Diving Ambon Island

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Ambon Island, Indonesia

Ambon Island Diving3

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Country: Indonesia  Area: Indonesia

Water Temp: 25 - 30°C (77 - 86°F)

Visibility: 2 - 20m (7 - 66 ft)

Depth Range: 3 - 40m (10 - 131 ft)

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A multitude of critters, minimal crowds, and world-class muck diving are why scuba fans come to Ambon Island. Ambon is located in the Maluku (Spice) Islands of eastern Indonesia. The Twilight Zone is the name given to the rubble and black sand that lies at the bottom of Ambon's most expansive bay. Interestingly, more marine species can be found in the bay than in all of Thailand!

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Wreck and reef diving is also available in Ambon - day trips to wrecks are arranged by most resorts, usually at least once a week.

Along with lots of macro life - tiny moray eels, transparent in their infancy and almost impossible to spot, but experienced and knowledgeable dive staff will know where to look. The Psychedelic Frogfish is considered by many to be Ambon's Holy Grail, just recently discovered, and found only in the island's bay.

Scorpion Fish, Credit

Countless other species will catch your attention, and keep you interested during your dives. Stonefish, Mandarinfish, and many varieties of Harlequin Shrimp can be spotted in the nooks and crannies of the ocean floor. Have you met the Pegasus Sea Moth? Ambon may be the perfect place  to get acquainted.

Climate

Indonesia generally experiences two monsoon seasons. The weather patterns around Ambon are especially unpredictable, but the best conditions can be expected between late February and early May, and late September through to the beginning of November. Ambon Bay, where some of the best muck sites are located is relatively sheltered and there is diving to be done pretty much any day. Visibility and currents are variable  during the monsoon seasons. Expect water temperatures to range from 24 to 30 degrees, depending on the season and the site.

Marine Conservation

Some concern has been raised over the amount of garbage that is going into the sea surrounding Ambon. The sites themselves tend to remain clean, and efforts are being made to educate the locals (and tourists) about the risk that trash poses to the marine environment.  This is a problem throughout Indonesia. Recycling and efficient trash removal is limited at the best of times. There is not a lot of coral around Ambon, but the patches do exist are in reasonably good condition.

 
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The Diving

If you are a believer in the “small is beautiful” mantra, than Ambon is the place for you. Macro photo enthusiasts may want to make the move permanent, and set up shop on the peaceful island.  Some of the sea's most spectacular, and strangest creatures call Ambon home.  Famous for hundreds of varieties of Frogfish, Devilfish and giant schools of catfish, Ambon  remains unspoiled and far beyond the beaten track.  

There are approximately 20 regularly visited dive sites around the island, but there are countless opportunities for experienced exploratory divers. Most of the dives tend to be shallow and long, and suitable for beginners. Nitrox-certified divers will be able to seriously stretch out their bottom times here.

Cleane Shrimp, Credit

Here are some of the sites that you won't want to miss:

The Twilight Zone is recognized as one of the top muck diving areas in Indonesia. Three principal dive sites lie to the west of Ambon's large harbour, often referred to as Laha one, two, and three. You'll want to take a few days to explore all that the Zone has to offer. The dive usually start out about three kilometres from shore. There is some coral to explore starting at just two meters, and divers continue down the sandy slope to 12 or so metres. Deeper than that the visibility goes downhill fast. There are plenty of pretty and poisonous predators doing their best to blend into the background. Ghostpipefish, Flamboyant Cuttlefish and assorted species of seahorse call this area home.

You will not spot any rhinoceros at a neighbouring site know as Rhino City however, if you are lucky, and look hard enough, you may see a Rhinopias Scorpianfish, the curious creature for whom the site was named. These rhinos come in a brilliant assortment of colours often combining peach, yellow, orange and red. They can be spotted sitting amongst the soft coral and sponges on the ocean floor. Wait long enough and you may see one make a meal of a passing fish. A gaping mouth whips opens, and  the unsuspecting critter is sucked down in the blink of an eye!

Yellow Scorpion fish, Credit

Pintu Kota means “Gate of the City” and there is coral, and unique underwater rock formations to be found in the area. The maximum depth is around 20 metres and there are a variety of reef fish in the vicinity. Parrotfish, fussiliers and puffers are on patrol, while wrasse dart in and out of the coral. Look up and you may find yourself staring into the eyes of a not so shy barracuda. And so the watcher becomes the watched...

Day trips are frequently organized to reefs and wrecks in the neighbouring vicinity.  These include Pulau Tiga, and sites to the south that offer the chance to explore rock formations and caves. A collection of tiny islands, Pulau Tiga offers wall diving and is home to schools of jacks, tuna, and even the occasional shark may sneak in for a peek. There are not many opportunities in the Ambon area for big fish watching, but these sites are your best bet. Napoleon Wrasse, and Mobula Ray may also make an appearance.

The Aquila Wreck will be of interest to wreck and deep divers. The visibility is not great, averaging 10 metres, but there are plenty of groupers, puffers and morays to be seen. The maximum depth is 40 metres, with most divers sticking around between 15 to 20 metres.

Liveaboards usually operate in March and April, and between September and December. 

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Getting There

The closest international airports are located in Jakarta and Bali. Ambon is serviced daily by domestic flights from Jakarta, Bali, Manado and others. Most dive resorts are happy to help arrange for transfers, flight reservations, and any other assistance that their guests require.

Visitors usually fly into Jakarta, and then take a Garuda or Batavia flight to the island. Once there, many dive resorts will arrange to pick you up.

Taxis and motorcycle taxis are a fairly affordable way to get around the island.

Spiderman Shrimp, Credit

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Going out

Options to eat and drink off the resorts are fairly limited. That said, most hotels and resorts provide a good variety of well-prepared meals for their guests. Some dive resorts have a set menu for meals, so if you have any dietary restrictions, be sure and let them know when you book.

There are a few clubs and bars located in the hotels, but Ambon is better known for it's spectacular sea life and peace and quiet than it is for its parties. 

Ambon Coastline, Credit

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Other Activities

Diving is the big draw in this corner of the Indonesian archipelago. Underwater photographers in particular will never run out of nooks and crannies to explore, and creatures to capture on film. Other than that you could snorkel, swim, or watch the divers. If you aren't a water baby, Ambon may leave you wishing you were! 

Ambon Island Nutmeg, Credit

Family Friendly

Teens that are certified divers will have no problem keeping themselves occupied on Ambon. However the snorkelling and beaches are not great, and there are relatively few family-friendly activity options available.

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Tips

If you need to overnight in Jakarata airport, there is an affordable and convenient airport hotel where you can grab a few hours sleep. Alternatively, Batavia Air offers an overnight flight to Ambon, departing around midnight and arriving early the next morning. 

ATMs are widespread, but foreigners are restricted to withdrawing a maximum of  $150 (US) per transaction, so foreign transfer fees can quickly mount up. Exchange rates are also better in the cities, not on the islands.

The dives tend to be shallow and long so a full 5mm suit is recommended by many operators. As always, bring plenty of sunscreen and mosquito protection!

Genetic double tail Pipefish, Credit

 

 

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