Southeast Asia is home to a dramatic variety of gorgeous and fascinating dive sites. If your experience has been limited to more traditional tourist destinations, then Southeast Asia will be a treat. Get ready to see fish and underwater life and scenery, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Here are our top 6 favorite diving sites in Southeast Asia.
Komodo National Park is a region in Indonesia that’s made up of many different islands: Rinca, Padar, and of course Komodo Island, as well as a few smaller islands.
Diving at Komodo National Park is considered a two-wetsuit trip. The water on the north side is fairly warm, and most divers enjoy it with a very thin wetsuit. On the other hand, the southern side is full of the cooler, nutrient-rich upwelling from deep in the ocean. Here, a 5mm wetsuit with gloves and hood is more appropriate.
The other thing which is important to understand is the way in which the Komodo islands act as a dam – they help hold the warm Pacific water back, forcing it to flow through a series of straits. The combination of warm Pacific water and cold Sumba Sea water results in a phytoplankton bloom, which in turn creates an astonishingly active food chain in the region.
Horseshoe Bay, for example, is famous as one of the most crowded and active reefs that divers will ever see, including the Cannibal Rock pinnacle. There you’ll see dense groups of crinoids jostling for space – and you’ll get a chance to work on your buoyancy skills. The reason is that crinoids stick to neoprene, and if you brush up against one even lightly then you’ll have hitchhikers.
2. Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat is one of the few remaining destinations where you can feel like a pioneer and go diving where nobody has been before. This Indonesian destination ranges from the landscapes and beautiful (above water) scenery at Irian Jaya to some of the most impressive diving in Indonesia and the world.
Why? Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is considered to have the richest coral reefs of any dive destination in the world. At the same time, it’s relatively unspoiled – partly because of its remote location, it is still a destination considered to be well off the beaten track. As a result, you can look forward to few if any boats and only the most serious divers enjoying the area.
Next to Raja Ampat, Alor represents another significant “last frontier” in Indonesia. Alor is full of big schools of pelagic fish, themselves a sight to see as the large groups (sometimes weighing hundreds of tons) swarm and flow. It’s located in between the Sawoe and Flores Seas and represents a world class dive destination which for a long time was considered to be too remote and difficult to reach for the average diver due to its lack of any infrastructure.
However, Alor is much easier to reach now, and Indonesian airlines now fly into it more often.
That is not to say Alor is at risk of spoiling. In the region, the government is well aware of the marine park’s potential, and working with the local community to encourage sustainable and traditional fishing techniques (like bamboo traps) which keep the coral reefs virgin. In fact, a share of the fees each guest pays goes to helping protect the park’s legacy.
4. Banda Islands
The Banda Islands are less known than Komodo, but for those who know it’s still among the best diving destinations in the world. Diving Banda means seeing tremendous variety — both on large and small scales. You might see hammerhead sharks swimming through the area in October, and big pelagics as well as large schools of fish everywhere. Plus, don’t forget the many species of dolphins and whales.
5. Togian Islands
The Togian Islands are a group of 56 islands near Sulawesi, Indonesia. All three of the main reef formations are visible in the Togian Islands — barrier reefs, fringing reefs, and atolls. There are also more than 300 coral species in the area, many of which have still not been properly classified.
That’s only part of the allure of the Togeans, however. They have some of the world’s calmest deep water worldwide, and as a dive site it’s full of clean beaches, sparkling seas, peace and tranquility, and, of course, no crowds. At the same time, the marine life diversity and underwater topography are so stunning that the better-known dive destinations in the world pale in comparison.
6. Bunaken Islands
Bunaken, Manado was voted Asia’s best wall dive, and it hasn’t changed much since! There are no crowds (the local airport sees just 25,000 international arrivals each year – compared to Bali’s 3 million!), and the Bunaken dive sites are, like the others in our list, ranked among the best in the world for marine diversity.
All above dive sites are recommendations based on Lamima Sailing Yacht’s previous cruising and diving activities.