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Diving Off the Beaten Path in Nusa Tenggara

Posted in   Dive Places   on  April 27, 2022 by  IndonesiaDive0

Diving Nusa Tenggara has been our favorite area in Indonesia. Nusa Tenggara (translated as "southeastern islands" in the Indonesian language), also known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, is an archipelago from Bali to the east up to Tanimbar Islands. It has two provinces; West Nusa Tenggara (Indonesian calls “NTB”, abbreviation of Nusa Tenggara Barat) where Lombok and the 3 Gilis are located and East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur or “NTT”) where Komodo National Park is located.

Nusa Tenggara archipelago have a complete package; fantastic landscape both on land and underwater, from high volcanoes to pristine coral reefs. In addition, the area is not that touristy but not that remote. But, unfortunately, the dive sites are well known only in Lombok and Komodo. So we are here to help you learn about other places around Nusa Tenggara.

Below are the dive places in the Nusa Tenggara archipelago from west to east;

Nusa Tenggara Diving map

Sumbawa

In the West Nusa Tenggara province, Sumbawa is the biggest island, bigger than Montenegro, and located in the middle of Lombok Island and Flores Island. The dive operators are situated primarily in Sumbawa Besar town in the center of the island, and Bima, the largest city in the east part of the island. Sumbawa Besar is the port for diving in Moyo Island and around Saleh Bay, while Bima hosts an excellent muck diving.

On the east coast of Sumbawa, near the port town of Sape, it has a gorgeous reef with numerous critters and fish schooling. You can see bumblebee shrimp, octopus, nudibranch, eels, stingrays, and frogfish. Going a little further by boat, you will arrive at a plethora of walls, overhangs, and black and white sandy plateaux – all hosts to various marine life. 

The local government just listed Gili Balu (translated as "eight islands" in the local language) as a marine conservation area off the west coast of Sumbawa. As a result, they will soon open dive operators. Apart from sharks, they have many octopuses and sea bamboo gardens.

The new and most exciting private diving opportunity is available at the Kalimaya Dive Resort, the only PADI 5* dive resort in East Sumbawa. 

Moyo Island

Moyo Island became well known because of a luxury resort called Amanusa, which Lady Diana visited in the 1990s. The island is 45 minutes boat ride from north Sumbawa Besar town in West Nusa Tenggara province. Nowadays, there are some dive resorts on the island. The best period to dive is May to early December.

Moyo Island offers the chance to see rare macro creatures and larger pelagics. Some of the excellent dive sites are; Endless Reef to see a Chinese wreck, Angel Reef to see a drop off with schooling of batfish and red tooth triggerfish, Sea Fan City to see huge gorgonian sea fans and pygmy seahorses, Blue Emocean Reef to see reef sharks and blue-ringed octopus, River Mouth to see cuttlefish and blue-spotted stingray. In addition, you can see manta rays, sunfish, or whale sharks passing by if you're lucky! 

Take a look Video footage from Scuba Diving Moyo, a small SDI dive centre located at Maleo Moyo Resort which has been operating since 2015.

Bima

The city of Bima lies on the eastern coast of Sumbawa in West Nusa Tenggara province. It is known as a muck diving paradise in the Bima Strait. The currents are pretty mild, but visibility is still good up to 30 meters. The dive is also very shallow, around 14 meters, and relatively easy for new divers. The best period is from April to December.

Bima Strait is a frequent stop for liveaboard from Komodo. With the array of critters, macro photographers might never want to leave this dive site with seahorses and ghost pipefish nestled all over the reef. There are also many different kinds of squid and octopus, including the fascinating blue-ringed and mimic octopus. There is a deeper drop-off further along the coast from Bima Strait where you can see white tips and eagle rays.

moray eel bima

Spotted honeycomb moray eel at Bima's underwater. Photo by @misstraveller

Sangeang Island

Sangeang Island is located 13 km off the northeast tip of Sumbawa Island. It has the Sangeang Api volcano, consisting of two volcanic cones; 1,949 m Doro Api and 1,795 m Doro Mantoi. This volcano is one of the most active in Nusa Tenggara; it last erupted in 2014. 

Diving in Sangeang is famous for its "bubbling reef" from the volcanic gas bubbles. It is one of the most spectacular phenomena you might see underwater! In addition, the black sand volcanic reef hosts the ideal backdrop for colorful marine life and corals. It's an underwater macro photographer's dream to see pygmy seahorse, nudibranch, frogfish, blue ring octopus, cuttlefish, scorpionfish, bobtail squid, mimic octopus, ribbon eels, stargazers, bobbit worm, shrimps, and crabs. Watch beautiful underwater Sangeang from the eyes of Flowafe Films.  

Gili Banta

The locally called Banta Island, Gili Banta is technically located outside Komodo National Park. Still, it belongs to the West Nusa Tenggara province near Sape town on the east coast of Sumbawa Island. Below this deserted white beach island lies the big fish country! Divers come here primarily by taking liveaboard from Komodo. 

Gili Banta is where the Pacific and Indian oceans meet, attracting schooling tuna and jackfish, various types of sharks, and oceanic and reef manta rays. The drift dive in the northeast has an excellent hard coral garden with frogfish and nudibranchs. The deep dive at 30-40 m on the northwestern tip of the island with strong currents has many coral trout, large groupers, schools of giant trevally, and massive dogtooth tuna. You may see hammerhead passing by if you're lucky enough.

Gili Banta

Diving between two oceans in Gili Banta, only 40 minutes from Kalimaya Resort. Photo by @Kalimaya Dive Resort

Sumba

Sumba is an island in the East Nusa Tenggara province, southwest of Sumbawa. The island is known for its ancient culture, rugged undulating savannah, and wild Sumba horses. Since it faces the Indian Ocean, Sumba is popular for surfers. However, there are some places to scuba dive for fun. 

One of them is in Kami Beach, Southwest Sumba. You can see reef fish, lobsters, and other reef sharks. On Pantai Kalala in East Sumba, you can do shore entry, and a boat dives through the lagoon. With a 10-25 meters dive, you can see good marine life. 

Your journey here will be extraordinary if you came in conjunction of an event called The Sandalwood Horses Festival (Pasola), a mounted spear-fighting competition in West Sumba. 

Sumba

The Sandalwood horses festival in Sumba island. Photo by @Indonesia.travel

Maumere

Maumere is the second largest town on the north coast of Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara province. Surrounded by mountains, Maumere Bay lies some islands to dive in, such as Pangabatang, Dambila, and Babi island. Marine life is healthy and diverse, with deep drop-offs, sloping reefs, and muck diving. The best time is between April and October when the sea is calm. 

Maumere has more than 30 dive sites and is among the most diverse, from the tiny pygmy seahorse on gorgonian sea fans and colorful invertebrates on the shore of Maumere to the majestic Manta Rays and requiem sharks out in the sea. There is also a Japanese ship-wreck from World War II at 12–32 meters deep. 

It is common to see dolphins and pilot whales throughout the year, but mostly when the sea is calm. In the rainy season between November and December, Sperm whales can be seen. When it comes to whale sharks, April and May are the best months to see them. Enjoy beautiful work video from Wet Traveler on their experience in Maumere, Indonesia. 

Lembata

Lembata, also known as Lomblen island, is the largest island in the Solor Archipelago in the East Nusa Tenggara province, a few islands to the east of Flores island. . However, this is allowed under International Whaling Commission regulations but is still debatable among conservationists. The village of Lamalera, located on the south coast of Lembata, is famous for its traditional sperm whale hunting. Lembata is volcanically active. It has three volcanoes; Ililabalekan, Iliwerung, and Lewotolo. The volcanic sand gives rich nutrients to marine life, especially for muck diving. There are a dozen dive spots where you can find Cockatoo Waspfish, Sea Pen, Seahorse, Mandarin Fish, Painted Frogfish, False Clown Anemonefish, Moon Snail, Magnificent Shrimp, and Cuttlefish.

Enjoy the beauty of Lembata through beautiful video from the eyes of Wet Traveler made by Gemala and Pinneng.

Kupang

Kupang in Timor Island is the capital city of East Nusa Tenggara province. There are more than 30 dive spots around Kupang. Its shore dive is primarily for training new students due to the calm and shallow sea. However, you can still see reef corals with pipefishes, ribbon eels, flounders, lobsters, mantis shrimps, clown fishes, and colorful reef fishes. It's also suitable for night diving and macro photography to see snake eels, hairy frogfishes, bobtailed squid, flying gurnards, devil fish, ghost pipefish, etc.

Divers go to nearby Semau and Monkey Islands for better sights with stronger currents, from shallow slope dives such as Pertamina Cliffs to deeper wall sites like Donovan's Delight. You can find giant gorgonians and black coral trees, giant napoleon and bump head wrasse, moray eels, and many stingrays. 

The highlight of diving in Kupang is its freshwater cave diving, especially The Kristal and Oehani Cave systems in Bolok. They both have 50 meters of visibility, a variety of limestone tunnels and passages, narrow swim-through points, air chambers, pools of glimmering light, shell-encrusted walls, crystal calcite stalactites, and submerged tunnels up to 15 meters deep, approximately 35 meters below ground level.

Take a look 15 Australian divers did cave diving expedition in Kupang, Timor in collaboration with Donovan Whitford from Divekupangdive

Pantar

Pantar is the second largest island in Alor regency of East Nusa Tenggara province, west of Alor island. The dive sites with visibility up to 35 meters are mainly in Pantar Strait, including Sea Apple Slopes, Bama, and Pan Abang. However, due to strong currents, only experienced divers are allowed.

Beangabang Bay has the best muck diving site in Pantar. Rhinopias or scorpionfish is the show's star, but you can also see seahorses, frogfish, ghost pipefish, scorpionfish, shrimps, mandarin fish, and nudibranch. The best wall dive site is Bama between Pantar and Pura island. The wall is covered with hard and soft corals full of butterflyfishes, triggerfishes, surgeonfishes, and damselfishes. Deeper down, you see long-jawed mackerels, bluefin trevallies, and napoleon wrasses. 

Alor

With its seat capital in Kalabahi, the Alor regency is located in East Nusa Tenggara Province, 45 minutes flight from Kupang City. The landscape is mountainous with coconut fringed white sandy beaches and traditional villages on the slope. Although it's remote with limited facilities, Alor has one of Indonesia's most stunning underwater. 

The numerous dive sites of Alor are spread on the islands of Alor, Pantar, Pura, Kepa, Ternate, and Crocodile. The sites are predominantly walls and slopes, but seamounts, ridges, and pinnacles are also. Pristine coral reefs and abundant fish life will offer you to see many things, from tiny critters to rays. Strong currents create pelagic opportunities, like sharks, dolphins, and whales. The visibility can reach 40 meters and beyond, except in the wet season from January to March. Next, we will write more about Alor diving, so stay tuned!

Enjoy video Alor and Pantar by Travel2Sea, in collaboration with alor-divers.com

How to get there

Depending on your destination, they are all connected with flights, ferries, and boats. Sumbawa Island has two airports; Sultan Muhammad Kaharuddin III Airport (SWQ) in Sumbawa Besar and Sultan Muhammad Salahuddin Airport (BMU) in Bima. Sumba Island has two airports; Tambokala Airport (TMC) in southwest Sumba and Umbu Mehang Kunda Airport (WGP) in east Sumba. The airport in Maumere is Frans Xavier Seda Airport (MOF), and in Lembata is Wunopito Airport (LWE). Kupang's El Tari International Airport (KOE) is the transit hub for Alor's Mali Airport (ARD). Each airport connects flights to and from Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport (CGK). Contact your dive operator to provide airport transfer service.


Summary

Two provinces in the Nusa Tenggara archipelago offer fantastic landscapes both on land and underwater. You can find everything from tiny critters to pelagic with pristine coral reefs suitable for all levels of divers. However, even though you can dive there all year round, the best time is mainly from April to November. Check out the updated international arrival regulations during the Covid pandemic here.

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