Indonesia is the heart of a region of the world known as the Coral Triangle. Although this area comprises only 1.6% of earth’s total oceanic area, it contains 76% of all known coral species and 52% of all the known tropical reef fishes. This incredible amount of biodiversity lends to its reputation as being the marine equivalent of the Amazon Rainforest. Within the translucent seas surrounding Indonesia’s palm-fringed islands you’ll find more marine-life than anywhere else on earth. Even “mediocre” dive sites, by Indonesian standards, offer staggering natural beauty the likes of which only exist in only a handful of places in the world.
Although Bali is more famous for its world-class waves and surf, it also abounds with great places for snorkelling and diving. In many areas, you need only to put on a mask, snorkel and fins and head out to the nearest beach to enjoy kaleidoscopic coral reefs teeming with life.
Just off the coast of Sanur, in southern Bali, are three islands known as Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan. The western beaches of these islands contain what is said to be some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in Bali. Just far enough off of the mainland to avoid exposure to runoff, the water is cleaner and the visibility is greater, offering fantastic opportunities to see vibrant marine life. In particular, Mushroom Bay and Dream Beach on Nusa Lembongan are famous for their fantastic and easily accessed snorkelling opportunities.
Ahmed, on the eastern side of Bali is known not only for its surreal black-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, but also for its incredible diving and snorkelling opportunities. The volcanic topography makes for incredibly underwater scenery, while the vast expanse of its coral reefs spanning Jemeluk Bay are amongst the best in Bali. One of the most notable accolades of Ahmed from an underwater perspective are the numbers shipwrecks just off its coast. Boat trips to these underwater havens are the perfect way to get up-close and personal with some of the more jaw-dropping reef fish of Bali such as the Napolean wrasse and even reef sharks.
Maybe the best place for diving and snorkelling in both Indonesia and the world is Raja Ampat, in the eastern frontier of Indonesia. For perspective on just how spectacular diving here can be, Raja Ampat currently holds the world-record for the most number of species to be found in a single dive site- 284 at Kofiau Island. The benchmark for “excellent” dive sites is 200, which is surpassed by 51% of Raja Ampat’s dive sites- another world record. If that isn’t enough to make you want to get your fins wet, the islands are also home to more than 600 species of coral, yet another world record. There are literally dozens of dive sites to choose from, many of which are easily accessed from the main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo.
Diving and snorkelling in Indonesia is typically fantastic year-round. Very roughly, in much of the country, November to April are the wet months (January and Febuary the wettest) and May through to October are dry. Water visibility tends to be highest during the driest months of the year when there is less sediment being washed off of the islands into the sea by rain.
If you’re heading to Indonesia with diving or snorkelling as a priority, it may prove to be a good idea to bring some of your own equipment along from home such as masks, snorkels and fins. While there’s no shortage of reputable operators in Indonesia, there’s no guarantee that the equipment they offer will be up to snuff based on standards elsewhere. When surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful tropical seas, it helps to come prepared with gear that will help you to enjoy it.