There are very few divers in the world who have not at least considered a trip to Indonesia. The country sits at the heart of the world's marine biodiversity, and among its 17,000 islands, Indonesia boasts some of the finest diving on the planet. But where is the best diving in Indonesia? With so many islands and locations to choose from, planning your first trip to Indonesia can be a little daunting. Whether you are looking for pristine reefs, swirling currents, WWII wrecks, muck diving havens or big-fish action, Indonesia can deliver. Here's our roundup of the best diving in Indonesia to help you plan your perfect holiday to the world's largest archipelagic state...
For many, Bali serves as the gateway to Indonesia, and its diverse dive sites offer a little of everything: stunning coral gardens in the north, pumping currents in the south and WWII wrecks, macro critters and magnificent megafauna dotted around the coastline. Menjangen Island, Amed and Tulamben sit along Bali's northern coast, which is bathed in warm tropical currents from the north. Menjangen boasts amazing wall diving along coral-encrusted vertical drop-offs, while Amed and Tulamben's coral gardens host an array of reef fish and macro critters in addition to the famous USAT Liberty wreck, which lies a stone's throw from Tulamben's beach.
To the south of Bali, amid the cooler currents from the Southern Ocean, lie the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. The dive sites here are famous for being the best place in the world to dive with the bizarre mola mola, and they can all but guarantee epic dives watching manta rays feeding and being cleaned.
Bali's east coast, in the area of Manggis and Padang Bai, is a happy medium between the north and south coasts. The dive sites here are a little less visited than Tulamben and Penida, but the coral and critters on display are no less impressive. Frogfish, seahorses, wobbegong sharks, white-tipped reef sharks and a plethora of colourful nudibranchs are commonly spotted, while the occasional mola mola at current-swept Gili Tepekong ensure Bali's east coast is well worth checking out.
It's impossible to have a conversation about the best diving in Indonesia without Raja Ampat getting a mention. Its name translates as 'Four Kings', and it comprises over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals surrounding the four main islands - the 'Four Kings' - of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. Whether you choose a luxurious resort base or to explore Raja Ampat's diving by liveaboard, one thing is for certain-the diving will be spectacular.
The remote location of Raja Ampat, on the western edge of New Guinea, may take a little effort to reach, but the diversity and abundance of the marine life make it worth the time and effort. The immaculate reefs are home to clouds of colourful reef fish, manta rays, reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, walking sharks, turtles, tuna, barracuda and whale sharks. Macro photographers need not worry either; an endless array of vibrant nudibranchs, blue-ringed octopus, pygmy seahorses, ghostpipefish, frogfish and the Holy Grail of underwater photography - rhinopias - will all have your zoom lens working overtime. Whether you're looking for creatures great or small, we're confident you'll agree Raja Ampat deserves its place among the best diving in Indonesia.
Lembeh Island is separated from the coastline of Northern Sulawesi by a narrow stretch of water known as the Lembeh Strait. And this narrow passage is renowned for being home to perhaps the greatest concentration of weird and wonderful marine creatures on the planet. Muck diving enthusiasts and avid macro photographers flock here to train their cameras on the veritable freak show that inhabits the volcanic slopes of the strait.
In addition to mimic octopus, hairy frogfish, Pontohi pygmy seahorses, wunderpus, mandarinfish, rhinopias, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus and stargazers, Lembeh boasts an endless list of nudis inching their way along the black-sand slopes. While it may be a bit of a specialised destination, when it comes to muck diving, Lembeh surely boasts the best diving in Indonesia.
An hour's flight east of Bali is all that's needed to swap the Island of the Gods for the island of dragons. While the giant monitor lizards that are endemic to the region need little introduction, some of the marine critters encountered in the area have divers reaching for the fish identification books at the end of the dive. Komodo's muck diving sites are littered with the bizarre and the beautiful, while its more current-swept northern sites offer superb manta and shark action.
The ability to spot mimic octopus and rhinopias on the same trip as mantas and hammerheads ensures Komodo's place at the top table when it comes to discussing the best diving in Indonesia. The best dive sites in Komodo feature heavily in people's favourite dive site lists, and with very good reason. Throw in a land tour to visit the infamous dragons, and a trip to Komodo will leave you marvelling at the diversity of nature in this part of the world.
The first two letters of each of the four largest islands in the Wakatobi Regency - Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko - form the name of this impressive Indonesian destination. Wakatobi is famed for its pristine coral gardens and is reputed to be the home of the world's premier house reef. With over 700 species of fish officially recorded in the area, the combination of untouched, healthy corals alongside the unbelievably diverse fish life means Wakatobi deserves to be considered among the best diving in Indonesia.
Whether you choose to explore Wakatobi's immaculate reefs from the comfort of a luxurious resort or a boutique liveaboard, be sure to pack a good fish identification book - you will be reaching for it after most dives!