Stretching from the Bunaken National Marine Park in Sulawesi to the world-famous Raja Ampat in West Papua, Maluku is a wonderful extension to the two outstanding Indonesian diving locations. These are the most attractive dive sites in Maluku.  

Gorgeous sea fans, diving in Kepulauan Banda

1.HALMAHERA

Halmahera is the largest island in the entire Maluku with the capital Sofifi. Bound by its troubled past and religious conflict, the island carries a significant heritage for the province. Although the island is the biggest of all, tourism here is fairly undeveloped and Halmahera keeps its secrets in the deep jungles and the spewing volcanoes of the mainland.

It is more the underwater world that draws the tourists. Since Halmahera is located on the Coral Triangle it features immense eco-system and rich marine life. Its virgin white sand beaches and tropical corals at Tobelo, Kao and Galela provide some of the best conditions for an off-the-beaten-track diving expedition.

Freediving in the Jaiolo Bay, Halmahera

BEST DIVING LOCATIONS IN HALMAHERA

  • Jailolo Bay – scuba diving
  • Tobelo Island – Kupa Kupa Beach (great snorkelling)
  • Loloda Island –Scuba diving
  • Weda Reef – eco-resorts, remote diving

TO GET THERE: fly to Sofifi – the major city in Halmahera.

Weda Reef, Halmahera

2.MOROTAI

North Maluku`s northernmost island might well be the most magnificent one. Overlooking the open Pacific, there is a powerful energy dominating this place. It is mostly sailors and yachters who visit Morotai since the island is very isolated with hardly any roads.

The island is surrounded with splendid sandbars and atolls, e.g. Dodola, Kokoya and Zum-Zum which are magnets for the scuba divers. There are many other great diving sites around Morotai. The island used to serve as n important base during the WWII and there its waters are not only filled with corals but also ship and aircraft wrecks.

Pulau Dodola, Morotai

BEST DIVING LOCATIONS IN MOROTAI

  • Pulau Dodola – splendid atoll also call ‘Pearl of Pacific’
  • Pulau Kokoya – famous for shark diving & dugongs
  • Morotai Wreck Diving – Wamama Village is a diving base

TO GET THERE: Fly to Dokumalo/North Halmahera. Catch a boat in Tobelo to Daruba/Morotai from where you can hire a speedboat to Dodola, Zum-Zum and Kokoya unless you sail your own boat.

Diving with Dugongs near Pulau Kokoya

3.TERNATE & TIDORE

The former Sultanate of Ternate gave its sultans a commodity that made them the wealthiest and most powerful in the whole Indonesia – clove. Once famous as the ‘Spice Island’, Ternate is one of the most attractive in North Maluku.

By sheer cliffs encircled Tolire Lake, on the nearby Hiri Island, is known for saltwater crocodiles and its abundant surrounding is a must-see in Maluku. There is a boat terminal at the Sulamadaha Beach to Hiri Island.

Ternate & Hiri Island

Diving in Ternate is well-developed, and there are numerous dive centres that offer safe and reliable underwater expeditions. Besides, both islands are excellent for freediving and wreck diving.

BEST DIVING LOCATIONS AROUND TERNATE & TIDORE

  • Ternate – Taman Nukila shipwreck, Masjid Raya, Pastofiri Atoll, Swearing Point, Floridas Wall, Kalumata
  • Hiri Island
  • Maltara Island
  • Tidore – Tanjung Konde, Tahua Point, Tanjung Cobo

TO GET THERE: fly from Jakarta/Java or Makassar/Sulawesi directly to Ternate. Otherwise, the islands are well-connected to any other locations in North Maluku via local ferry.

Taman Nukila shipwreck, Ternate

4.AMBON & SERAM

Historically, Ambon Island is the most important island in Maluku. It is also the most visited tourist destination in the Moluccas. Ambon is characteristic of lush rainforest, active volcanoes, hot springs and immaculate beaches and coral reefs.

Seram has quite a good road infrastructure, and it is a smart idea to rent a scooter and self-drive around the island to explore some of the hidden spots and secret beaches ideal for independent snorkelling & diving. One of the highlights in Seram is the Ora Eco-resort that has lovely overwater bungalows built on the beautiful coral reef.

Ora Eco-Resort, Seram

BEST DIVING LOCATIONS AROUND AMBON & SERAM

  • Top dive sites – Air Manis, Hukurila Canyon, Laha, Pulau Tiga, Ambon Shipwreck, Tanjung Hukurila, Tanjung Setan, Nusa Laut
  • Pombo Island – a deserted tiny island with idyllic beaches and good diving
  • Liang Beach – absolutely amazing with great snorkelling spots
  • Hunimua Beach – ideal for snorkelling
  • Ora Beach Eco Resort – some say that this is heaven! Private cottages are built above the azure waters filled with corals and the impressive forested volcanoes in the background will literally make you feel like being in Tahiti (but much more affordable)

TO GET THERE: fly directly from Jakarta/Java or Makassar/Sulawesi to Ambon – the capital city of Maluku. To get to Seram catch a fast boat from Ambon to Amahai/Masohi.

Pulau Pombo

5.BANDA ISLANDS

The central island is Pulau Neira with the provincial capital Bandaneira which has fairly well-developed tourism infrastructure compared to other Maluku islands. Apart from excellent snorkelling and diving sites, Banda islands are well-known for Gunung Api (660 m) – a beautifully shaped cone volcano and a popular climbing location.

Banda Islands have very abundant, healthy and undamaged coral system; several diving operators run their business on the islands (the German company Dive Blue Motion is the most reliable).

The fringing reef surrounding Pulau Hatta, Banda Islands

BEST DIVING LOCATIONS AROUND BANDA ISLANDS

  • Bandaneira – Pulau Ai, Pulau Keraka
  • Banda Besar – Batu Belanda, Karnobol
  • Offshore islands – Batu Kapal, Batu Wali, Pulau Hatta, Pulau Manuk, Soangi

TO GET THERE: Pelni ships run from Java/Surabaya and Sulawesi/Macassar to Banda Besar Island.  Fast boats operate between Ambon and Banda, as well. Otherwise, you can fly directly from to Pulau Neira Island/Bandaneira Airport.

A beautiful stretch of hard coral near Pulau Banda

NOTE

Diving expeditions in Maluku are strongly recommended for experienced divers only. Currents are very strong, infrastructure is poor, and it is advised to travel and dive in groups.

WHEN TO TRAVEL

Weather in Maluku is extremely unpredictable. The Central and South Maluku Islands often get strong winds from December to February which makes it hard for snorkelers and scuba divers.

NORTH MALUKU – wet season generally runs between June and August, hence avoid these months

CENTRAL MALUKU – wet season generally runs between November and March, hence avoid these months

SOUTH MALUKU – wet season generally runs between December and February, hence avoid these months

Overly, it seems like the ideal time to visit Maluku is the shoulder season (April-May and Oct-Nov)

Diving near Banda Besar

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Jakarta/Java. Catch a flight to Ambon (for Central & South Maluku) and Ternate (for North Maluku).

The slow Pelni Ships operate between most of the islands in Indonesia, albeit they are mostly used by the local people.

For all international flights go to www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com

For all domestic Indonesian flights check out www.garuda-indonesia.com

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Eva Bodova

Eva Bodova

Sunday 12 August 2018

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