If you’ve come to Bali, it goes without saying that you want to see mantas. The ocean holds no guarantees, but Manta Point in Nusa Penida — a small satellite island off of Bali — offers the closest thing we’ve ever seen. There’s no better way to visit them than with PADI Five Star CDC Crystal Divers in Sanur, Bali.
How do I get there?
Sanur is perfectly situated for access to Nusa Penida’s sites. If you’re staying in one of the comfortable Santai Hotel rooms behind the dive shop, it couldn’t be easier. All you’ve got to do is get up, get ready, and walk to the front of the shop by 8 am to meet the van. If you’re staying elsewhere, Crystal Divers will come pick you up around 7 am. From Sanur beach, it’ll take from 45 minutes to an hour to get to Manta Point on one of Crystal Divers’ comfortable boats. Water and snacks are available, as well as shade for when the hot Balinese sun gets the best of you. You’ll cruise along the south coast of Bali’s small satellite islands, Nusa Penida and the much smaller Nusa Lembongan, along the way. A sheltered cove on Nusa Penida’s southern side holds the site itself.
The Dive Site: Manta Point
Manta Point is often quite crowded — the surface can look like a dive-boat parking lot. But never fear. Once you drop beneath the water’s surface, there will be plenty of space to spread out. Crystal Divers assigns only four guests to one guide, so you won’t feel lost in the group. And even better, you’ll be matched up with other divers of the same level. There are cleaning stations scattered all around the large site, each holding the possibility of a manta visit. The site is protected from the current, and features lots of large boulders scattered along the rocky bottom.
With depths beginning at only 20 feet (6 m), you’ll have plenty of bottom time as well. You can go as deep as 100 feet (30 m), however. It’s quite close to shore and can be a bit surge-y, so watch your depth. Just enjoy the experience of being rocked underwater. The site is appropriate for beginners to advanced divers, and with water temps between 72 to 84 F (22 to 29 C), depending on the time of year, anywhere from a full 3 mm to 5 mm wetsuit should suffice.
We got lucky on our visit. Almost immediately after descending to about 30 feet, the mantas began to appear. They were all sizes, from around 3 or 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) across to well over 6 feet (2 m) across. They gracefully winged over the cleaning stations, and did fly-bys of the divers. A large group of divers began to follow the mantas from station to station, but our group took a different tact. We found what seemed to be an active cleaning station and waited for them to come to us.
Our patience paid off. Manta after manta visited the station, with only our small group of four (including our guide) as witness. They came within feet as they glided overhead, showing off their white bellies and making eye contact as they passed by. We counted at least eight (some say up to 10) in one manta train. Our dive at Manta Point lasted an all-to-short hour before low air forced us to the surface.
Crystal Divers and Santai Hotel, which sits just behind the shop, is ideally located on Jl. Danau Tamblingan, the main tourist thoroughfare in Sanur. The hotel has 16 cozy rooms, each named in alphabetical order for some type of sea life, from Angelfish to Shark. Rooms all feature AC, offer direct access to the pool, and cost from $35 to $55 per night.
The dive center, owned by Minni Vangsgaard, is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Bali this year. Her many years of experience show. At Crystal you’re diving with a team of professionals that has over 100 years of combined experience working in the dive and tourism industries. If you haven’t brought your own gear, Crystal rents out a full line of Aqua Lung equipment. Crystal is your go-to for diving elsewhere in Bali as well. Crystal Divers can show you the underwater world elsewhere too, with shops in both Thailand and South Africa. And finally, if you’ve come for more dive education, you’ve come to the right place. PADI awards the CDC designation only to PADI Five Star IDCs that have dedicated their business to professional development for dive instructors, offering career-oriented programs and job placement assistance to graduates.