Bali Diving Holidays
Bali Island Travel Information
Mythical and magical, a diamond shaped island (140 km by 80 km) of spectacular volcanic mountains and lakes, enchanting rice terraces, ancient temples and palaces, surrounded by sparkling coral seas, Bali is alight with cultures and traditions.
Renowned for its influential and enterprising artwork and architecture, traditional music and dance, theatre and elaborate religious festivals and ceremonies, the effusive Balinese culture is a lively and dynamic force that is constantly fusing the old and traditional with the new and innovative.
You may be surprised by Bali's modern tourist facilities, but you'll be amazed by its medieval culture - a vibrant civilisation, still very much alive and breathing in its golden age.
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How to Get There
Bali lies in the chain of islands directly between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. There are direct international flights to Denpasar - Ngurah Rai International Airport from Singapore (Singapore Airlines), Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific), Hawaii and Guam (United Airlines),
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia), Bangkok and Phuket (Air Asia), Tokyo (Japan Airlines) and
Taipei (China Airlines or EVA Air).
Denpasar is located just south of Kuta and is served with daily flights from Jakarta. Flights are frequent and take 80 minutes. There are many other direct internal routes including Maumere - Flores, Manado - Sulawesi, Kupang - Timor, Bima - Sumbawa and Ambon - Banda Islands. Indonesia's domestic airlines include Lion Air/Wings Air, Garuda, Batavia Air and Merpati. You should be able to book direct online with them and pay with your debit/credit card. If you experience problems, please ask us for help.
Visit Denpasar Airport for more on their facilities and transport information.
To get to Lembongan Island, off Bali, we recommend the door-to-door service of Scoot Cruise. Scoot will pick you up from your hotel in Southern Bali, transfer you to Lembongan in around 30 minutes and drop you and your luggage to your accommodation in Lembongan. The convenience of this is known only by those who undertook the journey before this service began. Other, slower and less comprehensive transfer options are available.
Where to Stay
Our affiliated hotel reservation agents Agoda.com have a wide variety of diver-friendly accommodations in Bali. Browse their website choices, use their on-line chat to ask your questions, or simply use your credit card to make your booking:
Take your pick from dozens of options, from top-of-the range international beach resorts to budget guesthouses, and everything in between. There's something to suit everyone's taste and pocket. And you can be sure that whatever option you go for, it will be backed up with their 'Low Price Guarantee' to ensure you get top-dollar value for money.
The dry season is between April and October with the coolest months of May, June and July having an average temperature of 28°C. Rainy season is between November and March, with sudden downpours interrupted by periods of sunshine. The weather affects the diving here only in certain areas at specific times of the year. You can scuba dive Bali all year round. Please check our Bali dive sites descriptions for more detailed information on diving seasons.
Tourist High Season is July and August for Europeans and Americans, and December and January for Australians. We recommend a visit between April and December.
The main beaches of Bali consist of:
Kuta, with the adjacent Legian, Seminyak and Tuban, is by far Bali's busiest beach resort area. Shops, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs are all in abundance here and the beach itself is the best in the area with great surfing. Being the hub of Bali tourism, you can join day trips and sightseeing tours to anywhere on the island from Kuta. So if you're looking for a lively night out with your new found dive buddies this is the place to be with many of the bars having live music, special drink promotions and organised pub crawls.
Sanur is an upmarket alternative to the Kuta area of the island with a great beach and plenty of water sports - windsurfing, snorkelling, parasailing etc. all readily available. The nightlife is quiet in comparison to Kuta and there are plenty of good quality, reasonably priced eateries as well as some excellent craft, clothing, art and antique shops making this an attractive option for those wanting a more peaceful type of vacation.
Tulamben is a sleepy village on the north east coast, beautifully set with the stunning backdrop of Mount Agung volcano, and famed for the Liberty Wreck dive site. Bali scuba diving and relaxation here are the principal draw cards, or if you feel like burning some calories, you can climb Gunung Agung (3,104m) or the smaller Mt. Seraya (1,174m).
Beyond that, there are many places of local interest such as Bali's highest waterfall in the nearby town of Les. For something unusual you can head to Tejakula, a local town famed for its horse bath which now acts (slightly disturbingly) as the towns public bath. More hygienic, but slightly further afield, is the spring baths water palace of Amlapura, Tirta Gangga in the east of Bali. Then there's river rafting, a luxurious golf course (set inside a volcanic crater!), mountain tours, traditional markets and cookery classes.
Sightseeing and Adventure
From the "happening" Kuta region you can easily go surfing, sailing, rafting, fishing or diving in Bali and still be back in time for happy hour.
Kuta is also the best place to learn surfing, and there are more advanced breaks for experienced surfers at Suluban Beach, to the south, Padang Padang, Bingin and Balangan.
There's a water sport day trip facility suitable for adults and families alike at Lembongan Island. Here, you'll find water slides in the sea, windsurfing, banana boats, sailing, diving trips at Nusa Penida and afternoon beach BBQ buffets - all just a high speed catamaran ride away from Benoa. Lembongan offers the kind of laid-back water's edge restaurants and accommodation that can be difficult to find in the more built up beaches of the main island. You can also watch the locals harvesting seaweed and the children flying their huge, ornate kites. There's also a water park at Tuban, Waterbom Park.
However, if you want to discover what the real Bali is all about, we'd encourage you to get away from the tourist hotspots and take a ride around the scenic mountains to the north and central. Take in the stunning vistas of rice terraces and coconut palm stands at Ayung River or Tegalalang Valley.
Visit the settlement of Bayung Gede, an intact pre-Javanese village, and course the caldera rim road of the volcanic mountain, Gunung Batur. Here's the magical sight of the scenic Danau Batur crater lake housing Pura Batur, Bali's second most important temple. Make sure you are appropriately dressed to enter a temple though, with long trousers or skirt, sleeved top, and temple sash. Further north you'll find Ulun Danu, a stunning Buddhist temple standing high up on Lake Bratan.
Most of Bali's considerable artistic prowess and energy is exercised on the sculpting of god effigies, palatial pavilions, pagodas and doors, and paintings of ceremonial paraphernalia. Its greatest art form is its classical architecture, characterised by temples with graceful roofs and narrow gates. Colourful processions mark most days, with their attendant bands, costumed gods and towering offerings, moving between one temple and another.
In the foothills of Mount Agung is Pura Besakih, the mother temple. This complex dates from pre-historic times and has been the state temple since the 16th century. Nearby at Kamasan you can watch painters working at the ancient craft of cloth puppet making.
Art connoisseurs will love the village of Ubud, Bali's centre of cultural tourism. Here, there's Puri Lukisan Museum, featuring excellent work by all Balinese schools of art, and Neka Museum which features collections of more modern paintings and photographs. Here you can relax on your balcony cooled by the breezes that waft over the highland paddy terraces and watch the farmers bend and stoop in coolie hats as they tend their crops. Nearby is Sangeh Monkey Forest, a nutmeg forest and home to Hanuman,the monkey-god.
To the far south on Badung Peninsula, stands the sublime cliff-top temple monument of Pura Ulawatu, carved from coral lime stone in the 16th century. To the west of Kuta stands Tanah Lot temple, standing on an offshore rock. Many tourists come here to watch the sunset.
For more detailed information visit our article: Things to Do in Bali or take a look at the bali-indonesia.com or Indo Holidays websites.
Dining Out & Nightlife
Wherever you are on the island there are plenty of restaurants offering good quality, reasonably priced food. In Kuta there are all the usual restaurant types you'd expect in any popular tourist place, such as Italian, Seafood, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Asian, local Indonesian, as well as western fast food joints.
To sample real, traditional Balinese food you'll have to sample the cuisine cooked at home by the people of the island or try a dish from one of the many street side food stalls called 'warungs'. This mainly consists of rice with small portions of vegetables, fish and meat and is generally very spicy ("Sambal").
Kuta is the centre for partying in Bali, with lots of drinking, music, and late nights Jalan Legian has many bars, clubs and discos, all within stumbling distance. There are several live music joints, including jazz, and there's always an evening Balinese dance show or two to attend.
Stay outside of Kuta and Sanur areas anywhere else on the island and you could be forgiven for thinking it was a different island, as the nightlife is far more sedate and peaceful elsewhere.
Shopping in Kuta and Sanur is vast and varied from markets and shopping centres, to roadside shops filled with local crafts, art, antiques, clothes and copy rip-offs. Kuta Square is by far the most sophisticated shopping experience on the island, with many designer labels and products available.
The traditional Denpasar Kumbasari Market is the place to go for fruit and vegetables, as well as basketwork, sarongs, and mats. Please be aware that it is illegal to take any object older than 100 years out of Indonesia without proper documentation - so be wary on "Grab a Granny" nights!
The Local People
The island's population is around 3 million of which 95% are of Balinese Hindu religion and are classed as ethnic Balinese. The majority of the other 5% are from other parts of Indonesia, mainly Java.
The Balinese have a traditional caste system, but as 90% now belong to the main caste, its role is declining to that of religious roles and language. Unlike Indian society, there are no untouchables in the Balinese caste system.
Religion and Theatre
The local religion is Agama Hindu-Dharma and centres on the 5 ritualistic pillars of gods and ancestors, demons, the stages of human growth, the dead, and the consecration of priests. Essential to these rituals are offerings of food, flowers, and palm-leaf figures. The offerings are consecrated by priests with holy water, incense and sacred mantra incantations. The belief is of 1 god, but in many forms including the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa, but also deified kings, saints, ancestors and elemental spirits.
The Balinese New Year is known as Nyepi Day. On this day, the Balinese believe that they have to foolevil spirits that no-one is actually on Bali - hence the need for silence. If this can be achieved, then it is believed that the evil spirits will go looking elsewhere for their prey and leave Bali island alone for another year.
Balinese people are very religious and life is full of ritual - Nyepi is one of the most important days in their calendar. Police and security are on hand to make sure that everyone abides by the rules! Note that on Nyepi day, the airport is closed, cars and even people are not allowed on the streets, and at night, lights must be kept to a minimum. The rules apply to tourists also, although some activity is allowed in hotels. The date changes each year, as the Balinese follow a traditional lunar new year.
Theatre is an integral part of Bali life and linked closely to religion. Birthdays, weddings and ceremonies are all occasions for drama. Some of the more popular shows you might see are Barong and Rangda - A ritual contest between the chaotic witch Rangda and the force of protection, order and healing, the lion-like Barong, Kecak Dance, Fire Dance, Legong, and the highly respected and symbolic Wayang Kulit, or puppet shadow show.
Public transport here is inexpensive and regular. Most public transport is provided by bemo, or minibus, and involves a connection at one of the terminals in Denpasar. This can make any journey time consuming and inconvenient. Add to this the tendency of bemo drivers to overcharge tourists, and you've got a good reason to look for alternative means of transport.
There are many shuttle bus services operating between the major tourists areas. These you can book at any travel desk, and they'll even collect you from your hotel. Beware: Indonesians are not renowned for their driving skills and most seem to think that they are on time trial for Ferrari Formula 1!
Alternatively, you can hire a taxi. These are still relatively cheap as they are subject to fixed price control with meters. Don't get in a taxi with a broken meter. If you are prepared to get out of the vehicle, you'll often find that the meter has suddenly fixed itself!
A final option is to rent your own vehicle. For this you'll need an international driving license, a copy of the vehicle registration papers, and thick skin - firstly to deal with any police trying to extort fines from you, and secondly to turn a blind eye to the diabolically low and dangerous driving standards of the locals.
It is a known ruse on the island for local reprobates to stop tourists on motorbikes claiming there is smoke coming from the exhaust. They then come over to the bike and surreptitiously flick the choke switch which will cause the bike to stutter and stop when you feel ready to move on. At this stage the kind chap will take you and your bike to a nearby mechanic who will charge you the equivalent of the Indonesian G.D.P. for simply flicking the choke switch back into place (which takes about half an hour behind closed doors) - don't fall into this trap (as, you'll no doubt get the impression, one of our correspondents did!).
If you're keen to dive the paradise waters and breathtaking postcard-perfect scenery of Bali, then click below to check your options now for:
Be sure to book in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best diving opportunities are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!
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