Editor in chief of divein.com
Beautiful coral reefs near tropical island of Sulawesi. (Shutterstock/File)
Indonesia is widely known among scuba divers as one of the best countries for marine life.
The archipelago is located right in the center of the coral triangle, which explains why it is home to 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs. With over 3000 species of fish and 600 different species of hard and soft coral, there really is no other place like it on earth.
Not only is there incredible marine diversity in the waters surrounding Indonesia, it’s also the perfect place to explore deep water trenches, macro life, World War II wrecks and volcanic seamounts.
If you are a scuba diver, you must have heard all about the magnificent dive sites of Indonesia. However, what if there are so much more to see in the lesser-known areas?
Here are some lesser-known dive areas in the archipelago:
Located in a remote area of the Banda Sea, the Banda Islands are one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets.
This unbelievable collection of islands are surrounded by turquoise, blue waters that are heaving with marine life, huge hard corals, colorful soft corals, large pelagic, reef fish, giant sea fans and sponges. The Banda Islands are a paradise for macro photographers, with so many undiscovered treasures just waiting to be explored.
Bunaken National Marine Park is home to some of the best dive sites found within Indonesia. It is also a great place to witness incredible biodiversity and outstanding fish variety. These crystal clear waters are flourishing with all manner of marine species including hard corals, soft corals, turtles, sponges and reef fish.
This epic marine park is found just outside of Manado Bay within the Sulawesi Sea. There are over 24 dive sites to explore in this location. You’ll find over 70 percent of the Indo-Western Pacific fish species, meaning that there is an awful lot to see.
Due to its remote location, ocean currents tend to sweep past Bunaken Island, creating the perfect environment for drift diving. There is something for every level of diver at this lesser-known diving spot.
The most incredible marine discovery occurred within the Bunaken Nation Marine Park in 1997, when the primitive, ancient fish species coelacanth was discovered living within the Laval tubes in Manado Tua. Other unusual mammals you may find at this location are sperm whales and dugongs that like to feed on the seagrass towards the south of the park.
The Togean Islands are a slightly better-known dive location, however, are not as widely known as Raja Ampat. Komodo and Wakatobi. Located to the north of Sulawesi, Togean Islands are a group of islands where diving is simply breathtaking.
The Togean Islands have only been on diver’s radar for a short amount of time, meaning that these reefs have hardly been touched or exploited. There are 56 islands that make up the Togean Islands and with that, a large number of dive sites to uncover. This is definitely not a dive area to be missed when traveling to Indonesia.
Weh Island is the sister island of Bali and is a small active volcanic island located north of Sumatra. It is known for it rich ecosystem and remote location. The Indonesian government has classed part of this island as a ‘wildlife protection zone’ due to its rare wildlife.
Whilst there are incredible species on land, what you’ll find under the surface can only be described as awe-inspiring. The best dive resort on the island, the Pulau Weh Dive Resort, plans incredible excursions out to its surrounding reefs for all levels of diver.
The bay of Ambon is 563 meters deep, 8 kilometers wide at its source and just 23 kilometers into the island. In 1942, the battle of Ambon began between Japan and the Allied forces and subsequently caused a huge amount of damage to the island.
Over time, the population of Ambon used coral reefs to rebuild the roads that were destroyed during the onslaught, so why should this be a place that divers must see? Well, seeing as most, if not all the coral has been destroyed, this has made for some of the worlds best muck diving sites.
Not only is this location home to incredible muck diving, it is also home to some sensationally rare marine life, including the Ambon scorpionfish. This beautiful marine critter comes in a range of colors including brown, yellow, red, green and even pink. You can tell it’s an Ambon scorpionfish by its characteristic, long growths above each eye.
Make sure you keep an eye out for the notorious Halimeda ghost pipefish. To spot one of these rare species, look out for anything along the seabed that vaguely resembles as twig.
If you get the opportunity to dive around the outer coastline, you’ll find beautifully colored soft corals, wall dives and many caves to explore.
Bintan Island is the largest island amongst the other 3000 islands that make up the Riau archipelago. Diving in Bintan is the ideal location if you’re looking for relaxing dives with impeccable coral reefs found at 20 meters below the surface. Diving in this area is not as well known, with new dive sites popping up all over the place.
The waters surrounding Bintan are famous for incredible wreck dives including large vessels and airplanes that have all been around since World War II or before. The majority of these wrecks are found in shallow waters, providing a great experience for all levels of diver.
Diving usually takes place around local reefs or around Nikoi Island and Mapur Island, which are found to the east of Bintan.
Fishing is usually quite common around this island so make sure to take care when under the water as you may come across a few lost nets, if so, make sure you take a dive knife to avoid getting tangled.
Buyat Bay has been classed as a hot new diving area found in Indonesia. Located south of Lambeh and only 3 hours by speed boat, if you’re travelling to this location, it is a place not to be missed.
Buyat Bay was discovered by a mining company that operated in the near by mountains from 1996 to 2004. The mining company is no longer in existence, however they left behind some small buildings that are now being made into bungalows, which are being renovated into a diving lodge.
This stretch of ocean has a number of tiny islands peppered around that are all individually surrounded by fascinating and untouched coral reefs. You’ll also find unusual topography and incredible rock formations, boulders and pinnacles. Additionally, there are a number of swim-throughs to explore and discover. Marine life is second to none at this location, with interesting reef life and reef critters.
The seabed is covered in lighter sand throughout Buyat Bay and the marine life is far richer than anywhere else throughout Indonesia. Keep an eye out for the beautiful black crocodile fish found here. Make sure you don’t forget this lesser-known dive area, when planning a trip to Indonesia. (dev/kes)
Editor in chief of divein.com, Torben Lonne has spent the last one-and-a-half years traveling all over Indonesia to find the best diving spots. He believes the archipelago has so much to offer divers and travelers that have not been included in any guidebooks.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.