Guide to Scuba Diving Indonesia

Welcome to Indonesia

If you are reading this, you probably already know that scuba diving Indonesia is something truly special.

To everyday scuba fans, Indonesia is a well know scuba destination for places like Bali and the Gili Islands. But to me, there is a whole lot more to be discovered in Indonesia’s underwater world.

Between Pulau Weh in the far west, to Raja Ampat in the far east, Indonesia has over 17 thousand tropical islands. Each of these islands situated in the Coral Triangle.

The Coral Triangle is unique in that it is one of the only locations on the globe where the reefs and marine life (and dive sites) are actually improving, instead of declining, among climate change.

map of dive sites in indonesia

This gives us divers a glimmer of hope for the future. It also gives us one last chance to see what a world-class dive site could look like.

After learning about the quality of Indonesia diving, I headed there to see for myself. I returned many times after that first experience, it was so special. Each time wanting to try a new location, and see something different.

No where online could I find information about truly remote, untouched scuba diving locations in Indonesia. The types that only local divers and researchers hinted at.

So I decided to head back to Indonesia, and search out the best dive sites of the country.

Below is a list of the top dive locations in Indonesia, well-known or remote, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Click on a location’s image or link if you want more information about that destination, to see more comprehensive location guides!

scuba diving in philippines with octopus

Guide Index

Where should you dive in Indonesia?

 

There are so many options when it comes to scuba diving in this jewel of Southeast Asia, and that is one thing I love about it.

If you are into world-class reef, there are dive sites for you. If you love bays full of wrecks, they got that too. Muck diving? Sharks? Got it. Some locations even have all in one! The problem is that it is a relatively large country, and they are spread out. 

Every location listed below is an underwater photographer’s dream, and it’s up to you to decide where you want to go, based on how much time you have and what you want to see the most.

Or combine them.

I believe that if you are making the long haul to Indonesia, why not combine a few of the great dive locations, and create the ultimate dive trip?

Here are each of the greatest locations in the country for diving. Some are world renowned, and some lesser known, but all world-class. 

blue ring octopus

Bali is the most known destination in Indonesia, for both scuba divers and non. So it is a surprise that Bali remains such an amazing underwater wonder, despite its popularity. During season, you can even see the rare and unique mola molas, which most people only dream of diving with. See our Bali dive guide HERE.

The Gilis comprise of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. Some dive sites are closest to one or another, but in reality you could stay on any of the three, and your dive resort will still take you to any of the great sites around the three Islands. Look out for countless turtles! Check out our complete guide to the Gili Islands HERE.

If you want some of the most legendary sites in the world, its here. You’re going to run intro things like walking (epaulette) sharks, wobbegong sharks, Pygmy sea horses, and even a giant clams the size of a hot tub. After that its mantas, huge schools, healthy reef and amazing topside beauty. You definitely need to see our FULL GUIDE.

Misool

Misool is technically in the Raja Ampat region, but deserves a mention of its own, plus is a little further away from most dive sites. sitting at the entrance of the Seram Sea, about half way between Triton Bay and Sorong, the reefs and marine life is one of the best in the world. Be sure to swim in the jellyfish lake, for some great photo opportunities.

I’ve just finished a dive trip through Komodo for my second time, and it was just as amazing as the first time. I got to dive at a cleaning station with 8 giant mantas, do some great muck/macro critter dives, and see some huge schools. While on a surface interval, most dive resorts will take you to see the Komodo Dragons. Cant beat that. Get more info on Komodo HERE.

Lombok

Lombok Island is a highlight for many. Less touristy that nearby Bali with plenty to see and do, especially for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking and surfing. Lombok may not be the most well-known destination for Indonesia diving, however if you find yourself on the island the dive scene is worth checking out.

Alor wasn’t on my radar when it comes to diving , only because I had never heard of it (as you probably also havn’t). When I got an invite to come to Alor and show my readers how good the diving was, I gladly accepted. Boy am I glad! It’s many world class dive sites and never ending interesting critters, really impressed me! Check out our guide to Alor HERE.

Maumere made up for a general lack of a scuba industry infrastructure and dive resorts, with some amazing underwater sites. There were virtually no other divers around, and I had each site to myself, as well as some nice beaches in-between dives. Maumere shares the big island with Alor, with Komodo on the west end, but has almost no visitors. Head to our guide to Maumere scuba HERE.

Lembada

Along with Alor and Maumere, Lembata is one of the least visited islands and are therefore the most unspoiled regions of East Nusa Tenggara. There are a lot of great hikes up volcanos and lots of traditional culture to experience, and the diving is amazing as well. There will be more hikers than divers here, so enjoy uncrowded dive sites to yourself.

Selayar & Takabonerate

Southern Sulawasi isn’t the easiest to get to, but it offers some beautiful diving for those who take the time to visit. Selayar is an archipelago of 73 islands and the gateway to Takabonerate National Park. Takabonerate is the third largest coral atoll in the world and offers some of the best. 

Pulau Weh

Pulau Weh is a small island off the far west coast of Sumatra, and has an active volcano. There are about twenty dive sites total around the island suitable for all levels and experience. if you don’t have a lot of time in Pulau Weh, be sure to check out the Underwater Volcano and the Canyon; the two top dive sites in the area.

Maratua, Derawan, Sangalaki

Maratua, Derawan, and Sanglaki are all islands off the coast of the Indonesian part of Borneo. The three islands are relative close together, but each offers something completely different. All are worth a visit for anyone interested in Indonesia’s more remote locations, and seeing tons of great creatures.

An archipelago made up of 56 islands off the coast of central Sulawasi, this area is said to have the calmest deep waters in the world. The Togean Islands are known for their lack of crowds, sandy beaches, and beautiful blue waters. They are pretty remote and relatively unheard of which makes for healthy marine life; a perfect place for diving. Did you see our Underwater Photo Essay?

Bangka & Belitung Islands

This group of islands off the east coast of Sumatra are great for underwear photographers interested in photographing healthy reefs and plenty of smaller fish. You won’t run into many non-Indonesian divers at this lesser know location, but the diving is still spectacular.

Gorontalo

Gorontoalo lies along the coastline of Sulawesi. It’s located on the equator and you can even see the curve of the earth here. This is also a popular place for those interested in sweet sites, because it attracts a lot of pelagic marine life including whales and whale sharks. This could be the best chance to see the giants, although they are sen other places as well.

Lembeh, Manado, Bunaken Islands

North Sulawesi Island is another popular spot for underwater photographers. Manado is on the shores of the main island itself, while Lembeh and Bunaken Islands are small islands off the coast. These areas are in and around the Lembeh Strait, and is best known for muck diving and the rich biodiversity. Some name this the best muck diving location in the world.

 

Wakatobi –

Named as one of the best dive destinations in the world by Jaques Cousteau, Waktaobi is high on any avid diver’s list. The area is actually made up of four main islands and are best known for the beautiful corals and schools of fish. Its an easy flight from Bali, so head here for something different.

Banda Islands

These isolated islands are often skipped over by divers for more easily accessible dive spots. But for those looking for a remote spot with an abundance of marine life and healthy waters, the Bandera islands are the place to go. You can even combine Banda with Ambon, a ferry ride away, and Misool isn’t far either, since you’re in the region.

Ambon

Part of the Maluku islands, Ambon is best known as one of Indonesia’s famous spice islands. This Indonesia dive location is often combined with nearby Banda Islands, which you can connect to by boat. Ambon is the only place in the world where you can see the psychedelic frogfish, and when one is spotted a notice goes out, and divers come running from all over the globe.

 

Biak Islands

The Biak Islands are located in the Cendrawasih Bay of Papau. There are 67 islands (the largest is Biak) each of which boast sandy beaches, warm waters, and great visibility. The reefs aren’t as healthy as its closest neighbors, but if you are looking for some far travels in indonesia, this is your place!

Common Questions about Indonesia

Still undecided about where to visit? Let me help a little more. Here are some suggestions based on questions I’ve gotten from readers:

What sites are closest to Bali, for a short visit:

Bali has it’s own awesome diving, but its a long trip to not include more locations. Nearby stops could be and of the 3 Gili Islands, which are a quick ferry ride away. Wakatobi and Komodo (Lubuan Bajo) are very short flights away.

While in Bali, you might also be interested in our list of 101 Awesome Things to do in Bali

Best dive sites for wrecks:

There are a few wrecks in most areas, so I can’t name them all.  Maybe the most famous one is the Liberty wreck in Bali. There is also one in the Gilis called the Japanese wreck, that is for tec divers, as its are around 45 meters.

Great itinerary ideas for longer dive trips:

manta rays in komodo

I’ve done a few long trips through Indonesia, and here is my favorite.

Common but good spots, easy to get to: Bali, Komodo and Alor. These are all easily connected, and have great dives. You could easily throw in Maumere or Wakatobi if you have more time.

Harder to get to locations that are more remote but have insane diving: Lembeh, Raja Ampat, Misool. If you are in the far east and have time for more great sites, get to Banda Islands and Ambon. You really can’t go wrong with any of these.

Dive locations that also have amazing beaches:

Although Indonesia isn’t as known for its beaches as Philippines is, there are some good ones around. The Gilis and Bali have the share, as well as Lombok. Komodo has the famous Pink Beach as well that you might want to see.

There are also some cool beaches and sandbars around Raja you’ll love, during your surface intervals.

Is scuba diving and travel safe in Indonesia?

This always depends on your definition of “safe”, but I have never felt anything but welcome in this country. Yes, there are some poor areas, but even in the dirtiest slums I felt safer than I do in Detroit or New York City or London.

There are a couple conflict areas, but they are very far from any location listed above, and you won’t ever notice a thing. In fact, even though I live here, anytime something bad happens, I hear it first from my mom, who heard it on the news. I’m never affected.

As for the diving itself, I find that there are mostly very legit and high quality dive operations here. I have been to much worse in Mexico, Belize and the Caribbean. They all seem to be Westerner owned, and up to PADI regulations and safety. They will take care of you.

underwater photography

Indonesia Travel Information

Located in Southeast Asia, just north of Australia and south of Malaysia, Indonesia is comprised of over 17 thousand islands. Each and every one of those remote islands being situated within the coral triangle, you can see why scuba diving Indonesia is so great.

Indonesia has world famous dive sites, that are known everywhere to scuba travelers, then it also has remote locations that not many people know of. The remote, unpublicized sites are many times even better than the famous.

From Sulawesi, Java, Borneo, Papua and many more, there are so many amazing dive sites, that you would spend a lifetime exploring them all. And thats just the known ones, who knows how many more could be discovered.

 

Critter highlights:

robust ghost pipefish

Many a diver would give their first born to have these creatures living in their own local dive haunts, instead of having to fly across the globe. But be it as it is, this makes a trip here a MUST.

Here are just a few critters you’ll see:

A HUGE plethora of nudibranch species, including the ultra rare skeleton nudi or melibe colemani, pictured above, and many more.

– Mimick and wonderpus octopus. Lembeh is an awesome spot for these, but there are other good locations.

– Blue ring octopus

-Mola Mola. Normally around Bali but have been seen in other places like Alor.

– Flamboyant cuttle fish. The cutest of all cuttles

Whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays pilot whales and even humpbacks during certain seasons.

– Ornate ghost pipefish, as well as robust ghost pipes.

A huge variety of frogfish species. Cutest critters, or ugliest? Ever heard of the ultra rare psychedelic frogfish, only found on Ambon?

Wobbegong and walking sharks. You are going to get plenty of these in Raja Ampat. 

There are many many more incredible species you will run into, as well as huge numbers of common species and schools, and lets not forget the countless species of healthy corals.

mola mola

How to get to Indonesia:

f you click on the dive location/city that you are interested above, you will find more specific information on how to get to those specific spots within Indonesia. There are many international flights to Indonesia, most of the time with a layover or two in major cities in-between.

Many times coming from the US, you will have layovers in places like Taipei, Hong Kong or Tokyo. From Europe you might have layovers in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

From Australia, many times flights are cheaper to Bali, then they are from other Australian cities! Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, but Bali is the unofficial hub, and where most flights will enter the country.

I’ve been to Indonesia many times, always flying directly into Bali. There are nearly as many domestic flights to the locations above from Bali as there are from Jakarta, with the exception of a few, that you will have to do a layover for.

Visa info for Americans:

Most visitors arriving in Bali get a 15 day entry on arrival for free, but you can ask for a 30 day at the airport as well. If you fly into Jakarta you will probably get the 30 day one.

It’s not as easy to extend your visa while you are in the country, but it can be done. Most expats find a mediator that takes care of it al for them. Some just fly out each month to Singapore or Malaysia, since its close and relatively cheap.

 

Best times to be visit:

an orange frogfish in bali

It is either dry or wet season in Indonesia. In most regions, the dry season spans from May to September, with the rains falling between October and April. Wet season starts later in Eastern Indonesia, as the country is so spread out.

Although you can travel and dive Indonesia year round, choose the right season, depending on where you’re going. For west of Komodo, try for May to September. East of Komodo, try October to April.

 

Where to stay:

As for finding accommodations, it really depends on the specific location. Some locations like Bali and the Gilis have unlimited options, while others like Alor there are much fewer.

For each individual location you can click the guides above for information on where to stay at each place, but if you need to find a hotel at the best rate in Jakarta or somewhere not listed above, CLICK HERE

 

Our favorite location & recommendation:

It was very hard to choose just one favorite in Indonesia, but we will go with Raja Ampat. Seeing those crazy wobbegong sharks and then the walking sharks, made the whole trip! That said, we advise extending your trip, and combining locations. Imagine a Raja Ampat and Komodo dive trip in one!

More articles about Indonesia:

Here are all of our articles about scuba diving or travel in Indonesia. Click the links below! Want to write for us? Hit us up at Justin@artofscubadiving.com

Indonesia Geography

Indonesia is a Southeast Asian country which means “Indian islands”. It has a total area of 1,904,569 km2 (735,358 sq mi) and an estimated population of 261,115,456. Nature and culture are the major elements of Indonesian tourism. It is also the largest country in Southeast Asia. Ethnically it is highly diverse, with over 300 local languages. The people differ from rural hunter-gatherers to a modern urban elite. Discover Indonesia’s white-sand beaches and the nearly 100 volcanoes which are capable of erupting any time.

Capital city of Indonesia: Jakarta

Closest neighbors to Indonesia: Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia on Borneo, Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea, and East Timor on the island of Timor. Indonesia shares maritime borders across narrow straits with Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Palau to the north, and with Australia to the south.

Best times to visit Indonesia: Best time to travel to Indonesia is between May and September where it’s sunny and dry. It’s also the ideal time if you have plans climbing the mountains of Bromo or Ijen.

How to get to Indonesia: There are no direct flights from UK and USA to Jakarta. You will have to stop at another Asian country like Hong Kong or Taipei.

Visa requirements for Indonesia: Visa is not required when traveling to Indonesia for 30 days, but beyond that number of days, you’ll have to apply for a visa because visits can’t be extended.

Currency of Indonesia: Indonesian Rupiah (Rp) (IDR) is the currency of Indonesia.

Official Language of Indonesia: Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia.

UNESCO World Heritage sites in Indonesia

There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia and 19 on their tentative list.

Cultural (4)

  • Borobudur Temple Compounds (1991)
  • Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (2012)
  • Prambanan Temple Compounds (1991)
  • Sangiran Early Man Site (1996)

Natural (4)

  • Komodo National Park (1991)
  • Lorentz National Park (1999)
  • Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (2004)
  • Ujung Kulon National Park (1991)

Scuba diving safety tips

Keep these rules of thumb in mind whenever you are on or by the water:

  1. Think safety at all times. Planning reduces risk and gives you more worry-free fun.
  2. Bring the necessary equipment. It should be in good condition and easily accessible.
  3. Respect the sea and the weather. Only go out with your boat when it is safe.
  4. Follow the rules of the sea, and make sure you know what they are.
  5. Wear life jackets or other flotation devices.
  6. Make sure you are rested and sober. Do not drive a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  7. Be considerate, and remember that safety, the environment, and the well-being of everybody is a common responsibility.

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