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Bali is situated in the heart of the Indo-Pacific, the world's richest marine bio-geographic zone. Due to the Indonesian throughflow, Bali receives plankton-rich waters which foster a diverse underwater ecosystem.

Pelagics (open-ocean marine life) include manta rays, whalesharks, and, July to mid-November, Mola-Molas (the weird-but-wonderful ocean sunfish). The reefs are ideal for snorkeling with profuse hard and soft corals, gorgonian and other seafans, coral bushes, and sponges including some massive barrel sponges. Altogether more than 2,000 species of reef fish thrive in Bali's waters, and then you'll find eels, crabs, lobsters, turtles, starfish, shrimp, and nudibranches, mimic octopus and wonderpus, ambon scorpionfish, rhinopias, and ghost pipefish. Truly, the list goes on.

Lombok -- While diving at Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air is quick, fun, and easy, it's nowhere near on par with the diving in the south of Lombok itself.

At Belongas Bay you'll find pristine reefs, plentiful macro life, and an abundance of fish not to be found elsewhere around Lombok. You'll spy mackerels, tunas, barracudas, napoleon wrasse, white and black tip reef sharks, and eagle rays. Plus, there's the possibility of sighting hammerhead sharks. Sekotong can have strong currents and so some of the pinnacles are for experienced divers only. During the dry season, there are often reports of more than 100 hammerhead sharks in Magnet area.

Outfitters

Most scuba outfitters on the islands can arrange trips to any of the dive sites. The most popular, one-stop local outfitters are:

At Aqua Marine Diving, Jl. Raya Petitenget, Seminyak (tel. 0361/738020; www.aquamarinediving.com), combined British ownership with the expertise of local dive staff make for an unbeatable combination. Aqua Marine runs day trips to fully inclusive intensive underwater safaris to the island's best sites. Skubaskool, Jl. Dyanapura/Abimanyu 9, Seminyak (tel. 0361/733845; www.skubaskool.com) is a well-run French operation (although they all speak great English) with packages (13 days/12 nights and 22 dives) that enable you to circumnavigate the island.

Other PADI dive centers include: Abyss Adventures, Jl. Danau Poso, 36b Sanur (tel. 0361/271317; www.abyssadventures.com); Bali Crystal Divers, Jl. Tamblingan 168, Sanur (tel. 0361/286737; www.crystal-divers.com); Eurodive, Lipah Bunutan, Amed (tel. 0363/23605); Menjangan Resort, West Bali National Park, (tel. 0362/94708; www.menjanganresort.com); Mimpi Resort Menjangan, Banyuwedang (tel. 0362/94497; www.mimpi.com); Paradise Palm Beach Bungalows in Tulamben (tel. 0362/22918; www.paradise-tulamben.com); Scuba Seraya Resort, Desa Tukad Dabu, Tulamben (tel. 0361/283922; www.scubaseraya.com); and World Diving Lembongan, Pondok Baruna, Jungutbatu (tel. 08/123900686; www.world-diving.com).

The only dive company in south Lombok is Dive Zone, Senggigi (tel. 0370/6603205; www.divezone-lombok.com).

Insurance

Most holiday insurance policies don't cover scuba diving; some don't cover snorkeling either. The best idea is to have DAN (Divers' Alert Network; www.diversalertnetwork.org) membership and coverage which provides evacuation for diving and nondiving related incidents, and dive-related medical treatment. You get peace of mind and an expert in diving-related injuries/problems at the end of the phone, no matter where in the world you find yourself.

When to Dive

In Bali, the rainy season runs from October to March. The monsoon patterns, lunar calendar, and seasonal upwelling of rich, cold water in the Lombok Strait (between Bali and Lombok) generally means that April to June and September to November offer the best seasons for diving. July to August and December to January are very good, while February to March usually have the least to offer. While we do see manta rays year-round, the best season is April to May and for Mola-Mola is August to October.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.