Region: Bali, Nusa Lembongan
Outdoor activities: Snorkeling
Sustainable tourism rating:
Swim with manta rays one in a life time experience and is definitely in our best-of for outdoor activities worldwide.
To enjoy this activity let’s start listing the best spots where you can encounter them: Coray Bay in Australia, Surin Islands in Thailand, Djibouti, Madagascar , Mexico (Pacific ocean) and of course Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of the few places where they are present all year round, so the Surf on a leaf team choose this destination. First stop : the island of Nusa Lembongan in Bali.
Once in Bali, you have two options : either take an organized tour, daily tours from Bali with departure in the morning and return in the afternoon (around € 50 per person). Or drive to Sanur beach take a fast boat over to Lembongan and then arrange your own private tour. (Buy the ticket for the fast boat in Sanur is much cheaper than elsewhere).
The fast boat is about 30 minutes from Sanur to Lembongan. You should be able to negotiate the ticket for 15€ /person.
For accommodation on the island, you have a large choice! We chose the main village, Jungut Batu: good location, because it is close to the beach where the boats form Bali arrive (ask before paying the boat because there are two different harbours for the boats coming from Bali). Except for this reason, we would have opted for accommodation towards the mangrove (closer to the only snorkeling site accessible from the beach). Keep in mind that Nusa Lembongan is a remote island and is more expensive than Bali.
Once settled, let’s see how to prepare for the manta encounter? You have several options: you can choose to dive but we do not recommend it. Is more expensive then snorkelling and the mantas are in surface. You can also choose to go with a tour operator that offers snorkel tours with manta rays and two other snorkeling spots for less than 15€ per person! Certainly not expensive at all but there will probably be many people in the water at the same time as all operators from Lembongan and Bali depart at the same time and come at the same spot. You can also “privatize” a boat for 40€ for two, and share a special experience with the manta rays. You must get up early and arrive before the tour boats. The sun rises around 6 am throughout the year, we advise you to leave fifteen minutes before the sunrise (it’s already day) and admire the sunrise over the water from the first snorkel spot (about 45 minutes by boat). The show is worth it! To find a fisherman, ask your hotel (always negotiate) or go for a walk on the beach (they do not all speak English but you will definitely find one that does). We can also advize you to go and ask at Mangrove bay.
1, 2, 3….dozens of manta rays!
Our captain, Gocu, picked us up at our hotel at 6 am, as agreed, and took us to the boat. A few minutes after we left, we could enjoy the sunrise over the silent water before reaching the island of Nusa Penida where the famous Manta Point love to hang. Once in the bay, Gocu is heading for the cliffs and a few dozen meters before he shouts! MANTAS !(but we have not seen them).
A few minutes pass before seeing these majestic creatures surfacing again. This time we rush into the water and enjoy their company, we really did! On the day we went, the water wasn’t clear enough, rather cold and wavy. We must have chosen the wrong day because the jellyfish were also visiting the bay. Not very cool because you would receive small electrical shocks all the time … But when you put your head under the water you forget the bites ;). A small manta ray was swimming right under us, majestic … We follow her for a while, bewitched by her grace, and other manta ray (4 meters wide) decided to join this aquatic dance and seemed to be playing with us …
We stayed for over an hour and saw a dozen mantas, until the arrival of a first small boat and 10 minutes later, 4-5 boats full with tourists came and everybody jumped in the water. We therefore chose to leave because there were more fins than manta rays … and we should have even come out earlier because a huge jellyfish clung to my leg and I had a sharp and painful sensation! (the pain attenuated after half an hour and the captain reassured me by explaining that they are not poisonous).
The journey is not over, after Manta Point, we reached Crystal Bay, a popular spot its colourful corals and fish. We even had the chance to spot a sea snake.
Then we continued our journey to another snorkeling spot: Wall bay. Gocu droped us along the cliff and fished us back 200 m away. Then he brought us in a spot famous for big fish (tuna and other).
Finally, for the snorkelers seeking for colourful fish, there is one spot not to be missed: Mangrove Bay. A few meters from the mangrove and protected by a coral reef, hides an excellent snorkeling spot, Mangrove Bay, with a much warmer water and more colourful fish (rather small ones). Our captain let us dive several times until we were to tired, yes you can also be tired of seeing beautiful things :).
Gocu gave us a lift home around 11 am with the head full of vivid memories and with one single desire: going back.
We therefore strongly recommend this activity to Sportrotters but we advise you to leave early to avoid the crowds and take full advantage of this special encounter with the manta rays.
If you want to snorkel by yourself in Nusa Lembongan, you can obviously take a boat , which takes you to Mangrove Bay or get there on foot or scooter then swim for 20 minutes to reach the coral. You must go at high tide, if not you can get cut in the corals. (one hour before and after high tide). Indeed, access is quite complicated and it will take you either swim or walk in shallow water to cross the seaweed plantations (bring slippers to avoid foot injuries) and when you arrive to the corals, swim thirty meters away from the edge. The current is strong at that spot, it recommended for good swimmers. Note that you may be asked to pay entrance fees on arrival at Mangrove Beach.
Share a special moment with this incredible creatures
The local fishermen respect the distances to approach manta rays and we think it is better than taking a tour
The snorkeling spots are very beautiful too(try not to miss Crystal Bay Mangrove Bay).
Sunrise on the water is a unique moment and the cliffs of Nusa Penida are very beautiful.
The water is cold, rough and not very clear, whichmakes it difficult for nice shoots.
There are many jellyfish and their bites can be painful (we tested them ;)) Should wear a wetsuit
The island of Nusa Lembongan is remote (roads in very poor condition) and much more expensive than Bali.