For me, the ocean is the human equivalent of a mysterious new roommate with a history of steroid use. We know each other pretty well, see each other on a daily basis, and for the most part, everything goes smoothly because I’ve come to know what to expect when they’re around. There are still instances, however, when they completely take me by surprise and if I’m not careful, may choose to slap me right in the face and/or destroy me altogether.
For Peter, the ocean is the human equivalent of a beautiful, cunning, intelligent, entertaining, sexy woman of perfection who doesn’t care who she’s with as long as she’s in control. Sure, some days she might be a little dirtier or more moody than he’d prefer, but she’s still so utterly irresistible that he can’t help but be around her as much as possible. I’d be jealous, but I’m honestly too afraid to piss her off to say anything.
All of this to say that when it comes to swimming with large, foreign species of the deep dark ocean, I am generally more hesitant than my boyfriend counterpart. As it turns out, however, manta rays not only don’t have a way to impale you, as they lack any type of stinging barb like their other ray counterparts, but they also don’t seem to even particularly want to. I suppose they’ve been called ‘gentle giants’ enough times for me to believe it, and I’m always down with swimming with animals that aren’t actively trying to hunt me. So off we went.
Manta Point at Nusa Penida
Also a part of Bali, the three islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida are located off the southeast coast only 12+ miles away, or about 30 to 40 minutes by fast boat. In the months from June to October, thousands of divers come to witness the huge and remarkably goofy but whoa-worthy Sunfish, or Mola Mola, while manta rays and tons of other tropical fish can be seen all year long.
Manta Point, located off the south shore of the largest of the three islands, Nusa Penida, is a well known cleaning station for a number of resident reef mantas, which can be seen while scuba diving or snorkeling. For our day excursion, we chose the 2 tank dive and snorkeling tour with Atlantis Bali, a popular dive company based in Sanur.
After our sweet guide, Putu, blessed the boat for a safe journey, we took the scenic boat ride across the Badung Strait, soaring over large rolling waves to arrive at the Nusas. Remember to sit at the back of the boat, particularly if you’re prone to seasickness, as this stretch of water can sometimes be rocky depending on conditions.
The steep cliffs and separate rock formations of Nusa Penida are absolutely gorgeous, and the pockets of deserted white sand beaches and sight of locals fishing in cliff outcroppings is enough to make you want to toss your computer in the ocean, buy a hammock and live in nature. At least until the mosquitoes eat you alive and you start missing pepperoni pizza Fridays.
While Manta Point is known for its potentially strong surges, the day we went was perfectly calm, windless, and ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
We jumped in and were immediately treated to a few mantas swimming slowly just below us. Since this is a popular diving and snorkeling spot, they aren’t afraid of people at all, and approached us with no hesitation. It’s quite a breathtaking sight to see these huge creatures swimming so gracefully underwater, and we saw no less than 8 to 10 mantas total during our time there.
Pro Tip: Even though the water is warm, wear a wetsuit, as those of us who were snorkeling on the surface were surrounded by a huge population of asshole jellyfish.
Super Pro Tip: Even though mantas aren’t known for attacking humans, our guide’s uncle apparently once decided to climb in the middle of a swirling couple of mating mantas, which, to no one’s surprise, was a truly terrible idea and resulted in lots of painful slaps to the face and body. Lesson being, avoid the eye of a manta ray tornado.
I’d highly recommend a trip over to the Nusas while you’re in Bali, especially for travelers interested in scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, hiking and seeing a less-crowded, less-developed, equally as fascinating side of Bali. Later this month we are going to spend some actual time on Nusa Lembongan (and Ceningan and Penida), so be on the lookout for more information about what to see and do on these islands.
Thanks for reading, travelers. Swimming with manta rays in Bali is the new kayaking with humpback whales in Maui. But mainly only if you’re already in Bali.
All beautiful underwater photos taken by sir boyfriend, Peter Rimkus of Two Tank Photo.