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Diving in Indonesia

DIVING in INDONESIA: The natual wonders of Indonesia

Azure blue seas, pearly white sand beaches, an abundance of exceptional animal species, untouched nature and a variety of thousands of islands.
Indonesia's biodiversity is the second (after Brazil) most varied in the world.

We are happy to give you an overview of our favorite animals and dive sites in Indonesia, but also an overview of the dangers that this archipelago can mercilessly cause.

With just over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the largest island nation in the world. Some of these islands feature regularly in TOP 10 lists of "Best Dive Sites in the World", "Best Macro Dives", "Most Beautiful Destinations", etc. But try to convince the home front - after repeated news reports of earthquakes or tsunamis - again and again that we are fond of this Indonesian archipelago.

‘Dady, Mam, … We are going to Bali again this September’.
The land of volcanoes

The entire Indonesian archipelago is part of the so-called 'Ring of Fire' or the Pacific Ring of Fire. This ring-shaped region around the Pacific Ocean consists of a chain of volcanoes. There are more than 400 volcanoes in Indonesia alone. More than 120 of them are still active. Indonesia's most famous dormant volcano, Gunung Agung in Bali, has been active again since November 2017. Volcanoes not only dominate the landscape of Indonesia, but they also influence the weather. On the island of Bali, the clouds coming from the west are stopped by the peak of Mount Agung. This makes the West side of Bali lush and green, while the East remains more dry and arid.

The volcanoes of the Ring of Fire account for 90 percent of all geological activity on Earth. This causes frequent volcanic eruptions, both earthquakes and seaquakes with sometimes catastrophic consequences such as tidal waves or tsunamis. And yet these natural disasters don't stop us from booking our umpteenth trip to Indonesia?!

'Are you crazy? There has only just been another volcanic eruption in Indonesia.'

Because the soil is very volcanic, the fertility of the soils is immense. Indonesia is located in the middle of the equator. Thanks in part to the volcanic soils, the high temperatures and the abundant amount of precipitation, Indonesia is developing an incredible and unique variety of natural areas. The slightly more than seventeen thousand islands are also all located in the Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle

Waaierkoraal fan coral
Els in het USAT Liberty wrak Els in the USAT Liberty wreck
Wondermooie koraalblok Wonderful coral block
The Coral Triangle (in English 'Coral Triangle') belongs to the countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and East Timor. This area is located between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This region contains more than 75% of all coral species on Earth. With over 3000 species of fish, giant cetaceans and With a great diversity of other marine life, such as shrimps, crabs, etc. the dives are extremely varied and spectacular to say the least.

All impressive dives at drop-offs (steep walls), the slope dives (bank dives where you slowly go into the depth) and the drift dives (drift dives where the reef flies right past you) are characterized one by one and surrounded by coral reefs. But beware, the currents in Indonesia can also become deceptively dangerous!

Indonesian Throughflow

Huge amounts of water move from the Pacific Ocean through the Indonesian archipelago to the Indian Ocean. This flow of water between the different islands creates enormous currents. A phenomenon known as 'Indonesian Throughflow' or ITF.

The Indonesian waters actually act as a kind of storage place where the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean is mixed with the cold waters of the Indian Ocean. In addition, the tropics are known for their short, intense rain showers. The circulation and transport of fresh and salt water within the Indonesian seas are therefore largely determined by the monsoon rains. During the monsoon transitions, the ITF flow decreases, but it is the strong currents that provide a lot of action from the largest animals in our oceans.

The combination of this ITF, the warm volcanic soils and the incessant sunshine provide an enormous supply of plankton. It is partly thanks to these phenomena that the nutrient-rich seas of Indonesia have an enormous richness and diversity of biodiversity.

'Mom, Dad? Are you already a little convinced? May we introduce you to some of -for us- the most beautiful nature sancturies in the world?'
1. SULAWESI - Lembeh and Bunaken

Rhinopias frondosa Rhinopias frondosa
Hairy frogfish Hairy frogfish
Lembeh seadragon Lembeh seadragon
The small island of Lembeh is located northeast of Sulawesi, about a two-hour drive from Manado (the capital of North Sulawesi). Initially, it was the beautiful coral reefs of the Bunaken National Park that put Sulawesi on the map. Located at the northern tip of Sulawesi, the islands of Bunaken and Siladen are surrounded by forests of hard and soft corals. The exceptional visibility (up to 40 meters) is like a breeding ground for turtles, sharks and other predators.

Lembeh, a little further down the road, only became world famous in 2008. Since then, Lembeh Strait has been regarded as the macro and critter diving capital of the world. The dive sites are close to each other and can be reached within ten to thirty minutes sailing time. A special feature is that the seabed is covered with black sand. Lembeh is therefore mainly aimed at lovers of macro and muck diving. Muck represents clutter. But between the channel of Bitung harbor and the small island of Lembeh, many underwater species have adapted to go undetected. Hairy frogfish, ghost pipefish, blue-ringed octopuses, to harlequin and colemon shrimp. Almost all underwater critters can be found here. Our second place (after Anilao, in the Philippines) in "Best Critter Dives in the World".

The weather on and around the island is determined by the two seasons: the northwest monsoon from December to March, and the southeast monsoon from June to October. The periods in between are called transition periods. The northwest monsoon often brings slightly more rain and winds than the southeast monsoon. But thanks to the favorable location of Lembeh, wind and rainfall are limited and diving is excellent all year round. The strong currents that can sometimes be encountered can always be avoided by choosing a dive in a sheltered cove or bay.

Our favorite dive sites : Nudie falls, Nudie Retreat, Police pier, Bianca, TK3
Favorite marine life : rhinopias, hairy frogfish, Lembeh seadragon
Sights above water : harbor of Bitung
Favorite animal above water : Tarsius monkey
Best travel period : year around
2. BALI - And surrounding countries

Mola Mola Mola Mola
Manta ray Manta ray
bumphead parrotfish bumphead parrotfish
East of Java and west of Lombok, approximately centrally located in Indonesia, is probably the most famous and most touristic island of Bali. You will find beautiful rice fields, temples and the volcano Gunung Agung that dominates the landscape with a height of 3,142 meters. The residents are extremely friendly and very religious. It is therefore called the 'land of the gods'. During the rainy season, the dive sites are often flooded with rainwater. Underwater visibility is therefore at its best in the dry season. Bali is recommended for every type of diver, from beginners to very experienced divers and from novice photographers to competition photographers. From beautiful wall dives, wreck diving to muck diving. The USAT Liberty wreck, located in the Tulamben region, is also in the TOP 10 of 'Best Wreck Dives'. So something for everyone and the currents are much lower than anywhere else in Indonesia. The island is therefore particularly suitable for underwater photographers and has a great variation between small and large life.

The islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are about a 30-minute boat ride from Sanur Harbor in Bali. Boat trips are organized daily from Bali to these small islands to go diving and/or snorkeling. We recommend a short stay (of 3 to 4 nights) on Lembongan in which you can fully enjoy these islands. The highlights of these islands are… the high points. Spectacular cliffs rise up to a hundred meters above sea level. The sunsets are breathtakingly beautiful. From August to October every year hundreds of divers come to the Crystal Bay dive site, the right place to see the sunfish or Mola Mola. At the dive sites Manta bay and Manta point you can make unforgettable dives with large manta rays at shallow cleaning stations (about 10 to 15 meters deep). However, you have to be careful with these islands. The islands are extremely sensitive to large swells and very strong currents. The currents can change instantly. A very experienced dive center is absolutely necessary.

Our favorite dive sites : Seraya Secret, Noisy, USAT Liberty, Crystal Bay en Manta Point
Favorite marine life : Mola Mola, Manta ray, bumphead parrotfish
Sights above water : rise fields in Ubud, tempel Ulun Danu, Tanah Lot, waterfalls
Favorite animal above water : makaak monkey
Best travel period : june through september
3. KOMODO - Komodo National Parc

spotted mandarinfish spotted mandarinfish
sea turtle sea turtle
grey reef shark grey reef shark
Komodo National Park has been on the UNSECO World Heritage List since 1991. The park consists of the three larger islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca along with 26 smaller islands. The island of Komodo is best known for the Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard. Adult specimens grow up to 3 meters long, weigh about 125 kg and reach speeds of almost 20 km/h. A bite from the Komodo dragon sends its prey into a state of shock. It was previously believed that the poisonous bacteria in this lizard's saliva caused the death of its victim. Be warned if you want to get close to them. Or… better take a strong zoom lens with you.

The islands of the Komodo National Park are known for their rocky structures, but above all, for their very strong and dangerous currents. Upward currents that almost throw you onto the reef and spiraling undercurrents that sweep you down to 50 or 60 meters in fractions of seconds are everyday fare.

‘No mom, these currents are really not that bad. We are experienced divers and with always say … safety first.'

As in many other places in Indonesia, the currents here also provide an abundance of marine life. In the northern dive sites around Komodo people often enjoy clear warm water. Turtles, sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, etc. are the lovers of the northern part of Komodo. In the south, the water is much fresher with greatly reduced visibility. This in turn leads to more nutrients and increases the chance of mantas. The south is also ideal for some quieter dives (almost without currents) and exploring to nudibranchs, the picturesque dragonet (spotted mandarin fish), and many other small creatures.

Diving on Komodo is best done with a liveaboard that visits both the dive sites in the north and the south. Do not forget to bring an extra wetsuit (shorty).

Our favorite dive sites : Castle Rock, Labuan Bajo, Manta Alley, Lighthouse
Favorite marine life : spotted mandarinfish, sea turtles, grey reef sharks
Sights above water : Rinca island
Favorite animal above water : Komodo dragon
Best travel period : june through october
4. MOLUCCAS - Bay of Ambon

Rhinopias frondosa Rhinopias frondosa
batfish batfish
napoleon vis napoleon fish
The Moluccas is an archipelago located in eastern Indonesia. This archipelago is known as the 'province of a thousand islands'. The Indonesian dive site of Ambon, the capital of the South Maluku Islands, is often combined with the nearby Banda Islands. Indonesia's deepest ocean trench is located in the Banda Sea. The sea is no less than 6,500 meters deep. The main islands are Banda Besar, Banda Neira and Banda Api. On the latter is the active volcano Gunung Api with a height of 658 meters. And yes, here too, almost all islands are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs with a wide variety of pelagic animals: napoleon fish, rays, groupers, etc. The dive sites in the Banda Sea have a spectacular topography with submarine caves, decorated with soft corals.

The island of Ambon is located in the central part of the Moluccas and consists of two peninsulas, Letimor and Hitoe. Diving in Ambon is mainly done in the bay of Ambon. The bay of Ambon is again at number 4 in our TOP 10 of 'Best macro diving'. Ambon is the place to be to spot different colored Rhinopias fish. The bay is bursting with healthy reefs, but is also characterized by the amount of muck at some dive sites.

Our favorite dive sites : The twighlight zone, Pantai Parigi, Airport Jetty, Rhino Point
Favorite marine life : Rhinopias, schools of batfish, napoleon fish
Sights above water : Banda Neira
Favorite animal above water : Psychedelic frogfish
Best travel period : october through april
5. RAJA AMPAT - From Sorong to Triton Bay

Wobbegong shark Wobbegong shark
‘Santa Claus’ pygmy seahorse ‘Santa Claus’ pygmy seahorse
sweetlips fish sweetlips fish
The Raja Ampat archipelago consists of more than 1500 islands and is arguably the number one of the best diving destinations in the world for us. The four largest islands are Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. The dives around these islands, located west of New Guinea, are known for the -often- crystal clear waters and its sharks, manta rays, dugongs, huge schools of fish, etc. But it is the spectacular shallow colorful coral reefs that leave a lasting impression. Misool, the second largest island of the Four Kings or Raja Ampat, is located about 150 km southwest of Sorong. Diving around the Misool area can be done by staying on the mainland, but we believe the best way to visit the Raja Ampat Islands is via liveaboard. With this you not only see the beautiful nature of the small different islands in the vicinity, but you also dive at many more different locations that all have something different to offer.

Triton Bay is located southeast of Raja Ampat and is on the rise. Beautiful coral reefs at unusual limited depths, superb muck dives, whale sharks and manta rays. This bay is gradually gaining a reputation for being comparable to the Raja Ampat Islands.

Our favorite dive sites : Boo Window, Yanggelo channel
Favorite marine life : Wobbegong shark, ‘Santa Claus’ pygmy seahorse, sweetlips fish
Sights above water : Pianemo Island, Wayag Island
Favorite animal above water : Colourful butterflies
Best travel period : october through january
6. WEST PAPUA - Bay of Cenderawasih

Whale shark Whale shark
Whale shark Whale shark
Whale shark Whale shark
Like so many other places in the world, West Papua has its own National Marine Park. With an area of ​​slightly more than 14,000 square kilometers, the bay of Cenderawasih is the largest protected area in Indonesia. More than a thousand species of fish and about five hundred different types of coral can be found there. But the biggest discovery that was made was in 2008. A patrol team from Cenderawasih National Park found some local fishermen along with self-assembled floating fishing platforms, the well-known 'bagans'. Under the bagans are large nets that serve as a safety net, but which are also used as floating breeding ponds.

For whale shark enthusiasts, Cenderawasih Bay is a unique affair. Whale sharks come here every day to claim some of the loot from the local fishermen. Some liveaboards offer open deck dives. The boat stays there for a few days and you can go diving with these giant animals whenever you want.

Cenderawasih Bay is also considered an area within the Raja Ampat archipelago but deserves its own place in our list of 'Amazing Natural Areas'.

Our favorite dive sites : kwatisore, boomerang atol
Favorite marine life : Whale shark
Sights above water : the local people
Favorite animal above water : Birds of paradise
Best travel period : november through january


The fauna and flora of Indonesia is among the most varied in the world. In theory you can travel to Indonesia all year round, but from January to April you have a much higher chance of heavy rain showers. As described above, the best time to travel depends on the area you want to visit.

‘And papa, mama… Indonesia is indeed in a risk area. There are volcanic eruptions and there can be strong currents. But for us there is so much more to discover in this amazing archipelago.

And by the way… next year we are going to the Philippines.

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