Diving in Indonesia: 9 Best Sites to Explore the Heart of the Coral Triangle
Harbouring the second largest coastline in the world, Indonesia forms a part of the coral triangle with about 20% of the coral reefs found there and was voted the most popular dive destinations in the world in 2017. While in Indonesia, scuba diving is one of the activities one must engage in, due to the enriched marine diversity to witness and the thrill it provides. Divers usually claim that it is impossible to be done diving in Indonesia because of the variety of unique experience each spot can offer. Shallow reefs, crystalline water, coral walls and the vibrant creature underneath the ocean water makes the country a diving paradise. The various unexplored sites give you an edge to venture into something unknown and enthralling.
Best Time to Dive in Indonesian Waters
The equatorial climate in Indonesia brings into the country a distinctive wet and dry season, and scuba diving can be experienced the best during the dry one. The months from April to December remains relatively dry, although it may slightly differ subject to the location. Due to the rainy season from January to March, many dive sites usually remain inaccessible. However, one can always opt for those places in which scuba diving is practised throughout the year.
Experience level: There are Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced level diving facilities available for tourists that want to go diving in Indonesia at almost all dive spots. However, few places like Komodo and Nusa Penida are known for their fast and unpredictable currents and thus, require an advanced level training.
Air Temperature: 25° C to 35° C
Average Water Temperature: Usually 26° C to 30° C throughout the year but a few places like Komodo and Nusa Penida experience water temperature as cold as 16° C
Average Visibility: 10 m to 60 m
Average Depth of Dive: 10 m to 50 m.
Current: Depending on tide and location.
Different Diving Courses: Call Diving, Muck Diving, Wreck Diving, Snorkelling depending on the currents in each dive spot.
Dive Sites in Indonesia
1. Raja Ampat, Papua
Nicknamed as ‘The Four Kings’, for the islands of Misool, Waigeo, Batanta, and Salawati, Raja Ampat is an archipelago of 1500 small inhabited islands, surrounded by crystal clear blue sea, and is one of the best places to go diving in Indonesia, and in the world. It has one of the most vibrant marine environments in the world, comprising of 1500 species of fishes, 537 corals and 700 mollusc species. Raja Ampat is considered to be a heaven for scuba divers in Indonesia with alluring marine life.
Marine Life Highlights This particular diving site is known for manta rays. Few locations are quite prominent for scuba diving inshore to watch lakes of ‘unpoisoned jellyfish’. Among the others, dugongs, the unique wobbegong sharks, apart from those of other types, leatherback turtles, pygmy seahorses, frogfishes, pipefish, native hawksbill sea turtles, Napoleon wrasse, giant trevallies, nudibranchs and a ton of intriguing crustaceans would make your dive worthwhile and leave you yearning for more.
Location: Northwest of New Guinea, located in West Papua province. Dive Spots: Cape Kri, Manta Sandi, Manta Ridge, Mioskun, Melissa’s Garden Farond Island and The Passage. Recommended stay duration: 5-7 days.
Komodo National Park, better known as the ‘Land of Dragons’, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. Being a relatively small island, of Komodo, Padar and Rinca as the main islands and 26 other small islands with a rich biodiversity of 1000 fish species, it is one of the seven places of the world with pink sand. The merger of Indian and the Pacific Ocean carries nutrient-rich water with strong currents, which are an ideal condition for the growth of healthy and dense marine life. Manta rays are attracted in the Southern cold water while the Northern water, being relatively warmer, is filled with calm, massive, colourful corals and reef sharks.
Marine Life Highlights Dolphins, pygmy seahorses, deep walls and pinnacles, eagle rays, schools of jacks, surgeonfish, trevallies, barracudas as well as macro critters including frogfish, nudibranchs, and the blue-ringed octopus are among the other notable flora and fauna of the region. Komodo Dragons, the world’s most giant lizard, is an endemic dweller of the island.
Location: Tanjung Pelinta, Pulau Sebayur, Komodo, 86754 Sebayur, Indonesia Dive Spots: Batu Bolong, Tatawa Kecil, Manta Point and Batu Tiga Recommended stay duration: 6-11 days Safety Tips: Advanced divers are preferred here due to the current.
Lombok, with its untouched and well-preserved dives, lies beside the Wallace line, thus, allowing one to see both Asian and Australian species. Since it lies close to Tulamben Bay, Bali one can witness the wrecks of USAT an American Cargo ship torpedoed by the Japanese in WWI which is now encrusted with soft corals and large gorgonian fans. The Gili Islands in Lombok are perfect for learning scuba diving at cheap rates. The place is ideal for beginners due to its light current and constant warm water temperature, and is one of the more popular places to go diving in Indonesia.
Marine Life Highlights Dive with hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip and blacktip reef shark in Shark Point, alongside coral reefs, the colourful fish, and watch the unique green sea turtles which are the main highlights of the region.
Dive Spots: Shark Point, Belongas Bay, Deep Turbo, Halik Reef, Meno Wall, and Sunset Reef. Recommended duration of stay: 1 week
Bali is one of the most popular scuba diving destinations in Southeast Asia with its virgin corals in Menjangan Islands, cliffside views, drop-offs, steep banks, stunning temples, waterfalls and volcanic outcrops. Rich marine biodiversity of manta rays, Bali’s very unique mola-mola or sunfish, coral ridges, famous wrecks from the world war, and sea-grass beds would make your experience etched into your memory. Anker Wreck lies at the bottom of the most profound dive site and is better not to be ventured into unless you have a fair share of experience. However, underwater Hindu temple in Pemuteran surrounded by the vast mine diversity is something which should not be missed and is recommended for beginners. The island is exceptional for its underwater photography due to its macro diving sites.
Marine Life Highlights Among the other underwater creatures, rhinopias, mimic octopus, ornate ghost pipefishes, frogfish, the most colourful nudibranchs, gorgonian sea fans, seahorses, frogfish, octopus, lionfish and scorpionfish make up the ecosystem.
Dive Spots:Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, Candi Dasa, Padang Bai, Tulamben, Tepekong, Crystal Bay and Toyapakeh, Lembongan and Ceningan Recommended duration of stay: 1- 2 weeks
Sulawesi is famous for several diving spots and is one of the more remote spots for diving in Indonesia, ensuring a more untouched environment. The Wakatobi Island, located in the heart of Tukangbesi Archipelago, is a reasonably untouched group of islets of Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko which are underwater national parks brimming with healthy marine lives. Wakatobi’s House Reef has been titled as ‘world’s best shore dive’ and is known for fluorescent night diving, snorkelling with corals, seagrass meadows. Banda Islands in Sulawesi are the best-kept enigmas of Indonesia, with its healthy reefs of enormous hard corals, sponges, sea fans and marine wildlife. On the other side, Bunaken Island harbours the Bunaken Marine Park recognised for its clear, blue water, beautiful corals. While underwater architecture and vast, cracked drop-offs add to the beauty that nature is in Bunaken, Lembeh is covered with black sand beaches.
Marine Life Highlights Wakatobi island is quite famous for moray eels, dolphins, manta rays and sea turtles. Banda Islands are known for pelagics and reef sharks and fishes. Sea turtles, eagle rays, red tooth triggerfish, white and blacktip sharks and saltwater crocodiles can be seen in Bunaken Islands too.
Dive Spots: Wakatobi, Manado, Bunaken, Lembeh, Bangka, Togean Islands Recommended duration of stay: 5-10 days
6. Pulau Weh, Sumatra
Located in Northern Indonesia, at the tip of the island of Sumatra, Pulau Weh is a volcanic island and the meeting point of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Wild and untouched, the island has a vibrant ecosystem and off beaten tracks, with sapphire coloured water and several spellbinding underwater canyons. Pulau Weh is often called a haven of peace and has been declared as a protected reserve of rare species marine as well as on land.
Marine Life Highlights Diving in the right spot will let you witness schools of barracudas, big tunas, devil rays, huge, gargantuan groupers and blacktip sharks.
Dive Spots: Batee Tokong, Sophie Rickmers shipwreck, Pantee Peunateung
Recommended duration of stay: 8-11 days
7. Derawan Archipelago
Derawan Islands, located in the East Kalimantan province, comprises of 31 islands among which only two are inhabited- Derawan and Maratua. These islands can be appreciated better in a liveaboard. A trip to the Derawan is a visit to the coral triangle, with 872 species of fishes, five varieties of giant sea clams, 507 coral species and coconut crabs. The site is best known for 15000 female turtles returning to these islands annually to breed. Kakaban and Maratua have ponds that are sheltered to unpoisoned jellyfish. Due to its less exposure to tourism, the island has more of exploratory dives of muck sites and drift dives and is a very off-beat site for diving in Indonesia.
Marine Life Highlights:
Most macro species, including the highly venomous blue-ringed octopus, frogfish of various colours, harlequin shrimp and ghost pipefish are habitats of the muck sites while the drift sites are well renowned for numerous large pelagic species. Oceanic whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks as well as leopards are visible too. Vast schools of barracuda are a common sight. Sangalaki is perfect for snorkelling with mantas and sea turtles while you can venture into unmapped caves. Talisayan is a hotspot for whale sharks.
Dive Spots: The Channel, Jetty dive, Turtle Traffic, Mid Reef, Eel Garden, Hanging Garden, Cabbage Garden, Nabucco, Sangalaki, Talisayan, Lake Kakaban. Recommended duration of stay: 5-10 days
8. Bangka and Belitung Islands
Belitung Island features massive, rounded granite borders and small reefs encircling them. Known as ‘The Caribbean of the East’, the pristine beaches on the coast and numerous Chinese wrecks underwater make it an ideal site for scuba diving, away from the crowd. Since it is relatively intact, corals are in impeccable shape. Clear, shallow and calm water makes it ideal for beginners, with around 25 dive sites.
Recommended duration of stay: 4-5 days
9. Cenderawasih Bay
Cenderawasih Bay is a sheltered location with mangrove ecosystem lining the beaches. The vast and precious marine diversity has been titled ‘the Galapagos of Indonesia’s reefs’. Historical World War II wrecks bounded by beautiful reefs thrusting alive make the bay perfect for a dive and underwater photography. Marine Life Highlights: The bay has four species of turtles, dolphins and dugongs, an ecosystem that attracts whale sharks, pygmies, tiger prawns, nudibranchs and sea snakes.
Dive Spots: Kwatisore Bay, Shinwa Maru, Sungei Omiand Recommended duration of stay: 5-8 days
Diving Operators To Facilitate Diving in Indonesia:
Two Fish Divers
Address: Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Bunaken, Lembeh And Lombok Email:[email protected] Contact: North Sulawesi Bunaken: +62 813 5687 0384 Lembeh: +62 813 5617 7550 Bali Amed: +62 813 3986 4832 Lembongan: +62 813 5675 8371 Sanur: +62 813 4006 9321 North Lombok: Senggigi: +62 819 1799 9630 Gili Air: +62 819 1799 9630 South Lombok: Sekotong & Belongas Bay: +62 81 907 852073 Approximate cost: IDR 100.000- IDR 3000.000
Blue Marlin Dive
Address:Gili Trawangan, Komodo, Gili Air, Gili Meno, Lombok Email:[email protected] Website: www.bluemarlindive.com Approximate cost: IDR 3.550.000 (inclusive of rental equipment, theory lessons, pool practice, learning materials, two ocean dives, and certificate) Other facilities provided: Open water course, Advanced Open Water course, Adventure Diver, Rescue Diver, Dive Master Candidates, Instructor Development.
Geko Dive Bali
Address: Jalan Silayukti, Padang Bai, Manggis, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia Email:[email protected] Contact: +6236341516, +62 821 2180 1997 Website: https://gekodivebali.com Approximate Cost: IDR 400.000- IDR 18,000.000 Safety Measures: a. Get proper travel insurance as well as medical insurance. b. Make sure of your training level as the currents are erratic in the meeting points of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. c. Make sure that you carry all the equipment required.
Depth Gauge, Submersible Pressure Gauge and a Compass
Underwater Camera (Optional)
All of this equipment is provided on rent in Indonesian diving schools as well as resorts or liveaboards. However, if you are planning on many dives, it is better to buy them as renting equipment from each dive site would be costlier. Being in the heart of the Coral Triangle, Indonesia is an ideal place for underwater sports, be it scuba diving or muck diving or drift dives. With over ten thousand islands, diving in the archipelago is not enough, no matter how many spots you cover. Each place has something new to offer, and it is better to have a fair share of training before you endeavour into Indonesian waters, to enjoy it to the fullest.