Our ultimate guide to Indonesia's dive and snorkel sites
We went around Indonesia looking for the best dive sites and we were not disappointed
Indonesia is made up of some 16,000 islands. And in between? It’s water, all beautiful, tropical, coral filled water. In fact, the majority of the waters of Indonesia are smack in the middle of the Coral Triangle which houses over 600 different species of reef-building corals, 6 of the 7 marine turtle species and more than 2000 species of reef fish. No wonder Indonesia is known to be an epicentre for diving!
After traversing the country from Sumatra to Papua, we wanted to share with you a few of the gems we found along the way for experiencing the underwater world.
1. Komodo National Park
Komodo may be known for its dragons, but ask any diver, and she will tell you that the lizards are no match for the majestic mantas. Komodo has some of the best variety of dive spots, which can accommodate everyone from a total beginner to the most advanced diver.
In addition to colourful corals, dazzling fish life, large creatures such as black and white tip sharks (and manta rays of course!), the National Park also offers fun challenges such as current diving for the advanced and adventurous.
Quite a bit of the sea world can be observed without going too deep underwater, hence making Komodo a great spot for snorkelers as well. Colourful reefs and mantas are especially easy to spot as a snorkeler here. And if you are still curious about the land creatures, most dive shops will take you out to see the dragons instead of a third dive.
How to get there: If you are coming on an international flight, you will need to fly into Jakarta or Denpasar (Bali), from there you will need to take a flight to Labuan Bajo on Flores Island. There are plenty of flights from both locations going every day. Dive operators will take you out on a boat to the National Park.
Good for: Beginner to Very Advanced
Also Good for: Snorkelers
Accommodation Options: from Basic to Comfortable
2. Gili Islands
The Gili Islands (Gili Air, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno) have come to be known as the new Bali. The three Gili islands off the coast of Lombok (neighbouring island to Bali) offer the type of unspoiled paradise feel that Bali did a few decades back.
The islands range in various levels of entertainment and relaxation. Gap year students looking for a party atmosphere tend to like going to Trawangan (Gili T). Young professionals and groups of friends looking to unwind like to go to Air. Finally, couples or solo travellers seeking complete isolation tend to like going to Meno.
From all three islands, you can access all the diving sites that the Gilis have to offer (though the best diving is near Gili T, so regardless of where you are based, the boats will take you to the dive spots near Gili T). This area is best known for its turtle life and excellent conditions for beginners as the waters are very calm.
How to get there: From Jakarta or Bali you can take a flight to Mataram, Lombok. There are a few international flights that go straight to Mataram, so check to see if your home airport might serve flights there. From the airport it is about a two hours drive to the port
Good for: Beginners
Also Good for: Partying and relaxing
Accommodation Options: Comfortable to Luxurious
3. Bunaken National Park
Right in the centre of the coral triangle, off the northern coast of Sulawesi, lays Bunaken National Park. Bunaken is famous for its gorgeously colourful coral walls. Drifting along the walls is magical enough, but the biodiversity here is very high making the dives even more exciting as you get to see a variety of fish as well as turtles, reef sharks and stingrays.
On occasion, it is also possible to spot dolphins, pilot whales and dugongs. Snorkelers are also well served here especially for spotting turtles and getting a glimpse of the walls from the surface.
The National Park is just off the coast of Manado, one the biggest cities in Indonesia, which makes for a good place to find good food and coffee!
How to get there: Manado airport serves a few international flights, so you could book a direct one if you are coming from Singapore, otherwise you will need to connect in Jakarta or Denpasar. From the airport to the dive shops/resorts it’s another one to two hours by car and ferry.
Good for: Beginner to Advanced
Also Good for: Foodies and snorkelers
Accommodation Options: Very Comfortable
4. Lembeh Straits
This one is for the diver connoisseur. Lembeh is world famous for muck diving which means crawling along the volcanic sand seabed searching for otherworldly small critters. It is not for everyone, but the sheer explosion of colours in the macro life here is a real treat for the underwater photographer.
Lembeh Straits are located off the coast of Sulawesi, not too far away from Bunaken National Park, hence can be combined, making it convenient for those looking to diversify their diving holiday. In fact some dive shops will facilitate this by taking you from their dive resorts off the coast of Manado to their Lembeh location.
How to get there: Manado airport serves a few international flights, so you could book a direct one if you are coming from Singapore, otherwise you will need to connect in Jakarta or Denpasar. From the airport to the dive shops/resorts it’s two three hours by car and ferry.
Good for: Underwater Photographers and Adventurers
Accommodation Options: Very Comfortable
5. Raja Ampat
The biggest gem of them all. Every diver's dream. Trip of a lifetime. All of those are fair assessments of Raja Ampat. Located off the coast of West Papua, Raja Ampat is particularly difficult to reach, but this has also kept the islands in pristine condition.
The biodiversity and health of corals here is unrivalled by any other place. The extensive colourful reefs, graceful manta rays, whale sharks (even a few wreck dives) are just some of the reasons that divers will pack their heavy bags to come all the way to the edge of the world.
The best part of Raja Ampat is that you don’t have to go too deep to see the underwater world – schools of colourful fish, turtles and even pelagic can be observed from less than a meter in. When you finally emerge from your dive, the scene that greets you at Raja Ampat is nothing short of idyllic. It is the ideal tropical getaway to disconnect from the rest of the world.
How to get there: Most likely you will need to take several flights. Getting into Indonesia or Denpasar you will need to get to Sorong, West Papua. As there are not too many direct flights a common stop is in Makassar, Sulawesi.
Good for: Beginners to Very Advanced
Also Good for: Honeymooners and snorkelers
Accommodation Options: Comfortable