Whether you’re craving big pelagics in Alor, macro excellence in Sulawesi, radiant coral in Raja Ampat, or ripping drift dives in Komodo – there’s something for everyone when diving in Indonesia.
Idyllic Indonesia’s location within the “Coral Triangle” means that it has some of the highest marine biodiversity (and the best diving!) on the planet.
But, we know what you’re thinking…
Where should I go first?!
With plenty of world-class diving destinations to explore, we bet you’re raring to get up and start exploring some of Indonesia’s best dive sites.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate guide to diving in
Best Diving Locations in Indonesia
Indonesia has some of the best diving destinations in the world, here is just a small selection of the best.
Often referred to as “The Last Paradise”, Raja Ampat is thought to be the most diverse marine environment on earth.
It’s nestled away in the heart of Indonesia and looking around at the towering emerald hills, cobalt blue water, and hearing nothing but nature – it’s easy to imagine a world before humans even existed.
Below the surface, these dive sites are anything but peaceful. With over 75% of the world’s coral species and 30% of the fish species, these vibrant reefs and mangroves are teeming with life.
The islands strewn about this region are connected by fierce currents, created as a result of the tectonic plates that underlie much of Indonesia.
Over the millennia, these currents have brought in abundant species whilst leaving the reefs mostly undisturbed, forming the perfect cradle for life to thrive.
Raja Ampat is the perfect example of quantity as well as quality – whether you’re a macro or a pelagic lover, it’s hard to beat what these reefs have to offer.
Dense schools of fish swirl over the reefs alongside enormous manta rays and sharks, whilst in the nooks and crannies of the reef, a macro world is
Diving in Raja Ampat can sometimes feature the unexpected – dolphins, dugongs and even orca have all been sighted!
Diving Raja Ampat is best from October to April and many dive centers and liveaboards don’t operate outside of these months so keep this in mind when planning your trip of a lifetime.
Scuba diving in Komodo National Park is on basically every diver’s bucket list – and with good reason.
It offers all the rugged natural beauty of Raja Ampat, but with the combined convenience of flights into Labuan Bajo – the handy entrance point for the Park, found on Flores Island.
The diving in Komodo can famously provide exhilarating drift dives, but there is so much more on offer than that.
Only 35 miles separate the northern and southern reaches of the park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, but within these boundaries is some of the best diving in the world.
There are stunning reefs like Makassar which is thought to look like the surface of the moon and is busy with macro beasties; cleaning stations like Manta Point, full of elegantly dancing rays; and pinnacles like
Batu Bolong which have a breathtaking volume of fish, oh, and the occasional dolphin.
Currents are a fact of life in Komodo and, whilst there are some beginner-friendly sites, to really get the most out of your experience it helps to be a little current savvy.
If you’re a full adrenaline junkie, test out sites like Crystal Rock, Castle Rock, and Cauldron around the full moon… Don’t forget your reef hook!
Diving in Komodo National Park is possible year-round but it is most popular from April to October which is the dry season. You can dive during the winter (November – March) but the frequent rains and squalls can mean that diving trips are canceled at short notice.
Other benefits of diving in Komodo include the chance to explore the prehistoric-looking islands including the iconic, three beaches of
Padar Island (left) or come face-to-face with some modern-day dinosaurs – Komodo Dragons!
Alor is one of the hidden gems of Indonesia’s diving. This small corner of East Nusa Tenggara Province is tricky to get to but offers some of the best and least crowded diving in Indonesia.
It is visited mostly by liveaboards (there are only a couple of dive centers found here terrestrially) and you can enjoy deserted dive sites, rugged volcanic scenery, and an immersion in the local culture.
Dive sites are diverse – deep walls, fierce drifts, sandy slopes, and wide expanses of coral reefs that rival Raja Ampat. Macro diving is especially good, with plenty of weird and wonderful creatures to find amid the sand and rocks.
Conversely, the other big draw of Alor is the incredible pelagic
encounters – schools of migrating tuna, dolphins, sperm and blue whales, whale sharks, and even a resident population of the bizarre-looking mola mola.
Alor might be the off-the-beaten-track Indonesian diving you’ve been dreaming about, but why haven’t you heard of it?
Aside from being a little hard to reach, the internet buzz has just
stayed… Well, quiet.
Luckily for us, it now means that the adventurous will be rewarded with the place all to themselves! Like Komodo, the best diving is from April to October when the rains are minimal.
The Gili Islands are some of the most famous, and most Instagrammed,
places in Indonesia.
This collection of three small islands sit just off the coast of Lombok but the boat from Bali only takes around 90 minutes. With crisp white coral beaches and shimmering turquoise waves, this backpackers’ favorite looks pretty close to paradise and the diving is equally as picturesque.
Gili Trawangan is the biggest island and it is well known for its
nightlife as well as diving. Whilst some of the currents here can be strong, it is a very popular place for diving courses, especially Open Waters.
Whilst the variety of fish and coral life doesn’t quite match Komodo and Raja Ampat, it still offers some glorious tropical reef diving which includes sightings of reef sharks, eagle rays and one of the highest densities of turtles in the world.
Diving in the Gili Islands is excellent all year round, with constant temperatures of around 29C. The rainy season is from November to April, though this rarely affects the diving conditions.
Bali & Nusa Penida
As the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, it’s hardly surprising that the area around Bali has some of the best diving!
Traveling up to Amed, you will get the chance to dive the USS Liberty
Wreck, found just off the coastline. This impressive WWII wreck is routinely voted one of the best shipwrecks in the world to dive.
The surrounding area around Tulamben has some excellent muck diving and is incredibly popular with underwater photographers.
Want to make your first foray into underwater photography? Check out our best scuba diving camera choices here!
Nusa Penida meanwhile, the largest and most rugged of the Nusa Islands 30 minutes off the coast of Bali, has some of the most famous pelagic encounters in Indonesia.
In certain spots, manta rays are so plentiful that you can spot them from the cliffs, and sites like Manta Point and Manta Bay almost guarantee sightings of these ocean giants. Meanwhile, during September and October at Crystal Bay, you might be lucky enough to spot the elusive sunfish or mola mola.
When to go diving in Indonesia
It is possible to dive in Indonesia all year round. The country spans many thousands of miles and has over 19,000 islands (yes, you read that right), so the chances are that it is somewhere good to dive at any given moment.
Weather conditions vary from place to place and it is important to check
what time of year is best when you book to dive in a specific location.
Much of the country, including the Gili Islands, Komodo National Park, Bali, Nusa Penida, and Alor are best during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, from April to October.
This is when rainfall is minimal and it’s not quite so humid. Do bear in mind that the waters between Bali and Lombok can get choppy in June and July.
From November to April, rainfall is more frequent and it is very humid. It is still possible to dive in most places – but bring your raincoat!
Diving at this time of year in Komodo can be risky, as sudden storms can halt diving expeditions, but it will yield the most abundant manta rays.
Conversely to most of Indonesia, Raja Ampat’s season is from October to March and boats often do not visit during the summer months due to ocean conditions.
Scuba diving conditions in Indonesia
Scuba diving conditions in Indonesia vary throughout the country. As it sits on the equator, Indonesia enjoys average air temperatures between 25C and 30C year-round throughout the country, though areas of a higher elevation like Mount Batur can get much colder.
The water temperatures are usually between 26oC and 30oC. Places like the Gili Islands have consistently warm waters, though other areas like Komodo can become chilly due to thermoclines, and Nusa Penida’s waters sometimes drop as low as 16oC!
The visibility of the water varies enormously from place to place but it is generally very good. Some places, like the Gilis and Raja Ampat, are known for their exceptional water clarity which can sometimes exceed 40m.
Plankton blooms at certain times of the year can reduce it to less than 10m in certain locations like Raja and Komodo. The benefit of these plankton blooms is that they attract big pelagic filter feeders like manta rays and whale sharks.
Indonesia is well known for its currents, but this reputation can be deceptive. Nusa Penida can have strong surges, the Gilis can experience anywhere between nothing and a strong current, and sites in Komodo are known for their reliably strong drifts.
Ultimately, it is down to the diver to contact dive operators for more accurate current estimations. As you can see from the diagram below, there are lots of currents to take into account!
liveaboards in Indonesia
Liveaboard diving is incredibly popular in Indonesia and it is only becoming more so.
This huge country has so many excellent and far-flung diving destinations so why not take advantage and experience as much of the stunning scenery as possible!
If you’re new to the idea of liveaboards, check out our ultimate
guide to liveaboards to get caught up to speed!
There are numerous routes scattered all over the country and some are more popular than others. The two most popular are the Komodo and Raja Ampat liveaboards as they offer the opportunity to explore all the tiny corners of these biodiversity wonderlands.
Other popular destinations are remote and infrequently explored East Flores, Banda Sea, Cenderawasih Bay, and out-lying Forgotten Islands.
Liveaboards in Indonesia are packaged for a variety of budgets. Whilst backpackers may appreciate the slightly cheaper Queenasia liveaboard, those with a more generous allowance may want to consider a more luxury option like the Adelaar liveaboard.
Are you thinking about booking a liveaboard in Indonesia but don’t know where to start? Check out our guide to the best liveaboards in Indonesia for a helping hand!
Indonesia features some of the best scuba diving in the world. Even within one country, there is enough variety to keep divers happy for many years!
From prehistoric Komodo to tourist paradise Bali, there are excellent dives available throughout the year and copious liveaboards to choose from.
With so much diving to do – what are you waiting for?