Diving in the Banda Islands
Pulau Ai is an isolated low lying island to the west of Banda Neira. It has some small limestone cliffs on its southern coastline and some pretty beaches on its northern shores.
Due to its isolation, walls and deep waters, when the current is running, this is one of the top dive sites in the Banda Islands for shark encounters. Hammerhead sharks are frequently seen, and thresher and silvertip sharks are occasionally sighted too. Wahoo and giant trevally visit the island, and chevron barracuda and bluefin trevally hunt here in large schools. Always a memorable occasion for any diver are the squadrons of mobula rays, sometimes flying in formation up to 25 strong.
Batu Udang, or 'Shrimp Rock' in Bahasa Indonesian, is on the south side of Pulau Ai. Your dive begins over a gentle sloping reef down to 13 metres, followed by a very steep slope anywhere down to 55 metres. Black triggerfish and redtooth triggerfish are everywhere, freely intermingling with each other.
The deeper wall sections have yellow, brown and green soft corals, and lobe corals. Whitetip sharks, eagle rays and large schools of bluetail unicornfish frequent this area. Hawksbill turtles rest on ledges or feed on the green sponges; Maori wrasse, pinnate batfish and black and white snappers are some of the prevalent larger fish species.
Up on the reef flat, you can drift over limestone covered in gooseberry tunicates, sarcophyton and sinularia leather corals, fire and blue corals. Black and white bicolour chromis flit between the moosehead coral arms, small schools of convict tangs and striped large-eye breams move across their ranges, and oriental sweetlips lurk under the boulders and bommies.
At Tanjung Batu Payong, or 'Umbrella Rock Point', on the west coast of Pulau Ai, the wall is steeper and drops down to 60 metres. This part of the island has a few more barrel sponges, olive vase sponges, green tubestraea corals, gorgonian fans, and lots of crinoids in the shallows. Schools of rainbow runners often pull in to lunch on the blue and yellow fusiliers and bluedash fusiliers.
Although Pulau Ai does not have the same coral diversity as some of the other Banda Islands, it still proves popular on Indonesia liveaboard diving cruises due to its big fish offerings.
Pulau Ai Reef Basics: Mobula rays, sharks and big fish
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 15 - 30m
Surface conditions: Sea can be choppy
Water temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: 4
Diving season: March, April, and mid-September to mid-December
Distance: ~12km (1 hour) west of Banda Neira
Access: Banda liveaboards
• Banda Islands travel information
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• Banda Islands - Indonesia
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