Written by: Matt Newkirk
Destination: Bali, Indonesia
Visited: September 2017
Just North from the small port city of Padang Bai, along the East coast of Bali, lies Candidasa. The islets and walls along this small stretch of coast offer hands-down some of the best dive sites in all of Bali.
blue spotted stingray
But beware, Candidasa is situated directly in the Strait of Lombok, and the seas here are fierce! Under the best conditions, only advanced divers should attempt most of the dive sites in Candidasa, and on a bad day, it is virtually un-divable. Washing-machine currents churn the waters off Candidasa, with alternating up and down currents being the norm.
The first time we went diving here, our guide told us that it's not all that unusual to end dives in Candidasa after 5 or 10 minutes, because people not used to the currents can tend to panic.
But let me tell you first-hand, the payoffs are HUGE, and the risks are worth the reward if you have the required experience, and stamina, to dive here.
The first site we dove was Gili Tepekong, a small island that you can see from the shore in Padang Bai. The walls surrounding the island are steep, with little protection from the swift current.
The reefs here are also deep, ranging between 20-30 meters. There are some swim-throughs, but they are more like suck-throughs, as the current does most of the work for you. Diving here is truly a thrill!
We were in the water for less than 5 minutes when we saw the first Mola Mola. Between the months of August and October, when the cold currents shift north from Antarctica, the giant sunfish make their way to the reefs surrounding Candidasa to visit the cleaning stations and have the banner-fish and emperator angelfish eat the parasites out of their mouth and gills. Oh, did I mention that the water can be freezing cold too, (at least by South East Asia Standards).
The deep reef in Gili Tepekong is pristine. Black tip, white tip, and I am told sometimes even wobegong and hammerhead sharks can be seen visiting the reef. We saw massive tuna and barracudas on our dive. The macro here is fantastic too, if you can hold still long enough to see it.
We also did a great wall dive further up the coast of Candidasa. Here, the coastline drops straight down into the ocean with no beaches or shores. The waves break right up against the sharp volcanic cliffs in dramatic displays of frothing white bursts.
along the cliffs
There was a cave a few meters down that led back into the cliffs along the shore. Swimming in the cave was a bit unsettling at first. As the waves broke against the cliff, everyone's dive computers started alarming because they falsely detected that we were rapidly ascending and descending due to the changing pressure caused by the water being forced into the narrow cave.
entrance of Candidasa cave
Once I realized what was happening, I was able to relax and found myself in awe at the beauty of the caves, and noticed a dozen or so white-tip sharks that were seeking refuge from the rough seas outside.
These sharks averaged about 2 meters in length, but were incredibly docile and not bothered by our presence in the least.
mellow white tip shark
Diving in Candidasa truly is a world-class experience. The condition of the deep reefs rival anything else that I have seen inside the coral triangle of South East Asia. But these sites really are reserved for more experienced divers, as the combination of the unyielding currents and the relatively deep dives can be a bit challenging for beginners. And to be honest, after a couple of days diving there, I too was ready for some nice calm and shallow lagoon diving.
Jaii and the giant fish