Spanning over 2,500 miles and a large chunk of the western south Pacific, the island country of Indonesia looms large over the dive world and holds some of the greatest ecological marine biodiversity on the planet.
Underpinning the bottom ⅔ of the Coral Triangle, the vast oceanic region contains several lifetimes of diving and is pretty much impossible to experience in a single trip. From well-trodden tourist hot-spots, like Bali, to far-flung wilderness preserves on the fringes of civilization (Papua), Indonesia is overflowing with adventure—and superlative diving.
When planning a dive trip to Indo, it’s best to start small. The country is immense, and each island and/or region plays host to tons of individual dive sites to explore. The options can be overwhelming, so it’s best to only bite off what you can chew, at least at first.
Where to go? It ultimately depends on your preferences as a diver. But just as an overview, find below a few of our top picks for dive travel in Indonesia.
Wakatobi National Park
Centrally located just to the southeast of the sprawling major Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Wakatobi National Park is a protected marine sanctuary that offers some of the best diving in the world. Actually composed of four smaller islands, since 2005, UNESCO has been eyeing the region for world heritage status.
The four-island chain comprises the largest marine park in Indonesia and . Fun fact: Wakatobi National Park has the greatest number of marine species on the planet, so you likely won’t be disappointed with the aquatic flora and fauna on display.
Tucked all the way on the eastern flank of Sulawesi’s northernmost arm, the Lembeh Strait is world-famous for its critters and abundant micro marine life. Roughly 16 kilometers long and just over a kilometer wide, the Lembeh Strait punches above its geographic weight and has almost 100 known dive sites.
As the Strait is largely protected from rough, open ocean waters, the conditions are almost always placid and currents are less strong than in more exposed diving areas. Known as “the Mecca for Macro photography,” the Lembeh strait plays host to an incredible array of small marine creatures, including the furry frog fish, nudibranch, and other rare species.
Bunaken National Park
One of the most famous dive destinations in Indonesia, Bunaken National Park was the first marine park created by Indonesia in 1991. Similar to the Lembeh Strait, Bunaken is located in the far northern reaches of Sulawesi.
Today, it contains over 390 species of coral and a huge number of diverse marine species. In fact: it’s thought that the Bunaken area contains 7x the number of coral species as Hawaii and up to 70% of all fish species found in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Raja Ampat, West Papua
Raja Ampat has been the darling bucket-list item of the dive industry for years. It’s name literally translates to Four Kings and corresponds to the four islands that make up its terrestrial confines. In total, however, the peninsula contains roughly 1,500 reefs, atols and isles that scatter like diamonds throughout the eastern flank of the Coral Triangle.
With a hard-to-reach reputation and one of the most pristine marine regions on the planet, people pay a hefty premium to dive Raja Ampat—and for good reason. According to Wikipedia, “The region contains more than 600 species of hard corals, equaling about 75 percent of known species globally, and more than 1,700 species of reef fish. Compared to similar-sized ecosystems elsewhere in the world, this makes Raja Ampat’s biodiversity the richest in the world.”
Komodo National Park
Recently the darling of worldwide controversy due to its being loved to death by tourists from across the globe, Komodo National Park is a gem, but an increasingly popular one. Actually comprised of the three smaller islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca, the park was founded in 1980 and later declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.
Most tourists come for the topside attractions—namely the reptilian Komodo Dragons. But for divers in the know, the Komodo region has some of the best pelagic viewing and diving available, including whale sharks, manta/eagle rays, dolphins and many varieties of shark.