At first glance, comparing the Maldives' and Indonesia's diving is like comparing apples and oranges. For many divers, Indonesia is the springboard to experiencing the best diving in the Coral Triangle, while the Maldives is synonymous with big animal encounters (think: whale sharks, manta rays and sharks galore). However, these two heavyweights of the diving world share many similarities, making a diving duel inevitable. So, let's see which archipelago comes out champion in our Maldives vs. Indonesia diving showdown…
Best for Coral Diving
Most divers associate Indonesia with coral diving. Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle - the most biodiverse marine region in the world - this sweeping archipelago houses over 600 coral species spread across 7,646 square miles of reef system. Some of our favourite sites for coral diving (ever) include Misool and Cape Kri in Raja Ampat, Clown Valley and Kal's Dream in Alor and Batu Bolong in Komodo.
Across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is home to some exceptional coral diving across its atolls and islands. Fish Head, located in the North Ari Atoll, is one of the most famous sites - and for good reason. This soft-coral-covered pinnacle is home to clouds of colourful reef fish alongside turtles, grey and white reef sharks.
Indonesia's fortuitous position in the heart of the Coral Triangle wins the first round in the Maldives vs. Indonesia diving showdown. Indonesia, 1, Maldives, 0.
Best for Big Animal Diving
The Maldives is synonymous with big fish. To give just a glimpse into this archipelago's Big Animal Book, divers can see manta rays, whale sharks, hammerhead, thresher and tiger sharks. For the crème de la crème of big animal encounters, head to Hanifaru Bay in the Baa Atoll. During the southwest monsoon (April to October), strong currents bring nutrient-rich water to the area, attracting hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks.
Not to be overlooked, Indonesia also hosts an impressive roster of big marine animals. In the Banda Sea, divers can capture glimpses of blue whales and humpbacks during surface intervals, while Komodo and Bali are world-famous for their resident manta ray populations.
This round was a tough call; however, the Maldives' festival of manta rays earns it the win, bringing the score to Indonesia, 1, Maldives, 1.
Best for Macro and Muck Diving
While the Maldives might not be well-known for muck diving, there are a few places to spot various macro critters. Divers can scour for nudibranchs and mantis shrimp along the inner reefs of the Raa Atoll, in the Maldives' northern atolls, while in the southern atolls, the Laamu Atoll hosts ornate ghost pipefish, frogfish and nudibranchs.
Indonesia, on the other hand, is world-famous for its macro critters. While divers can seek out minute critters across the archipelago, the Lembeh Strait in Northern Sulawesi is an encyclopaedia for the weird and wonderful, from blue-ringed octopus to the bobbit worm and the whole spectrum of frogfish species.
Indonesia's mind-boggling array of macro species wins this round, bringing the score to Indonesia, 2, Maldives, 1.
Best for Beginner Divers
The Maldives' myriad turquoise lagoons are the perfect swimming pools for learning to dive. Divers can master their confined skills surrounded by eagle rays, turtles and tropical fish on some of the world's best house reefs, while above water, most resorts have in-house marine biologists allowing budding divers to expand their repertoire of underwater wonders. Over in Indonesia, Bali is a popular destination for newbie divers, thanks to a plethora of beginner-friendly sites with shore entry. Our pick of the bunch is Tulamben on Bali's east coast, which boasts clear, calm waters excellent for blowing your first bubbles. This region hosts one of the world's most famous wrecks, the USAT Liberty wreck, which extends from three metres down to a max depth of 30 metres, making her perfect for beginners and advanced divers alike.
In the beginner diving category for Maldives vs. Indonesia diving, you can't go wrong with either destination, making this round a tie. Indonesia, 3, Maldives, 2.
Best for Advanced Divers
The channels separating the Maldives' 26 atolls are a haven for advanced divers seeking deeper dives, thrilling currents and sharks galore. Wreck heads will appreciate the 80-metre-long MV Victory wreck that sank in 1981. Today, the coral-encrusted wreck rests at 37 metres, providing shelter for myriad marine life. Whether you're a deep diver, drift diver, night diver, or all of the above, Indonesia caters to all. Komodo National Park and Alor, in particular, are famous for strong currents and epic marine encounters.
This round is too tough to call, it really comes down to personal preference. We're calling this a tie, Indonesia, 4, Maldives, 3.
Best for Topside Charms
It's no secret that the Maldives hosts the most luxurious islands in the world. No matter which island you decide to become blissfully marooned on, expect gently swaying palms, soft powder-white sand and sheltered turquoise lagoons shaded by overwater bungalows. While the main beguile of the Maldives lies in luxury escapism - be it swinging in a hammock or being pampered at the spa - there's also a slew of activities to keep the most restless entertained, from surfing to sunset dhow sailing to lending a helping hand on various conservation initiatives (think: replanting coral and releasing turtle hatchlings).
Indonesia, a 3,000-mile-long archipelago with over 17,000 islands, enjoys a prime position on most people's bucket list. Seek swinging orangutans in the forest canopies of Sumatra, wander through ancient Buddhist temples in Java and spot prehistoric Komodo dragons in Komodo National Park. Not forgetting epic surf spots, billowing rice paddies and some of the most beautiful sunsets we've come across.
Both the Maldives and Indonesia are equally enthralling and completely different; we're calling this a tie. The final round for the Maldives vs. Indonesia diving showdown is Indonesia, 5, Maldives, 4.