Generally accepted to be the world's best country for sea life, Indonesia has more marine diversity than anywhere on earth. Slap bang in the middle of the 'Coral Triangle' of diversity that extends from Australia to the Philippines and across to Borneo and into the South Pacific, this country is at the core of the ocean's heart, where the marine variety suggests life in the sea began.
With 20% of the world's coral reefs, over 3,000 different species of fish and 600 coral species, deep water trenches, volcanic sea mounts, World War II wrecks, and an endless variety of macro life, Indonesia scuba diving is both excellent and inexpensive.
You can dive here now and experience all the wondrous fish and other marine life in these nutrient-rich seas. From encounters with big pelagics around the cool waters of Komodo, drifting over pristine fields of coral in Raja Ampat, marvelling at the enormous volumes of fish in the Banda Islands, to photographing the outrageous critters of Sulawesi, Indonesia diving cruises are unsurpassable.
There are packages to suit all needs including resort diving in Bali and Sulawesi, where you can stay in comfort on the doorstep of world-class dive sites where marine biologists, photographers and pleasure divers come to marvel and the species numbers and variety.
For many, diving is best on one of the Indonesian liveaboards to Raja Ampat or Komodo, the country's 2 main liveaboard diving destinations. Raja Ampat cruises allow you to explore the most biodiverse waters on the planet, diving pristine, remote sites with all the comfort and ease of a liveaboard safari. Komodo is a prime destination offering liveaboard experiences to suit all budgets and delivering vibrant colourful reefs, plenty of fish action, as well as the promise of mantas, sharks and more, plus of course land visits to see Komodo dragons. Some trips will take you further afield to place like Cenderawasih Bay or Triton Bay in West Papua, the Banda Islands, Ambon and Alor, where boats are few and only genuine pleasure-seeking divers are to be found. Fantastic times are virtually assured.
Such a vast and varied destination as Indonesia is very difficult to limit to just a few highlights but any consideration of a dive holiday here should bear in mind at least the following areas:
Raja Ampat - one of the few destinations left which truly allows you to feel like you are a pioneer - to boldly dive where no man has dived before. You can marvel at the incredible topside scenery of West Papua, sail through waters where so few boats venture and experience some of the most impressive scuba diving in Indonesia ... and therefore the world. For those who want to get away from it all and dive in a remote paradise but not compromise on comfort then Raja Ampat liveaboards are the choice for you.
Komodo National Park - the islands of myth and legend where dragons roam, are surrounded by rich nutrient-filled waters where a kaleidoscope of colour and life awaits scuba divers. Mantas, dolphins and sharks compete with critters galore, all against a riot of soft coral colours. Komodo liveaboard trips allow you to visit the many varied sites around this awesome marine park, some starting in Bali and visiting all the best sites along the way.
Sulawesi is home to some of the most varied and incredible diving in the world. To dive from Manado in the Bunaken National Marine Park means being surrounded by marine bio-diversity that is the envy of the world - with more varieties of coral than anywhere else.
A short drive from here is the Lembeh Strait - the undisputed King of muck diving destinations. This small calm stretch of water is where macro-photographers and critter hunters agree offers the most impressive diving. Along the black sandy floor you will encounter more bizarre and fascinating marine creatures than you could wish for. This is why many divers return time and again to Sulawesi, an Indonesian island where you can fulfil all your dive dreams.
Banda Islands - the Banda Sea may be located between the better known destinations of Komodo and Raja Ampat, but for those in the know it deserves its own reputation as one of the world's best dive regions. Scuba diving in Banda means experiencing incredible variety of both large and small. Big pelagics and large schools abound. The reefs are healthy and thriving. Consider on top of this that many different species of whales and dolphins are often sighted, and you begin to get the picture. Diving here is varied, colourful and fascinating as it takes in the critter haven of Ambon as well as the Banda Islands.
Triton Bay - lying to the south east of Raja Ampat, Triton Bay is often included in those liveaboard safaris which include the Banda Sea and/or Raja Ampat. It is an excellent dive region in its own right with fabulous soft coral coverage, vast forests of black coral, big schools of fish, epaulette sharks, turtles, pilot whales and more. The topside scenery, with its vaulting cliffs, lush verdant foliage and ancient cave paintings, also contribute to it being a unique and unforgettable destination.
Cenderawasih Bay - further east from Raja Ampat in West Papua lies the large and increasingly famous Cenderawasih Bay. It is best known for incredible scuba diving opportunities with large numbers of whale sharks. There are also several World War II wrecks to investigate and some top class muck diving locations with critters galore. Year upon year, as its reputation grows, more divers are experiencing the wonders of Cenderawasih.
Bali - Indonesia's most famous tourist resort island has plenty of options for scuba divers of all levels of experience. Deep walls, drift dives through deep water channels, coral reefs, volcanic muck diving, a world famous wreck, offshore islands, mola mola and mantas, superb island scenery and affordable prices; no wonder Bali remains a popular dive destination of choice for many.
It all depends on the type of diving you want to do. We recommend 2 ways: liveaboard cruises in Indonesia are always a top choice for those who want to see more than any land-based stay can offer. These tours can take you east from Bali to the legendary island of Komodo, or into the inspiring frontier territory of West Papua and the Banda Sea. Breathtaking diving, fantastic boats and inspiring topside scenery all await you here. Check out our Indonesia liveaboard diving safari options.
Alternatively, resort stays in Sulawesi, Bali and Raja Ampat will allow you the opportunity to base yourself close to some of the finest dive sites in the world. See our Indonesian resorts section.
You can dive in Indonesia at any time of the year and there are liveaboards operating in various parts of the country throughout the year. With such a vast and geographically diverse country, it is impossible to give general guidelines. What is possible is to state that Indonesia, being at the heart of the Coral Triangle, boasts unbelievable biodiversity and across the range of destinations within the country, an amazing array of choice. Where in the country you choose to go and at what time of year depends on many factors, not least what type of scuba diving and creature encounters you are seeking.
Komodo has year round diving with some people considering April to November to have the very best conditions, and August in particular being the best month for Mola Mola. Outside of this time plankton blooms may reduce visibility a little but this increases the chances of manta ray encounters which are most frequent between December and February.
Raja Ampat and the West Papua Province have some liveaboard charter boats operating all year although many restrict their season to October to April when there is less chance of rain and choppy seas. Mantas are more frequently sighted during these months. Sea temperatures do not vary much during the year but the frequency of rain, in this amazing (but relatively wet) destination is a seasonal factor.
North Sulawesi is another destination that can be dived all year round. Manado and the Bunaken National Park enjoy the best conditions from March to October with July and August being the busiest months. July and August are also the best months for critter spotting in Lembeh, although this too can be amazing during any given month. November to January are the months where you can be least certain of great conditions throughout North Sulawesi.
Bali is best dived between April and November, with sightings of Mola Mola, sharks and other pelagics tending to be most frequent between June and September, and manta rays between April and June. Outside of this time is officially rainy season, although conditions are often excellent during then too, with visibility a little compromised off the north and west of Bali where less diving is done.
Good for: Small animals, underwater photography, walls, wrecks diving, drift dives, reef life and health and advanced divers
Not so good for: Beginners
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 10 - 80m
Currents: Can be very strong
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 19 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~500
Access: Scuba resorts and liveaboard safaris
Recommended length of stay: 2 - 4 weeks
Further details on each of the best destinations for diving Indonesia: