If you are reading this, you probably already know that scuba diving in 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.
Whether you’re craving big pelagics in Alor, macro excellence in Sulawesi, radiant coral in Raja Ampat, or ripping drift dives in Komodo – there’s something for everyone when diving in Indonesia.
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 is situated in the Coral Triangle, which means it has some of the highest marine biodiversity (and the best diving!) on the planet.
In addition to some popular diving hotspots, there are some truly remote, untouched scuba diving locations in Indonesia. The types that only local divers and researchers hinted at.
But, we know what you’re thinking…
Where should I go first?!
With plenty of world-class diving destinations to explore, we bet you’re raring to get up and start exploring some of Indonesia’s best dive sites.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate guide to diving in Indonesia!
Where To Dive In Indonesia
Indonesia has some of the best diving destinations in the world, here are the top 20 locations to dive in Indonesia.
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.
Traveling up to Amed, you will get the chance to dive the USS Liberty Wreck, found just off the coastline. This impressive WWII wreck is routinely voted one of the best shipwrecks in the world to dive.
The surrounding area around Tulamben has some excellent muck diving and is incredibly popular with underwater photographers.
Want to make your first foray into underwater photography? Check out our best scuba diving camera choices here!
Nusa Penida meanwhile, the largest and most rugged of the Nusa Islands 30 minutes off the coast of Bali, has some of the most famous pelagic encounters in Indonesia.
In certain spots, manta rays are so plentiful that you can spot them from the cliffs, and sites like Manta Point and Manta Bay almost guarantee sightings of these ocean giants. Meanwhile, during September and October at Crystal Bay, you might be lucky enough to spot the elusive sunfish or mola mola.
The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are some of the most famous, and most Instagrammed, places in Indonesia.
This collection of three small islands sit just off the coast of Lombok but the boat from Bali only takes around 90 minutes. With crisp white coral beaches and shimmering turquoise waves, this backpackers’ favorite looks pretty close to paradise and the diving is equally as picturesque.
Gili Trawangan is the biggest island and it is well known for its nightlife as well as diving. Whilst some of the currents here can be strong, it is a very popular place for diving courses, especially Open Waters.
Whilst the variety of fish and coral life doesn’t quite match Komodo and Raja Ampat, it still offers some glorious tropical reef diving which includes sightings of reef sharks, eagle rays, and one of the highest densities of turtles in the world.
Diving in the Gili Islands is excellent all year round, with constant temperatures of around 29C. The rainy season is from November to April, though this rarely affects the diving conditions.
If you want some of the most legendary sites in the world, it’s here. You’re going to run into things like walking (epaulette) sharks, wobbegong sharks, Pygmy sea horses, whale sharks, and much more.
Often referred to as “The Last Paradise”, Raja Ampat is thought to be the most diverse marine environment on earth.
It’s nestled away in the heart of Indonesia and looking around at the towering emerald hills, cobalt blue water, and hearing nothing but nature – it’s easy to imagine a world before humans even existed.
Below the surface, these dive sites are anything but peaceful. With over 75% of the world’s coral species and 30% of the fish species, these vibrant reefs and mangroves are teeming with life.
The islands strewn about this region are connected by fierce currents, created as a result of the tectonic plates that underlie much of Indonesia.
Over the millennia, these currents have brought in abundant species whilst leaving the reefs mostly undisturbed, forming the perfect cradle for life to thrive.
Raja Ampat is the perfect example of quantity as well as quality – whether you’re a macro or a pelagic lover, it’s hard to beat what these reefs have to offer.
Dense schools of fish swirl over the reefs alongside enormous manta rays and sharks, whilst in the nooks and crannies of the reef, a macro world is
Diving in Raja Ampat can sometimes feature the unexpected – dolphins, dugongs and even orca have all been sighted!
Diving Raja Ampat is best from October to April and many dive centers and liveaboards don’t operate outside of these months so keep this in mind when planning your trip of a lifetime.
Alor is one of the hidden gems of Indonesia’s diving. This small corner of East Nusa Tenggara Province is tricky to get to but offers some of the best and least crowded diving in Indonesia.
It is visited mostly by liveaboards (there are only a couple of dive centers found here terrestrially) and you can enjoy deserted dive sites, rugged volcanic scenery, and an immersion in the local culture.
Dive sites are diverse – deep walls, fierce drifts, sandy slopes, and wide expanses of coral reefs that rival Raja Ampat. Macro diving is especially good, with plenty of weird and wonderful creatures to find amid the sand and rocks.
Conversely, the other big draw of Alor is the incredible pelagic encounters – schools of migrating tuna, dolphins, sperm and blue whales, whale sharks, and even a resident population of the bizarre-looking mola mola.
Alor might be the off-the-beaten-track Indonesian diving you’ve been dreaming about, but why haven’t you heard of it?
Aside from being a little hard to reach, the internet buzz has just stayed… Well, quiet.
Luckily for us, it now means that the adventurous will be rewarded with the place all to themselves! Like Komodo, the best diving is from April to October when the rains are minimal.
We had never heard of Alor, but we’re sure glad I gave it a visit. Its many world-class dive sites and never-ending interesting critters, will impress you as well!
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.
Along with Alor and Maumere, Lembata is one of the least visited islands and is therefore the most unspoiled region 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, Wakatobi 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 are 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 are one of the best in the world here. Be sure to check out jellyfish lake!
Komodo National Park
Scuba diving in Komodo National Park is on basically every diver’s bucket list – and with good reason.
It offers all the rugged natural beauty of Raja Ampat, but with the combined convenience of flights into Labuan Bajo – the handy entrance point for the Park, found on Flores Island.
The diving in Komodo can famously provide exhilarating drift dives, but there is so much more on offer than that.
Only 35 miles separate the northern and southern reaches of the park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, but within these boundaries is some of the best diving in the world.
There are stunning reefs like Makassar which is thought to look like the surface of the moon and is busy with macro beasties; cleaning stations like Manta Point, full of elegantly dancing rays; and pinnacles like
Batu Bolong which have a breathtaking volume of fish, oh, and the occasional dolphin.
Currents are a fact of life in Komodo and, whilst there are some beginner-friendly sites, to really get the most out of your experience it helps to be a little current savvy.
If you’re a full adrenaline junkie, test out sites like Crystal Rock, Castle Rock, and Cauldron around the full moon… Don’t forget your reef hook!
Diving in Komodo National Park is possible year-round but it is most popular from April to October which is the dry season. You can dive during the winter (November – March) but the frequent rains and squalls can mean that diving trips are canceled at short notice.
Other benefits of diving in Komodo include the chance to explore the prehistoric-looking islands including the iconic, three beaches of Padar Island or come face-to-face with some modern-day dinosaurs – Komodo Dragons!
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 relatively close together, but each offers something completely different, and equally spectacular.
An archipelago made up of 56 islands off the coast of central Sulawesi, 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.
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 boasts sandy beaches, warm waters, and great visibility.
Best Time To Dive Indonesia
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. The country spans many thousands of miles and has over 19,000 islands (yes, you read that right), so the chances are that it is somewhere good to dive at any given moment.
Weather conditions vary from place to place and it is important to check what time of year is best when you book to dive in a specific location. In general, for anywhere west of Komodo, try for May to September. For location east of Komodo, try October to April.
Much of the country, including the Gili Islands, Komodo National Park, Bali, Nusa Penida, and Alor are best during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, from April to October. This is when rainfall is minimal and it’s not quite so humid. Do bear in mind that the waters between Bali and Lombok can get choppy in June and July.
From November to April, rainfall is more frequent and it is very humid. It is still possible to dive in most places – but bring your raincoat! Diving at this time of year in Komodo can be risky, as sudden storms can halt diving expeditions, but it will yield the most abundant manta rays.
Conversely to most of Indonesia, Raja Ampat’s season is from October to March and boats often do not visit during the summer months due to ocean conditions.
Scuba Diving Conditions In Indonesia
Scuba diving conditions in Indonesia vary throughout the country. As it sits on the equator, Indonesia enjoys average air temperatures between 25C and 30C year-round throughout the country, though areas of a higher elevation like Mount Batur can get much colder.
The water temperatures are usually between 25’C and 30’C. Places like the Gili Islands have consistently warm waters, though other areas like Komodo can become chilly due to thermoclines, and Nusa Penida’s waters sometimes drop as low as 16oC!
The visibility of the water varies enormously from place to place but it is generally very good. Some places, like the Gilis and Raja Ampat, are known for their exceptional water clarity which can sometimes exceed 40m.
Plankton blooms at certain times of the year can reduce it to less than 10m in certain locations like Raja and Komodo. The benefit of these plankton blooms is that they attract big pelagic filter feeders like manta rays and whale sharks.
Indonesia is well known for its currents, but this reputation can be deceptive. Nusa Penida can have strong surges, the Gilis can experience anywhere between nothing and a strong current, and sites in Komodo are known for their reliably strong drifts.
Ultimately, it is down to the diver to contact dive operators for more accurate current estimations. As you can see from the diagram below, there are lots of currents to take into account!
Liveaboard Diving In Indonesia
Liveaboard diving is incredibly popular in Indonesia and it is only becoming more so. This huge country has so many excellent and far-flung diving destinations so why not take advantage and experience as much of the stunning scenery as possible!
If you’re new to the idea of liveaboards, check out our ultimate guide to liveaboards to get caught up to speed!
There are numerous routes scattered all over the country and some are more popular than others. The two most popular are the Komodo and Raja Ampat liveaboards as they offer the opportunity to explore all the tiny corners of these biodiversity wonderlands.
Other popular destinations are remote and infrequently explored East Flores, Banda Sea, Cenderawasih Bay, and out-lying Forgotten Islands.
Are you thinking about booking a liveaboard in Indonesia but don’t know where to start? Check out our guide to the best liveaboards in Indonesia for a helping hand!
Getting To Indonesia
If you click on the dive location/city that you are interested in 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, than 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.
We’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 30-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 ex-pats find a mediator that takes care of it all for them. Some just fly out each month to Singapore or Malaysia, since it’s close and relatively cheap.
Indonesia has countless marine species within its 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 has 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 we 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 existence, you can also make the long trek to see the one in Misool.
- Orangutang sanctuaries. Head to Kalimantan, Borneo Indonesia to see these cool monkeys.
- Get the world’s best views on top of the Piaynemo Island viewpoint. Head to Raja Ampat and you won’t be sorry.
- Check out some beaches.
Geography Of Indonesia
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 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.
Indonesia features some of the best scuba diving in the world. Even within one country, there is enough variety to keep divers happy for many years!
From prehistoric Komodo to tourist paradise Bali, there are excellent dives available throughout the year and copious liveaboards to choose from.
With so much diving to do – what are you waiting for?