The manta snorkeling Nusa Penida was that part of our Bali holiday we were the most excited about. A close encounter with these majestic creatures was definitely the highlight of our vacation and now we share all the information you need to know about these giant creatures including when, where and how you can swim with them when visiting the Nusa Islands.
Table of Contents
- Best time to go manta snorkeling Nusa Penida
- Where to see manta rays in Nusa Penida?
- Manta snorkeling Nusa Penida – trip options and prices
- Giant manta rays in Nusa Penida – Are they dangerous?
- Is there really a lot of plastic in Manta Bay?
- Our manta trip experience – Tips and thoughts
Best time to go manta snorkeling Nusa Penida
The good news is that there is no specific manta season in Bali. They are present all year round thanks to the fact that the waters around Bali and the Nusa Islands enjoy the benefits of the Indonesian Throughflow. It is technically a massive volume of water (stream) that runs around the Indonesian archipelago from Timor to Bali.
This flow transfers the water from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. It is the largest movement of water anywhere on the planet and meaning that the strait between Bali and Lombok enjoys all the time fresh, nutrient-rich currents. Understanding this phenomenon explains why Bali snorkeling spots feature such vibrant marine life. And also, this is the reason why manta rays can be spotted all year round here!
Although, it is never guaranteed that you will see them. They are wild animals that migrate freely wherever they feel like, but manta snorkeling trip organizers always do their best to find them for you. Locals say the best time to see manta rays is in the mornings when they are the most active, but we saw them in the afternoons as well.
Tip: Don’t forget to check out a Bali climate chart before booking your trip. Avoid coming in the wet season (December to March)! The best time for manta snorkeling in Bali is the dry season between May and November when you have the highest chance of bright sunshine and flat seas.
Where to see manta rays in Nusa Penida?
Manta snorkeling Nusa Penida trips are often advertised as “manta trip Nusa Lembongan” but this is misleading information. Although there is a chance to spot mantas around Nusa Lembongan, where they can be found with the highest possibility all year round is the southern coast of Nusa Penida. The best places to see manta rays in Penida are Manta Bay and Manta Point. Sometimes they swim around Crystal Bay too (which is one of the most popular snorkeling beaches in Nusa Penida).
A relatively shallow area where manta rays tend to swim and feed on the surface thanks to currents rich in plankton. This is the place where most manta snorkeling trips will take you. It is not just one specific bay but rather a group of bays where mantas can be seen with a 95% chance according to the local guides.
Tour organizers always say that the best time to visit Manta Bay is in the morning, therefore, it can get super crowded in the early hours of the day. As we wrote previously, don’t skip the idea of going out for an afternoon trip and you might be lucky to experience swimming with manta without the crowds!
One of the most southern dive spots on the island is Manta Point which is surrounded by high cliffs. The water is approx. 15 meters deep here with tricky currents and often rough seas, therefore this place is mostly visited by divers only. This is a manta cleaning station where these majestic creatures take a rest in 13-20 ft (4-6 meters) deep water while getting cleaned by smaller fish.
You can see these giant creatures not only when heading out on a manta snorkeling Nusa Penida tour but from land too! Keep your eyes open while hiking or visiting viewpoints because you can often see mantas surfacing in the sea!
The official Manta Viewpoint is on the left side of Broken Beach, the cliffs over Manta Bay. But generally from the viewpoints of the southern coastline you have a chance to spot them. For example, we saw mantas from the cliffs at Kelingking Beach too!
Manta snorkeling Nusa Penida – trip options and prices
To book a manta snorkeling Nusa Penida trip you don’t need to do big efforts! No matter if you stay in mainland Bali, on Nusa Lembongan (which is the most popular Nusa Island), or on Nusa Penida, manta tours are offered by several organizers.
The price depends on where you will start the tour: the most expensive ones are of course the manta tours from Bali mainland, while the cheapest is signing up for one locally in Penida. Below we collected the most important information on each version with approximate prices. However, note that prices may be higher due to the lack of tourists in the past years.
Bali manta snorkel tour
Nusa Penida snorkeling day trips usually include snorkeling at various points around Penida and/or Lembongan including Manta Bay. This is the most expensive and tiring option since you need to spend the whole on the boat and this option doesn’t allow you to explore the islands.
Whole-day manta snorkeling Nusa Penida trips from Bali are available from 1.000.000 IDR (70 USD) with hotel pick-up, drop-off from most South Bali areas, soft drinks and lunch included.
If your schedule is tight but don’t want to miss swimming with manta rays, a day trip from Bali could be a good choice, but if your vacation itinerary is flexible, consider spending a few days on the island! There are so many things to do on the island and there are many other superb places to snorkel in Nusa Penida, so I’m sure you won’t regret it if you come for a longer time!
Nusa Lembongan snorkel trip
Should you stay on the nearby Lembongan Island, you can choose a half-day trip that includes manta snorkeling in Manta Bay plus 1 or 2 additional stops in Crystal Bay, at Mangrove Point in Nusa Lembongan, or in the Buddha Temple next to Nusa Ceningan depending on the sea conditions.
Generally, locals use their own traditional boats for such tours and take maximum of 6-10 people. Trips start usually around 8 am and cost approx. 250.000-300.000 IDR (15-20 USD).
Nusa Penida Manta Bay tour
If you stay on the island, it is not a big deal to find a manta snorkeling trip. You can ask the staff of your hotel to book a trip for you or can simply sign up yourself in Crystal Bay or at the Toyapakeh Harbor (this is the fast boat harbor to Lembongan and Cenigan and also where most local boat trips depart from and arrive to).
A 2 hours-long snorkel trip with 2 stops costs around 150.000-200.000 IDR (10-13 USD) while expect to pay between 200.000-300.000 IDR (15-20 USD) for a half-day trip with 4/5 stops included. Don’t be shy and try to haggle, you may get better a deal.
Tip: Trips usually include gear but we recommend having your own snorkel equipment.
Giant manta rays in Nusa Penida – Are they dangerous?
Knowing that manta rays can grow up to 23 ft (7 m) and weigh about 6600 lbs (3000 kg) makes it easy to understand why many people think that manta rays are dangerous. But don’t worry, despite their massive size, manta rays are completely harmless to humans.
Bali manta rays are Reef Manta species (Manta alfredi) that are the second-largest ray species after Oceanic Manta with an average size of 9.8-11.5 ft (3-3.5 m). They are filter feeders which means they feed on plankton, crustaceans and smaller fish, have small, non-sharp teeth only that they use to chew their food.
Mantas don’t have poisonous tail stingers so it is completely safe to swim with manta rays. They have the largest brain of all bony fish and enjoy interacting with humans, so it is not a surprise that snorkelers and divers often describe their manta snorkeling as their best experience.
Is there really a lot of plastic in Manta Bay?
I wanted to dedicate a single section to the plastic problem. Probably you have also seen the video when a manta ray swims through a massive amount of plastic. I watched it as well and felt so sorry for these magical creatures because I know how polluted the ocean is.
Plastic is a real problem in Indonesia and so it is in the Nusa Islands. Many people complain about the rubbish after their manta snorkeling Nusa Penida experience and I had mixed feelings after our trip.
From one side, I was happy that there was no (very little) plastic on those days in Manta Bay. But also knew that the fact I was lucky to be there on clear water days doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.
The explanation for these fast-changing conditions we get if you think back about the Indonesian Throughflow phenomena. As mentioned, powerful currents are transferring the water through the Indo-Pacific area so nobody can predict what they will wash up onshore. It can easily happen that you swim in crystal clear water in the morning and find a huge amount of plastic in the afternoon.
In most parts of Indonesia, there is no waste management. People don’t know what to do with plastic waste or how to recycle it. Usually, they just collect and burn it (which is one of the worst things they can do since burning plastic releases toxins in the air) or it ends up in the sea after rain.
Hopefully, governments will realize soon that there is a demand for urgent changes and come up with a waste management strategy. But stopping the pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Do your best and minimize the impact on nature! Don’t litter and reduce the amount of plastic you use!
Our manta trip experience – Tips and thoughts
As I mentioned in the introduction, the manta snorkeling Nusa Penida trip was the one we waited for the most in Bali. We came to the island with the decision that we won’t leave until we manage to swim with manta rays but we were not 100% happy after the experience.
Don’t get me wrong, of course, we felt extremely lucky to be able to snorkel with these peaceful creatures! But seeing that there is no restriction on the number of boats and snorkelers in Manta Bay makes us worried.
There is no designated area where boats should stop leaving space for the mantas meaning they chase them all the time. Moreover, the leaking oil from the boat engines makes the water that mantas filter even more polluted.
It was also sad to see how disrespectful some people are and keep touching the mantas. I know, there is little we can do to change this situation, and just hope that authorities will realize that they have to act in order to protect manta rays and preserve their feeding grounds.
Also, do your best to be part of the changes too! When looking for a manta snorkeling trip, try to find an eco-tour operator that takes care of the environment! Educate your environment about respecting marine life and creatures. Take only pictures and leave a small footprint!
Tip: learn more about the correct behavior in the ocean from our responsible snorkeling post!
Snorkeling safety tips
I feel it important to draw attention to the dangers of the currents around the Nusa Islands. The ocean has great power and we need to take precautions when hitting the water (read our snorkeling safety tips if you haven’t had it yet). These extreme currents mean that you have to be extra careful if you go swimming, diving or snorkeling here, especially if you are a beginner. The currents are probably the strongest I’ve ever experienced while snorkeling and can change very rapidly.
After our tour, we agreed that our manta snorkeling Nusa Penida trip was like swimming in a washing machine because of the rough sea and strong currents. Therefore, while swimming with the mantas don’t forget to watch out for the waves, keep a safe distance from the boats around, and stay away from the cliffs!
Never swim far from the shore, and always use good snorkel fins that will help you get back to the beach! In case you are caught by a current and can’t swim against it, wave to nearby boats and ask for help. I rarely suggest signing up for organized trips over snorkeling from shore, but in Nusa Penida, this is the safest you can do!
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