Menjangan Island is a long, low lump off the coast of the West Bali National Park. Covered with brown deciduous trees and a fringe of mangroves in the dry season, it is about 30 minutes by boat from the coast of Bali island.
“Menjangan” means dry – there is no source of fresh water here and the only wildlife are the native Menjangan deer which are able to drink salt water. It is not inhabited but there is a large temple complex with a huge white Ganesh statue.
As our boat approached and circled the island heading for the first dive spot, another boat overtook us and headed for the jetty. The passengers were wearing their best temple clothes, mostly dressed in white and with hats and headdresses or white flowers in their hair.
They filed up the path to the temple to pray, carrying large dishes of offerings on their heads. A whole extended family, from grandmothers to toddlers.
We took our lunch boxes ashore (filled with delicious Balinese food prepared that morning) and watched them come and go before being called to another diving session.
I wasn’t able to dive on this trip as I had my daughter with me but we experienced snorkelling Bali at two places off the coast of Menjangan Island (Coral Gardens and Sandy Slopes). The water was as turquoise and clear as a swimming pool, the extensive reefs had hardly any dead coral and the sea was thick with varied and colourful fish.
Clownfish ducked in and out of their swaying anemones, Regal Angelfish cruised around and Parrotfish showed off their colourful scales. The coral is subtle colours of lemon and pink with an occasional splash of amethyst.
On our boat were three experienced divers, one of whom had done over 100 dives. They said they were enjoying the very good condition of the reef and loved scuba diving Bali. Most of the fish here are quite small, but the number and variety are wonderful.
The Blue Illusion Dive Center is based in The Menjangan eco resort, on the shores of Bajul Bay. They offer a good range of courses and diving services. There is also an excellent house reef with corals far less damaged than elsewhere in south-east Asia such as Thailand.
A decade ago the local fisherpeople decided to stop (dynamite) fishing and convert to tourism – they are organised as a group and contract with The Menjangan resort and other dive centres along the coast to provide boat trips.
These are not luxury vessels but traditional wooden fishing boats painted bright blue and the drivers and dive instructors I met were all very professional and friendly.
Speeding back across the ways to Bajul Bay I saw a handful of flying fish bouncing over the surface of the sea and a huge grey heron, winging its way across the water. Menjangan Island is a must do diving experience in Indonesia and one of the best things to do in Bali.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been to West Bali National Park or Menjangan Island on your Bali holidays?