With 17,000 islands and 20% of the world’s coral reefs, Indonesia is an endless adventure playground for snorkelers. Thousands of spots are spread over the bays, drop-offs, and lagoons of the country, although visitors mainly concentrate on a few very touristic regions.
Bali and Lombok are Indonesia’s top snorkeling destinations. There are great spots in the area, even if the tourism pressure and important fishing activity have contributed to the degradation of corals.
The Amed region, the tourist heart of Bali, is home to many spots to explore from the beaches. The most famous sites are Jemeluk Bay, the USS Liberty wreck (with, a few hundred meters further south, the Coral Garden), Amed Pyramids, and Lipah Beach, all of which with free shore access.
The small island of Pulau Menjangan, at the western tip of Bali, is home to one of the most beautiful reef drop-offs in the area (which however tends to deteriorate in recent years).
South of Bali, Nusa Penida (home to Manta Point, one of the best spots in the world for swimming with manta rays) is another great option for underwater world lovers.
A stone’s throw from Lombok (and easy to reach by boat from Bali), the Gili Islands are a true snorkeling paradise. These three small islands, fringed by coral reefs, are some of the best places in the world to swim with green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles.
They are easily spotted around the islands, both on shallow seagrass meadows and on coral drop-offs. Gili Trawangan (the largest and the most crowded of the 3 islands), Gili Meno (where you can also discover 48 human-sized statutes underwater), and Gili Air all allow amazing snorkeling explorations.
More than 500km away, Sulawesi (also known as Celebes) is another snorkeling hotspot in Indonesia. Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, its drop-offs are covered with a profusion of hard and soft corals, home to hundreds of species of reef fish.
Bunaken Marine Park (where snorkeling is fantastic in Bunaken and in Siladen, where the reef is inhabited by a dozen anemonefish species), the Togian Islands, and the Wakatobi National Park (where you can explore coral reefs and more unusual spots, such as Sombano Lake, a freshwater lake full of small red shrimp) are three unmissable snorkel locations in the region. In Wakatobi, the Wakatobi Resort, in particular, is considered to have one of the world’s best house reefs.
In the eastern reaches of Indonesia, the Raja Ampat archipelago, which includes 1,500 islands and islets, is often described as one of the most beautiful diving spots in the world. At the junction of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, this area hosts exceptional biodiversity.
To snorkel in Raja Ampat, you can either book a stay in a resort (all of which have superb house reefs) or a liveaboard cruise, which will allow you to reach remote and untouched spots. South of the Flores Sea, Komodo National Park is another paradise for snorkeling cruises, most of which depart from Labuan Bajo.
Indonesia is located in the Coral Triangle, this area of the Pacific Ocean also including Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands.
Rich in coral reefs and representing barely 1% of the ocean surface, this area has the greatest marine biodiversity in the world. It is estimated to be home to 30% of the world’s coral reefs and 35% of the world’s reef fish species (more than 3,000 species).
While snorkeling in Indonesia, you may encounter sea turtles, sharks, rays, clownfish, angelfish, giant clams, and with luck the fascinating sunfish, locally called “mola mola”.
If you are planning a trip to Indonesia, we recommend the excellent Reef fish ID: Tropical Pacific (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling across the archipelago.
In Indonesia, the climate is always warm and humid. With water temperature on average from 82 to 86°F (28 to 30°C), snorkeling is possible all the time, although you need to bear in mind the rain, which can be heavy at certain times.
From November to April, during the rainy season, the heat is stifling (with a peak in January/February) and the humidity rate nears 75%. The dry season, between May and October, probably represents the best period for snorkeling in Indonesia, with low rainfall and an average temperature of 86°F/28°C.
Visitor numbers are high in Bali in December and January (during the Christmas holidays), and in July and August. Taking into account the climate and the busy tourist periods, the best months for exploring the country are May, June, and September.
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Unmissable in the Gili Islands, especially at Gili Trawangan
Frequently sighted at Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air; often seen at Bunaken Island reef drop off
Found on many spots; common in Bunaken Island and Siladen Island
Abundant at Siladen Island
Important colonies on Siladen Island reef flat
Common at Menjangan Island
Occasional sightings throughout the archipelago; common at Menjangan Island
Frequently sighted on all reef spots
Occasionnaly observed in Bunaken Island
On all spots
Vibrant reef drop off and shallow seagrass meadows
Level: Free shore access Resort nearby
Sea turtles and vibrant reef drop off
Steep reef drop off with colorful fish
House reef with a lush coral drop off and sea turtles
Level: Resort nearby
Vibrant reef flat and drop off with turtles and a great diversity of reef fish
Vibrant reef drop off with turtles and shallow seagrass meadows
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