Dive Sites of Indonesia
5 July 2016
Indonesia has some of the best diving in the world. It is an archipelago of around 18000 islands, 922 of them lived on. It is in the "coral triangle", so-called for the amazing numbers of corals found there. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Indonesia's coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves are home to more than 3,000 species of fish. The reefs contain more than 500 species of corals, including the beautiful soft corals Dendronephthya.
The best time to dive in Indonesia is the dry season between between May and September, although you can dive there all year round. The water temperature is usually around 26-27 oC. It can be cooler in the Lembeh Strait owing to upwellings. Visibility is consistently good in the dry season.
The islands of Indonesia arose from beneath the waves as a result of tectonic activity in the Earth's crust. The western islands appeared before those in the east.
An excellent video about the marine life of Indonesia, in particular the Lembeh Strait, has been shot by Nick Hope of Bubble Vision. You can watch it below - thanks Nick for sharing it here.
"You have much more chance to see manta at high tides because plankton come up from the deep during high tides and the mantas eat them."
"This was only the second time this site had ever been dived. At the mouth of a long bay, the currents meant it could only be dived at slack tide. Even then it was a quick and vigorous descent to the shelter of a rock outcrop c. 30 feet down. Then there was no need to move anywhere: just hang out at 30 metres and watch the show: several grey reef sharks circling below, half-a dozen six-foot dogtooth tuna flashing through the clouds of fish above (which were so thick it was difficult to see the surface despite the 40 metre vis). Around 8 huge giant maori wrasse, biggest any of us had ever seen, lurking around too. School of huge yellowfin barracuda, horse-eye trevally circling us...wow!
And above surface was almost as beautiful and fascinating as below. Lots of cetaceans sighted to and from dive sites, even allowing us to snorkel close to them (mixed pilot whale and dolphin schools), crystal clear water and sparkling white beaches, sheer drop-offs and pristine coral. Definitely overall the best place I have ever dived (which includes Gt barrier Reef, Maldives, Thailand, Saba, Dominica, and several others). "
" Sea mount, big fish, current. Amazing marine life, clear water. "
Frank Masters 2007
"Don't miss this one! The best wall I have ever dived. Current, clear water, sunfish, swimthrough."
Frank Masters 2007
"Drift dive, deep wall(40m+ at the top of wall). Eagle rays, mantas, sunfish."
Frank Masters 2007
Flabellina exoptata nudibranch taken in Sulawesi, Photo credit: Silke Baron (CC-BY-SA-2.0)
"A pristine wall with tricky currents. Many pigmy seahorses on a red gorgonian and a forest of amazing corals. Reef fish life is outstanding. "
"Batu kapal located at Nain Island arround Bunaken national park. Big rocks at 40m depth, great Hammerhead shark, good for deep dive , have cave around 60m out 78m,,,my top dive! "
"Bunaken has lots and colourful corals, and some of them can never found anywhere else. I heardsome of the are thousands years old "
"Wall dives out of this world. Simply the best. Everything from big sharks to critters.
Bunaken is divers heaven as the reef is in mint condition and you see almost everything there is in marine life. "
"A definite highlight of diving in Indonesia is Bunaken-Manado Tua Marine Park, a marine reserve of over 75000 hectares only a few km offshore from Manado. Beside the tiny island of Manado, hte reserve encompasses Bunaken, Manado Tua, Montehage and Nain. Each island is surrounded by a dense coral reef which makes the naming of individual sites almost pointless. Diving in Bunaken area is without exception wall diving on sheer vertical coral walls with phenomenal growth well into the depths."
Jack Jackson in his book Top Dives of the World.
"Can dive all 3 types of coral reef.
Still a secret in dive world, so discover them for yourself.
Amazing diving in breathtaking scenery. A must! "
"Underwater volcano located about 500m from the Mahangetang Island, pinnacles , sea mountain, hammerhead, scolling jacks, baraccuda. Viz-- clear water up to 40m."
"Bangka Lagoon on Banka Island just north of Sulawesi and the well known dive areas of Lembeh and Bunaken.
Over the past 15 years I have dived many well known sites and I was in search of some thing different, unique-non touristic for my vacation to Manado-Nth Sulawesi. Bangka is a hidden jewel with every dive an even greater surprise. Can strongly recommend Bangka and Banka Lagoon for your next dive location."
John Suyker (Holland), 2011
"Pinaccles with caves, sharks, rays, current, macro off Bangka Is. Sulawesi "
Ed Kenney, 2011
Famous for its many small creatures: nudibranchs, frog fish, seahorses, mimic octopuses. See Nick Hope's video above for a taste of the excellent diving to be found here.
"Lembeh Strait is critter madness; nowhere else one will find this incredible variety of critters "
Manfred Fraatz, Germany, 9 September 2014
West Papua and Raja Ampat
West Papua was originally called Irian Jaya. West Papua is the Western half of the island of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea being the Eastern half).
"One of the few places left untouched on this planet - a real gem. The corals are in an immaculate condition. I really had a fantastic experience of mantas, whales, dolphins and amazing sea life. The accomodations are basic but very nice and very clean. Great area for under water photographers as well. Max, from Irian Diving, has been a wreck diver and an explorer of the sea in West Papua for 10 years: he knows all the whereabouts of the fish life and wrecks. He has an amazing knowledge of all sea creature and at 28 to 40 metres can show you Pygmy seahorses! A wonderful character full of adventures and a great story teller."
"Amazing dives with whales, manta ray, sea snakes, corals in pristine conditions, millions of fishes, dolphins a gogo and amazing sea horses and wrecks. A MUST. "
Raja Ampat is renowned for its remote diving. The name means four kings for the four major islands that make up Raja Ampat - Batanta, Misool, Salawati and Waigeo. To get there from abroad you need to take, for example, an internal flight to Sorong and then another flight to Waisai. From Waisai you take a boat to your destination - arrange this before you go. Raja Ampat is for keen divers - there aren't many other activities you can do there.
by Arturo de Frias Marques. CC BY-SA 4.0
"Mantas and pygmy seahorses and everything in between. I spent 10 days on a liveaboard in 2004 and loved every minute."
KC Skinner, USA
"There's a virgin dive spot in west papua Indonesia. Very few people know where Raja Ampat is."
"holds 75% corals and species varieties ever found in the world"
"Blue Magic, platoons of fishes, more than a thousand on a sea mount. Nowhere else in the world"
Tommy Lim, 2012
"Manta cleaning station. 60 minute dive surrounded by 14 mantas (3 full blacks)."
Geraldine Richard , 2012
"Magic Mountain is a mount with 2 manta cleaning stations, strong currents, lots of sharks, wobeggongs, octopus, walking shark, frog fish.
Boo Window has strong currents, swim through, wonderful corals, pygmy seahorses, lots of pelagics"
Belette (France), 2012
"It's incredible here because we can play with whale sharks all the season. "
Jupiter Weku, 2013
Komodo island is part of the Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard, takes its name from and lives on the island. According to UNESCO, reefs off the north-east of Komodo have high species diversity. The reefs off Gili Lawa Laut are variable. Notable marine mammals include the blue whale and sperm whale, which you occasionally see, as well as 10 species of dolphin and dugong. Marine reptiles include five species of turtle.
"A massive coral head pinnacle with soft corals and infinite creatures, incredible colors and life forms all over this awesome day and night dive site near Komodo Island and Rinca Island in Indonesia.
--stayed two days! 8 dives!"
Ray Stone, USA, 2010
"Big stuff, best coral with gentle current, mantas and Eagle rays, not one but hundreds."
"Large pinnacle cover with colourful coral. Surrounded by sea life."
"One of the best in Komodo, fantastic coral with no single broken, Current is dangerous."
Rudy, Netherlands, 2006
"Great coral reefs, a lot of fish and many shark, current...Dangerous, not recommeded for beginner."
"Just insane! Sharks literally EVERYWHERE! We dropped down to 28 meters and there were a pack of hunting Grey Sharks, amazing and they are huge! There is a bowl at 5 m where we did our safety stop as the current whirled around us - it was the perfect shelter and end to a perfect dive. My favourite so far. "
Pippa Goodridge, 2015
"Amazing high-energy dive in strong current with abundant large fish in full activity. Advanced dive site not for the beginner when the current is running."
Alexander Jenner, 2013
"Unbelievable dive with fish everywhere, sharks, turtles, dolphins, and the possibility anything could show up."
"Current central. A rock castle under the water, and the challenging swim around it is half the fun. A lot of unspoiled everything from the region. "
Matt Herrmann, 2010.
"Thousands of fish, including 3 shark species and dolphins all in one dive."
Jan De Clerck, Belgium, 2009
"Incredible - we saw Manta Rays! The dive site is shallow, at 15 m maximum depth. So much macro to see too! Nudibranches, Octopus and Mantis Shrimp were spotted as we made our way to the Manta cleaning station. The guides say that they see Manta's all year round on this dive site. "
Pippa Goodridge, 2015
The Gili islands are northwest of the main island of Lombok.
"Clear and calm. Huge amount of wildlife everywhere you look. Schools of fish are swimming around you.
"Sharkpoint has canyons and reefs with a lot of big fish.
Oceans 5 house reef...5 star Muck diving.
Hans reef is a big pinnacle
Very nice, we saw frogfish, pipefish, white tip reef sharks, turtles, batfish etc"
Sander (Holland), 2011
"This extensive reef north of Sekotong is a popular site for our morning dives. The reef is about 3km long with sidetracks coming off right and left. The top starts at 18m and you will find the sandy bottom at about 32m. The variety of species is huge. You can find Jacks, Trevallies, Whitetip Reef Sharks, different Rays incl. Mantas and much more.."
Erik, Owner of DiveZone, Lombok 2006
Erik, Owner of Divezone, Lombok 2006
"This reef is in the Northwest, and a dive site for exploration. Surrounded by Shrimp, ghost pipefish, and glassfish, this site divides itself into three main routes. Bluespotted rays, Cuttlefish, Morayeels and a lot more await you. You may even see a Whitetip Reef Shark."
Erik, Owner of DiveZone, Lombok 2006
"This is a small rocky island on the south side of Rote island with Beautiful untouched coral mainly soft coral and some hard coral. Lots of reef fish and sometimes in the season we have manta rays and whale sharks here."
Mike, Owner of Anugerah Surf, Indonesia, 2014
The Indonesian territory of Kalimantan makes up 2/3 of Borneo island and is well known for its tropical forests, rich natural resources, and exotic flora and fauna,
A small island off the coast of East Borneo
"Diving with mantas, the area around the island is relatively shallow, with wide sandy flats, coral bommies. there are many manta cleaning stations, and we were able many times to get very close to a resting thresher shark. In 15 dives, we saw mantas every time.!"
"Pulau Moyo is not a very famous destination as it is hard to get there, but what a place!!! Over 60 meters of visibility and tons of BIG FISH!!!"
Francois Laporte, Canada, 2009.
"With unique coral and lot of fish in deep blue ocean, one spot at Sumbawa ocean is a great place to dive."
"Like an aquarium, make sure you jump in to the chimney which is on the left hand side of the dive site. Currents are strong but loads of GT, sharks and reef fish make this my favourite dive site! "
Pippa Goodridge, 2015.
"Intense and gnarly. Up and down currents and whirlpools result in a wall that has a lot of everything from that region. "
Matt Herrmann, 2010.
"Awesome! The current is unbelievable. !"
Himura, Singapore, 2009.
"Awesome! Set of three large bommies on the edge of an infinate drop off that falls away from 50 metres, over 100metres visability. Manta rays and huge schools of Trevally. !"
Travis, Australia, 2011.
An article by Phil Tobin
The seeds of this dive trip started in the summer of 2005, when we met Shaun and Beth Tierney of SeaFocus. We were passengers on a live aboard in Belize and they were working on their latest book Diving The World. The four of us clicked and in the late fall of "06" we got an email asking us if we would like to join them in Indonesia. The ship was the Archipelago Adventure II that travels the Banda Sea and the Spice Islands. It took us about 20 seconds to say "yes".
We all met in Bali and our flights had been arranged to Ambon. Four hours later, the group boarded large aluminum tenders in Ambon harbor for the five minutes shuttle over to the Archipelago Adventure II. We had a brief introduction and then were escorted to our rooms where our luggage was waiting. Our room was on the upper deck and had a huge picture window with twin beds in the most spacious live aboard room we had ever had. The shower was large enough for two, and the AC was controllable. There was more than enough space to spread out with extra drawers under the bed and with a power strip (110 and 220) on the desk area; it was easy to recharge my camera batteries in the room.
The ship is a wooden ship created for divers 2 years ago in the traditional Indonesian sailing ship fashion. The top deck is for sunning (no shade) with padded chaise lounges, with the feeling of an 18th century sailing ship, including the skull and crossbones flag. One deck down is the dinning room and meeting area, 4 of the 10 cabins and the pilot house. The next deck down are the other 6 cabins, dive decks (10 spots on each side of the ship) and the TV room with camera / photo outlets and drying tables. The bottom deck is for the kitchen and crew. A dumbwaiter is used to get the food to you fast and hot. Because of the design of the ship, in rough seas it does rock and creak with wooden noises. If you are prone to sea sickness, get medication or try another ship.
The Indonesians are world renown for their service with a smile and this ship was no exception. Any need or want was dealt with a genuine smile. Example: Just as I was to make a dive, the left lens of my glasses came out of the frame screw and all. By the time I returned to the ship to deal with this problem, I was handed my repaired glasses along with the original screw that was found on the dive deck. Anything needed was taken care of.
The food was very good and plentiful. 4 meals per day. The breakfasts were a little weak, with eggs every day. We had a great assortment of drinks that you monitored yourself on the honour system. Australian wine or beer were available with dinner. The rooms were cleaned and fresh towels each day, along with a warm diving towel as you came out of the water.
The corals on the walls were beyond description. Colors and size like nothing we have ever seen. The underwater topography was breath-taking. It was obvious that the volcanos had been active with huge boulders and black sands in certain areas near Ambon. Although muck diving was new to us, we quickly caught on and were spotting Mandarinfish (mating) pipefish, moray eels, robber crabs, seahorses, and even the allusive flambouyant cuddle fish.
Mandarin Fish Mating, Photo credit: Steve Childs (CC-BY-2.0)
The night dives were a whole additional story. More critters than could be written on an underwater slate. Lobsters, eels, crabs, shrimps, cocooned parrot fish, sea snakes. you name it and it was there.
The fish life both large and small was inconceivable. We saw more fish on the first check out dive than we did a whole week in the Bahamas one year earlier. Butterflyfish, angelfish, jacks, (better know on this ship as Yaks) needlefish, barracudas, tarpons, grunts, snappers, groupers, wrasses. Pipefish, trumpet fish, puffers, burrfish, rays..how about a Rhinopias eschmeyeri (a special hard-to-find Scorpionfish). If it lives in this part of the ocean, we saw it! We saw sharks, blacktips, whitetips and even an Indonesian version of a Manatee.
When asked what the most exciting part of the trip was and what I will always remember, I would have to say that on one dive in the muck of Banda Neira, I was swimming along with our dive guide when he holds out his hand to stop me. He takes his pointer and slowly and carefully digs it a few inches into the sand. All of the sudden out of nowhere, this huge eel snake leaps out of the sand that has him completely covered, flies two feet up into the water, and within five seconds, has buried itself tail first back down into the mucky sand. It was a good thing our wetsuits were washed each dive.
The dive operation was good. The guides were more than willing to point out critters that we might have missed: maybe even a bit over enthusiastic. One tender on each side of the ship was loaded with photographic divers and one tender with non-photographers on the other. Most of the dives everyone just did their own thing, following their own dive profiles. The briefings were short and direct. The dive deck was a little crowded when everyone was trying to get geared up, but it was manageable. The currents were ripping on 3 of the 37 dives we did. This was the first time we had ever used dive hooks during dives, although some divers were able to adjust without hooks.
We went ashore in two different locations during the twelve night trip. On the largest of the Banda Islands, we went to a nutmeg plantation and we learned all about the development of the Spice Islands. We learned about how at one time the spices were more valuable than gold and how thousands had died over the control of the islands. The second shore excursion was to the city of Ambon one of the poorest places on earth. It has suffered since the fighting occurred between Christian and Muslim in 1999, and most of the downtown port area has never been rebuilt.
Twelve nights was just not enough. Each dive we saw something new and exciting. Usually after a dive trip, Patricia and I discuss if we would like to go back to the same place and our usual answer is "Yes,... but there are other places to see first." This time it was an unequivocal yes with no buts.
- Diving Southeast Asia
- by Beth and Shaun Tierney, 336 pages, 2009
From the authors of Diving the World, a new dive guide covering 400 popular sites in Southeast Asia. From the pristine, isolated reefs of Indonesia's Spice Islands to the lively marine and land environments in The Philippines' Puerto Galera. It also features helpful listings of where to stay, eat and drink and who to dive with.
- Coral Reef Fishes, Indo-Pacific and Caribbean
- by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Harper Collins, 400 Pages, Paperback
An excellent, comprehensive guide to reef fishes, which is small and light enough to pack regardless of amount of diving equipment. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to identify the fish they see whilst diving the tropics.
Read the full review...
- Water proof Fish Species Guide to reef fish of the Indonesia
Fish species guides to be taken in the water.
- Journey Under the Sea
- by Linda Pitkin, Oxford University Press, 48 pages, Paperback
A photographic journey through underwater Indonesia.
Have you dived in Indonesia? Let us know about the dive sites, accomodation, dive centre and anything else you feel like mentioning. Either fill in the form below or see our more detailed recommendations form.