So you’ve decided to go diving in Indonesia! Congratulations.
You’ve heard tales of palm fringed tropical islands, surrounded by sparkling blue waters and pristine coral reefs so you hop online and start searching, only to find that Indonesia has over 17,000 islands! Well luckily this post is here to help you narrow the search a little. I’m going to break this post up into three different sections: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced so that everyone has a chance to find their hidden paradise regardless of your diving experience.
First off for those of you who don't know, Indonesia is the largest archipelago on our planet stretching for over 5000 km's and as mentioned above is made up of over 17,000 different islands. That means if you were to visit a new island each day it would take you almost 47 years to see them all!
With so many places to dive it's hard to come to a decision as to where you want your next adventure to be so lets narrow it down a bit and assume you are flying into the island of Bali. Bali is by far the most popular tourist destination with most of the cheap international flights being to Ngurah Rai Airport in the islands capital of Denpasar. Hot tip: look for a morning flight as Bali is just a stepping stone to the next three destinations so landing on the earliest am flight available is always recommended and will save you the horrors of having to spend a night in the bogan capital of Asia, Kuta Beach.
OK so the first destination to kick off our tour of Indonesia are the beautiful Gili Islands! Sitting off the northwest tip of Bali’s neighbouring island, Lombok, these three slices of paradise have something for everyone. You can dive at all three and they are a perfect place to take your open water course or brush up on your skills after a long surface interval. With Gili Trawangan being the largest of the islands it often gets a bad name as a party island however don’t be fooled there are plenty of hideaway spots on this island for the slightly less vodka joss inclined. With plenty of amazing dive shops to choose from it's hard to pick a clear cut winner but for me Gili Divers seemed to be the best blend of fun and professional. They have immaculately maintained facilities, a host of different bilingual instructors and most of all the sexiest boats on the island.
The diving on the Gili’s is both easy and relaxing, with no crazy currents to contend you’ll find this the perfect place to learn. Green and Hawksbill turtles are prolific here with guaranteed sightings on each dive, however with up to a dozen seen on some sites it's no wonder the islands are sometimes known as the turtle islands! If sharks are your thing then you’re in luck, there are a couple of caves on most of the more popular dive sites where you can spot the resident white tip reef sharks and if you’re really lucky you might see a larger blacktip reef shark off in the distance. Keep your eyes peeled for rocks that move as these are most likely octopus or scorpionfish, both of which are very common here!
There has been an extensive marine regeneration program that has been ran by Gili Eco Trust here for the past decade and it is really starting to have a positive effect on the ocean surrounding the islands. Unfortunately the Gili’s suffered quite badly from overfishing and dynamite fishing, both destructive and non sustainable fishing methods that caused extensive damage to the reef and fish stocks. This however is being rectified and there are a multitude of different programs in place helping replenish the reef and progress is definitely being made.
The Gili’s are one of the only places in the world where ‘Biorock’ is being used, A process where a metal skeleton is sunk at an optimal depth and linked up to an electrical charge causing the calcium carbonate in coral to grow faster. It is amazing to dive these artificial reefs and the sheer number of small fish species and juveniles found on them is a brilliant testament to their progress! Hot tip: If pizza is your thing then be sure to check out Reginas Pizza for an amazing dinner!
So you’ve been diving for a while and are looking for something a bit more challenging. You already know the type of diving you like and want a destination that offers a bit of everything. Well let me introduce you to the Nusa islands! Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Cennigan and Nusa Penida.
These beautiful cliff lined islands are found hidden away in the southeast of Bali’s mainland and can be accessed by a fast boat ride from Sanur, Nusa Dua or Padang Bai. Sitting right in the middle of the Lombok strait, these islands benefit from the largest amount of water movement in the world passing by their shores: The Indonesian Throughflow Without going into the technical details of this too much basically these islands have a huge amount of nutrients pumped through them each day bringing with them large amounts of food for the ocean life that inhabits them. Because of this interesting mix of warm tropical waters and cold nutrient rich currents the diving off these islands can get pretty interesting! Presenting seasonal opportunities to dive with massive Mola Mola (sunfish) and visit the famous manta cleaning stations where there can be upwards of 20 massive manta rays hovering around. With more common sites like Crystal bay offering stunning coral gardens and bommies packed with fish schools to the slightly gnarlier spots like Cennigan wall offering up a dose of adrenalin these islands have a bit for every diver! We dived with Blue corner dive and I found them nothing but helpful when it came to organizing accommodation and dives. They have a great beachfront beanbag bar which was an amazing place to watch the sun go down after a day of manta chasing, plus the mexican food there is great!
If you feel like a break from diving for the day then there are plenty of options for exploring some of the islands. With scooters being available to rent from as little as $4aud per day you won't be disappointed zipping around these islands sightseeing.
Congratulations, you’re an experienced diver seeking some of the best diving on the planet! Welcome to Komodo.
From the moment you fly in to land in Labuan Bajo you can tell Flores and its famous Komodo national park is going to be amazing. Its like something out of Jurassic Park with hundreds of volcanic islands scattered through a turquoise sea complete with fringing coral reefs. Its once you dip below the surface of the water however, that Komodo really begins to shine. With some of the healthiest reef on the planet you’ll be amazed with the shear amount of different species swimming all around you. From the thousand strong schools of rainbow coloured anthias to the large sharks lurking in the deep, Komodo does not fail to impress!
Hot tip: Known for its intense currents you’ll want to pack a reef hook as you find yourself diving in what feels like a grade 3 rapid river. Perhaps the most memorable of the sites we dove in Komodo was a spot called “The Cauldron”.
Dropping in on a relatively calm reef slope packed with bombies we were greeted by a small reef manta, calmly cruising over the top of our heads like a giant magic carpet. It wasn't long until we reached the rock formation which this site gets its name from. A massive cauldron shaped hole in the ground filled with a dazzling variety of different fish species such as Giant Trevally, Snapper, Barracuda and Jacks. After you’ve had enough of diving in this giant fish bowl aquarium you shallow up a bit until you’re hit by the current known as shotgun and slungshot out into a calm multi colored coral garden where you can use the rest of your air navigating through some of the healthiest reef in Asia. Komodo isn’t done justice with words so I feel like these photos will speak for themselves.