Best Diving in Indonesia: Top 5 Scuba Diving Destinations

Lembongan island – Best diving in Indonesia – A World to Travel

Indonesia just one of six countries that make up the Coral Triangle in the Pacific, and diving in Indonesia is a treat for anyone who loves exploring the magnificent underwater world.  If you have ever explored the Coral Triangle, you may have an idea of just how spectacular and diverse the coral reefs are in this corner of the world.

The Coral Triangle is an epicenter of marine biodiversity where 76% of the world’s coral species are known to exist.   Diving in the Coral Triangle is nothing short of heaven. Divers from around the world flock to Indonesia to explore everything from macro life in Lembeh, schooling fish around Komodo National Park, Mola-Molas in Bali, to a spectrum of reef sharks in Raja Ampat.   

Believe me, once you dive in Indonesia, it’s hard to dive anywhere else!  I hope you enjoy this detailed guide to the top 5 locations for diving in Indonesia, which will surely have you planning for your next scuba adventure.

 

1. Lembeh

Located in Northeast Sulawesi, Lembeh Strait is known as the muck diving capital of the world.  Discovering some of the rarest creatures in the sand (or “muck”) is the ultimate dream for underwater photographers and scuba diving enthusiasts.   

The marine life in Lembeh Strait is said to be so rich that you almost never run out of things to see in a dive.  From the tiniest pygmy seahorses to the most colorful mandarin fish, the thrill of seeing some of the treasured underwater critters keep avid scuba divers flocking to Lembeh year after year.  

If you enjoy hunting for the unique and unusual creatures of the sea, you don’t want to miss Lembeh when scuba diving in Indonesia!

When to Go: July and August are said to be the best time for diving in Lembeh Strait, with the most number of critter sightings reported during this season.   However, you can dive throughout the year around Lembeh.

Dive Experience level:  If you intend to head to Lembeh specifically for the muck diving, you should have excellent buoyancy control as not to stir up the sand.

Water temperature:  25 – 26°C between July – September; 28 – 29°C rest of the year

Depth of dive sites: 7m – 30m

Visibility:  5 – 20m

Currents:  none to light drift

Access Point: Mandado Airport (MDC) in Sulawesi

 

2. Bali

Diving around Bali is simply spectacular.   There is just about everything to see around Bali from the pristine corals in the Menjangan Island to the north, the world-famous shipwreck USS Liberty to the east, to the manta rays and mola-mola (aka Sunfish) around Nusa islands just off the mainland.   

What makes Bali a perfect dive destination is that the island offers so much more than beaches and marine activities.  There are some stunning temples, waterfalls, volcanoes and cliffside views, not to mention shopping, culinary experiences and cultural and nature tours that you can enjoy throughout the island.

Diving in Indonesia is an incredible experience in it of itself, but Bali would make an ideal destination if you are looking for additional things to do outside of scuba diving.

For macro fans and underwater photographers, there are numerous dive sites around Padang Bai, Tulamben, and north Bali that offer phenomenal muck diving.  In these regions of Bali, I have seen everything from rhinopias, ornate ghost pipefishes, frogfish, mimic octopus, to the most colorful nudibranchs. If you prefer more “action” underwater, head to Nusa Penida for beautiful drift dives along colorful reef slopes.  

The bottom line:  you simply can’t go wrong with Bali. Check out this guide for specific tips on how to plan an epic dive trip to Bali.

When to Go: While you can dive throughout the year in Bali, January – March is the “rainy season.” The visibility and sea conditions are not the best during the rainy season. Best Bali diving season is between June to October when the water is clear, and the colors of the reef appear more vibrant. However, these months are considered High Season in Bali so you can expect to pay higher-than-usual prices for flights and accommodations.

Dive Experience level:  Divers of all experience levels can enjoy most of the diving around Bali. However, there are a few dive sites (such as Tepekong, Crystal Bay and Toyapakeh) that should be reserved only for the experienced and advanced divers due to potentially strong currents.  For best scuba diving in Bali for beginners check out Tulamben or Amed areas for calm and easy slopes.

Water temperature:  16 – 26°C between June – September; 26 – 29°C rest of the year.  The water temperature can be frigid in some dive sites during the peak season in Bali, particularly around Nusa Penida.   But the good news is that during these “cold” water months, there is a higher chance of seeing the infamous Mola-Mola around Nusa Penida.   So if you have not yet had the pleasure of encountering these “biggest bony fish in the world,” it is certainly worth a trip!

Depth of dive sites: 5m – >40m

Visibility:  15 – 40m

Currents:  North Bali – none to mild drift.  East Bali (Amed, Tulamben, Padang Bai) – none to medium current.  Nusa Islands – can be very strong.

Access Point: Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali (DPS)

 

3. Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park, or the Land of the Dragons, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of 3 main islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Padar as well as 26 additional smaller islands.

The merging bodies of water from the Pacific Ocean from the north and the Indian Ocean in the south provide nutrient-rich water which provides conditions for an incredibly healthy and dense marine biodiversity that leaves scuba divers in awe of this magnificent underwater world.

Expect to see pelagics such as manta rays, reef sharks, and eagle rays; schools of jacks, trevallies, surgeonfish, and barracudas; and macro critters including frogfish, nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses and so much more!

When to Go: Even though the land-based operators in Labuan Bajo are open year-round, most liveaboards operate from April to about October, as these months provide the best weather and sea conditions.    I dived in Komodo in May, and the conditions (underwater temperature, visibility and topside weather) were perfect.

Depending on where you sail to (north or south Komodo), the seas can get choppy.  If you plan a liveaboard trip around Komodo National Park, be sure to take some anti-seasickness medication with you.

Dive Experience level:  Some Komodo dive sites can be enjoyed by beginner divers, but some are only appropriate for advanced to experienced divers.   Depending on the dive sites or destinations, some dive operators require minimum logged dives or Advanced Open Water certification, so it’s best to check before booking.

Water temperature:  27 – 29°C

Depth of dive sites: 10m – >30m

Visibility:  10 – 30m

Currents:  You can expect to experience some strong currents around Komodo.  If you have your own dive gear that you are already comfortable with, I’d highly recommend that you take them.

Access Point: Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo (LBJ)

 

4. Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat, also known as the Four Kings, is made up of four islands Misool, Waigeo, Batanta, and Salawati located in West Papua.

As it is appropriately named, Raja Ampat is indeed, THE king of scuba diving in Indonesia.   From the stunning coral gardens to countless fish species you will encounter in its seas, Raja’s archipelagos will surely not disappoint.   

Mantas, wobbegong sharks, reef sharks, dugongs, dogtooth tuna, Napoleon wrasse, and giant trevallies are just a handful of usual suspects.  On the macro side, you can expect to see frogfishes, pipefish, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs and a ton of intriguing crustaceans.

Jaw-dropping dive sites are plenty in Raja Ampat, and this is one dive destination in Indonesia you don’t want to miss.

When to Go: Open to dive year round, but the best time to dive in Raja Ampat is Oct-April.  June-July is prone to heavy rains and choppy seas.

Dive Experience level:  Although divers of all experience levels can enjoy Raja Ampat, some dive sites are well-known for strong currents such as Blue Magic or the Passage.   Check with your dive guide and select dive sites that are appropriate for your diving experience and comfort level.

Water temperature:  27-29°C throughout the year

Depth of dive sites: 5m – >30m

Visibility:  15 – 40m

Currents:  Easy, gentle current to very strong current

Access Point: Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Sorong (SOQ)

 

5. Wakatobi National Park

Located in Southeast Sulawesi, Wakatobi is known to host some of the best coral reefs in the world.   I can tell you from my experience that in the 2000+ dives I have done in SE Asia alone, I have never seen colors as vibrant and coral species as varied as I have seen in Wakatobi.

Wakatobi is an underwater wonderland – the biodiversity of the marine life in this region of the world is like nothing you’ve ever seen.   The reefs around Wakatobi was some of the most untouched and pristine, and even though this region is not as accessible as the other dive destinations in Indonesia, you will never regret making a trip to this special place on earth.  

When to Go: While diving can be enjoyed year-round in Wakatobi, January – March is the “rainy season” when you can expect sporadic spurts of rain throughout the day.   For best visibility and diving experience, head to Wakatobi between July and September. However, be warned that wind can pick up during these months and surface can get choppy.

Dive Experience level:  Dive sites are appropriate for all levels

Water temperature:  24 – 26°C between June – September; 26 – 29°C rest of the year

Depth of dive sites: 7m – 30m

Visibility:  15 – 40m

Currents:  Mostly easy, gentle drift

Access Point: Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport in Makassar (UPG) or Matahora Airport in Wangi-Wangi (WNI)

 

When it comes to diving in Indonesia, it’s hard to go wrong because the diving is incredible no matter where you go.   So if you’re planning a scuba diving trip to Indonesia, don’t worry about making the “right” choice – you are pretty much guaranteed to have a great time wherever you end up diving!

I hope you enjoyed this guide to Best Diving in Indonesia – if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via my bio link below!  I’d be happy to help further or answer any questions you may have.




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