Diving the Islands
There are great diving possibilities around the islands, from shallow and sheltered reefs, mainly on the northern side of Lembongan and Penida, to very demanding drift dives in the channel between Penida and the other two islands. Vigilant locals have protected their waters from dynamite bombing by renegade fishing boats, so the reefs are relatively intact. And a side result of tourism is that locals no longer rely so much on fishing. In 2012 the islands were designated the Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area, which encompasses more than 20,000 hectares of the surrounding waters.
If you arrange a dive trip from Padangbai or south Bali, stick with the most reputable operators as conditions here can be tricky and local knowledge is essential. Note that the open waters around Penida are challenging, even for experienced divers. Diving accidents regularly happen and people die diving in the waters around the islands every year.
Using one of the recommended operators on Nusa Lembongan puts you close to the action from the start. The large marine animals are a particular attraction, including turtles, sharks and manta rays. The large (3m fin-to-fin) and unusual mola mola (sunfish) is sometimes seen around the islands between mid-July and October, while manta rays are often seen south of Nusa Penida from June to October.
The best dive sites include Blue Corner and Jackfish Point off Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan Point at its tip. The channel between Ceningan and Penida is renowned for drift diving, but it is essential you have a good operator who can judge fast-changing currents and other conditions. Upswells can bring cold water from the open ocean to sites such as Ceningan Wall. This is one of the world's deepest natural channels and attracts all manner and sizes of fish.
Sites close to Nusa Penida include Crystal Bay, SD, Pura Ped, Manta Point and Batu Aba. Of these, Crystal Bay, SD and Pura Ped are suitable for novice divers and are good for snorkelling.