Season: Year-round diving
Visibility: 10-40 metres/30-130 ft
Water Temperature: 25-29°C/77-84°F
Indonesia is now without a doubt the world’s most tremendous dive destination. Whatever it is that fuels your passion for the underwater world, it can be found in Indonesia, the part of the world that lies right at the apex of ‘The Ultimate In Diving’.
However, there are still vast swathes of this magical archipelago that are largely unexplored and one can only imagine that ‘undiscovered underwater Indonesia’ is going to be just as thrilling as the areas we already know and love. Much of this frontier diving area is focussed on the waters between East Timor, Ambon and West Papua, home to several chains of small islands, atolls and large bays. One can almost imagine what lies in store simply by looking at the map. With so much ocean and so few bits of land, these disparate islands and bays serve as homes, cleaning stations and shelters to a mind boggling array of marine life from the very big to the very small.
This enormous ‘bay’ sits along the northern coast of West Papua (the Indonesian part of New Guinea), east of the Raja Ampat region. This must be, as yet, the least-dived place in Indonesia, but the hardy few who have set fin in these waters tell of great things, literally, for this is home to Whale Sharks, and rumour has it they are very friendly! Famed for excellent visibility in clear blue water, Cenderawasih is also home to hammerhead sharks as well as a small number of Japanese World War Two wrecks, most notably the Shinwa Maru, where you can rummage amongst helmets and other artefacts and swim through the holds and openings in the wreck.
THE BANDA SEA
Another ‘outpost’ of the frontier is the area between Raja Ampat to the north and Komodo to the south. In the Banda Sea, wall diving is the order of the day, with spectacular and rich vertical walls, some fast currents and steep reef slopes awaiting the adventurous diver. This region can offer some of the ‘fishiest’ diving in Indonesia and it is the larger marine life species that makes these sites so spectacular, with large tunas found on many dive sites and big schools of jacks a familiar sight. Huge turtles, sharks, Napoleon Wrasse, groupers, rays and amazingly large lobsters can be found here, as well as some big schools of reef fish. Coral is in very good condition and there are particularly rich and spectacular growths of colourful soft corals on most of the reefs, though some of the best soft coral ‘curtains’ can be found in areas which are exposed to a degree of current. In the more sheltered, shallow areas, critter diving serves as a pleasant ‘flip-side’ to the more thrilling encounters to be had elsewhere. (Cruises here are offered by Arenui, Indo Siren, Pindito and Seven Seas).
AMBON TO SORONG
This route is something of a hidden valley that takes you from one of Indonesia’s most famed macro diving areas to the region that has everything! The macro-critter dives of the Ambon region give way to the more lively and ‘fishy’ dives of the Maluku Strait as one moves east towards Misool and through the Banda Sea. As this area is totally unprotected, sites with strong currents are a great place to see hammerheads and larger schooling fish. As West Papua swings into view, things calm down a bit, and the busy walls begin to reveal pymy seahorses and a plethora of other macro-critters. (Cruises here are offered by Arenui, Indo Siren and Seven Seas).
Tolitoli Bay, located on the northern ‘arm’ of Sulawesi’s ‘starfish’, sits at the gateway to the Makassar Strait. It is peculiar to think that, with so much now known about diving in Sulawesi, Tolitoli Bay remains so overlooked. Those who have dived here say it is an undiscovered Lembeh Strait. Certainly its location lends itself to such diving, as it is shallow and protected sites where macro life prevails. The area is as picturesque above the sea as it is below, with small emerald and golden islets visible throughout the bay. The seascapes along this sparsely populated coast line are a taste of what lies ahead further west across the Makassar Strait in Borneo. Cruises here are offered by Tambora.
COMBINATIONS: It is straightforward to combine one of these frontier cruises with a visit to another of Indonesia’s fantastic dive destinations. Talk to us about the possibilities.
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