Where is the best place to do my Open Water course? Is Nusa Penida a good place to learn how to dive?
If you know Bali a little or have chatted with people who do, then you've probably heard of Nusa Penida waters' reputation. Waves, currents, down currents(!), sea monsters... OK, the last one is a bit of an exaggeration (unless Mola Molas count...?), but Nusa Penida does suffer from a pretty bad reputation when it comes to the lovely sea surrounding it.
So you might think , it's probably not a very good place to do my open water course, or even, to dive as novice diver. Well, as most people who have actually done the course there and people who train people to learn to dive there will tell you, it's actually a really great place to do the course.
Here are a few reasons why Nusa Penida is a great place to learn how to dive:
1. Start slow and easy
Most dive centres in Nusa Penida have great pools for you to start. Indeed, there are no places in on the island that are protected enough to warrant PADI's (and other diving agencies') description of 'swimming pool like conditions' to do your confined water dives. So you'll start in a pool, slow and easy. Perfect visibility, no surge or small waves, no sand floating up each time you do a skill, and, since many of the pools are pretty deep and big, you get a real chance to practice and get familiar with the gear and moving effectively in water without any distractions. You often have a whole day appointed to learning the basics in and out of the pool so plenty of time to get your buoyancy, movements and skills honed for your open water sessions. Even if you are feeling a little uneasy about certain exercises you know you have a controlled environment and plenty of time to get comfortable and at ease with them.
2. See the most incredible reefs
You might have been wondering: 'well, what about all the fish?' Well, now that you are feeling confident with evolving underwater, it's time to see some fish and some reef and, wow, Nusa Penida does not disappoint. Some of the reefs here are on a par with the best spots in Indonesia (which has most of the best diving spots in the world) except you are also close to good medical facilities and a recompression chamber (but I'll come back to that in a minute). The reefs on the North and East coast are absolutely pristine, a pretty rare thing in Bali which has unfortunately suffered from bleaching events, especially in protected bays. The corals are incredibly diverse in species and sizes , incredibly healthy, and full, I mean full, of life. And who says thriving reef says teaming reef, lots of fish congregate here and the little ones attract the big ones so you might be lucky enough to see a big barracuda or who knows which other exciting pelagic...?. The healthy reef also seems to please the turtles so you'll most probably encounter at least one on each dive (personal record 13 on one dive - 2 different species).
3. Meeting Manta rays and Mola-molas on your first dives, it could happen!
Yes, there is the distinct possibility that you'll dive with manta rays on your PADI Open Water course, they do tend to hang out in Nusa Penida most of the year and you may just pop over to their favourite spots on the last day of your course, or the next day! Mola-molas are also a possible encounter, they do tend to prefer deeper waters but have been known to pop up to the shallows and surprise Open Water course students, sometimes on their first dive (though to be fair, on one occurrence, one of our student divers was actually way more interested in the turtle hanging out next to the Mola than in the bizarre fish itself! True story.)
4. Be close to medical facilities
In the very very very unlikely even that there was ever the need for you to get to a hospital or a recompression chamber (we are talking infinitesimal chance here), Nusa Penida is a good place to be. It is an island, yes, but you are 40 minutes by boat to Sanur (on the outskirts of the capital Denpasar), then 20 minutes by car to the main recompression chamber in Sanglah hospital, the biggest state medical facility in Bali. You are also 15 minutes by boat to Kusamba harbour in Bali then 25 minutes to the recompression chamber in Kasih Ibu hospital in Saba. This is actually quite a bit closer than most of the other dive spots in Bali, which are often several hours drive from the capital or Saba. There are rare days when the sea is rough so boat travel may be tricky but overall you are more likely to arrive at a chamber/hospital in record time coming from Penida than coming from most other (diving) parts of Bali by road. Most good dive centres will be equipped with all the medical equipment and dive knowledge needed to ensure your complete safety on the way.
5. Be well prepared for the rest of your diving career and learn to love current.
Nusa Penida's reputation when it comes to currents is not completely unwarranted. There are indeed strong currents around the island. Certain sites are definitely not for novice divers but for more experienced 'current junkies' (or just people who like seeing big fish and not finning too much!). However, the good parts are that, there are sites with minimal current, there are many sites where the current tends to behave in a pretty predictable way and that current is actually super fun, you just go with the flow! (And, of course, your instructor will choose the site according to the conditions on a given site at a given time on a given day...)Learning to evolve in current at an early stage in your diving career is a great way to embrace the fun of currents and shed the fear of 'losing control'. When doing skills in current, you are in much more realistic conditions for most of the world's diving than if you do it in 'swimming pool' like conditions when you are supposed to be in open water/ in the sea where stuff happens. Most people will tell you that learning to dive in Penida means you are equipped to dive most places (but don't get cocky) and that if you can clear your mask whilst floating rapidly along a reef in current, you can do it most places. All this will help you be an alert confident diver in future.
Especially if you are planning other incredible destinations for diving during your trip in Indonesia, like Flores/ Komodo marine park or the coral triangle/Raja Ampat, learning in Nusa Penida will give you the skills and experience you need to enjoy these top spot with the confidence, ability and safety-awareness required.
6. Get top notch scuba training
Nusa Penida has some of the top dive centres in Bali with highly experienced, competent and qualified instructors to lead you into your diving adventure in a fun and professional way. If you would like more information about the PADI Open Water course, feel free to get in touch with us.
Come learn to dive in Nusa Penida! You will not be disappointed.