Located in what scientists call ‘the coral triangle’, Indonesia is surrounded by some of the planet’s richest marine life. It is estimated 51,090 square kilometres of the country’s surrounding water is made up of coral reef – an area home to everything from sharks and rays to Pygmy seahorses. Here is just a small selection of Indonesia’s most beautiful and biodiverse dive sites?

The scuba aquarium of Raja Ampat

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A school of Barracuda in Raja Ampat – one of Indonesia’s best dive sites

If rumours about Cape Kri are true, this is one of the best dive sites in the world. In 2012, 374 species of fish were registered here, meaning it is one of the most rich and diverse underwater regions in the world.

As I reach around 10 metres depth, it feels like I enter a completely new world. Thousands of fish dart among the colourful corals; Damsels, stripy Sargent Majors, large schools of blue-tailed Fusiliers. And wow, the corals are colourful. We round a corner and my dive buddy, Steve, points into the distance. A large Bumphead Parrotfish, 120 centimetres in length, pecks at the coral. Behind him, seven equally huge bodies hunt for food, and we watch them in awe as their bodies slowly swing in unison, back and forth, to and fro, nibbling their way through the feast.

Minutes later, we have another magical sighting – a school of Pickhandle Barracuda, 140 centimetres in length, followed by 40 Black-fin Barracuda. They create a cloud around us and it’s tempting to follow them into the blue to learn more about their odyssey. A seemingly endless stream of Spanish Mackerel zip by, too. Wow, wow, wow.

We continue winding our way through giant table corals, staghorn and giant fans. Soon it is my turn to spot a distinctive shape curiously wandering… A Black-tip reef shark! He noses around us, close enough for us to see his distinct colouring.

I think I’ve just had the best dive of my life.

The walls and turtles of Manado, Sulawesi

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A large Green turtle resting on a ledge, Manado

The Muka Kampung wall glistens like a shelf of treasures. Think Ariel’s cave in The Little Mermaid. There are enclaves, ledges and caves and my buoyancy skills are tested as I delve closer to find what may be hiding inside.

It doesn’t take long to come face-to-face with a beady eye. It’s a Green Sea turtle. His eye ball gazing around, watching the world go by from his little rock-ledge haven. He spends several minutes with me, and I feel at peace watching his absolute stillness, bar the odd gentle flip of a flipper. Then, pushing off without a sound, he softly paddles to gain momentum. This allows his mustard-brown shell to sparkle under the sun’s hazy rays.

Incredibly, I experience several moments like this during our visit to Bunaken National Marine Park, where two or three hour-long dives a day are the norm with Eco Divers’ Resort.

Eco Divers’ is situated at pretty Minhasa Lagoon – a little paradise away from Indonesia’s usual tourist hubs. Post-dive, the choice is between enjoying a cocktail on your beachfront cottage balcony, or by the glorious infinity pool. The in-house restaurant dishes up delicious Sulawesi cuisine. The perfect end to the perfect day.

The deal: A three-day dive package at Eco Divers Resort starts at EUR 650pp (approx. £510), including four nights’ in a Garden View room with full board, three guided day-dives with cylinders and weights, airport transfers and free Internet access. 

Sardine spotting in Lombok

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Surrounded by thousands of Sardines in Lombok

I’m dancing in the water. With a tank on back, a regulator between my lips and a wetsuit as my costume – I’m twirling around like a ballerina, except this time, my toes don’t touch the floor. Around me, more dancers take to the stage in the form of thousands of sardines. We turn and twirl together, in unison – and it’s one of the most wonderful scene.

It’s the end of an hour-long dive at Beggit Timur, Sekotong. I had glided by giant sea fans, Triggerfish, Pufferfish, Yellow-back Fusiliers and even spotted a few tiny Manta shrimps. It’s time to surface and, inevitably, I have that end-of-dive feeling. I don’t want it to end. As we make our safety stop, my Dive Master points out a small man-made cavern and bids me to follow. We investigate.

Inside, thousands of sardines are illuminated by the sunlight. I have never seen so many schooling fish packed together, although I understand their behaviour makes it hard for predators to target individuals. There is a method to their magnificent madness – and here they are, winding and swirling, to music I can’t hear.

It’s hard to surface from a dive like this, but the thought of a hot shower and a delicious Indonesian lunch at my Lombok home, Cocotinos Resort, helps draw me back to land. My beautiful terrace villa opens out onto a secluded sandy beach and an inviting pool and spa provide the perfect finish to a day of diving with onsite Odyssea Divers.

A few minutes of awe and I say goodbye to the sardines.

The deal: A full board four-day, three-night diving package at Cocotinos Sekotong starts from $595pp (approx. £415), inc. six dives with tanks and weights, airport transfers and free wifi.

More on Indonesia’s best dive sites

  • Komodo – fierce currents, big fish; experienced divers only; best explored on a liveaboard. 
  • Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi – over 50 dive sites, ideal for macro divers 
  • Pulau Weh, Sumatra – Eagle rays and Moray eels.

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