Because a video can tell more than words.
Have a look on board during one of our latest trips in Raja Ampat.
Because a video can tell more than words.
Because a video can tell more than words.
Have a look on board during one of our latest trips in Raja Ampat.
With some of the most epic and well documented diving in the world, Indonesia has become a popular destination for travellers looking to indulge in the wonders of the sea. But serious divers face a choice upon arrival: to locate themselves on the shores of various islands and travel by land, or to fully indulge in the adventure lifestyle by booking a luxurious cabin on an Indonesian liveaboard dive boat that will do the travelling for you.
But, there are some important factors you should consider when making the decision about chartering a liveaboard in Indonesia. After all, no one wants to be out to sea eating poor quality food on a trip with people they don’t like, or worse, find themselves under the not so experienced care of a Dive Instructor who doesn’t know the area. To make sure you choose the right boat and have the experience of a lifetime in Indonesia, we’ve put together this checklist to ensure you know what to ask about when you’re planning your Indonesian liveaboard experience.
In Indonesia there are many incredible dive sites but of those, the best two are undoubtedly the region of Raja Ampat and the protected areas of the Komodo National Park. It’s more than possible to include both of these areas on a liveaboard journey, so make sure you ask any companies you are considering whether they’ll do so. Then make sure you’re clear about where the boat will launch. Boats commonly depart from Labuan Bajo in Flores, or from Sorong in West Papua. It’s also important to make sure you ask about the weather and timing of your trip. Both of these areas are welcoming to tourists, but you should know that West Papua requires an extra day of travel from Denpasar.
If you’re an experienced diver you’ve likely got some, or all of your own equipment, but make sure the boat you’re considering has ‘top notch’ gear anyway. Ask them what kind of equipment they have, look for reputable brands and ask them if the gear is regularly serviced. Some Indonesian operations skimp on this vital factor and the result is equipment that is aged or damaged. Ask them if they have spare parts, if they can carry out unexpected repairs on board, and even how many tanks they’re operating. They’ll need to have an air compressor on board but these machines can be noisy, so make sure there are enough tanks to get you and your dive buddies through the day before the machine is switched on. Also, double check that the company has DAN insurance, and oxygen on board in case of emergency.
Whether you’re sharing a twin cabin or planning to book your own, really look at the photos and make sure there’s enough space for you to catch a decent night’s sleep. A common mistake friends make is trying to squeeze three into a room that was built for two people. Unless you’re chartering a super yacht, the cabins on any boat are built to be compact, so ensure that there’s enough storage, that the beds are comfortable and that there are enough bathrooms to accommodate you.
Don’t hesitate to ask about the crew who’ll be on board with you. Are they experienced, have they been working together for some time, or are they newly assembled. It’s especially important to ensure your Dive Instructor or Dive Master knows the area well and if they are trained in first aid. Also ask the company if there are other certified divers in the crew, and what languages they speak. It’s always reassuring to feel as if you can communicate your needs to at least one of the crewmembers. A good boat in Indonesia will have someone who can speak English, Italian, Indonesian, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
As a paying customer the team should be ready to assist you with anything you may need and that means you can expect them to keep up a professional standard of service throughout the whole trip. So ask about the service, is there a cabin boy to clean your room and wash clothes? Does a waiter attend the meals and can someone make you a coffee in the morning? Indonesia’s beautiful environment needs protecting so ask the company what they do with the rubbish and also whether you’ll have access to a TV, DVD player and sound system should the weather turn and require a movie night.
Food and beverages are an important part of your liveaboard experience. There’s nothing nicer than sitting back watching the sunset and enjoying a gorgeous meal after a day in the water! Before you choose your company, check to see if the chef has been professionally trained. If you’re on a longer trip, you can expect there will be times between ports where fresh food gets a little low, so ask about what’s served when that happens. Also, ask about what drinks are on board, can you bring your own wine or do they accept requests to stock spirits of your choice? Be aware that in Indonesia, the supply of alcohol is often limited, this is due to the largely Muslim population in many areas of the archipelago, so make sure your demands are reasonable but also that you feel accommodated.
Some companies run the same trips over and over and have no flexibility about routes and schedules. This can be disappointing if you find a sweet spot that you want to dive again or if the weather turns. Make sure you ask the team whether they are willing to be fluid with the schedule? Depending on the length of your charter you’ll always sacrifice one stop for another, but ask if they’re willing to do this should you desire it. There’s nothing worse than finding a diving mecca and having to pull anchor when you want to spend more time exploring!
Though diving may be your main motivation consider a company who also offers adventures above the water. Indonesia is rich with many experiences on land as well as in the sea. Whether it’s island hopping in search of unique cultural experiences, mountain climbing, fishing, sea kayaking, water skiing or even exploratory trips into unchartered areas. Further to this, does the boat have a qualified PADI or SSI instructor so you can up skill on your diving? If so consider becoming an advanced or rescue diver while on board and using the time to better your underwater skills.
Many liveabords run large operations where you’ll find yourself on board with 15-20 people! Think about how this will impact your serenity and sense of freedom. While there are benefits to meeting lots of others, consider smaller boats with a higher level of luxury and service. The lovely thing about a smaller group is that you get to know each other intimately. You share in moments of joy and beauty together and it’s a bespoke experience. The main factor to consider is comfort, boats have limited space so do yourself a favour and make sure you don’t get caught out by a ‘cookie cutter’ type of charter where you’ll feel like just another cog in the factory line.
This is the one area where most people go wrong. You need to consider that you’re not just paying for your diving; you’re also paying for all of your food, accommodation and entertainment for the period of your trip. So make sure you weigh this up when you’re making cost decisions. If you choose to see this beautiful country by land you’d be paying added expenses anyway but a liveabaord trip is generally all-inclusive.
If you’re looking for a boat trip that ticks everything on this list then consider Mantra Dive and Sail. The company offer bespoke liveaboard experiences throughout Indonesia with everything from 2-day to 25-day trips available. You can book the whole boat for a journey of your choice or just a private cabin on one of the trips they already have planned. Liveabord is the best way to dive the archipelago of Indonesia so ensure you’re getting what you pay for with a quality company! Click here for more information and start planning the trip of a lifetime.
Speak with anyone about diving in Indonesia and you’ll see their eyes light up as they reminisce about interacting with the majestic Manta Ray of the Komodo Islands. The Komodo National Park offers sanctuary to more of these beautiful creatures than most other places in the world and is truly unmissable for the intrepid traveller.
In 2014 Indonesia outlawed the fishing and export of manta ray to protect the species and since then Komodo dive sites like Manta Alley in the South and the famed Manta Point Komodo have found a place high on the wish lists of travellers wishing to experience close contact with these curious, intelligent underwater giants.
Manta Point Komodo is a divesite rich with bottom based plankton making it an alluring spot – attracting dozens of Manta Ray for feeding and cleaning. Accessible by chartered liveaboard, the dive site sits between the islands of Komodo and Rinca within the Komodo National Park.
Geographically the site is directly on the channel connecting the Indian and the South West Pacific oceans, each hosting distinct underwater climates that come together to create an ideal environment for Manta Ray.
You can expect to drop down just ten metres or so to find a sandy bottom not heavy with coral but blessed with excellent visibility for most of the year and a reasonable current to nourish the nutrient rich arena for the Manta Ray.
In Indonesia you can hope to find both reef and oceanic Manta Ray, but Manta Point Komodo is usually home to the more dominant species, the Reef Manta. They’re a long living species, with a life expectancy of up to fifty years, but they’re slow to breed, giving birth to as few as ten Manta Ray pups in their lives.
This is why they’ve been included on the red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The organisation classifies the Manta’s conservation status as vulnerable. While safe in Indonesia, in other parts of Asia they are hunted for their plankton filtering gills, which are used to produce medicinal concoctions.
They’re incredibly smart marine animals with large brain capacities and no barbs. This makes them harmless to humans. Divers who get lucky at Manta Point Komodo can expect interactions of as long as 30 minutes in the right conditions and will be thrilled by their gentle curiosity
At Manta Point Komodo you’re likely to find small groups of Manta, often traveling in packs of two or three. Some groups base themselves in the tropical water of the Flores and Komodo area, while others are mid migration. Each manta has distinguishable spots on its belly and while these beautiful marine animals are capable of travelling up to 1000 Kilometres, many hang around and have become known by dive masters in Komodo for their distinct personalities.
The South end of Manta Point Komodo is marked by a little green island. Dive groups access the site by dropping in about 400 metres away, then take advantage of the current to drift dive into the shoal area which ranges from just 5 metres to 15 metres deep. The current in the area is rated as mild to strong but your divemaster is most likely to carry reef hooks with which to secure each team of divers.
In Indonesia, Manta Point Komodo is known as Karang Makassar and while the focus for most divers is the manta, there have been sitings of turtles, reef sharks, hump back rays, sweetlips, giant trevallies, huge clams, cuttle fish, sponges and many other types of micro marine life.
Diving with the Manta Ray is truly a life-changing experience. Upon entering Manta Point keep an eye out above you for the tell tale shadows of Manta as they cruise past to check you out. They’re already aware that you’re in their territory but don’t feel threatened, these creatures are notoriously friendly and curious.
Upon siting it’s likely your divemaster will find a suitable spot on the flat sandy bottom and signal you to join them. This means it’s time to relax, adjust your buoyancy and sink down in preparation. By basing yourself on the bottom and not displaying any aggressive behaviour or sudden movements you’ll signal to the Manta that you’re safe and invite them in to your space.
After a couple of passes the Manta get more confident and begin circling above you, flapping their giant wings and even dropping down to greet you. Their huge bodies seem unaffected by the current and when relaxed they don’t hesitate to come so close you could touch them.
Looking directly in to the eyes of a friendly Manta Ray is a photographer’s dream but be discreet. Let them control the interaction and you’ll find yourself buzzing with excitement in a one on one intimate encounter with a giant marine animal unlike any other.
Divers who wish to visit the Komodos should plan to fly in to Labuan Bajo. Flights leave regularly from Denpasar or Jakarta. We offer private liveaboard charters to the area should you be travelling as a group. There’s also the option of taking a cabin on one of the exciting pre-planned Dive Intensive liveaboard trips that we run. Find itineraries, photographs here and take the time to read our other articles on diving in the Komodos.
The Komodo Islands have some of the best diving in the world. They also have slightly better transportation infrastructure than the North or South Pole. To say it is not especially easy to get around the Komodos using ferries and roads is somewhat of an understatement.
While that might seem discouraging initially, it is actually a great thing for divers, if you can scrape together the budget for a liveaboard trip. So what is the upside? Because it is difficult to access, those who dig deep and cough up the cash for Komodo liveaboard diving are richly rewarded for their efforts. The difficult and stressful problem of transportation vanishes when you choose the relaxed comfort of a luxury yacht. It is an investment you will not regret. Ultimately our experiences, not our objects, are what we truly cherish most, and diving the Komodos is a priceless experience.
Traveling on one of the few liveaboard dive boats serving the Komodos, you can go where almost no one else can. Consequently, you will not encounter crowds at the pristine and unspoiled dive sites. There are over 50 “popular” yet uncrowded sites in the area and exploration routinely yields new surprises and delights. Macro life and strong currents are notable highlights. The logistics ensure relatively few tourists will be there, and the sprawling marine sanctuary protects the area from the ravages of commercial fishing.
The robust protected marine ecosystem of the Komodo Islands supports incredible bio-diversity – literally thousands of species. Some of the more common yet exciting sights in these waters include: spanish mackerel, tuna, mantas, napoleons, dugongs, bumphead parrotfish, fusiliers, surgeon fish, turtles, and many varieties of sharks and cetaceans. Smaller species include coleman shrimps, crinoid shrimps and other shrimps, ghost pipefish, zebra crabs, decorator crabs and many other crab species, moray eels, cuttlefish, feather stars, scorpion fish, frogfish, various species of octopus, flatworms, sea snakes, nudibranches, seahorses, frogfish, cephalopods, ghostpipefish, waspfish, indian walkman, and more. There are also around 250 species of coral to be found in the Komodos.
There are 50 named sites known to liveaboard captains here in the Komodo Islands, and every captain has a few secret spots too. We’ll save the secrets for our guests and just discuss a few of the more famous Komodo dive sites here.
Batu Bolong means “hollow rock” in Indonesian. The massive pinnacle rises from a depth of around 75 meters, covered in hard corals and sponges. Fed by currents carrying plankton rich waters from deeper seas, the fish life at this famous Komodo dive site is amazing in both diversity and sheer numbers. In the shallows you’ll find fish of assorted reef-dwelling species numbering in the thousands. The deeper water reveals big napoleons and whitetip reef sharks. Hawksbill turtles feed here on the ample buffet of tunicates and sponges. The action is concentrated in the relatively small area around the pinnacle, so whereas on some sites, the conveyor belt of current provides a welcome tour, we aim to dive this site at slack tide when the current is minimal.
Pillarsteen’s topography is an interesting mix of walls, pinnacles, chimneys and caves. Massive soft brown leather corals contrast with bright yellow sea cucumbers. Soft corals in hues of green, yellow and orange, sea fans, squirts and sponges round out the underwater flora. Strong currents run across the long sloping reef. The depth varies from 5 to 40 meters. Reef fish such as angelfish, butterfly fish, and snapper mingle with schools of fusiliers and surgeonfish while scorpionfish, lionfish, and moray eels hide in the reef.
Giant trevally, schools of fusiliers, turtles, whitetip sharks, and really big jack feed here. But as you might guess, the concentration of manta rays here is the main attraction. Sometimes you can see as many as 20 on a single dive. We frequently see juveniles in the shallows, as little as five meters deep. Three deeper underwater channels attract schools of bumphead parrotfish and put the “Alley” in the name. Currents carry colder water here and it can get a little chilly in the deepest parts of the site, around 30 meters. This is one of the most popular dives in the Komodos, so you will likely spot some humans here too, but there is plenty of the “Alley” to go around.
Divers who venture to Cannibal Rock discover a world class assortment of macro life. Bizarre nudibranches, whimsical frogfish and undeniably cute pygmy seahorses delight underwater adventurers here. Blue and green anemones wave among the enormous 2 meter tall gorgonian fans and vibrant maroon sea apples extending their tentacles to filter plankton. Feather stars of just about every color and bright blue tunicates join colorful soft corals to complete the underwater rainbow of marine flora.
Conditions for Komodo diving are best in May through October. During this time you can expect visibility of 25 to 35 meters. Water temperatures are around 27 C (80 F).
Komodo is, as noted, a bit remote. Our Komodo liveaboard diving trips sail out of the port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. You can get there by ferry, but we recommend flying to Labuan Bajo from Bali. You can see more details on how to get to Komodo at the link. We’ll cover some more Komdo dive sites in a future article in our Mantra Chronicles series.
Why Travel On A Liveaboard Diving Boat In Indonesia?
There are several advantages to traveling on a liveaboard boat for diving and touring in Indonesia. Perhaps most importantly, liveaboard travel provides access to remote areas that you cannot reach any other way. In addition, sailing through spectacular island chains far from the tourist areas provides an experience that combines adventure with relaxation. You are always seeing something new, but you are never struggling, and you are never fighting a crowd.
Liveaboard diving Indonesia provide access, comfort, novelty, and tranquil solitude in paradise. The liveaboard experience is not just about diving. Some of our passengers do not dive at all, preferring to use the Mantra for sight-seeing, cultural travel, access to wildlife, and snorkeling. Read for more details and what to expect when you travel on a liveaboard.
Indonesia spans 5,120 kilometres (3,181 mi). This sprawling archipelago includes over 17,000 islands. Many have no human inhabitants. Among the 6,000 islands where people do live, there are many that don’t have very good roads. This is particularly true in the far east of Indonesia in the islands of the Coral Triangle. You will find some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world in this inaccessible region, but you won’t find many good roads or land based dive operations.
Many dive sites in Indonesia simply can’t be reached from existing shore based dive operations in reasonable day trip time. Populous Bali and Sulawesi have several shore based dive centers, and you can even find a few in Raja Ampat. Sites serviced by shore based operators in or near population centers can be spectacular, but they can also be crowded. To reach remote dives sites in Indonesia, a liveaboard may not only be your best choice; sometimes it is your only choice. Raja Ampat, the Komodos, and Alor diving sites are far from population centers. Precisely because these sites are hard to reach, they provide the most pristine diving experience. No pollution, no crowds, just you and your friends floating through the amazing reefs teeming with exotic fish.
Liveaboard diving gives you the option to visit diverse sites in one day. You’ve got all the equipment and open seas between one spot and another. So you can have it all: drift dives, wall dives, muck dives, reef dives, wreck dives. Enormous pelagics glide gracefully and weird little critters burrow and peek from pockets in the reef or holes in the silt. Experience it all!
Cruising along the coast of the islands of Indonesia gives travelers a spectacular perspective on the beautiful shorelines. You can see all the sites spread out before you across the sparking water, and you will never hear a car horn. And you won’t be breathing exhaust fumes and sitting in stalled traffic on a congested road.
You will have a great perspective on the dramatic geographic diversity of Indonesia from the water. Imagine white, black, and even pink sand beaches lined by green jungle stretching to turquoise lagoons merging into the deep blue of the open sea offset by the white spray off the bow. Towering white limestone cliffs, dark rivers of volcanic rock, and oddly shaped conical towers protrude from the water, undercut so that they appear to be floating.
Your captain will know where to take you ashore to enjoy a culture experience with friendly locals. Travelling by boat, you can reach the shore near isolated communities that few ordinary tourists ever encounter. You can visit villages untouched by time, where life proceeds much as it did hundreds of years ago.
Many of the boatbuilders who craft liveaboards in Indonesia base their designs on the traditional wooden Phinisi Schooner. The hull shape sails smoothly and provides a roomy interior. The Mantra Yacht Liveaboard has both sail rigs and a powerful motor that you can rely on to keep you on schedule regardless of wind conditions. Find out more details about the Mantra Liveaboard Diving Yacht.
Liveaboard daily schedules vary from one boat operator to the next. The Mantra Yacht crew focuses on serving our passengers rather than following a template. Expect to do what you want, when you want, with our help. On the Mantra, you determine your schedule. Of course, we are happy to make suggestions.
Your day might look like this:
You awake to realize we are underway to our first dive site of the day
Small breakfast of fruit, coffee, and juice to get you going
First Shallow Profile Dive
Second Shallow Profile Dive at the same site
Underway to a new dive site as we prepare lunch
Lunch on deck with a spectacular view of an island
Third Dive with a deeper profile
Sail to a good spot to watch the sunset
Drinks and Card Games
On the other hand, your day might look like this:
Light ‘first breakfast’
Deep profile wall dive
Cruising a good area for whale watching
Kayak trip to beach with snorkeling or short walk to village for cultural experience
Komodo dragon watching
Kayak back to the Mantra
Most travelers prefer trips of seven to twelve days, but we offer trips for as few as five days. There are three primary liveaboard destinations in Indonesia. Liveaboard travel provides the most comfortable access to the Komodo Islands and allow you to avoid the crowds. Trips to the Komodos depart from Labuan Bajo. Conditions are ideal for Komodo liveaboard trips in July through September.
Weather conditions for trips to Raja Ampat and Alor are best in November through May. Raja Ampat liveaboard trips depart from Sorong in West Papua and Alor liveaboard trips depart from Maumere. You can check out a specific itinerary for a 7 day liveaboard trip to Raja Ampat here. Click on the photos for details about each day.
Whether you go to the Komodos, Alor, or Raja Ampat, you will experience world class diving and incredible biodiversity.
Here is some travel info on how to access popular points of departure and return for liveaboard trips to various destinations in Indonesia. Most liveaboard operators will help you arrange hotel accommodations before and after your trip. If you sail on the Mantra, we will be happy to help. Whatever liveaboard you choose, you are welcome to take a look at our hotel recommendations for Indonesian island travel.
Equipment policies vary among liveaboard operators. Most at least have some back up equipment. All have tanks and compressors. Some include all gear in the price; others require that you bring your own equipment. The Mantra offers tanks for free with unlimited refills from our two Bauer compressors and weight belts for guest use. We also have equipment available for rent by special request, and we provide kayaks and snorkeling gear for free.
Liveaboards are, of course, equipped with showers and toilets. In some cases they are shared. The Mantra liveaboard yacht has en suite toilets and showers as well as individual A/C for all guest cabins. Mantra also offers Wi-Fi, a library, and board games to keep you entertained when we are under sail.
Liveaboards should be equipped with tender boats and life rafts to accommodate everyone on board as well as life jackets and flares. Responsible operators also provide oxygen supplies for diving emergencies, first aid kits, GPS, satellite phones and marine radios. The Mantra carries an EPIRB (electronic position indicating radio beacon) and an AIS-SART self contained emergency radio device for safety in emergencies.
Now you have a basic idea of the advantages of traveling on liveaboard for diving, sight-seeing, and cultural tourism in Indonesia. You also have some ideas about where and when to go. You probably have some more questions. We’d be happy to help. Please send us an email and tell us what you want to know and we’ll be glad to answer.