Photo: Getting ready to dive near Komodo National Park.

Scuba diving in Asia forum

SE Asia Diving Recommendations

Posted by csawala on 22/6/2011 at 15:12

I will be in SE Asia between August and ... maybe January/February? and I am already open water licensed with PADI, and advanced open water with NAUI.

I am just wondering what are must dive sites. I am starting my trip in July in China, heading south to Vietnam and definitely going to Phu Quoc, then on to Sihanoukville in Cambodia. After that I just want to get to as many other sites I can get to before I run out of money (while still seeing the touristy and scenic places along the way).

I was thinking about some of the following places (though nothing is planned, and everything is subject to change): Koh Tao, Similan Islands, Koh Samui, Palau, Bali, Gili Islands, Puerto Princesa, Wakatobi, Lembeh Strait, Ampat Raja
- These are just some places I've read about being either good, great, or incredible, but it's just a question of how I'll get there and whether I'll have enough money to actually dive my way down to them all.

What are your thoughts on these places? Any recommendations for dive spots that may be more accessible or just worth making my way towards?

Also, which is more common to find among dive centers, PADI or NAUI?

#1 csawala has been a member since 21/4/2011. Posts: 13

Posted by tyler on 23/6/2011 at 01:48

Hey csawala,
I've only been diving for about 3 years now. Got my open water in Mabul, Borneo and my advanced in Pemuteran , Bali. Have also dove Langkawi, Malaysia , Koh Phi Phi and Lanta Thailand. With the exception being Langkawi (skip it!)- the rest of the sites have been spectacular with Mabul, Borneo standing out in my mind as the cheapest ( 3 x dives/day for the same cast as the rest 2/day) and most visually stunning. Sipidan Island is amazing as is the "drop" in Pemuteran bali. Koh Lanta and Phi Phi are also spectacular. Usually about 60-85$us per day including meals. Check out Scuba Junkie in Borneo - great outfit on the Island! So really I think any of these places will take care of your needs...depends on your budget! And if your diving...well...budget tends to be thrown out the window anyway! Good luck!

#2 tyler has been a member since 7/12/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 257
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Posted by SBE on 24/6/2011 at 14:34

This site might be very useful to you.

http://divehappy.com/


I've been to some of the places you mention so here's my personal take.

Koh Tao. Famous island for the diving but I wouldn't really call the diving here amazing unless you're lucky enough to see a whale shark. Very busy and sometimes you see more divers than fish! Coral bleaching affected nearly everywhere in Thailand last year and Ko Tao is no exception. In August the weather should be good but it's peak season. It may still be quite rainy in January but February might be OK (and not quite as busy as the other two months).

Ko Samui. Haven't been there but I wouldn't bother...Ko Tao is probably better.

Palu. Don't know.

Bali. I haven't dived there but I hear there are some good spots (see link above). Weather is good in August (but it's busy then) Rainy in January and February.

Similan Islands. Probably the best diving in Thailand but alas they have suffered from coral bleaching too. Closed in August. Conditions and weather should be good in January and February.

Gili Islands. I only snorkelled here but wasn't overwhelmed. You'll probably see turtles (because they breed them) but the coral and other fish didn't wow me much.

Puerto Princesa. Haven't been there but I've been to Coron... very famous for its plane wreck diving. The scenery above water is stunning. Below water is OK but not as good as some spots in Indonesia...fewer fish, coral not as good. I was there in the month February and the weather was good...not sure about the other months.

Wakatobi. Harder to get to than the previous places though much easier than it used to be since last year. Living conditions on Hoga are very basic....squat toilets, cold water mandi, very limited electricity supply in the evenings. No shops, restaurants or entertainment at all. The diving is still very good compared to most places but when I was there last year there was more coral damage and fewer fish than there had been the previous year. In August the place is heaving with rich marine biology students (Operation Wallacea) and accommodation prices are ridiculously high. In January and February the weather isn't good (rough seas,lots of rain) and it might even be closed. Best time to go is probably April/May or October/November when sea conditions are good and prices are low.

Lembeh Strait. Famous for muck diving and seeing strange critters... heard it's very good there. Weather wise similar to Wakatobi.

Ampat Raja. Horribly expensive (out of my reach financially) but probably the best diving in the whole world. Weatherwise similar to the rest of Indonesia AFAIK.

#3 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by Tokaymas on 9/8/2011 at 06:29

Raja Ampat can be dived a LOT more cheaply than with liveaboards and dive resorts. Check out http://www.rajaampathomestays.com for some budget accommodation and dive options.

This homestay in particular offers a pretty good diving package:
http://www.rajaampathomestays.com/homestays/koranu-fyak-homestay

Raja Ampat's an expensive destination, but worth every cent - there's hardly anywhere else in the world like it. There's a lot of spectacular stuff above the water too...

#4 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by swag on 9/8/2011 at 12:35

Depending on which way your headed, this would be my choices. Although I don't know a lot about this "NAUI" accreditation you say you have advanced certification so these choices pretty much base them on the fact you can dive to 30 metres.

Koh Tao for Sail Rock and Chunpon Pinnacle

Similans from November Still some great divesites to beseen like Richlieu Rock Koh Bon etc,

If your already moving south before that could stop off in the Perhentians in Malysia N.E.Coast.

The Gili's I only really rated 3 dive sites for advanced as SBE says some coral bleaching I especially noticed this on the shallower dives closer to the islands. So dive Deep Halik,Deep Turbo,Secret Garden all very good.

Anyway that should keep you busy if you still have enough cash get to Lombok and wind your way to Flores to dive Komodo. Prices are about 1,450,000 IDR per day for a 3 day safari which I'm looking at doing next year.

Hope that helps
swag

#5 swag has been a member since 28/3/2007. Location: Australia. Posts: 331

Posted by SBE on 9/8/2011 at 14:16

Thanks for that Raja Ampat homestay link Tokaymas! :-)

Did you stay at Koranu Fyak yourself?

#6 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by Tokaymas on 9/8/2011 at 15:30

You're welcome SBE :)

I didn't - it wasn't finished when we were there, but the owner Robben guided us and took us to Ransiwor and Nudibranch homestays - both of which were excellent. He was a great guy and excellent guide - I'm sure his place will be good.

We built that site after discovering how many locally owned options were available for Raja Ampat that couldn't be found on the net. If you know or hear of any other places or guides that should be listed be sure to let us know and we'll add them!

All the best

#7 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by SBE on 9/8/2011 at 16:49

I haven't had time to investigate the logistics of getting there but it looks good! Presumably Sorong is the place you have to get to first for all these homestays? Might try to get there in October if I can possibly wangle it. Thanks very much for making your site, it's a great help.

#8 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by Tokaymas on 9/8/2011 at 19:45

Yep - Sorong. You can get flights there direct from Makassar (Ujung Pandang), Manado or Ambon on Merpati Airlines. There are Pelni passenger ships but they take a lot longer, cost about the same (unless you want to go economy class) and are pretty wild to get on and off. (Pickpocket risk is astronomical :P)

Glad the site's a help. Its a work in progress and we'll add more as we get it.

Cheers

#9 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by SBE on 9/8/2011 at 20:23

Err yes. I've done the Pelni overnight ekonomi sleeping on the deck thing already (twice) on the Ciremai so I think I'll probably try and fly to Sorong even if it does mean using Merpati! ;-)

It's the getting to the homestays once I get to Sorong bit that's going to be difficult for me as I've never been there before and haven't a clue what to expect. There's some info on your website as to how to get to Koranu Fyak but I'm a bit clueless how you get to the other homestays. None of them have email so any info you have about that would be great.

I can call and ask when I get to Indonesia of course. Do the owners these homestays speak English or do I need to brush up my bahasa a bit?

#10 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by Tokaymas on 9/8/2011 at 20:48

Oh god I wish we'd been on the deck. We got locked in (!) three decks down on the Ciremai from Bandaneira to Ambon. Thankfully it was only an overnight journey. Once was enough! Give me Merpati anyday. Flown a fair bit with them now and haven't had to stress yet *crosses fingers* :P

Anyway - you can get from Sorong to Waisai on Pulau Waigeo via ferries from the harbour at Sorong. It's a short taxi ride from the airport. There's also the option of hiring speedboats, but I don't know anything about them. Once in Waisai it's easy enough to find a longboat to take you to the place you want to go. Most of the homestays on the site so far are fairly close to each other - three can be accessed from Sawinggrai on Gam. The prices Robben quotes for airport taxis, the Sorong-Waisai boats and transport to the islands are the same as what we paid independently, but we're not very tough negotiators. Then again, it's a captive market so maybe there's not much negotiating room.

Most of the places who list numbers have enough English to cover the basics, but brushing up the Bahasa surely won't hurt. Robben's English is great and I'm sure he'd be happy to arrange transport from Sorong to wherever you wanted to go even if it wasn't his place. Feel free to leave any homestay specific questions in the comments section for the homestay on the RAH site - conversations there will help anyone else who has a look as well :)

Best of luck for making it happen in October!

#11 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by SBE on 9/8/2011 at 21:41

You're a star Tokaymas. :-)

BTW .... NBA have flights to Bandaneira now...sometimes twice a week. Costs about 350,000 (roughly the same price as a first class cabin on the Ciremai). Last time I was there I heard the Merpati flying dustbin they used to have on Mondays (sometimes) had skidded off the runway and a local doctor is now in a wheelchair for life. NBA plane is not much better mind you...must be about 40 years old... but I survived a flight on that too.

#12 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by somtam2000 on 10/8/2011 at 06:27 admin

@Tokaymas
That's a top resource you're putting together there for Raja Ampat -- nice work ... have to get out there for a looksee :)

#13 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,575
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Posted by Tokaymas on 11/8/2011 at 05:59

@ SBE: Glad to help :) NBA? Really? I thought they were far western Indonesian airline. Sure it's not Banda Aceh they fly to? I flew to Bandaneira from Amahai in Seram on a 25yo Indonesian made plane of Merpati's - prolly the same flying dustbin you did. They wouldn't let any passengers smoke, but the pilots happily drank coffee and puffed away behind their little curtain. It's an experience :P

@ somtam2000: Cheers somtam :) Do it - you won't be disappointed!

#14 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by SBE on 11/8/2011 at 06:22

I'm absolutely positive it was NBA Tokaymas!

Recognize the airstrip?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8675349@N06/6030234799/in/photostream

And inside, note the blocked exit doors!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8675349@N06/6030790006/in/photostream

#15 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by Tokaymas on 11/8/2011 at 06:38

Ahhhh - flashback! (and proof positive it was indeed NBA :P) Same CASAs as Merpati - awesome.

Apologies for the doubt SBE - I had no idea they were out in Maluku. Maybe that means you can get on and off the island a bit more reliably now. We got trapped there for a week and eventually had to leave on the Ciremai. Not good when there's no access to cash...

#16 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by SBE on 11/8/2011 at 07:24

So happens I'm helping someone organize a trip to the Bandas at the moment and a local contact told me that NBA are currently running twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays).

I was in the Bandas a little over 3 weeks and the NBA flight varied between once a week, three times a week and no times a week while I was there. NBA is like Merpati, quite capable of cancelling flights without warning.

A Dutch tour operator scout who was there checking out Bandaneira as a possible new major package tourist destination (thank you for naming it the #1 spot in Indonesia LP) decided it wasn't suitable because she got stuck in Ambon for the best part of a week when her NBA flight got cancelled. Hooray! She did seem to think Saparua might be a suitable destination for mass tourism though. There's an expensive dive center there (but I stayed in a basic homestay place on Saparua of course). :-)

#17 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by Tokaymas on 11/8/2011 at 11:41

Heheh! Being hard to get to's a bit of a blessing for those of us who are time rich but cash poor, that's for sure. Tourism development's definitely both a blessing and a curse....

#18 Tokaymas has been a member since 9/8/2011. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 9
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Posted by csawala on 15/10/2011 at 14:32

So far I have been to Koh Tao, which I thought was pretty good (diving the wreck, Japanese garden, Chumphon and Hin Wong)... until I got to Perhentian (Pulau Kecil) and dove T3, Sugar Wreck and the Temple, which blew Koh Tao out of the water.
I am flying to Borneo to dive the sites around Sipadan (and maybe Sipadan if a permit finds itself free for me to use) on Monday, so we'll see how that goes.
After that I have no idea where I'll go next, but Bali is the next probable choice.

#19 csawala has been a member since 21/4/2011. Posts: 13

Posted by aquaticandy on 24/10/2011 at 21:12

Don't miss Nusa Lembongan off the coast of Bali!!
The diving is spectacular - I dived with mantas, mola mola, eagle rays, a thresher shark, turtles... and soooooooo much more! I work as a marine biologist in some amazing spots around the world, but fell in love with Nusa Lembongan island. The health and biodiversity of the reefs there are great. Plus, in 2011 the Indonesian government designated the marine area surrounding Nusa Lembongan & Penida as marine protected area -- so always good to support businesses trying to work towards local conservation.
I dived with Blue Corner Dive - they were second to none! I have made diving in Lembongan (and with Blue Corner Dive) a regular event now. I recommend any diver to check it out!
Here's the website for their resort www.bluecornerdive.com
Their Facebook page is one of my favorite for keeping up with the events of the crew: Facebook - Blue Corner Dive

#20 aquaticandy has been a member since 19/9/2011. Posts: 8

Posted by inspiredbykrissi on 23/12/2011 at 09:31

Similans... Koh bon... Richelieu rock... love em all

also for cheap diving... Malaysia and its Perhentian Islands are pretty good.

#21 inspiredbykrissi has been a member since 9/12/2011. Posts: 68
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