Biorock detail at the artificial reef system in Pemuteran bay

Biorock Pemuteran: Snorkeling & Diving Indonesia’s Biggest Coral Restoration Project!

One of the biggest draws of a trip to Pemuteran is its BioRock project, an impressive effort that’s resulted in the creation of the largest coral reef restoration effort in all of Indonesia.

It was started nearly 25 years ago as a smaller project, but now, it’s grown immensely and is one of the biggest reasons people come visit the small West Bali village of Pemuteran today!

It’s a massive success and one that is setting an example for and inspiring reef conservation projects in many parts of the world.

detail of one of the biorock structures with a lot of successful coral growth happening on the edges of the rebar

The project as it stands now is composed of 115 artificial reef structures, which you can find all along Pemuteran Bay.

Over time, the structures will get covered in new coral colonies and lose their original shape, making the rebar reinforcements behind them invisible.

It’s cool to see the structures in all stages of that process: from successful coral colonies to brand-new structures that will eventually thrive too!

History of the BioRock Pemuteran Project

A selection of different structures from the surface in Biorock Pemuteran

Prior to the reef conservation efforts in Pemuteran, its reefs had taken quite a few hits.

Local fisherman were using unsustainable techniques, unaware of how damaging it was to the reefs, using bombs and cyanide to fish more easily.

As you can imagine, this wasn’t great for the local reefs, and they suffered a lot of damages as a result, in addition to the stress that coral reefs have faced worldwide in the face of global warming and high water temperatures.

A local dive shop owner named Yos Amerta saw a desperate need for intervention and invited some foreign scientists to begin a coral restoration project in Pemuteran.

Begun in 2000, the BioRock project was spearheaded by Wolf Hilbertz and Tom Goreau, who use a unique process to speed up the reef restoration process.

An anemone transplanted onto a biorock structure in Pemuteran bay

Biorock is the name of the process they use (which was pioneered by Hilbertz back in 1976). It’s also known as Electrolytic Mineral Accretion Technology. But what does that actually mean?

Basically, the process consists of using a very low voltage electrical current coursing through the seawater (don’t worry, it’s totally safe for humans, fish, and all sea life!).

This process makes the minerals in the seawater dissolve and crystallize on the artificial reef structures made of low-cost rebar, creating limestone similar to what you’d naturally find on a coral reef system.

The benefits of using Biorock technology is that the coral colonization process is sped up rapidly, and you can get a lot of colorful coral and fish a lot quicker than without.

The water around the metal structure (the cathode) is highly oxygenated too, which makes it especially attractive to fish, further speeding up the restoration process!

A completely coral-covered section of the reef restoration project with table corals and branching corals

It also attracts tourists: at least 40% of people coming to Pemuteran specifically cited their interest in the reef restoration project as a reason for visiting!

In tandem with the beautiful natural reefs protected beautifully in Menjangan Island, Pemuteran has emerged as a top-tier diving destination in Bali.

This has uplifted the local community, among some of the poorest in Bali, as the climate in Pemuteran is too dry for most crops, including rice, to grow.

Now, a lot of the community is directly involved in the Biorock initiative.

detail of one of the biorock structures with a lot of successful coral growth happening on the edges of the rebar

As well, this initiative has helped Pemuteran diving and snorkeling tourism operations thrive.

Plus, the work of the project has helped implement sustainable fishing practices in Pemuteran.

Importantly, the project empowered villagers to see how sustainable fishing was in their best interest, helping the locals prosper as well as the reef.

Snorkeling and/or Diving BioRock

Allison Green taking a selfie underwater of herself snorkeling at BioRock Pemuteran

BioRock Pemuteran is either doable as a shore dive or as a snorkel.

At first, I had planned to do a dive at BioRock in the afternoon, but I changed it to doing a night dive instead and instead chose to snorkel it.

That said, I do think diving BioRock would really allow you to appreciate the smaller life that has made its home in this beautiful artificial reef project.

Dive costs in Pemuteran are quite low, typically under $25 USD for a single tank dive, so it’s definitely worth it!

A scorpionfish nestled in the coral
If you dive it, you’ll see more macro and camouflaged critters, like this scorpionfish and the frogfish that call BioRock home

On my brief snorkel trip here, I saw so many reef fish!

Among the more unique species I spotted during my snorkel trip were: sailfin tang, bird wrasse, Maori wrasse, humbug damselfish, humphead bannerfish, scorpionfish, and lizardfish.

Because I was only duck diving from the surface while snorkeling, I didn’t get a chance to see the macro life of this dive site.

Coral details of biorock

However, dive photographers I follow on Instagram have posted some great shots from here, spotting all sorts of nudibranchs, frogfish, and teeny-tiny shrimp that would make this an excellent dive site for macro!

There are so many different structures you can see here, from typical reef restoration structures to more creative and inspired shapes, like an octopus, a scorpionfish, a dragon, the island of Bali, and more.

Visiting BioRock

The beach near Biorock preservation site in Pemuteran Bali with beach and people sitting out in the sun
The shore entry of BioRock

It’s exceptionally easy to visit BioRock, and if you have your own snorkeling gear, you don’t even need to go with a company — you can just snorkel straight from the shore!

Starting at the Taman Sari hotel, you can simply walk about 5 minutes to the designated flag for safe entry/exit to the BioRock project.

Enter and exit here so that you can avoid damaging any fragile coral structures!

If you want to dive BioRock, you’ll want to go with a local dive shop.

For certified divers, Dive Concepts Pemuteran organizes afternoon shore dives at BioRock at 3 PM if there’s interest.

If you’ve never dived before, you can do a Discovery Dive at BioRock with Bali Diving Academy — for a pool theory session and an introductory dive at BioRock, it’s just $75 USD!

Book here!

Supporting the BioRock Project

An octopus shaped structure in Bali's Pemuteran bay where a coral restoration project is ongoing

Typically, an organization like a dive shop or hotel will fund an entire structure.

Often in the case of independent donors, their names will be placed on the structure.

You can see an example of this on this structure of Bali below!

coral reef structure in the shape of bali with corals below it
Names on a piece of structure in the shape of Bali

If you are interested in contributing to the Biorock Pemuteran project, you can sponsor the project here.

A donation of 500,000 IDR (about $32 USD) helps you “adopt” a baby coral — your name will be attached to the coral and you’ll receive photos and videos of your coral growing over the course of a year!

You can donate 100,000,000 IDR ($6,500 USD) to sponsor an entire structure, and you can place your name or logo on the structure, and get photos and videos updating you on the progress of the structure you sponsored after six months and one year.

Where to Stay Near BioRock Pemuteran

Accommodations in Pemuteran at Kabul Padi Wooden House with a long lap pool and umbrella and wooden traditional Balinese style homes
Pool views at Kubu Padi in Pemuteran, Bali

Personally, I stayed at Kubu Padi Wooden House just a 5-minute walk away from the entrance to the beach at Taman Sari, and I can highly recommend it.

It’s incredibly affordable (about $25 USD per night in off-season) and what you get for the price is excellent.

Your can stay in your very own Balinese wooden chalet with a lovely pool to swim in… not to mention a great daily breakfast and coffee!

Check prices and availability here

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