Positioned between the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, Indonesia is at the epicentre of marine biodiversity. Although the world’s largest archipelago is comprised of more than 17,000 islands, most of the country’s 235 million people, live on just five - Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya.
With more than 54,000 kilometres/34,000 miles of coastline you might expect diving in Indonesia to be outstanding and you won’t be disappointed. The area has exhilarating drift diving, extensive reef diving, fantastic night diving, unique muck diving and breathtaking steep walls. Tec diving addicts can get their fix from the deep trenches while wreck fanatics will be satiated with the abundance of World War II relics. The country is also a paradise for underwater photographers as more than 600 species of coral and over 3000 fish species make their homes on Indonesian reefs.
Still one of the few places left in the diving world to be truly discovered - Indonesia surely promises something for everyone.
With one of the earth’s richest marine environments, Indonesia has hundreds of stunning dive sites that cater to divers of all levels. Here are a few of the most popular sites:
In total, North Sulawesi offers over 150 dive sites and is suitable for all levels of experience.
Considered one of the world’s top dive destinations, the Bunaken Marine Park covers a total surface area of 89,065 hectares/220,000 acres and boasts clear water, steep walls and world-class coral gardens that are readily accessible to both snorkelers and divers. You will encounter large schools of fish – along with spinner dolphins and pilot whales - that frequently visit the area. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot a killer whale. But, aside from the big animals, you can spot some of the other 2000 species in the area – including seahorses, scorpionfish, octopi, sea fans, sponges, whip corals, hard corals and nudibranchs.
Manado – with its own airport - is the base for divers in this region. Just off the coast, dive areas include Manado Tua, Siladen, Mantehage and Nain islands. Near Molas Beach, just outside Manado on the mainland coast, you’ll find the wreck of the Molas. This Dutch freighter sank during the second World War and its hull has become home for many fish species.
You can also visit the Lembeh Strait and see why the region is renowned for the discovery of new marine species.
Komodo Island lies directly south of Sulawesi between the neighboring islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Komodo National Park is legendary for its dragons - the world’s largest living lizard – but it’s the ocean that draws divers here. With strong currents, Komodo is best for intermediate to advanced divers. But, those strong currents also spread nutrients throughout the surrounding waters and sustain a remarkably vivid abundance of marine life. Dive Komodo and you’ll likely see a multitude of fish and some larger pelagics (mantas, dolphins and sharks) mammals. Take a liveaboard dive boat and you’ll get to see just about every type of tropical diving.
LOMBOK AND THE GILI ISLANDS
Just off of Lombok are the three Gili Islands - Trawangan, Meno and Air. These small, casual islands are gems that boast white, sandy beaches and excellent snorkeling and diving. Check out some of the 16 dive sites and you’ll be spoiled for choice – drift, deep, reef, night, photography, wreck and muck diving are all on offer. Whether you’re looking for shore diving or boat diving, a beginner or a hardcore diver, the Gilis have something for you. Just make sure that you are properly trained for the site you choose, as currents can be quite strong and drift diving is the norm along the walls, ridges, canyons and slopes.
During your adventure you can come across cuttlefish, octopus, lionfish and scorpion fish. If your trip coincides with a full moon, you’ll also get to see the school of huge bump head parrot fish that visit the area. Others critters include a variety of rays, sea snakes, reef sharks, moray eels, the occasional whale shark, masses of turtles (both green and hawksbill) – along with an immeasurable variety of hard and soft corals.
The Gili are also a great place to learn to dive or continue your education. You can choose from the many PADI Dive Centers and Resorts that cater to divers of every level.
The environment is also cared for as the Gili Eco Trust collects contributions from visiting divers and snorkellers (40,000 IDR for divers and 20,000 IDR for snorkellers) to fund special projects such as beach cleanups, recycling initiatives and reef conservation activities.
Many dive operators also offer expeditions in the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok. In addition there are dive opportunities southwest of Lombok that combine interesting adventures. For visitors to Senggigi who wish to take a dive, Malibu and Alang Alang Wall are idyllic spots.
Locate a PADI Dive Center or Resort
Depth: 5m – 40 metres/16-130 feet
Visibility: Commonly 30 metres/100 feet
Currents: Mild, but currents vary throughout. In some areas, currents can be very strong.
Water Temperature: 20 – 30° C/68-86° F (at average 25 meters/82 feet)
Dive Season: You can dive in Indonesia all year but the best time to visit is from May to September. The monsoon season runs from December to June and does prevent liveaboard boat trips during that time. Mola mola season runs from July to October.
Weather: Indonesia is tropical with a consistently warm, humid climate - temperatures range from 23 - 30° C/73-86° F - in coastal areas throughout the year. At sea or in the mountains, the climate tends to be cool to cold. The dry season runs from June to October while December and January can be very wet.
Access: Shore diving and boat diving – including liveaboard trips – are common.
Skill level: Beginning to advanced. With conservative depths, warm water and good visibility, diving in Indonesia is suitable for divers of all levels. Although the currents can be very strong in some areas, Indonesia’s diversity means you can often find a destination to fit your needs.
Whether you’re thinking about getting certified or continuing your dive education, Bali and the Gili islands (about an hour from Bali ) are the most popular destinations.
Tropical dive equipment is common. PADI Dive Centers and Resorts frequently offer full hire facilities, usually including dive computers. Gear hire may or may not be included in tours – check with your dive center or resort for details.
Recommended Length of Stay:
Two weeks allows for travel between the islands.
More than 3500 marine species live in Indonesia waters and here you have the chance to see the weird and the wonderful. From pigmy seahorses and famous schooling hammerhead sharks to graceful manta rays and legendary sunfish (Mola mola), the marine animals are spectacular.
You don’t want to ignore the more common animals, however. Octopus, moray eels, cuttlefish, turtles, sharks, jackfish, dolphins, emperor angelfish, groupers, goatfish, sweetlips, frog fish, pipefish, lionfish, scorpion fish and leaf fish are all waiting for you.
Another rare delight for divers is a dugong spotting. This relative of the manatee is present off of the islands from Sumatra to Irian Jaya and from Kalimantan to the beaches in the south of Bali.
Invertibrates also flourish among Indonesia 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of reef – including patch reefs, barriers reefs and sheer walls. Divers can check out sea fans, sponges, soft corals, feather stars hard corals, hydroids, whip corals and colorful nudibranchs.
Most Famous Dive Sites in Bali
With such a diversity of sites, it is impossible to pick just one. But, the island of Bali between Java and Lombok – has a sample of just about everything you’ll find in the region.
Bali’s main feature when it comes to scuba diving is - rich and varied sites. Deep drops, steep banks, coral ridges and bommies all complement outstanding wreck diving, volcanic outcrops and seagrass beds. Bali diving is truly suprising - you never know what’s about to appear in this underwater wonderland.
Although you can dive Bali year round, the best conditions are from April to December, with large pelagics often making an appearance from June to September.
USS Liberty Wreck
Average Depth: 5-30 meters/16-100 feet
Visibility: 20-30 meters/65-100 feet
Description: The USS Liberty, a 119-metre/390-foot American Army transport ship torpedoed in the Lombok Strait during the Second World War lies just 30 metres/100 feet from shore in Tulamben Bay off Bali’s northeast coast. The wreck lies parallel to the beach with her bow pointing north. Part of the superstructure is close to the surface accessible to snorkelers while the deepest point is about 30 metres/100 feet..
Now completely adorned in healthy coral growth with soft and hard corals, crinoids and hydroids, the wreck is popular with underwater photographers. The structure also provides endless opportunities to see larger fish like great barracuda, napoleon fish and scribbled filefish. You’ll also meet up with sweetlips, peacock, grouper, angelfish, coral trout, and surgeonfish.. If you’re lucky, you may spot the elusive pygmy seahorse and, in season, the sunfish (Mola mola).
Getting to the Site
Tulamben Bay is approximately two and a half hours from Kuta on Bali’s northeast coast. The wreck itself is 30 metres/100 feet off Tulamben beach.
By Air - Visitors flying to Bali will land at Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is close to Kuta, Sanur and Denpasar.
By Boat - From Ketapang on mainland Java, you can catch the frequent, reasonably priced ferry to Bali’s west coast. It takes about a half an hour.
BOOK YOUR DIVE VACATION TODAY!!
- White water rafting in Sulawesi, West Java, Sumatra and Bali.
- Surfing off of Bali including the world-class break, Uluwatu.
- Caves, canyon and mountain exploring on Java.
- Explore a rich diversity of ancient temples.
- Take an adventure cruise to the exotic Spice Islands - the Moluccas (Maluku) on Irian Jaya. Visit Komodo National Park, home of the famous Komodo Dragon.
- Trek some of the world’s oldest jungles or climb Mt. Rinjani in Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani National Park.
- Visit the legendary island volcano of Krakatoa off Java’s west coast.
- Tee off on one of the many world-class golf courses.
- Experience Jakarta’s exciting nightlife and fine dining restaurants or shop in air-conditioned comfort.
- Jakarta’s Central Museum is one of the country’s oldest and houses an extensive collection of artifacts showcasing the region’s art, culture and history.
- Other activities
Language: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, Javanese and various local dialects.
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Most businesses accept either rupiah or United States dollars.
Tipping: Most hotels and restaurants add a 21 percent tax and service charge to the bill. Airport or hotel porters typically expect about 5 000 IDR per bag while taxi drivers frequently round up to the nearest 500 or 1000 IDR. Leaving the change is appreciated but not mandatory and taxi drivers are often short of change so it’s a good idea to carry small change.
Transportation: Due to Indonesia’s varied terrain, transport takes many forms, including air, sea, and land. In Java, trains are an easy, comfortable way to travel. In the east, the railway service connects with the ferry to Bali and in the west with the ferry to Sumatra.
Major Airports: Bali’s Denpasar Airport (DPS), Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK), Borneo’s Sepinggan International Airport (BPN),, Sumatra’s Polonia International Airport (MES)Time Zone: Indonesia has three time zones - Western (GMT + 7 hours), Central (GMT + 8 hours) and Eastern (GMT + 9 hours).
Religions: Muslim, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Hindu and Buddhist.
Electricity: Electric power supply is about 220 volts in all regions and sockets will only fit rounded-tip plugs with two pins known as Type C, E, and F.
Airport/Exit Fees: A Visa on Arrival (VOA) of 150,000 IDR (paid in Rupiah) is due on entry into Jakarta. This varies at other airports.
Links to other helpful sites related to traveling to this region
Links to weather: MSN Weather for Indonesia
My Indonesia Weather Page
Links to reliable tour operators:
Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.