A Comprehensive Guide to Freediving in Bali (2023)

A Comprehensive Guide to Freediving in Bali (2023)

Did you know that freediving is not just a modern sport but a venture rooted deeply in human history? Ancient cultures practiced breath-hold diving for food gathering, pearl diving, and even underwater combat. The allure of exploring beneath the surface, on a single breath, has always been a part of human adventure.

Today, freediving has evolved into a sport of depth, discipline, and self-discovery. Modern freedivers explore the depths of the ocean, breaking barriers of human endurance, with records reaching over 200 meters below the surface.

Moreover, freediving is not just a test of how deep or how long one can go but a journey inward. The sport promotes a unique sense of tranquility and connection with the aquatic world. In the stillness below the waves, freedivers experience what is known as the “doorway effect,” a tranquil state of mind that allows a deeper connection with the inner self and the boundless sea.

Freediving is a sport that is significantly different to scuba diving. In this article we will do an overview of freediving, and give you an action plan for finding your freediving experience in Bali.

Photo by Alexa West

Why Freedive in Bali? Freediving VS Scuba Diving:

There are numerous differences between freediving and scuba diving. While with both you are underwater, and able to appreciate the marine worlds – in practice one is very different to the other. Scuba requires more gear, understanding the gear, and knowing the limits of your gear. Freediving requires less gear, but understanding the limits of your own mind and body. For that reason, freediving also has more of a community around it. It’s seen as a sport. There is a culture around it. And to practice freediving often involves changes everyday physical, mental, and also spiritual ways of living.

Physical Fitness

Freediving requires a greater degree of control over your ability to endure the depths with minimal oxygen. This is in stark contrast to scuba, which allows you to breathe freely while swimming underwater.

Mental Fitness

Freediving is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. The idea of being deep under water without any access to oxygen is a scary one for most people.

Simplicity and the Lower Barrier to Entry

While scuba diving can give you long periods of undistracted exploration time underwater – great for being truly immersed in the marine world, it also requires a lot of gear. Freediving gives you less time underwater, but greater flexibility and simplicity – with hardly any gear required. For that reason, freediving is also generally cheaper than scuba diving.

Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

Did You Know?
The realm of freediving showcases some of the most extraordinary feats of human endurance. Among these are the world records for the longest non-oxygen assisted breath holds, known as Static Apnea. The male record holder is Stéphane Mifsud from France, who held his breath for an astonishing 11 minutes and 35 seconds on June 8, 2009. On the other hand, the female world record is held by Natalia Molchanova from Russia, who held her breath for an impressive 9 minutes and 2 seconds on June 29, 2013.

Where are the best places to go for freediving in Bali?

A quick Google Maps search will give you an overview at a glance of where you can go freediving on Bali Mainlaid, and the nearby islands. If you’re planning a freediving trip, the first step is to pick a location that you really want to visit, and after that, find a great freedive provider.

LocationDescriptionDepthsNotable Features
AmedPeaceful fishing village with gentle slopes and drop-offs10-40mPyramids, Japanese Wreck
TulambenKnown for the famous USAT Liberty Shipwreck5-40mUSAT Liberty Wreck, Coral Garden
Menjangan IslandPart of West Bali National Park, offers wall diving10-60mAnker Wreck, wall diving
Nusa PenidaKnown for its crystal clear waters and Manta RaysVariesManta Point, Crystal Bay
PemuteranFeatures a bio-rock reef and close to Menjangan Island10-30mBio-rock reef, close to Menjangan
Gili IslandsA trio of islands known for clear waters and diverse marine lifeVariesTurtles, Shark Point
Freediving Locations in Bali

When is the best time of year to go freediving in Bali?

Bali, with its pristine waters and abundant marine life, is a haven for freediving enthusiasts. However, to make the most of this underwater adventure, timing your visit right is crucial. The best time for freediving in Bali largely coincides with the dry season, extending from April to October. During these months, the island experiences lesser rainfall, resulting in better visibility and calmer sea conditions, ideal for exploring the depths below.

Here’s a deeper dive into the seasonal variations:

Dry Season (April to October):

  • Visibility: With lesser runoff from rains, the visibility underwater improves significantly, often extending up to 30 meters or more, offering a crystal clear view of the thriving marine life and the intricate coral formations.
  • Sea Conditions: Calm sea conditions are a hallmark of the dry season, providing a safer and more enjoyable freediving experience, especially for novices.
  • Water Temperature: The waters remain warm, with temperatures hovering around 26-28°C (79-82°F), which is comfortable for extended freediving sessions.
  • Marine Life: While manta rays are visible all year round in Bali, the clearer waters during the dry season may provide better encounters, along with a diverse array of other marine species.
Photo by resa cahya

Wet Season (November to March):

  • Visibility: During the wet season, visibility can be compromised due to increased rainfall and runoff, which may result in murkier waters.
  • Sea Conditions: The seas tend to be rougher with stronger currents, posing challenges for less experienced freedivers.
  • Water Temperature: Although the water temperature remains relatively warm, occasional drops are possible.
  • Marine Life: The marine life continues to thrive, but the reduced visibility might slightly affect the viewing experience.
Photo by bady abbas

Transition Months (April and November):

  • These transition months offer a mix of conditions, and often fewer crowds, making them an attractive choice for those seeking a balance between good visibility and tranquility.

For most parts off the coast on Bali island itself, the dry season offers better conditions for free diving compared to the wet season, but it’s definitely possible to do freediving all year round.

Expert Tip:
Expert Tip: The Gili Islands have a slightly different climate compared to Bali mainland island, and tend to keep clearer waters, with less rain during the rainy season. So if it’s wet season and you really want to go freediving – consider a trip to Gili T.

Choosing a location:

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a place to go freediving in Bali. Are you on an adventure trip and interested in the surrounding area alongside the freediving? Are you looking for a convenient place for a weekend getaway so you can easily get back home on Sunday afternoon? Are you traveling and interested in the nightlife to go along with it?

Pemuteran

Pemuteran is a quiet and serene village on the northwestern coast of Bali, known for its relaxed ambiance and beautiful underwater scenery. This location is a haven for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle and dive into a tranquil marine world. Pemuteran is home to the famous Bio Rock reef conservation project, which aims at restoring coral reefs by using Biorock technology. It’s a great place not only for freediving but also for those interested in eco-tourism and contributing to marine conservation efforts. Additionally, its proximity to Menjangan Island and the West Bali National Park opens up possibilities for more adventurous explorations both underwater and on land.

FeatureDescription
Travel time from KutaApproximately 3.5 to 4 hours by car.
Average freediving prices (IDR)Around 1,200,000 to 2,500,000 IDR for courses and guided freediving sessions.
Beginner friendly?Yes
Underwater visibilityGood, often around 15-30 meters, can be better depending on the season.
Water conditionsCalm and warm waters, typically ranging from 26 to 30°C.
Nearby area highlightsBio Rock reef conservation project, serene beaches, close proximity to Menjangan Island.
Recommended operatorOisia Freediving Academy

Menjangan Island

Part of the West Bali National Park, Menjangan Island is a renowned diving spot known for its wall diving, clear waters, and vibrant coral gardens. The island’s underwater walls descend dramatically into the deep, providing a playground for advanced freedivers to explore. The crystal-clear waters around Menjangan Island offer excellent visibility, often up to 30 meters or more, making it a spectacle for underwater photography. With its tranquil surroundings and rich marine life including colorful corals, myriad fish species, and occasional sightings of reef sharks and turtles, Menjangan Island provides a serene escape for those looking to connect with the ocean’s tranquility.

FeatureDescription
Travel time from KutaApproximately 4 to 4.5 hours by car to the mainland, followed by a short boat ride to the island.
Average freediving prices (IDR)Around 1,500,000 to 2,800,000 IDR for courses and guided freediving sessions.
Beginner friendly?Moderate; wall dives may be more suited for advanced divers.
Underwater visibilityExcellent, sometimes up to 50 meters.
Water conditionsCalm and clear waters, typically ranging from 26 to 30°C.
Nearby area highlightsWest Bali National Park, wall diving sites, pristine and protected marine environments.
Recommended operatorOisia Freediving Academy

Note: While Menjangan Island itself might not have direct freediving operators, nearby Pemuteran has facilities which often organize trips to Menjangan for diving experiences. It’s always advisable to check with local operators for the most current information regarding availability, prices, and conditions.

Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida, the largest of three Nusa Islands, is situated southeast of Bali’s mainland. This island offers a wild, rugged charm both above and below the water. Underwater, Nusa Penida is famed for its Manta Ray cleaning stations and the elusive Mola Mola (Sunfish) sightings, particularly around the Crystal Bay, Manta Point, and Nusa Lembongan areas. The currents here can be quite strong and challenging, often more suited for the experienced freedivers. Above the water, Nusa Penida’s dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and the iconic Kelingking Beach viewpoint make it a picturesque and adventurous destination for travelers. Despite its increasing popularity, Nusa Penida still retains a rustic allure, offering a blend of natural beauty and exciting freediving opportunities.

FeatureDescription
Travel time from KutaApproximately 1.5 to 2 hours to Sanur harbor by car, followed by a 30-45 minute boat ride to Nusa Penida.
Average freediving prices (IDR)Around 1,300,000 to 2,500,000 IDR for courses and guided freediving sessions.
Beginner friendly?Moderate; some sites may be suitable for beginners, while others are for more advanced divers due to currents.
Underwater visibilityGood to excellent, often around 15-30 meters, can be more in favorable conditions.
Water conditionsVaries; can experience strong currents, water temperature typically ranges from 26 to 30°C.
Nearby area highlightsManta ray cleaning stations, Mola Mola sightings, beautiful coral reefs, and close proximity to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
Recommended operatorFreedive Nusa

The Gili Islands

The Gili Islands, comprising Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, are situated northwest of Lombok and are easily accessible from Bali. Known for their crystal clear waters, abundant marine life, and vibrant coral gardens, these islands have become a favored destination for freedivers and backpackers alike. The relaxed, car-free environment on the islands creates a laid-back vibe perfect for travelers looking to escape and explore the underwater world. With various freediving schools and a wide range of dive sites catering to all levels, the Gili Islands offer a wholesome freediving experience.

FeatureDescription
Travel time from KutaApproximately 2 hours to Padang Bai harbor by car, followed by a 1.5 to 2-hour boat ride to the Gili Islands.
Average freediving prices (IDR)Around 1,200,000 to 2,500,000 IDR for courses and guided freediving sessions.
Beginner friendly?Yes, especially Gili Air and Gili Meno.
Underwater visibilityGood to excellent, often around 20-30 meters, can be more in favorable conditions.
Water conditionsGenerally calm waters, temperature typically ranges from 26 to 30°C.
Nearby area highlightsVibrant coral reefs, abundant marine life including turtles, nightlife on Gili Trawangan, and serene beaches on Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Recommended operatorFreedive Gili

Amed

Amed, located on the northeastern coast of Bali, is often described as a freediver’s paradise thanks to its clear, warm waters and rich marine biodiversity. This tranquil coastal stretch is renowned for its easy access to numerous dive sites, including the nearby Japanese Shipwreck, which is a delight for underwater exploration. The calm waters and gentle currents make Amed an ideal spot for beginners to learn and for advanced divers to hone their skills. The peaceful, laid-back village ambiance, coupled with stunning coastal views, adds to the serene experience above and below the water.

FeatureDescription
Travel time from KutaApproximately 2 to 2.5 hours by car.
Average freediving prices (IDR)Around 1,200,000 to 2,500,000 IDR for courses and guided freediving sessions.
Beginner friendly?Yes, due to calm waters and various dive sites suitable for beginners.
Underwater visibilityGood to excellent, often around 20-30 meters, can be more in favorable conditions.
Water conditionsCalm waters, temperature typically ranges from 27 to 30°C.
Nearby area highlightsJemeluk Bay, Japanese shipwreck, nearby Tulamben with the USAT Liberty wreck.
Recommended operatorApneista Bali Freediving

Tulamben

Tulamben, a small fishing village on Bali’s northeast coast, offers a unique freediving experience with its easily accessible USAT Liberty wreck. This shore dive site presents a rich marine ecosystem flourishing around the sunken warship. The calm water conditions and good visibility make Tulamben a fantastic spot for freedivers of all levels. Besides the wreck, other dive sites like Coral Garden and Batu Kelebit add to the underwater adventure. The serene rural ambiance and the majestic Mount Agung looming in the background provide a picturesque setting for a peaceful retreat.

FeatureDescription
Travel time from KutaApproximately 2.5 to 3 hours by car.
Average freediving prices (IDR)Around 1,200,000 to 2,500,000 IDR for courses and guided freediving sessions.
Beginner friendly?Yes, especially for wreck and shore diving.
Underwater visibilityGood to excellent, often around 15-30 meters, can be more in favorable conditions.
Water conditionsGenerally calm with mild currents, temperature typically ranges from 27 to 30°C.
Nearby area highlightsUSAT Liberty wreck, Coral Garden, Batu Kelebit, serene rural ambiance.
Recommended operatorApnea Bali

Additional Help Choosing a Destination:

If you’re still having trouble picking the best place to go, this breakdown might also be helpful.

Top Pick for Beginner Freedivers: Amed

Reason: Calm waters and various dive sites suitable for beginners, with reputable freediving centers for training.

Top Pick for Advanced Freedivers: Menjangan Island

Reason: Famous for wall diving with depths suitable for advanced freedivers, part of a protected marine environment.

Top Pick for a Quick Trip: Amed

Reason: More straightforward to reach compared to Nusa Penida, with a variety of freediving sites.

Top Pick for Travelers & Backpackers: Gili Islands

Reason: A relaxed and laid-back environment with a range of budget-friendly options, close proximity to other islands for exploration.

Top Pick for Wet Season: Gili Islands

Reason: Being a bit further east, the Gili Islands may experience less rainfall and better conditions during Bali’s wet season.

Top Pick for Budget Consciousness: Gili Islands

Reason: Affordable freediving courses and sessions, plus budget accommodation options.

Top Pick for Eco Friendliness: Pemuteran

Reason: Home to the Bio Rock reef conservation project, promoting eco-friendly diving practices.

Top Pick for Surrounding Area Adventures: Pemuteran

Reason: Close to West Bali National Park for terrestrial adventures, and Menjangan Island for underwater explorations, along with the Bio Rock reef conservation project.

Learning Resources

If you’re looking to learn a bit more about freediving in Bali, or freediving in general, here are a few resources that may help to inspire you to try it out!

For some inspiration on the sport in general: check out this documentary

For an inside look into what it’s like (in Pemuteran): check out this Youtube video

For some learning resources on how to get deeper into the sport: check out this website

Closing remarks

Freediving is a sport, a lifestyle, and a physical and mental challenge that opens the door to a different way of experiencing the ocean and marine life around Bali. If you enjoy snorkeling or diving, learning to freedive is a skillset that will greatly benefit any kind of underwater experience. Bali is a great place to learn freediving due to the overall accessibility to many ideal diving locations, and the relatively low cost to experience and try out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Is freediving in Bali safe for beginners?

Yes, Bali offers several spots like Amed and Tulamben that are suitable for beginners due to their calm waters and gentle currents. Additionally, there are numerous reputable freediving schools where beginners can receive proper training and guidance.

What is the best time of year to go freediving in Bali?

The best time for freediving in Bali is during the dry season, from May to September, when the waters are calm, and visibility is at its best. However, the Gili Islands may offer good conditions even during the wet season.

Do I need a certification to freedive in Bali?

While certification is not mandatory, it is highly recommended for safety and to enhance your freediving experience. Certified freedivers have access to a wider range of dive sites and can also rent equipment more easily.

How can I find a reputable freediving school in Bali?

You can look for reviews online, ask for recommendations in local dive shops, or consult with local freedivers. Schools affiliated with recognized freediving organizations like AIDA or Molchanovs are often reputable.

Are there any health requirements for freediving?

Good overall health is essential for freediving. It’s advisable to have a medical check-up before engaging in freediving, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or concerns regarding your fitness for diving.

What kind of marine life can I expect to see while freediving in Bali?

Bali’s underwater world is rich and diverse. Depending on the location and season, you can encounter manta rays, sunfish (Mola Mola), various species of sharks, colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and sometimes even dolphins.

Is it possible to rent freediving equipment in Bali?

Yes, many freediving centers and dive shops in Bali offer equipment rental. It’s advisable to check the quality and fit of the equipment before renting.

How do I handle strong currents while freediving in Bali?

It’s crucial to have proper training and be informed about the water conditions. Diving with a buddy and staying close to the shore or boat can also enhance safety in strong currents. When in doubt, always consult with local freediving experts.

Can I participate in marine conservation efforts while in Bali?

Absolutely! Many organizations and freediving centers in Bali are involved in marine conservation efforts. You can participate in coral restoration projects, beach clean-ups, and other environmental initiatives.

What should I do in case of a freediving emergency in Bali?

In case of an emergency, it’s crucial to have a plan in place. Knowing the location of the nearest hyperbaric chamber, having emergency contact numbers, and diving with a buddy are vital for handling emergencies effectively.

Explore the region on the map

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