Scuba diving in Indonesia
“Up on the shore they work all day, out in the sun they slave away’ – Sebastian, The Little Mermaid.
If that sounds like you, slogging your way through work life and in desperate need of your next diving getaway, look no further than Indonesia. Other than its well known, and resultantly crowded diving spots in Bali, below are 10 lesser-known scuba diving sites that are an underwater paradise right out of Ariel’s world, with directions on how to get there included.
P.s. for those who haven’t gotten their diving licenses yet. , the clear and coral blanketed sea in these spots are also great spots for snorkelling.
Read our other article on snorkelling and diving here:
- Guide to learning scuba diving in Singapore
- Lesser-known diving spots in Malaysia
- Lesser-knowing snorkelling sites in Asia
- Underwater wrecks near Singapore
– Tenggara –
1. Komodo National Park – manta rays and turtles
Image credit: @idivekomodo
Finding Nemo might have introduced Mr. Ray the manta and Crush the turtle to you as a kid, but to bring your Disney dreams to life, head to Komodo National Park. Comprising of 3 main islands, Padar, Rinca and Komodo, this archipelago is home to endless gorgeous dive sites with more than 1,000 species of fish.
Image credit: Like Local
Make sure to dive into Manta Point to swim among huge manta rays, with spans that are probably longer than your height!
Image credit: @bloom_bmth
For those looking to snorkel, Taka Makassar Island, a strip of powdery white sand in the middle of the sea with calm and shallow waters is perfect for swimmers of all abilities. The tiny island is surrounded by bustling coral reefs and upon hopping into the waters, I easily spotted turtles and a reef shark.
Getting there: From Bali, take a 1h flight to Labuan Bajo followed by a boat ride to Komodo Island. Most people use Labuan Bajo as a base for exploring the national park. For adventurous souls, opt for a 3 or 4-day live-abroad experience instead, where you get a multi-day exploration of the area.
2. Wakatobi National Park – 25 coral reefs and fluorescent sea creatures
Image credit: @laut.asin
Located in Southeast Sulawesi, Wakatobi National Park is hands down one of the best diving spots in Indonesia. The park is made of 4 islands surrounded by a pristine reef system with 25 coral reefs and 900 marine species including moray eels, dolphins and turtles.
Image credit: @wulanrussell
For scuba diving, one of the best sites here is the Wakatobi House Reef. The currents here aren’t strong and the waters are clear as glass, allowing you to view the underwater paradise in all its glory.
Image credit: Travel Intense
If you’re an experienced diver, consider fluorescent night diving, or fluo-diving. UV light is used to illuminate the reefs, causing marine life to look like they’re glowing. It’s a psychedelic experience and even the most vibrant scenes from the Little Mermaid ain’t got nothing on this.
Image adapted from: Perth Scuba
Getting there: Part of the reason why Wakatobi has such flourishing reefs in its seclusion. The easiest way to get to the island is to book a private 70-seat turboprop aircraft charter from Bali, provided by Wakatobi Resort that operates almost every Monday and Friday. Alternatively, take a flight from Bali to Makassar or Kendari for a connecting flight to Pulau Wangi Wangi, where there are daily boats that head to Wakatobi.
3. Lombok Islands – sharks and underwater sculptures
Right next door to the famous Bali is Lombok, a lesser-known sibling of the popular tourist hotspot that’s definitely worth popping by for great diving opportunities.
Image credit: @_andrea_panizza_
If you like to live life on the edge, swim among scalloped and great hammerhead sharks at The Magnet dive site at Belongas Bay where these majestic creatures are sometimes sighted. Jaws might have given all sharks a bad rep, but hammerhead sharks are generally safe to swim with – although it always pays to be careful.
Image credit: @adrvin
Should sharks scare the bejeebers out of you, take a more relaxing snorkel with something that definitely won’t bite – underwater statues. Located at Gili Meno, this gorgeous artificial reef called “Nest” is made of 48 life-sized human sculptures and is an accessible spot only a short distance away from the beach!
Getting there: There are direct flights from Singapore to Lombok, although flying indirect tends to be cheaper. If you’re headed over from Bali, take an internal flight (25min), fast boat (2 hours) or public ferry (4-5 hours).
– West Papua –
4. Raja Ampat – “best place to dive in Indonesia”
Image credit: Paupa Paradise
For NatGeo-worthy scenes right in front of your eyes, head to Raja Ampat. It’s touted as the best diving spot in the whole of Indonesia and there’s no diving list complete without this underwater haven.
Image credit: @daroyren.village
The archipelago comprises more than a thousand small islands surrounded by pristine waters that hold 75% of the world’s coral species.
Image credit: @daroyen.village
One of the best dive areas include the Arborek Jetty in the Dampier Strait, where there are schools of fish everywhere you look. If you’re lucky you might just spot a fish vortex, where a large school of fish swims in a circle creating a fish “tornado”. Other creatures spotted here include pipefish, seahorses, sharks and wobbegongs.
Getting there: As with all great dive sites, it’s tough getting to Raja Ampat. From Singapore, take a flight to Sorong through Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar or Mando. From Sorong’s ferry harbour, take a public ferry to Wasai, which lies in the capital of the Raja Ampat regency. To get around, try staying on a liveaboard.
5. Cenderawasih Bay – swim with whale sharks
Spot the diver!
Image credit: @dianapaboojianphotography
Itty bitty fish are adorable but if you want to dive with the big boys, there is no better place to go than Cenderawasih Bay, home to many whale sharks. They’re the largest fish in the world and can grow up to 12 metres long – that’s the length of a city bus!
Image credit: @igaiga0429
Guess you can say this is an overwhaleming experience.
Getting there: From Singapore, fly to Biak via transit through Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar and Makassar. From Biak, take a local flight to Nabire, where you can get to Cederwaish bay by motorboat.
Alternatively, take a liveaboard boat that departs from Biak, Nabire and Manokwari for an easier journey
– Sulawesi –
6. Bunaken Islands – vertical seawalls up to 600m deep
This image isn’t rotated – the sea bed becomes completely vertical as you go down!
Image credit: @visaoksa
For the underwater equivalent of a mountain range, head to Bunaken Islands where there are dramatic drop-offs and vertical seawalls that stretch up to 600 metres deep.
The walls here are lined with crevices and caves teeming with marine life. Reef sharks, napoleon wrasses and green turtles are among the commonly spotted animals in the area.
Spotted: turtles chilling along the ledges
Image credit: @tulumangafandi
Popular dive sites in the area include Lekuan I and II as well as Timor and Sachiko’s Point where there are large diversities of coral and steep walls.
Getting there: From Singapore, take a direct flight to Manado (3.5 hours). From there, it’s an hour’s boat ride to Bunaken Island. Private charters are also often available for hire with the island’s various dive resorts.
7. Togian Islands – aircraft bomber wrecks
For something different, head to Togian Islands where you’ll be able to spot a 20-metre-long bomber wreck from the American air force in World War 2. The crash site is about an hour’s boat ride away from Kadidiri.
Image credit: Virtourist
Other dive sites in the area include Unauna, where there’s a large rock pinnacle, as well as Goa Goa for tunnel diving.
Image credit: Araya Dive Resort
Getting there: Togian is what might just be the most ulu diving spot of the lot, and the journey there is an adventure in itself. From Jakarta, Surabaya or Bali catch a connecting flight to Ampana via Palu. From there, take a speed boat or public ferry to Wakai, one of Togian Islands’ main ferry terminal.
8. Lembeh Island – muck diving photography and 88 diving spots
Image credit: @nattiya_p_jamieson
Perfect for underwater photographers, Lembeh Island is a spot with lots of photogenic and colourful creatures and critters. Stretching 16 kilometres long, the Lembeh Strait between the island and mainland is dotted with more than 88 diving spots so you can’t possibly run out of spaces to explore.
Finding nemo? Try Lembeh Islands.
Image credit: @aw.situmorang
The island has great muck diving spots with sandy black slopes that that allows the colours of the sea creatures to pop in photos, as well as a decent visibility of 10 to 15m. Wait patiently and you’ll be able to spot seahorses, octopi, and cuttlefish emerging out from their hiding spots.
Getting there: From Singapore, the best way to get there is through a direct flight to Manado (3h20min). Following that, drive to Bitung (2h) and take a ferry to Lembeh Island (10min). Alternatively, arrange for transport to Lembeh with your diving resort from Manado.
– Others –
9. Weh Island, Aceh – wreck diving, reef sharks and barracudas
Pulau Weh in Banda Aceh is a remote island largely untouched by tourists. That, on top of being declared as wildlife protected by the Indonesian government, the coral reefs here are healthy and teeming and are home to marine species such as black-spot angelfish, groupers and barracudas.
Image credit: Alexey Molchanov
One of the most impressive diving spots here is the Sophie Rickmers Wreck, an impressive 134-metre long sunken ship that sits upright and intact on the seafloor. However, being more than 55 metres deep, decompression dives that are needed to get to the bottom are only open to advanced divers.
Image credit: @valerieolives
Other dive spots in the area include Rubiah Sea Garden for a shallow and gentle dive, and Batee Tokong for spotting sharks and barracuda. Snorkelling spots with lots of marine life include Yulia Guest House Pier and the beach next to Eric Green House.
Getting there: From Singapore, take a connecting flight to Banda Aceh. from the airport, head to the Ulee Lheu harbour and take a fast ferry (45min) or slow car ferry (1.5h) to Pulau Weh.
10. Bangka Island – spot dugongs
Image credit: @murexdive
For close encounters with dugongs without an aquarium glass in between, head to Bangka Islands. Among the islands 30 dive sites, they’re said to be most commonly spotted at Peter’s Sponge.
As the current in this area can be strong, and diving here is best suited for intermediate and advanced divers.
Image credit: @bluebaydivers1212
For those who have yet to attain their license, not to worry, for there are shallow snorkelling spots scattered around the island as well.
Getting there: From Singapore, take an indirect flight to Pangkal Pinang on Bangka Island via Jakarta.
Dive into Indonesia’s underwater paradise
With fewer people, more coral, and lots of marine life, it’s a wonder that these spots are still under the radar. So snap on your goggles and dive into your next adventure, it’s time for your mermaid dreams to come to life.
Other things to do in Indonesia:
- Cheap food in Batam
- Things to do in Batam
- Indonesian private islands
- Glamping in Indonesia
- Undiscovered nature sites in Indonesia
- Hidden gems in Malang and Batu