Indonesia is one of the best countries for scuba diving in the world. The country straddles the coral triangle, an area with the highest reef biodiversity in the world. From Raja Ampat in the East through to Pulau Weh in the West there are some amazing dive sites. To help you plan your trip to the country we shortlisted the best diving and snorkelling sites in Indonesia.
Our guide covers the best diving sites in Indonesia. We include a bit of information about each of the sites and some of the unique things about the areas. If you’re interested in visiting these regions on a diving holiday check out our list of Indonesian Liveaboard packages around the country (they are one of the best ways to explore the oceans of Indonesia). But first some general information.
The best time to go diving in Indonesia is during the dry season, from April to December. This is when the visibility is at its highest. During the wet season the visibility decreases and the currents are generally a bit stronger, making it more dangerous for divers. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s take a look at some of the best diving sites in Indonesia, starting with my three favourites.
3 Best Diving Sites in Indonesia
1. Raja Ampat, Papua
Raja Ampat off the coast of Papua offers some of the best diving in Indonesia. It’s probably one of the best places to go scuba diving in the world. You’ll find over 600 types of coral in the reefs and more than 1,200 species of fish (including the friendly giant Whale Shark). That’s just below the waves. The scenery is also breathtaking, with more than 1,500 emerald green tropical islands poking through the clear waters of the ocean. Add this to your scuba diving bucket list!
We haven’t written a guide to diving in Raja Ampat yet, but we will. In the meantime you can read our guide to Raja Ampat and backpacking in Raja Ampat. These articles cover how to get to Raja Ampat, where to stay and what to do when you’ve arrived. We know you’ll find them useful.
2. The Komodo Islands
Raja Ampat is exotic, but difficult to get to. The Komodo Islands on the other hand are just as spectacular with amazing opportunities for reef and drift diving. Plus they are a lot easier to reach. All of these facts make the Komodo National Park one of the most popular destinations for snorkelling and scuba diving in Indonesia.
The National Park is also a favourite destination for liveaboards with some boats even running cruises between Bali and Flores. Make sure to check out Manta Point when you visit. The dive site is challenging because of the strong current, but visibility is amazing and on a good day you’ll find dozens of mantas sweeping majestically through the ocean. It’s a really special experience.
3. Bunaken, Sulawesi
Bunaken is justifiably one of the most famous dive sites in Indonesia. Like the Komodo Islands its easy to get to (it’s just a short boat ride from Manado). The island is surrounded by an impressive coral wall that drops more than 100 meters into the deep blue ocean. There are over 70 species of coral, hundreds of species of fish and if you go on a deep dive you’ll even find hammerhead sharks.
There are lots of great dive spot around Bunaken and within the National Park that are suitable for all levels of divers. Visibility is great averaging 20 meters. Beware the current can be strong at certain dive spots. You need to pay attention to your surrounding and your depth gauge. Read our guide for more information on the island.
7 Ideas for Scuba Diving In Indonesia
4. The Togean Islands, Sulawesi
On the opposite side of Sulawesi are the Togean Islands, a chain of 56 small islands. The islands are what you’d expect from a tropical paradise. You’ve got beautiful beaches, plenty of palm trees and crystal clear waters. Diving in the Togean Islands is on a par with Bunaken, though many of the reefs have been damaged by dynamite fishing.
There are plenty of nice dive resorts around the islands that offer all inclusive packages. These offers cover dives led by an experienced operator and accommodation. Two of the best dive resorts are Kadidiri Paradise and Black Marlin Dive Resort. It’s possible to book dives at the resorts without staying if you’re budget doesn’t stretch to cover the expenses.
8. Bali and Nusa Penida
If you’re looking for a convenient and cheap place for diving you can’t do any better than Bali. The best diving is on the east of the island around Karangasam and Tulamben, where you can find wreck and reef dives. A bit further afield off the island of Nusa Penida you can find the giant Mola Mola. Yet my favourite dive sites on Bali are around Menjangan Island off the northwest coast of Bali (it’s a great spot for beginners, because there’s lots to see and almost no current).
We’ve partnered with a dive site in Bali to offer you a special deal on dives and dive courses. You can find out more about the different packages available and the best dive spots on this page. Make sure to check it out if you want to add a few dives onto your holiday.
5. Pulau Weh, Sumatra
Pulau Weh is one of our more off the beaten track dive sites. The island is in the far west of Indonesia just off the coast of Sumatra in the province of Aceh. It’s difficult to get to. Aceh also has strict Shariah Law, which is puts a lot of potential visitors off going to Pulau Weh. However those travellers who do make the journey are well rewarded.
The waters surrounding Pulau Weh support a rich and diverse marine ecosystem. There are plenty of dive spots including the Sophie Rickmers, an old 1920’s German Steamship. Accommodation on the island is easy to find. There are dozens of small dive resorts. The best of the lot is Pulau Weh Dive Resort.
6. Wakatobi, Sulawesi
Wakatobi is an island chain off the east coast of Sulawesi. The name comes from a conjugation of the four main islands (Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomea and Binongki). The most popular and developed island for diving is Tomea, which is where the Wakatobi Dive Resort is located.
Unfortunately Wakatobi is difficult and time consuming to get to. We’ve written a guide on how to get to Wakatobi here. It covers the islands in a bit more depth, the accommodation available and what there is to see. Check the guide for more information on diving in Wakatobi.
7. The Banda Islands, Maluku
The Maluku Spice Islands were one of the greatest treasures of Indonesia. In the 17th century the islands were fought over by the British, Dutch and Portuguese who all sought control of the islands when the price of Nutmeg was worth more than gold (the re’s a great book I highly recommend called Nathaniel’s Nutmeg). You can find plenty of signs of this history in the jungle covered spice plantations and forts that dot the islands. The islands also happen to have some of the best dive sites in Indonesia.
The most popular dive spots in the Banda Islands are around the colourful coral reefs that surround the seven main islands. There’s also good diving to be had around the atolls of Lucipara. You can also go Sperm Whale watching in the open ocean. The best months for diving are March and April and September-November. Outside of these times the weather can be rough.
9. The Derawan Islands, Kalimantan
If you happen to be visiting Kalimantan and looking for a good spot to go diving we recommend checking out the Derawan Islands. Even if yore not diving there are so many good reasons for visiting the islands. You can go snorkelling with Manta Rays around Sangalaki Island, swim with stingless jellyfish in a saltwater lake and see sea turtles (almost 15,000 turtles come here every year to lay their eggs).
Diving in the Derawan Islands is not for the faint of heart. The currents around the islands are strong. On many of the dive sites you’ll need to secure yourself to the coral with reef hooks (think underwater climbing pegs) to stop getting washed away. It’s worth it for the view. You’ll see plenty of reef sharks and barracuda in these nutrient rich waters. You can find more information about the islands and how to get there in our Derawan travel guide.
10. Sangihe Islands, Sumatra
On the border of Indonesia and the Philippines are a group of tropical islands called the Sangihe. The islands are isolated (like seriously isolated). It’s an overnight journey on a slow ferry from Manado or a half day ride on the fast ferry. The islands are an isolated outpost of Indonesia. Most people live in the provincial capital of Tahuna on Sangihe Island.
There’s really not much reason to visit, but if you do you’ll find some of the best dive sites in Indonesia. Top of the list is Banua Wuhu, which is an underwater volcano that rises more than 400 meters from the ocean floor. You’ll also find wreck dives, with several fighter planes dating back to WW2 and reef dives. If you’re looking for an unusual travel story there are few better places to visit!
One of the great things about Indonesia is just how many great places there are to visit, especially if you love the underwater world. I hope this post on the best dive sites in Indonesia inspired you to explore the country and visit some of the isolated tropical islands . there are a half dozen other places that I could have included. For example Wakatobi and (and Raja Ampat) could have easily been on this list. Both places are considered a divers paradise.
Have you ever been diving in Indonesia? What was your best diving site in Indonesia? Share your thoughts with other travellers in the comments below.