Indonesia is one of the only countries in the world where the reefs are actually improving, instead of dying, and when you are diving one of the countless dive locations, it becomes evident. There are so many great dive sites in Indo, that we wrote a entire guide that you can read HERE.
I’ve been diving countless times around Indonesia, and every time I am blown away by the rare and unique species I see, around the beautiful reefs. From the world’s biggest shark, to the world’s smallest seahorse, I am constantly in awe at what Indonesia has to offer.
From the far east in Papua, to the far west of Sumatra and everything in between, this article is meant to show you just a few of the awesome critters you can find as a scuba diver in Indonesia’s Coral Triangle.
No list would be complete without nudibranchs, a underwater photographer’s dream subject. These colorful species are found all over the country, slithering along nearly everywhere. Indonesia has one of the highest concentrations of them, as well as the most species. Have you seen our photo essay of nudibranchs in Bali?
2. Mantis Shrimp
Mantis shrimp are another colorful critter I love running into on dives. These guys aren’t really camera shy, and sometime pose long enough to get great photos or videos. If you are really lucky you will find them with tons of eggs clutched to their chests. Be careful though, they are known to have the strongest punch in the fish kingdom, and have been known to punch a camera housing so hard that they crack the lens!
3. Porcelain Crabs
For me personally, of all the crabs in the sea, and there are many, porcelains are my favorite. They are beautiful and white, and can be found hanging out with clown fish in their anemones. These guys are another photographer’s favorite, and there are plenty in Indonesia’s waters.
If you have been reading this blog a while, you know frogfish are a big favorite for us. They come in lots of different colors and species, including this crazy hairy frogfish pictured above. The most rare though, would be the psychedelic frogfish, found only in Ambon, Indonesia and nowhere else in the world.
5. Whale Sharks
6. Porcelain Shrimp
We listed porcelain crabs above, and it wouldn’t’ t be right to leave out their shrimp buddies. These guys also hang out in anemones with clowns, but they are also seen riding on star fish, and working together to eat them. They carry the starfish off and work together to cut off a leg to eat. These dudes are beautiful.
Everyone loves seahorses, and there are tons of different species in Indonesia. From tiny to baseball size, you can find these dudes all over the country.
8. Mandarine Fish
Mandarine fish are on lots of diver’s bucket lists, and Indonesia is one of the best places to find them. If you can see them during mating season, you are in for a treat. You can watch their dance as they come together, circle each other, then shoot towards the surface. If you are truly lucky, you can get them on camera doing it.
9. Banded Sea Krates
One thing I love about sea krates, is that they are not camera shy. Contrary to popular belief, the snakes are generally not dangerous, and act as if you are not even there. I’ve had them run right into my camera lens, or just hover off the bottom and look at me. Pretty fun to see.
10. Leatherback Turtles
If a leatherback turtle isn’t on your bucketlist, then it should be. Even though the one in the photo above is tiny, these guys are no ordinary turtles. They can grow up to 2000 pounds, and dive very deep. These gentle giants are truly amazing to witness.
11. Manta Rays
Being able to see a giant manta on a dive, is one of the most amazing experiences a diver can have. The only thing comparable would be running into whale sharks, but luckily you can do both in Indonesia. The best chance to see mantas would be in Bali and Komodo, where there are plenty.
12. Flamboyant Cuttlefish
If you are a cuttlefish lover, the king of cuttles are the tiny flamboyants. It is amazing to watch these guys hop around the sea floor and change colors, while catching up small prey with their long tongues. These are definitely one of my favorite critters, and ones I never get tired of seeing.
13. Ornate Gost Pipe Fish
It’s hard to describe an ornate ghost pipe fish, but just look at the photo above and you’ll want to see one. These dudes are a cross between a seahorse and a pipe fish, closely related to a less spiny robust ghost pipe fish. These creatures are always fun to find, hiding in their feather sea stars, perfectly camouflaged.
14. Electric Clams
The real name for these wonders, is a file clam, but are also known as electric and disco clams. These bright red clams with long whiskers, have a “lip” on the rim that flashes and looks like lights. It’s really bioluminescence, but looks like an electric show.
15. Ribbon eels
Ribbon eels are probably the most interesting of all eels, and the most colorful as well. They come in various colors, with neon blues and yellows and stripped colors. They love to hide in holes swaying in the currents, waiting for food to go by, and can make for good little photo subjects.
16. Blue Ring Octopus
The smallest octopus in the world, and the only poisonous one there is, is the blue ring. This tiny guy is hard to find, and highly coveted by divers and underwater photographers. They are hard to catch on camera, but if you do, you are one lucky diver!
17. Giant Morays
Giant morays are always awesome to run into. They hide in the corals, poking their giant heads out, opening and shutting their mouths constantly to breath. If you are lucky, you can catch one swimming in open water, usually closer to dusk.
18. Mola Mola
There are not many places in the world where you can dive with the insanely weird giant sun fish, known as mola mola, but Indonesia is one. They are seen mostly in Bali during the right season, but have been seen in Alor and other places as well.
19. Stingless Jelllyfish
The stingless jellyfish are famous in Palau, but few know that you can also see them in Indonesia, Misool in particular, which is in Raja Ampat area. They are located in fresh water lakes, that were formed long ago, trapping stinging seawater jellies, which evolved into the ones we have now.
Right along with a blue ring octopus, the wonderpus is a diver’s dream critter when it comes to octopus. They are really rare and hard to find, but if you dive enough in Indonesia, you are bound to get lucky.
I know clown fish are a common and prevalent creature all over the world, but in Indonesia they come in so many colors and sizes, that they are interesting again. Most are false clowns and imitators, stealing anemones from true ones, that all look a little different. Anemones are big and colorful as well, with many different cool varieties worth seeing.
22. Green Turtles
If you are a turtle lover, you might even get sick of seeing them here. Especially in Gilis, where you can see dozens on a single dive, of all sizes. You can see the anywhere, but the dive sites around the Gilis have so many turtles that you are practically guaranteed to to see lots.
23. Pilot Whales
Of course I had to mention pilot whales, as I have run into huge pods of them around Indonesia. They tend to hang out with dolphins, which look really similar, so are hard to tell apart. If you are lucky you can see them from your dive boat, some times in pods of hundreds.
24. Pygmy Seahorses
We already mentioned seahorses on the list, but the tiny pygmy seahorses are in a category of their own. They are extremely hard to find and even harder to film, but in Indonesia you have a good chance. These cute dudes should definitely be on your critter wish-list, so make sure not to miss that!
25. Wobbegong Sharks
Wobbegong sharks are the weirdest sharks I have ever seen. I knew that they were in Indonesia, and really wanted to see one, and when I went to Raja Ampat I ended up seeing about 15 in a week! They were all laying in the sand, looking at me with their funny looking whiskers and flat bodies. You definitely want to see one for yourself!