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The Best Diving in Indonesia

Indonesia in Pictures

Indonesia is synonymous with biodiversity. The variety of marine life here is greater than anywhere else in the world, making it a top diving destination for all levels of divers. In the heart of the “Coral Triangle” you’ll come across manta rays, sharks, teeming schools of both pelagic and tropical fish and some of the most incredible coral reefs.

Marine Life in Indonesia         

Indonesia’s marine life is abundant, with Raja Ampat breaking world records for marine biodiversity

Photographers, in particular, will find plenty of photo opportunities. Thousands of species of fish and reef-building corals inhabit these diverse waters.

Indonesia is also a snorkeler’s paradise.

It’s easy to spot a variety of large pelagic fish, mantas, cetaceans, large schools of fish, manta rays, reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, reef sharks, the rare walking shark, turtles, the mighty mola mola (sunfish), Spanish mackerel, tuna, barracuda, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, cuttlefish, and all sorts of crustaceans. Hard and soft coral reefs mean plenty of critters to seek out too.

Whale sharks often make an appearance, especially at Cenderawasih Bay

Dive Conditions in Indonesia          

Dive conditions in Indonesia are very much dependent on the region you are diving in. Some areas are prone to strong currents and depth where experience is recommended. Other areas are great for beginners, a first dive experience or a scuba course.

Tech divers can dive the deeper trenches and there are plenty of WW2 era wrecks for the wreck enthusiast.

Liveaboards are popular for avid divers and the best way to see all that the region has to offer. Some liveaboards will offer trips taking in a couple of the diving areas for a more extended diving vacation. There are some dive resorts too that offer daily dive excursions, mostly in the Northern regions.

Best Time to Dive in Indonesia         

Indonesia has a tropical climate with the equator passing through it. Diving is possible all year round, but it’s worth noting that temperature, visibility and the current vary greatly across this expansive country. Be sure to check the conditions of each destination you’re planning to dive before you leave. 

Generally speaking, the best time to dive is from May to September. Monsoon season is from December to June. Visibility may not be as good during the monsoon, however, certain locations like the Komodo Islands are a diver’s dream during this time due to an influx of mantas and here October to May is considered the best diving season. There is less rain, calmer conditions, and great visibility. 

Monsoon season hits around mid-June to mid-September and most liveaboards to Raja Ampat do not operate during this period, especially those going south which is inaccessible due to rough and windy weather during this season.

There are plenty of regions accessible throughout the year via the dive resorts or some liveaboards. 

Water Temperature is a steady 27 °C – 30 °C  (80 °F – 86 °F) degrees year-round and visibility ranges from 10 to 25m (30 to 80 ft.) Air temperatures are usually constant with a daytime average maximum of 32 °C (89 °F).

Whale shark season is from August to October.

Best Dive Sites in Indonesia          

Indonesia is the world’s largest island country with over 17,000 islands! To truly understand the scope of diving in Indonesia, it’s best to divide it into regions. Here are the top diving hotspots in Indonesia.

Bali 

Bali is a fantastic dive destination, for beginners and old-hands alike, easy to get to offering both liveaboard and trips form the shore often on traditional Indonesian boats. Check out my ultimate guide to Bali.

Lombok

Bali’s neighbouring island, Lombok, is just as beautiful and a little more remote. The underwater pinnacles here often attract hammerheads and the dive sites are pristine. With a variety of dive sites showcasing big fish and coral reefs, it’s also a good place to gain a diving certification. Top sites in Lombok are:

Sekotong and South Gilis

The Sekotong area is, in fact, a peninsula off the southwest coast of Lombok. Opposite the peninsula are some tiny islands, including Gili Asahan, Gede, Ringgit and many more. Stunning reefs fringe the beaches here and the sites are full of coral and all the fabulous creatures that live among it.  The best sites are the Stairs of Medang, Gili Ringgit and the Lighthouse – an excellent drift dive.

Belonga Bay

Located in South Lombok, this is the place to find schooling hammerheads. Other sharks too, mobula rays and banded sea snakes are the highlights here. Best sites are The Magnet, for the hammerheads, and the Cathedral for the sea serpents, Napoleon wrasse and plenty of reef fish.

Gili Sarang

This is the site to see mobula rays. In August and September, the mobula schools are bigger, with dozens of rays surrounding divers. This is also a good spot to see reef sharks and drift over large expanses of soft coral. 

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is probably Indonesia’s best dive destination. Check out my ultimate guide to Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat liveaboards often depart from Sorong.

Komodo

Komodo is one of Indonesia’s ultimate dive areas. Komodo liveaboards depart from Bima Bay (Sumbawa), Labuan Bajo (Flores), or Maumere (Flores), all about one hour’s flight from Bali or Jakarta. Check out my ultimate guide to Komodo.

Banda Islands

This remote cluster of 10 picturesque islands is one of the best destinations in Indonesia, with superlative diving. There is an incredible diversity of marine life and large around these volcanic islands. It’s a vast area, best seen on a liveaboard. Here are the best sites:

Lava Flow

This aptly named dive site at the seat of the volcano has some of the most incredible coral there is. Nutrients from the eruption feed the coral gardens here and keep them pristine.

Hatta and Run Islands

This is where the big guys hang out. Eagle rays, schooling bumphead parrotfish, manta rays, and hammerhead sharks are frequently seen here. 

Tanjung Batu Payong

Also known as ‘Umbrella Rock Point’, on the west coast of Pulau Ai, there is an impressive wall dropping down to over 60m (200ft). Incredible sponges and corals line the wall and schools of rainbow runners and blue and yellow fusiliers like to hang out here. 

Batu Wali

On the western side of the northern tip of Banda Besar, this site is the central zone of the marine protected area that encompasses the islands of Pisang, Banda Besar, Banda Neira, and Gunung Api. Its coral reefs are astounding and it is a known spawning area for a type of grouper. 

Sulawesi 

The island of Sulawesi will take your breath away. It’s the 11th largest island in the world and has dive sites galore and an impressive marine park management system that has preserved countless species of fish and coral. Check out my ultimate guide to Sulawesi.

Sumatra

Not as famous for diving as other dive destinations in Indonesia, Sumatra still has underwater marvels to behold. It’s a bona fide tropical paradise, the dive sites are definitely less crowded, and the visibility is excellent. Great for snorkeling too. Water temps are a steady 29°C (84°F) all year. Recommended dive sites are:

Pulau Weh

Pulau Weh in the Andaman Sea is definitely the highlight. The dive sites here are mostly wall dives, coral gardens and boulders. There are also a number of drift dives along the outer volcanic reefs.

Padang

Padang offers easy, beautiful diving with plenty of macro life and great topography including pinnacles and reefs.

Riau Archipelago

Lovely drift dives when there is current, lots of sloping coral gardens and sandy bottoms to explore. Reef fish in abundance dart about the dive sites here and there are a few WW2 wrecks.

How to Get to Indonesia

Indonesia is relatively easy to get to with about 20 international airports and hundreds of domestic ones for connecting flights. With the exception of Raja Ampat, the dive destinations are fairly easy to get close to and liveaboards depart from various locations. Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) is the primary airport in the capital city of Jakarta, Juanda International Airport (SUB) in Sedati, Sidoarjo, and the Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) in Bali are the other big international airports.

Once in the country, there are a number of domestic airlines providing routes throughout the islands.     

Good to Know

Indonesia offers as many adventures above the sea as it does under the water. Trekking, island hopping, relaxing beach holidays, island hopping and more. 

Indonesia also has a rich cultural history and there are many temples and historic sites to visit, not to mention theatre performances and excellent cuisine.

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