Penida Island, or Nusa Penida, is an island off the southeastern coast of Bali and at 203 square kilometers, is the largest of three in the area. As the landscape is too barren for rice farming, or growing much else for that matter, the 7,000 inhabitants of Nusa Penida have found a different way to survive. About 10 meters from the beach, locals farm seaweed in the ocean, the sale of which is an important source of income for the islanders. Because of the dry, rugged landscape and the scarcity of fresh water, Penida Island was once even used as a prison colony, but has since become a bird sanctuary and diving paradise. Here, several rare species including the bright white Bali Starling and sea turtles have found their home.
While there isn’t much traditional beach tourism or infrastructure and the destination is very off the beaten track, the diving industry is flourishing. One of the most interesting things about Nusa Penida is its deep sea fish, such as mackerel, sharks, manta rays, eagle rays and tunas. The rarest fish, however, are the giant Mola Mola (also called sunfish), that usually live in the depths of the ocean and can weigh up to 2,300 kilograms. Many divers travel to this island between June and September in an attempt to see the largest bony fish in the world swim to the surface to bask in the sun and let small schooling bannerfish nibble parasites off their bodies. However, while the water is crystal clear, diving conditions are challenging and currents can change daily. Therefore it is definitely necessary to head out with an experienced guide.
Penida Island is located about 15 kilometers off the southern coast of Bali. There is a ferry leaving daily from Padang Bai, as well as several cruises, private speed boats and jukungs departing from Benoa Harbour, Sanur Beach and Nusa Lembongan. The ride across the Badung Strait takes about one hour.