When most people think of diving in Indonesia, a few common spots usually come first to mind: Komodo, Raja Ampat, and Wakatobi just to name a few. Sometimes the Gili Islands are mentioned, but what we really should be talking about are the brand new dive sites of East Lombok that Blue Marlin Dive Kuta Lombok have opened up this past year!
After spending 6 months sailing and diving throughout almost all of Indonesia, the experience I had diving in Kuta, Lombok with Blue Marlin Dive was by far one of the best. The weirdest part is that I was never expecting it because I’d never heard of it! Here’s everything you need to know about Indonesia’s hidden scuba diving gem.
Location - Kuta, Lombok
Kuta Lombok is a gem in itself found in South Lombok. There’s cafes and restaurants to suit every need and the wavy coastline creates different beaches that cater to every interest. Right in the center of it all is Blue Marlin Dive, the only dive shop that regularly dives the amazing dive sites in the east I’m about to tell you about.
The best diving in Lombok, and perhaps some of the best diving in Indonesia, can be found with Blue Marlin Dive Kuta Lombok. If you’ve been to Indonesia before, you might recognize the name Blue Marlin Dive. That’s because they are the oldest and biggest dive operation in Indonesia with 6 locations (Gili Air, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Senggigi, Komodo, and Kuta Lombok). They are well-known for being one of the best teaching dive schools in the world and having amazing customer service and support.
This location in particular was opened last year by a team of Komodo’s finest dive instructors with some of the best eyes in the game! I had the pleasure of diving with them extensively in both Komodo and Kuta. Before visiting Kuta, I was constantly told about how good the diving was there. They said it was even “better” than Komodo. I thought for sure they had to be joking, but they weren’t. On just our first dive there we found an Ambon Scorpion Fish – something no one in the combined 10 years of experience in Komodo had ever seen. But that’s just the beginning.
In order to get to the best dive sites in Lombok you have to go to east Lombok. The map below shows east Lombok and this beautiful bay, referred to as “macro bay”, just next to Pink Beach. When you arrive, you’ll most likely be the only ones there as this area has never been commercially dived before and the other dive shops in the area usually only dive nearby Kuta at the Belongas Bay dive site. The only other visitors you might see are the monkeys in the nearby trees that come close to the water after a long day in the sun or the local fishermen heading back from sea.
The area itself contains numerous dive sites as the currents and topography change quite drastically very quickly. Three of the best dive sites in this area of Lombok are:
- Game Changer – for advanced divers. This dive starts off exploring a deep swim through of a cave-like structure that then leads to a cliff-like overhang. This is by far one of my favorite dive sites because every time we’ve gone we’ve seen something both huge and different! I’ve seen the biggest octopus of my life here, the biggest mating Marble Rays I’ve ever seen (okay one was significantly bigger than the other), HUGE black tip and white tip reef sharks, and somehow some really big nudibranch as well. The current outside of the protection of the swim-through and overhang can get pretty hectic, so this dive isn’t possible to do every single day.
- Macro Bay – for every diver. Out of the 2 months I spent diving in Lombok this was the dive site we dove the most. This bay has a gradual sloping sandy bottom with almost always perfect surface conditions. This is where any DSD’s or Open Water divers will spend most of their time, but even as a PADI Divemaster this dive site blew me away. I thought I knew how to dive before coming here, but this is where I really LEARNED about diving because there was just so much to see!
Most commonly spotted fish life were: nudibranch! – all different kinds of colors and sizes. Octopus – we saw common octopus quite commonly (pun intended) and occasionally you can see blue ring octopus! Moray Eels, Cuttlefish, Leaf Scorpion Fish, Frogfish, Rockfish, Anemone fish are also seen quite frequently.
- Coral Garden – the name speaks for itself. Coral Garden is located right at the corner where Macro Bay meets the open ocean and due to the protection it receives from the bay and the nutrients received from the deep blue it is an absolute spectacle. This is the most abundant and healthy coral I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s so much life you almost don’t know where to look! There’s an entire wall where you can’t even see the base because all you can see is the coral! But don’t get too focused on that, because by peeking into the blue you can often find DOZENS of Cow Nose Rays swimming by (more common near the full and new moons) or any other deep ocean creature. One time we even saw a WHALE SHARK and a MANTA RAY.
With the spotting of that Manta Ray, it got the managers thinking “where on earth did it come from”. They recently acquired a new speedboat and are now exploring and finding dive sites in East Sumbawa. Within the first two days they were able to answer their question, and they found a Manta Ray Cleaning Station, along with numerous other dive sites they couldn’t reach before! It won’t take long before this place gets as popular as Komodo, but for now you can go and experience the beauty of these majestic creatures all to yourself. It truly is spectacular.
Day Dives and PADI Certifications
For already certified scuba divers, you can choose to do 2 or 3-tank dive days. You arrive in the morning and take about a 45-minute drive to the dock where you’ll get on the boat for a short ride to the sites. You’ll do 2 dives then have lunch, and then a third dive if you’ve chosen that option. You’ll be back in Kuta sometime between 3-5pm depending on how many dives you do.
For those who aren’t certified, you can do a Discover Scuba Dive or you can get your PADI Open Water Certification. They also teach every class up to Divemaster (which I did there, and would highly recommend). Blue Marlin is known for its great teaching and a great place to complete any course.
Marine & Fish Life
Where do I even start with this. THERE’S SO MUCH. Whether you’re into macro or micro, you’ll be completely blown away with the diversity of the marine life here. Apart from the literal untouched beauty of the healthy corals you’ll see, on most days diving you’re almost guaranteed to encounter: Octopus, Cuttlefish, Nudibranch, Scorpion Fish, Ghost Pipefish, Moray Eels, Banded Sea Snake, Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Anemone Fish, Seahorse, Spotted Eagle Rays, Turtles, dancing Sexy Shrimp, both hard and soft coral, and more!
Depending on the day and what dive sites you go to, it’s also possible you might see: an entire school of Cownose Rays (literally over 60!), Manta Rays, Marble Rays, White Tip Reef Sharks, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Mobula Rays and more.
And if you’re REALLY lucky you might even see a Whale Shark.
Check out this video we made after one day diving and see if you can spot everything!
How does it compare to diving in the Gili Islands?
The Gili Islands (Trawangan, Air, and Meno) are known for their beautiful blue waters and abundance of sea turtles, as well as it’s close location to Bali. Kuta Lombok is also close to Bali and easy to get to, and its international airport (LOP) is located only a short 30 minute flight away (averaging at around $20USD).
Due to the amount of tourists and boats at the Gili’s, the health of the reef has seen a recent decline. It is, however, the preferred place to learn to dive as it has generally calmer currents, amazing visibility and warm water temperatures (and the turtles are VERY friendly and cute).
The diving in Kuta is definitely the preferred spot for more advanced divers, underwater photographers and videographers, and those interested in fish ID. The visibility can vary along with the water temperatures (22-28 degrees in just one dive due to the thermoclines), but what you see definitely makes up for it.
The diving is also slightly cheaper in the Gili’s, especially if you choose to only do one dive. At the time of writing, the price in Kuta, Lombok for a 3-tank dive day was 2.2 million rupiah ($160USD) and for 2-tanks was 1.9 million rupiah ($140USD), but absolutely worth every penny!
Discounts: If you visit multiple Blue Marlin Dive locations, you can get a repeat customer discount. It is common to see people get certified at Blue Marlin in the Gili’s and then come to Kuta after. It is also becoming an increasingly popular location for those right before, after, or instead of diving Komodo. Discounts are also available for dive professionals, having your own gear, and scuba diving multiple days.