Depends a bit on your budget and how much time you have.
Manado is easy to get to and the diving around there is world class. The beaches aren't that great on Bunaken but the diving is excellent.
There's also muck diving in the Lambeh strait if that's your thing...lots of very strange critters apparently.
There's good diving in the Togians too ...not quite as good as Bunaken but the scenery above water is very beautiful.
The Bandas don't have many diving operators but you don't need to dive there anyway... you'll see plenty snorkelling, lots of big stuff ... even the parrot fish are huge there. Sharks zipping round your ankles when you wade in the rock pools at low tide. It's logistically harder to get here though and there's not much tourist infrastructure.... mostly homestays with the (muslim) locals.
Komodo is another great place for diving... manta rays and such like.
The holy grail would be Raja Ampat... but you need to be seriously rich to go there!
Thanks for your input SBE, much appreciated! I've done my Open Water and Advanced Open water, but have never dived in SE Asia. We should be in Indonesia for a couple of months, so that will give me enough time to decide where to dive and our budget shouldn't restrict us too much with regards to what we can and can't do.
I'll definitely be looking into your suggestions more over the next couple of weeks.
Komodo is easier to reach and cheaper than Raja Ampat. If you go to Komodo, I suggest you to do liveaboard from Labuan Bajo. But if you have time and budget, it would be great if you can go to Raja Ampat, above and underwater are fantastic!
Gili Islands are a good option as well, easy to get to from Bali if your time is tight, nice diving, some currents, decent muck diving as well as some larger pelagics. It's nothing like the diving around Bunaken or Lembeh Strait from my understanding but we enjoyed it immensely.
We just returned from a three-day beak out at Pemuteran in West Bali. From there we did a snoreklling trip out to Menjangan Island. We snorkelled two spots, the "Dropoff" (a 40 metre, well, drop off) and the Coral Garden. The former was the best snorkelling I have ever seen -- far better than Fiji for example, and miles ahead of anything in Thailand. You can also dive there, which must be amazing. You can see some pics of the location here.
As far as diving further afield, from friends who run dive liveaboards here on Bali, Komodo is where it is at. Raja Ampat may be more exotic and sexy, but, according to these guys (who make far more dosh if you go to RA), Komodo is the business.
#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,738
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I second the comments about Menjangan. Absolutely stunning. I'm so surprised it's not hyped up more in the guide books and spoken about more frequently among travellers.
I've dived in Ambon and Alor, both of which are good, although this was a long time ago so I don't know if they've changed. I think there's good diving in most parts of Indonesia.
#8 john_f has been a member since 26/3/2010. Posts: 18
Good stuff Somtam. I was keen to explore west Bali the next time I'm there (this time next year) so will add this to 'my list'. Sounds like it's Bali's best kept little secret - although not for long now, I guess!
Diving around Nusa Penida off Bali is SUPERB!!! I saw a 4m mola mola fish at Blue Corner divesite yesterday!! Base yourself on Nusa Lembongan island rather than out of Bali -- soooooo much more relaxing, and the island has a chill vibe to it.
Blue Corner Dive is at the end of the main village on the beach looking out to Shipwrecks surf break. It's owned by marine biologists and they exceeded all expectations!!
#11 aquaticandy has been a member since 19/9/2011. Posts: 8
God, should I go to Raja Ampat now or not. I've only booked flights as far as Makassar so far. RA is bloody expensive even if you're doing it on a budget. It costs $50/night to sleep on a mattress in a basic homestay but it's the $800 boat charters that are the real killers.
I don't suppose anyone knows what the snorkeling is like around Halmahera?
I stayed in Pemuteran for 9 days this past March (2011). The diving is excellent. It is slightly more expensive than the rest of Bali but worth the extra few bucks. You get to pay a boat "parking" fee on top of a few extras. You'll be in a national park and on a clear day you can see Java. The island itself isn't as picturesque as its' surroundings - lots of trash.
The Drop and Coral Gardens were great. I also recommend a night dive as well - did this off the beach.
And if you're on a budget there are a few homestays around and all of the more inexpensive places are across the street.
wouldnt october be near the start of monsoon?
#15 shing has been a member since 29/1/2011. Posts: 15