Justin Carmack – Updated January 2020
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 us, 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.
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.
where to dive in indonesia
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Bali is the most well 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.
Read our full guide to Bali diving
Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, are three small islands near Bali that are close together. You could stay at any of the three and dive the same sites. Look out for countless turtles!
Read our full guide to diving Gili Islands
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, whale sharks and much more.
Read our full guide to Raja Ampat diving
I had never heard of Alor, but I am sure glad I gave it a visit. It’s many world class dive sites and never ending interesting critters, will impress you as well!
Read our full guide to Alor diving
Maumere made up for a general lack of a scuba 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.
Read our full guide to Maumere diving
Along with Alor and Maumere, Lembata is one of the least visited islands and are therefore the most unspoiled regions of East Nusa Tenggara.
Gorontalo lies along 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.
Named as one of the best dive destinations in the world by Jaques Cousteau, Waktaobi is high on any avid diver’s list. Its an easy flight from Bali, so head here for something different.
LEMBEH, MANADO, BUNAKEN ISLANDS
Manado is on the shores of the main island of Sulawesi, with Lembeh and Bunaken islands off the coast. These areas are in and around the Lembeh Strait, and is best known for muck diving and the rich biodiversity.
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.
Misool is technically in the Raja Ampat region, but deserves a mention of its own. The reef and marine life is one of the best in the world here. Be sure to check out jellyfish lake!
I’ve just finished a dive trip through Komodo for my second time, and it was just as amazing as the first. While on a surface interval, most dive resorts will take you to see the Komodo Dragons. Cant beat that.
Read our full guide to Komodo diving
Lombok Island is a highlight for many. Less touristy than nearby Bali with plenty to see and do, especially for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking and surfing.
SELAYAR & TAKABONERATE
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 is a small island off the far west coast of Sumatra, with about twenty dive sites total around the island suitable for all levels and experience. Be sure to check out the Underwater Volcano and the Canyon; the two top dive sites in the area.
MARATUA, DERAWAN, SANGLAKI
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, and equally spectacular.
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. 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 healthy reefs and plenty of smaller fish. You won’t run into many tourists here, and the diving is still spectacular.
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.
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.
BEST TIME FOR DIVING
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.
If 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.
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.
What to see
Indonesia has countless marine species within it’s waters, and it would take all day to name them all. It is truly an underwater photographer, marine biologist’s and rare critter lover’s dream destination. Here are just a few of the highlights of what you can expect to see diving in Indonesia:
- A HUGE plethora of nudibranch species. Including the ultra rare skeleton nudi or melibe colemani, and many more.
- Mimick and wonderpus octopus. Lembeh is an awesome spot for these, but there are other good locations.
- Blue ring octopus. The holy grail for lots of scuba travelers.
- Mola Mola. Normally seen around Bali but have been seen in other places like Alor.
- 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. One of my favorite sitings in Raja Ampat, and the only place I have ever seen either!
- Manta rays. In the Nusa Islands and Komodo you are probably going to see a ton of them, and that will make your day!
Again, since Indonesia is so huge, there are really countless wonders in the country, too many to list here. That said, divers do have to eventually dry out, so here are a few things you might want to see.
- Hindu temples and amazing architecture around Bali. This is the only Hindu island in the country, and the statues and temples are incredible.
- Jellyfish lake in Misool. The famous stingless jellyfish lake in Palau isn’t the only one in existance, you can also make the long trek to see the one in Misool.
- Orangutang sanctuaries. Head to Borneo Indonesia to see these cool monkeys.
- Get the world’s best views on top of the Piaynemo Island view point. Head to Raja Ampat and you wont be sorry.
- Check out some beaches. We even made a list of the best beaches in Bali for you to check out, but there are a lot more around the country as well.
WHERE TO STAY
Ever heard of PADI Travel? Yep, you can now book your dives and rooms with the biggest name in scuba diving! Trust me, you want to book you dream dive trip with the most trusted name in the industry!
Click the button to start browsing dive resorts and destinations.
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 with Australia to the south.
- 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. You can see the complete list HERE.