Indonesia is known throughout the diving world for its phenomenal diving opportunities, world-class dive sites and breathtaking coral reefs. But, did you also know that Indonesia is home to some of the world’s rarest, most unique and even endemic marine species? No matter where you choose to dive in Indonesia you can rest assured that there will be something to captivate you on almost every dive. Whilst it is impossible to list all of the species which make Indonesia such a special place to dive here are some of the species which keep divers returning to Indonesia year after year.
Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish)
This strange looking oceanic giant has made the Balinese islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida diving hotspots, especially between July and October when these deep water fish make their way up to shallower depths. Known as the Ocean Sunfish, due to their habit of “sunbathing” on the surface, mola mola can reach over 4 meters/13 feet from fin tip to fin tip. This unusually thin, disc shaped fish is the heaviest, bony fish in the ocean and survives on a diet of jellyfish.
These strange looking sharks are spotted primarily in Raja Ampat (West Papua), but have also been sighted in several other areas including Halmahera. Epaulette sharks are a nocturnal species that are also known as “walking sharks” due to the way they move. As the name suggest, they do not swim, rather they “walk” along the bottom using their pectoral fins. This small species is completely harmless and extremely shy. If you are diving at night and happen to spot one in your torch beam it will take cover – and despite “walking” they are fast at finding crevices in which to hide!
Did you know that Indonesia is home to several species of pygmy seahorses? The most commonly spotted species is the Hippocampus bargibanti which is covered in warty-like tubercles which resemble those found on the sea fans in which it hides. This species is a larger species of pygmy and can grow up to 2.5cm/8.2 feet. Other species seen in Indonesia include the Pontohi (Hippocampus pontohi) and the Denise (Hippocampus denise). Pygmy seahorses are found across the Indonesian Archipelago but you will need good eyes (or a good guide) to spot these tiny critters.
Banggai Cardinal Fish
When it comes to ornately decorated fish, the Banggai Cardinalfish has to be one of the most exquisite specimens. This cardinalfish is endemic to the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, where it is mostly found around anemones, often in close proximity to anemonefish. The Banggai cardinalfish’s unique pattern of delicate stripes and spots is an underwater photographers dream.
Hammerheads are often found on divers’ bucket lists and if they are on yours, Belongas Bay in South Lombok should also be on your radar. The Magnet dive site seasonally attracts schooling hammerheads (both great and scalloped) with the best times to visit being between July and October. The Banda Sea is also known for its hammerhead sightings which occur around the same time of year.
This cryptic species of frogfish is endemic to Ambon in Halmahera. It is one of the most sought after critters by underwater photographers and sightings of it are rare and unpredictable. However, if you are hoping to see one, then Ambon should definitely be your next muck diving destination!
Not to be confused with the closely related Manatee, dugongs are also known as “sea cows”. This strange looking marine mammal is spotted around Indonesia and their shy nature makes a sighting even more rewarding. Dugong feed on sea grass which is mostly found in the shallow waters and the best times for sightings seem to be early in the morning and again around sunset. The most frequent sightings are in Raja Ampat, Komodo, Bali and in North Sulawesi, particularly around Bangka and Bunaken Islands.
While not unique to Indonesia, manta rays are one of the most graceful creatures in our oceans, loved by both divers and non-divers alike. Manta rays are the largest species of ray and they seem to be extremely fond of Indonesian waters. Resident populations are found around the Balinese islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, Komodo, Raja Ampat, and Derawan in Kalimantan.
Indonesia is home to many other incredible marine species, from sperm whales, whale sharks, spinner dolphins and pilot whales through to crustaceans, cephalopods and all manner of nudibranch. Whether you are seeking big fish or tiny critters, Indonesia has them all in abundance.
But why just read about them? Why not make your next holiday an Indonesian diving trip and see these amazing marine species and stunning coral reefs for yourself? Locate a PADI Dive Shop and start your adventure today!