Just north of Timor-Leste and east of Bali is Pulau Alor. Still underdeveloped and not yet well-known, it’s well worth the travel time as the scuba diving in Alor is nothing short of amazing. To get there, you will need to land at Alor airport (ARD). Flights from Bali or Jakarta are not direct, and you will need a connection in Kupang, Timor. Consider combining a visit to Alor with diving in Komodo, as Kupang airport also has flights to Labuan Bajo. Alternatively, some liveaboard companies offer itineraries that include Alor.
For this story, we dived with the recently opened Air Dive Alor, which provided excellent service, a comfortable boat, good spotters and great atmosphere. Most dive shops will either have accommodation or offer to organize it for you. They will also arrange airport transfers. Know that Alor is quite remote and not very developed, so general facilities and shopping options are limited. Phone and wi-fi signals are weak to non-existent depending on the area.
If you’re willing to forgo some of those modern conveniences, however, you’ll find that the quality of the reefs, the variety of fish life and pelagics, plus the fact that most of the dive sites are totally empty more than make up for it. During our week of diving we saw no other divers in the water except for one dive. The number of dive sites is huge, meaning that there is potential for days and days of diving. Know that the currents can be quite strong and water temperatures can drop to around 68 F (20 C), so pack appropriate exposure protection. Most operators dive from March to December.
Here are our picks for the best scuba diving in Alor.
Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, this gorgeous, gentle slope is fully covered in thousands of anemones, swaying gently back and forth in the surge. Aside from hundreds of anemonefish, you can see schooling sweetlips and fusiliers, a wide range of reef fishes as well as nudibranchs and various shrimps. This shallow dive is easy and delightful for all levels.
One of Alor’s best muck-diving sites, this gentle, sandy slope features small patches of coral. But it’s best known for that diver favorite — rhinopias (we spotted three different kinds). You’ll also spot various species of pipefish, nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs, leaf scorpionfish, eels and more. You’ll run low on air before you run out of new species to find. This dive is suitable for all levels and will satisfy even the most-avid muck divers.
Currents can be quite strong here on the edge of a reef that turns into a plunging wall, but this is what brings in the big fish. Sharks, schooling fish of all sorts — you could spot anything here. Because currents are variable and sometimes strong, this site is best for experienced divers.
This dive offers incredible topography. It’s quite shallow but is only suitable for those who have the skills and are comfortable diving in an overhead environment. The dive site has two cave systems; the first is large and allows access to the surface. It features interesting rock formations and great fish life, as well as electric clams and lots of nudibranchs. The second one is narrower, and lucky divers might spot sleeping nurse sharks or marble rays. Both cave entrances are over a gorgeous shallow reef.
This gorgeous wall is covered in corals and features abundant fish life. It’s hard to know where to look — the fish life and the overall panorama are breathtaking. On the wall itself you’ll also find lots of macro life. It drops further than 130 feet (40 m), but there’s lots to explore in shallower waters as well. This site is a real treat for photographers and is suitable for all dive levels.