For me Diving Indonesia is my mecca for diving, so vast, so different and so beautiful in so many places. Bang in the middle of the coral triangle you can dive in so many different conditions. With warm and cold waters that boast a vast array of marine life. Diving Indonesia you can see the utterly huge – Whale Sharks to the very very small – tiger shrimps. Diving Indonesia can range from paying £5 a tank (Tulamben) to expensive resort diving costing £100’s (Palau). Just a snippet of my favourite places –
Northern Sumatra, Banda Aceh and a short boat ride across to the water to the most northern island in Indonesia lies Palau Wey. I have dived there several times from 2010 onward and things only get better when diving with Lumba Lumba. Unfortunately there was some serious coral bleaching (rising water temperatures) in 2011 which damaged the house reef, but things are starting to get better. They offer both house reef diving, wreck diving and reef / boat dives. The house reefs offers you the option to dive in shallow waters for as long as your air consumption allows. All this for around £6! They offer trips our to the reefs on their boats to experience wall diving, drop offs and superb coral reefs. Some of the dive sites however can be quite challenging as they do have strong currents but with that come sharks, mantas, eagle rays and other pelagic animals. One of the best spots I dived there recently (May 2013) was Limbo, full of nudis and 3 different frog fish (giant and warty). It is a cool site to dive as it starts at around 10m and plungs to around 30m+. The Sohpie Rickmer is a challenging wreck dive there that is a must do. Set at 60m deep it is challenging and an awesome sight to behold.
I did my IDC here with Blue Season Bali and spent quite a while here exploring the island and diving many locations around it. The cheapest dive I have ever done was at Tulamben. We had all our own gear and you can hire out a tank for £5! We arrived early in the morning to avoid all the other dive shops and ended up having the whole site to ourselves. The wreck itself is slowly falling apart each year, but there is still plenty to explore with some great swim throughs and some good penetration points. Entry into the water is on the beach and a good place to do your safety stop is near the beach where you can explore the black sand and rocks for nudis.
Just across the water from Bali is Nusa Lembongan which again holds a number of great dive spots around the island. I visited the Island in Nov 2009 and also worked there for a season in 2014. I went in 2009 in search of one of the most bizarre underwater creatures there is around – the magical & mysterious Mola Mola. The best time to see them is around Oct time but I was quite lucky and managed to get quite a few sightings in during my time there. They also have Mantas in Nusa Penida and pretty much everything else in-between. Diving from here is cheaper than going from Bali and has a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere with fewer hawkers around and a not much traffic. The dive sites are diverse from drift dives, reef dives, wall and drop off dives to diving in bays with many reef mantas. A great place to relax and dive.
We did this on the superb Mermaid live aboard first class / 5* / 10 day live aboard that we managed to get at a great discount. This liveaboard was probably one of the most exclusive live a boards I have been on. We toured around the Komodo Islands, diving up to 4 times a day. The waters around the island are teeming with marine life, strong currents and some unusual diving conditions. As most of the islands are volcanic, diving in black sand is common. Sometimes you have air bubbles seeping put of the sand which makes for some remarkable experiences. There are plenty of weird and wonderful critters everywhere from Rhinopias (weedy and paddle flap), ornates, mantas, wonder puss, black tips to nudis. On our trip we were lucky enough to have with us Stephen Wong and Takak Uno, famous National Geographic underwater photographers. They not only gave us some fascinating stories but also helped with a few underwater photography hints and tips as well.
Very Very special.
Lembeh Straits Sulawesi
Sulawesi is possibly one of the most interesting and different dive destinations in the world. As the founder and the home of muck diving it is a real treat to dive here. Diving conditions range from diving in black sand with lots of rubbish to beautiful coral walls. When we were there we dived with Two Fish Divers, a great professional outfit that will look after you well and knock you out with the diving. Be prepared for some dives in and amongst rubbish but in some of these sites you really do find the weird and the wonderful. From Frog Fish, Octopus – Mimic, Coconut and the staggering Wonderpuss, ornates, tiger shrimps, pygmy seashores, blue ring octopus, mandarin fish and so many different nudis. Drift diving, wall diving and muck diving, a real experience and blows your mind with so much variety. One place I would visit time and time again. For a brief insight into the diving here watch a trailer of Danny De Velle Award winning documentary about the Weird and Wonderful Lembeh.
Further North from Lembeh is Bunaken where the main theme here is wall diving. Again we dived with Two Fish Divers and enjoyed a great few days with them. Wall diving is spectacular here, very steep drop offs and some great chances to see seashores, turtles, nudis, sharks and leaf fish. There is also a great communal place to chill out after the dives, extensive fish ID library, and book swap and of course log your dives.
Dived there once and was hugely disappointed, maybe the guy in the shop was over selling it but we dived Shark Point (no sharks) and Manta Point (no Mantas), even though he said there were good chances to seeing both. I understand it is a big ocean and chances are less likely these days but later I found out that they haven’t seen Mantas in over 2 years there. The coral life is good but the island seems more orientated around courses and partying than anything else.
Bangka Island – Sulawesi
I had the chance to dive here in 2015 and I was not disappointed. I was trying to discover somewhere new and off the beaten track in Sulawesi so we headed up to the Northern tip. We stayed at the very impressive Mimpi Indah Resort on Bangka Island. It is so relaxed at this resort I could have stayed for 2 weeks. The diving is stunning too. Short boat trips from the resorts doorstep, where you can enjoy wall, sloping reefs and shallow house reef diving. I would say the diving was pretty easy, only some strong currents on a couple of dives. the diversity was amazing too from frogfish, pygmy seahorses, nudis galore to ribbon eels and ornates. Owen and Ulva were great hosts taking time in their busy days to socialize with guest and tell them about the trips planned for the upcoming days.
Bira Dive camp – Sulawesi
On the same trip as the one to Bangka Island in the north of Sulawesi we decided to go the southern tip of Sulawesi to see what was there. The diving here was going to be completely different from up north. Colder waters and a better chance to see bigger stuff like sharks and rays. We were staying at Bira Dive Camp. A very laid back and relaxed resort and a lot cheaper than up north. The resort was basic but had everything we needed for a weeks stay. The diving was great, stronger currents, sharks on most dives and the odd ray here and there. Most of the dives were drift dives and cold at around 18 – 21 degrees celsius on most dives. A bit harder to get to than most places but if you like good challenging dives, sharks, currents and relaxing then this is the place for you!