Scuba Diving for the First Time in Nusa Lembongan, Bali
With my 30th birthday fast approaching, Josh and I took the opportunity for a quick Bali getaway to celebrate. Amongst the other adventures we had planned, Josh was keen to test out his PADI certified Advanced Diver skills in another new location. Myself on the other hand felt a little anxious about diving and thought a nice relaxing snorkelling trip sounded like a great alternative. While searching for snorkelling tours I came across the “PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience”, in simple terms, a “try dive”.
I was intrigued! I had always wanted to test out diving for myself, however I wasn’t keen on going through the training of getting certified just in case I didn’t end up enjoying it. A “try dive” sounded perfect! I could dive straight in, and if I didn’t like it, I could stop, no questions asked, or time wasted.
On our arrival in Nusa Lembongan we jumped straight on our scooter and visited the lovely people at Siren Diving Lembongan. One of the friendly owners Wayan quickly allayed any lingering fears I had and arranged for us to see what amazing creatures lie beneath the water’s surface the very next morning.
What is “Try Diving”?
Try Diving is just as it sounds, it allows to try your hand at scuba diving without going through PADI certification training involving both practical and theory. But don’t worry, you won’t just be thrown into the ocean with an oxygen tank and left to fend for yourself! Before heading down into the underwater world, you will be given a brief outline of how to use your equipment and basic diving techniques, and once you’re in the water, you’ll be accompanied by an instructor the entire time.
There are a lot of dive shops on Nusa Lembongan, and I mean a lot! It can be somewhat overwhelming to decide which one to choose. However after some research we chose to dive with the amazing team at Siren Diving Lembongan who offered the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience package. We were after a personalised diving experience, and Siren’s smaller size and great reviews made them the obvious choice.
Upon booking you’ll be asked to complete a short medical questionnaire, and as long as you’re reasonably healthy with basic swimming skills you’ll be geared up and ready to dive! You’ll be fitted for a full-length wet-suit, complete with boots and masks. Weights will be strapped to your waist to help pull you under the water. Yep, it sounds weird, but it is necessary to help that floaty body of yours sink into the underwater world. While the oxygen tank may feel quite heavy, just remember that it is filled with air, so you’ll need that extra weight to keep you from floating on the surface. These guys are pros, you can trust them!
How much does it cost?
I paid IDR 1,600,000 (approx. $160 AUD) for the entire experience. This included, not one, but TWO open water dives, equipment rental, Indonesian lunch, and transfer to and from the dive site (car and boat).
As an extra bonus, our super talented instructor Prashanti put together an amazing video of our dive at no extra cost – How cool is that! (P.s. I’ve linked the video at the end of this post so you can check it out for yourself!)
Dive Sites in Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida
Located in the famous “Coral Triangle” these islands offer 15 incredible dive sites. Nourished by strong ocean currents these islands are famous for the Manta nursery and, in the right season, the Mola Mola. Where you dive will depend on the conditions; i.e. wind, swell and visibility, we were lucky enough to be taken to Manta and Crystal Bay for our diving experience.
Diving at Manta Bay
Our first dive was at Manta Bay, only a short 20 minute boat ride from Lembongan’s Yellow Bridge. Manta Bay as the name suggests, is well known for it’s Manta Ray population and is regularly frequented by snorkelers and scuba divers.
Our dive took place in early April, the very beginning of the Manta Ray season. There was large swell, and strong currents on the day of our dive so our instructor prepared us for the high possibility of not seeing any Mantas. Honestly, I was just so happy to finally be seeing the underwater world that it didn’t matter what we saw.
Now I should tell you that I am very prone to motion sickness, and the rocking of the boat in the increasingly strong swell was beginning to get to me. Before I had time to blink, they had me geared up and in the water where I practiced taking my first breaths with the regulator while still on the surface, kinda like snorkelling.
Once Josh was in, our small little group was ready to go! Prashanti reiterated some diving basics before we descended:
- Inflating / deflating your Buoyancy Control Device or BCD for short (this is the big vest like contraption that you see divers wearing),
- Clearing / equalising your ears,
- How to clear your mask and regulator if that pesky water sneaks in,
- How to retrieve your regulator if you drop it (don’t worry, it’s always connected to your BCD), and
- A reminder to simply keep breathing, don’t hold your breath.
Once I gave Prashanti the nod of approval she began to deflate my BCD and down we went! It was such a surreal moment taking my first breaths under the surface. Metres of water were between us and the surface before I knew it, but Prashanti’s skill and calmness quelled my anxieties.
Manta Bay is teeming with life, small schools of fish swam by as I slowly glided my way around the sandy bottom, deep in concentration and focusing on every breath. Soft orange anemones cling to the coral as the Clown Fish (Yep, there are Nemos!) weave in and out of their tentacles. Vibrant purple Nudibranchs lie almost motionless on the rocks, I mistook them for a piece of coral until our instructor pointed out their tiny little antennae, turns out they are a type of sea slug!
About 30 minutes into the dive a HUGE mass came swimming directly toward us, it was a Manta Ray! It was at least 2 metres wide, yet it glided through the water so peacefully. As it swam past us it was hard to contain my excitement and had to remind myself to keep breathing, the Manta was such a gentle creature, at no point was it intimidating or frightening, we were just in awe of its beauty.
Overall our dive went for 50 minutes, and we reached a depth of 12 metres (the maximum for uncertified divers like myself). Besides the desert mouth I had acquired from all that super dry oxygen, and an unsettled stomach from the sea sickness I felt overwhelmed with happiness and a sense of accomplishment. Note to my fellow motion sickness sufferers, let your instructor know before you dive, they’ll give you a sea sickness tablet and you’ll be a lot better off than I was.
Diving at Crystal Bay
Less than 10 minutes from the drop point of Manta Bay was our next dive site, Crystal Bay. Crystal Bay is located just off the coast of Nusa Penida and is a popular diving destination due to its population of Mola Mola (or Sunfish). It is also known for its strong currents and abrupt thermoclines, with the water temperature suddenly dropping to the low 20’s at one point during our dive. However, it’s nothing you should worry about, your wetsuit will keep you snug!
The swell had picked up quite a bit by the time we arrived and unfortunately sea sickness had got the better of me. Prashinti took great care of me and had the Captain drop me off on the beach while the others enjoyed a cup of tea and snacks on the boat, I think this is the first time in living memory that I’ve actually passed up on food! After a good 15-minute rest, I decided to get back in the water and try another dive. I mean, sitting on a rocking boat wasn’t going to help my situation, and the ultra-clear water with visibility of 25+ metres made it impossible to pass up.
Our instructor geared me up, and with a swift backroll and a big splash I was back in the water! This dive was a little shorter than the last at only 36 minutes (thanks to my uncooperative stomach), but we sure did pack in some amazing sights in that time.
Striped Sea Snakes twisted their way through the coral, while Pufferfish seemed to be unphased by our presence and kept their spines at bay. As the current drifted us along, it took us directly to one of the most amazing creatures I’ve ever seen; a Hawksbill SEA TURTLE! The Sea Turtle had long been on my list of things to see, so to finally meet one face to face is an experience I will never forget.
Give it a go, what do you have to lose!
I can’t recommend the “PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience” enough. If you’re hesitant spend the time and money on a diving certification before you’ve been able to test it out, try diving is such a great option. It doesn’t feel as though you’re experiencing a watered-down version of the real thing, because you’re not! You’re out there, with all the same gear, seeing all the things an experienced diver would see. And if it turns out that diving isn’t your thing, you can pop on some snorkelling gear or eat some coconut cookies on the boat and soak in the view!
Want a sneak peek into what lies beneath the surface? Watch as I take my first breaths underwater in the amazing video created by Siren Diving Lembongan below!
Thank you once again to Siren Diving Lembongan for the amazing video and images used in this post. We had a blast!
Josh and I are always looking for new adventures, so if you know of an awesome dive site we’d love to hear it! Let me know in the comments below.
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Ready to get your PADI certification? I recommend checking out Koh Tao, Thailand. It is well known as one of the cheapest, and most beautiful places to learn how to dive.
Eager for more adventures? Check out my 3-Day Itinerary for Venice in Winter!
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