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  4. Diving in Indonesia: which islands have the best underwater world

Indonesia is considered to be a paradise for divers. For 5 years in a row, it has been ranked first in the Dive Travel Awards. Located in the heart of the coral triangle, the archipelago offers an incredible variety of ocean inhabitants and underwater landforms. And this is combined with good infrastructure, cool dive resorts and clubs, budget but atmospheric guesthouses, snow-white beaches, delicious and cheap food, bright parties and interesting excursions on one of the 17.5 thousand islands that are part of the Indonesian archipelago.

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Diving in Indonesia is about the opportunity:

  • see about 3,000 species of fish (which is 2 times more than on the Great Barrier Reef and 5 times more than in the Red Sea) and 600 species of corals;
  • swim with manta rays, turtles, dolphins and reef sharks;
  • see a sea cow, a crocodile, a fish-moon;
  • try drift t- , free, reef, night, muck-, tec-diving;
  • explore sunken ships;
  • climb the underwater stone wall;
  • take pictures with underwater statues and much more.


When is the best time to dive in Indonesia?

In general, diving in Indonesia is available all year round, but it is best to go from May to September, when the dry season is here. Then there will be more visibility. The water temperature does not change much throughout the year and fluctuates in the range of +25 to 27 ℃. Reef sharks, dolphins, turtles and some other large mammals are also not characterized by seasonality. If you are hunting for a specific aquatic species, then it is best to check specialized sources and find out when is the best time to dive.


The best diving spots in Indonesia

Weh, Sumatra

The volcanic island of Weh provides the best scuba diving in Indonesia.

  • Firstly, 2 oceans meet here: the Indian and the Pacific, so it is possible to dive in two at once.
  • Secondly, the place has not yet been explored much and every diver can discover something absolutely incredible.

There is good visibility (up to 25 m) and a rich underwater world, including the imperial angelfish. In September and October, manta rays and reef sharks come to local latitudes.


Sangalaki, East Kalimantan

It is believed that here are the best manta dive sites in Indonesia, and even in the whole world. Especially a lot of these fish are here on the full moon.


Bunaken Marine Park, Sulawesi

The territory of the park is about 750 km² and is famous for one of the most interesting and diverse underwater worlds on Earth. In water expanses with a depth of more than 1500 m, you can find many corals, fish, 7 of the 8 existing species of giant mollusks and other inhabitants. The park is believed to be home to over ⅔ of all known Indo-West Pacific fish species. Local coral gardens provide excellent drift diving spots.

More about Bunaken.


Raja Ampat, West Papua

This archipelago offers the best diving in Indonesia, as it is considered by many to have the most diverse underwater world on earth, including 1,500 fish species and 550 coral species, accounting for 75% of all known. Interesting dive spots include:

  • Sardine reef
  • Arborek Jetty
  • Cape Kri (here in 2012 a record was set for the number of views seen in one dive - 374!)
  • Melissa's Garden
  • Citrus Ridge
  • Four Kings,
  • Blue Magic


Ambon, Maluku

This place is a must-see for muck diving enthusiasts and underwater photographers. Also here, at a depth of 15-30 meters, lies the 100-meter sunken ship Duke of Sparta, overgrown with incredible corals and sponges.


Wakatobi, Sulawesi

Wakatobi has been called a paradise for underwater photographers as it hosts one of the most vibrant and biodiverse reefs in the world. The best places to dive:

  • Wakatobi House Reef
  • With oral garden
  • Cornucopia


Alor Island, Lesser Sunda

This is one of the few pieces of the planet that has not been touched by human activity. Here you can see flocks of hammerhead sharks, pilot whales and dolphins. A black sandy bottom and an incredible number of underwater inhabitants create chic conditions for muck-diving and macro photography.


Komodo National Park, Flores

Komodo Park is known for being home to the world's largest lizard and the island's endemic resident, the Komodo dragon. The park includes 28 islands and combines completely different underwater ecosystems. In its northern part, among the colored reefs, sharks and hundreds of other inhabitants are teeming, and in the southern, more muddy, one should look for manta rays. The most vivid impressions are guaranteed when diving on:

  • Crystal Rock
  • Castle Rock
  • Yellow Wall
  • Lighthouse - ideal for night diving



Diving in Bali is known for its variety. Its north coast is ideal for water , drift and reef diving, while the east coast is ideal for wreck diving and the Liberty Wreck is waiting for you, and the waters around all the islands are full of amazing inhabitants, including manta rays, sunfish and many others. The most popular dive sites are here:

  • Amed Wall
  • Tulamben - with a huge lava wall 70 meters deep, for lovers of deep diving
  • Pemuteran Bay - with an amazing man-made Temple garden and underwater statues
  • Nusa Penida - on the territory of which there is a reserve with almost 300 species of corals, incl. soft (gorgonian)
  • Menjangan - perfect for beginner divers as well as experienced wreck divers
  • Seraya Secrets - the best place for muck diving and macro photography
  • Nusa Lembongan - ideal for beginners and those wishing to improve their diving skills


Gili Islands

Diving is one of the main reasons why tourists go to Gili. The underwater world here is simply incredible and is represented by an impressive reef, which is called the “underwater Chinese wall” because of its scale, hundreds of species of fish, turtles, sunken ships and underwater sculptures.

The most popular diving sites on Gili are:

  • Shark Point (Gili T)
  • Manta Point (Gili T)
  • Turtle Heaven (Meno)
  • Deep Turbo (between Gili T and Meno)
  • Meno Wall (Meno)
  • Simon's Reef (Meno)


Dive centers and resorts in Indonesia

It is believed that the best diving in Indonesia is in the central and eastern part of the archipelago, so most of the top resorts and diving centers are located here. According to the Dive Travel Awards, Papua Explorers on Gam Island in the Raja Ampat archipelago became the best resort in Indonesia in 2021. In addition, this year it took the second place in the global ranking among the best dive centers and resorts, and in 2019 it was even a winner. In third place in the 2021 ranking is Scuba Junkie, which has dive resorts on three Indonesian islands: Komodo, Sangalaki and Nusa Penida. Other top Indonesian resorts and diving centers include:

  • Siladen Resort & Spa in Bunaken Marine Park, topped Best Dive Centers or Resorts in 2018
  • Bunaken Oasis Resort & Spa
  • Ceningan Divers - Eco-Friendly 5-Star PADI Certified Resort
  • Lembeh Resort
  • Wakatobi Dive Resort
  • Misool Raja Ampat
  • Manta Dive Gili Trawangan



Indonesia also boasts some of the best liveaboard diving or diving cruises in the world. Among the thousands of islands and steep divespots in the archipelago, many can only be accessed by boat. For diving cruises in Indonesia, 2 types of vehicles are used: motor yachts and traditional sailing ships. The latter range from the simplest to the super-luxe, with spas, fine dining and entertainment on board. Usually cruises last from 2 to 20 days. There are also day trips. The cost of such in August will be about $400, and swims for 5 nights will cost around $ 2,000 and more.

The most popular Liveaboard diving routes are Komodo National Park (mostly 3 days) and Raja Ampat (7-10 days). In addition to them, divers often choose Liveaboard for diving off the coast of Flores, Maumere, Alor, Maluku, the Banda Islands, in the bays of Triton and Senderawasih. Cruises to Komodo and Raja Ampat run throughout the year, while most other destinations only run during the dry season.

Liveaboard Coralia, which offers dive cruises in Indonesia, was named the best in the world in 2021 by the same Dive Travel Awards jury, and another Indonesian vessel, Dewi Nusantara, came in third place. Other popular luxury ships include:

  • Raja Ampat Aggressor
  • MV Mermaid II
  • SV Waow
  • MV Damai II

Among the budget options in the top:

  • SY Indo Siren
  • SMY Shakti
  • MV Raja Ampat Liveaboard
  • The MV Ambai
  • La Galigo


Courses and certificates

To dive in Indonesia, you need to take a course and get certified. There are 4 international specialized organizations in the country that can help with this:

  • American Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)
  • Indonesian Underwater Sports Association (POSSI)
  • Italian Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) operating in collaborations with POSSI
  • American Scuba Schools International (SSI)

Existing courses offer training for different levels and purposes. For example, at PADI you can take courses for beginners “Open Water Diver”, and then improve your skills on “Advanced Open Water Diver”, “Nitrox Diver”, “Deep Diver”, “Underwater Diver”, “Wreck Diver”, “Night Diver” and others. The average cost of a course is from 120 to 210 dollars.

If you just want to understand if this is your thing, diving in general, then you can take a test lesson. There you will be given an introductory theory and given the opportunity for a trial lesson. Each of these organizations has its own dive centers in Indonesia where they provide training. Many have their own training pools and even resorts.

You can also take a course with a private trainer, but make sure that he is certified by one of these 4 organizations.

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Interesting facts and tips

  • There are no ATMs on many islands, so take care of cash in advance.
  • Study the infrastructure of the selected islands in advance. Some of them do not have shops, pharmacies, exchangers.
  • Most of the islands have problems with fresh water. It is better to drink only bottled.
  • Take care of the insurance covering your stay on the islands and activities, especially diving.
  • Citizens of 70 countries upon arrival in Indonesia must obtain a free visa at the border control. Be sure to check what visa formalities Indonesia has with your country.
  • In Indonesia, it will not be a problem to rent diving equipment, but be sure to check its serviceability and the quality of filling the air tank immediately at the rental point.



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