do this if you are very confident.
Tours from Bali
Most people wanting to swim with manta rays will hop on a tour from mainland Bali. These tours are actually great value: you’ll usually get free pick up and drop off at your hotel, a fast boat from Sanur, three snorkelling sessions (spots dependent on weather), and a delicious local lunch, usually at Paradise Beach.
We prefer the full day all-in-tour which also allows you to navigate the mangroves via kayak or stand-up paddleboard (and includes all of the above). At time of writing, it cost 1,145,000 IDR (81 USD / 63 GBP) and is a bargain for the value you get. Our advice? Book your Nusa Penida tour ahead if you can.
Tours from Nusa Penida or Lembongan
If you’re already on the island, it’s quite easy to find a local tour. You can head down to the Toya Pakeh beach and check out the operators, or ask your hotel or accommodation.
How to get to Nusa Penida
There are a number of ferries leaving from Sanur, in East Bali. However, we wouldn’t recommend just heading to the docks since these can fill up in high season. Book ahead for the lowest price – we recommend Bookaway since you can cancel up to 24 hours beforehand plus they have 24/7 customer support (unlike some other providers we used to use!).
What to pack for snorkeling on Nusa Penida
If you’re doing one of the tours, they all include snorkelling gear (fins and mask), lunch and water, so no need to worry about those. However, a few other key things to pack include:
- Swimming gear (obviously!)
- Sun protection – lotion and hat
- Hydration sachets – if you get tired easily, it might be worth bringing one of these
- Waterproof bag or housing for phone, camera and valuables
- Bonus: Vaseline. If you struggle with ill-fitting masks and hate water getting into your mask while wading around, it’s worth putting some Vaseline around the edges.
Where to stay
Now we mentioned earlier that Nusa Penida was our least favourite of the Nusa Islands? Perhaps we’re jaded but we found Nusa Penida to be very ‘Instagram’ focussed – people were racing around the island looking for a feedworthy shot rather than just enjoying island life.
With that in mind, we have provided some good options for accommodation on Penida but also thrown in a few on Nusa Lembongan. We loved Lembongan for its laidback vibe, plus you can just scoot over the yellow bridge to neighbouring Nusa Ceningan.
Where to stay on Nusa Penida
Budget: Budget travellers should look no further than Apit Lawang. It’s got single beds (no bunks here!), a great location and even has a refreshing swimming pool, all at a bargain rate!
Mid-range: We love the Ananta Bungalow since it’s got cracking sunset views and is right by Crystal Bay, so you can easily hop onto your snorkelling tour! The bungalows are super affordable yet have modern, beautiful amenities.
Luxury: There are not many luxury options on the island but the one that sits atop the pile is worth the money: Semabu Hills Hotel. Think sweeping views, yoga in the morning for sunrise and plush, comfy suites – it’s the best hotel on the island.
Where to stay on Nusa Lembongan
Budget: With a perfect location near the harbour, super cheap prices and big, clean rooms and dorms, Acala Hostel is the best pick for backpackers looking to stay on Lembongan.
Mid-range: It falls nearer the budget side, really, but we have to make a huge plug for Dimol Garden Cottage. This property is a little off the beaten track but hugely worth it – it has the most amiable owner and staff, the bungalows are gorgeous, squeaky clean and smell amazing plus the pool is perfect for sundowners. We can’t rate this place highly enough for the incredible price!
Luxury: The Tamarind is one of the newer resorts on the island, and boasts all the luxury amenities you would want, all wrapped up in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s in a great location too, has 3 swimming pools and a delicious breakfast. What more could you want?!
Frequently asked Questions
Do you need to know how to swim for snorkeling?
The short answer is yes. It is possible to snorkel with a lifejacket, but you’ll need to discuss this upfront with the tour company and only choose spots like Crystal Bay, since it would be difficult to navigate more difficult snorkelling places like Nusa Penida Manta Point.
Is it safe to go snorkelling in Nusa Penida?
Well, yes, but with a disclaimer. Tour operators will not take you to areas if the current or waves are too strong, opting for other, calmer waters. That said, the currents around the Nusa Islands are a little unpredictable and if you are doing a self-guided snorkeling trip you should be aware of the risks and take precautions.
If you are starting to tire, turn back, particularly if you are at more difficult spots like Manta Point.
Which one is a better destination Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Ceningan?
For snorkelling you can’t go wrong with Penida or Lembongan. But, if it was up to us? We’d pick accommodation on Nusa Lembongan.
Bonus: More things to do on Nusa Penida
Beyond a Nusa Penida snorkeling trip, the best way to discover Nusa Penida is to do a tour of other places on the island. There are so many of them, but here are a few highlights.
As we mentioned above, we don’t really recommend that you take a motorbike to get around to these, unless you are a very accomplished biker. We hired a driver for a day tour of the island, and think that’s the best way to get around. Check for the latest prices here.
The name is a bit of a red herring – this one isn’t truly a beach. It’s a circular cliff walk that shows you a natural archway or ‘hole’, made by the waves breaking through the rock face.
Right next to Broken Beach is Angel’s Billabong; a natural crystal clear tide pool, that is best seen at low tide. Make sure you check the best time to go and see the rock pools, else you can’t go down into it (it’s roped off).
When it’s low tide you can take a quick dip in the pool, formed from thousands of years of waves hitting the rocks.
It’s the famous T-Rex, gracing Instagram feeds all over the globe. An islet shaped like a dinosaur that has people flocking to see it. Kelingking beach offers you a viewpoint to get this famous shot, as well as a chance to go down to the beach itself.
But, be warned. Firstly, there are many (many) tourists trying to get a shot from the viewpoint – expect crowds unless you go early. And, the staircase down the beach itself is pretty rickety. If you are afraid of heights, give that a miss.
We loved the beach – it’s got a beautiful viewpoint and once you’ve made it down the stairs, you can spend hours watching the toothpaste-coloured blue waves breaking onto the sand.
As seems to always be the case with us when talking about Nusa Penida, here’s another warning. Firstly, the stairs are a little precarious at the bottom, so take it slow. Also, the sea currents are very unpredictable at this spot. Someone drowned a few weeks before we were there, so keep close to the shore.
Rumah Pohon Tree House
Another Insta-famous place, this treehouse is actually up for accommodation, so you can book it to stay. Most people, however, go to get a nice photograph on the stairs leading up to the treehouse, since it’s perched with a perfect view from the Thousand Island viewpoint towards Diamond Beach. Keep in mind that the photo isn’t free – at last check it was 100,000 IDR (7.10 USD / 5.50 GBP) to take a snap there.
If you have any questions about Snorkeling Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan, leave a comment below or get in touch with us here. And just in case you are looking for the prefect itinerary for Bali, check out our 7 days in Bali itinerary.
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