"It's a short drive, they have good food and the spot will surprise you," said my friend, who worked in the diving industry, in an effort to convince me to go to Padang Bai Beach Resort, east of Bali.
I still had my doubts, but decided to give it a go.
The Padang Bai area is lesser-known compared to other popular diving sites in Bali such as the Tulamben in the island’s northeast, where you can find the wreckage of the USS Liberty underwater.
To my surprise, I discovered that Padang Bai was filled with a variety of marine creatures, including the lionfish, the cuttlefish, the frogfish and a school of sweetlips. Turtles, nudibranch, pipefishes, mantis shrimps and the flying gurnard weren’t far away either.
If their are lucky, divers might also see crocodile fishes, white-tip reef sharks, leaf scorpion fish, the rare paddle-flap scorpion fish and the weedy scorpion fish.
A short 15 minutes boat ride from Padang Bai can also take you to pelagic waters, around the neighboring Gili Tepekong islands, which are close to another beautiful reef structure.
Alternatively, go to Gili Mimpang for the chance to see a school of sharks and the rare oceanic sunfish mostly seen between July and October.
How to get there:
Fly to Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. Padang Bai is maximum two hour drive away and can be reached by local shuttle bus services.
The dive spot:
Diving at Padang Bai is relatively easy because of its gentle current. Underwater visibility is normally good, around 10 to 25 meters.
Take extra care when ascending to the surface. The spot's proximity to the main harbor means that many boats and ferries are around.