When it comes to diving, travelers to Indonesia are spoiled for choice. Here are five Indonesian dive destinations for divers to add to their bucket lists, spanning the gamut from magically macro locales to the chance to swim with giant mantas.
One of our favorite Indonesian dive destinations, Alor offers macro life, coral diversity and schooling fish. And, you’ll find the added bonus of spotting pilot whales and dolphins from your dive boat. There are a wide variety of dive sites in Alor. These include muck dives in the bays of Beangabang and Kalabahi, the always-fishy Alor Kecil, and the colorful walls of Pulau Reta. The Indonesian government has recently agreed to protect this area in order to secure a safe route for migrating cetaceans as they pass through the straits to their feeding grounds in the deep waters of the Banda Sea.
Halmahera is the largest of the Maluku Islands, in the North Maluku province of Indonesia between Northern Sulawesi and Raja Ampat. It might not be the easiest place to reach, but all the travel is well worth the adventure as Halmahera is home to some of the highest coral diversity in the world. The dive sites in Weda Bay and the island of Rao are a coral-lovers’ paradise. On a 2008 Halmahera Reef Base Expedition, scientists reported 224 coral species on a single dive site in Halmahera. The best time to visit is from March to November.
Derawan Island, on the east coast of Kalimantan, is building a reputation as the next wild frontier for divers. Crazy pelagic action includes turtles, mantas, schooling fish and frequent whale shark sightings. It’s becoming famous for manta hotspot Sangalaki and the so-called ‘Big Fish Country” of Maratua as well. Add to this a very rare stingless jellyfish lake on Kakaban Island and you’re up for a pretty exciting diving holiday.
Bangka Island and Bunaken National Park
North Sulawesi is more famous for its muck diving — the Lembeh Strait a virtual mecca for macro photographers, with its proliferation of weird and wonderful teeny critters. But on the northwest coast of North Sulawesi are the stunning soft coral gardens of Bangka Island and the equally beautiful coral walls of Bunaken National Marine Park.
Raja Ampat is a firm fixture on most divers’ bucket lists. But, instead of choosing a ‘Best of Raja Ampat’ itinerary near Sorong, why not venture further southeast to the less-visited regions of the Forgotten Islands and Triton Bay? The region also features colorful soft corals and forests of black coral.
You may see epaulette sharks walking over the reefs or giant groupers lurking in sheltered spots. Schools of jacks and fusiliers dart around in the blue and squadrons of humphead parrotfish patrol the reef walls. Triton Bay also boasts a resident pod of pilot whales and is famous for whale sharks that approach the bagans, or boats, of fishermen at the surface.