Scuba Diving Ambon
Ambon Island is fast being recognized as one of the premier critter (muck) diving locations in the world.
Ambon island lies in the central part of the Moluccas (Spice Islands) and consists of two peninsulas (Leitimor and Hitoe) connected by a narrow neck of land. The bay thus formed cuts about 20km into the island with the airport on the northern shore and the city of Ambon on the southern side.
The diving in Ambon is mainly done in the Amboy Bay and you come here basically for the great muck-diving. Be prepared for some interesting critters and amazing behavior! The most well known dive site, the Twilight Zone lies close to the airport where you can find some very special animals like Rhinopias scorpionfishes, frogfishes, seahorses, stonefishes, ghostpipefishes, pegasus sea moths, mandarin fishes, nudibranchs, harlequin and coleman shrimps, kauris, wonderpus, mimic and flamboyant cuttlefish. This is also the area where the famous psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) was found.
For coral diving there are also some really nice places you should visit, for example Pulau Tiga, a group of tiny islands in the western tip of Ambon or Pintu Kota or Hukurila Cave in the south side of Ambon island where you can do wall diving and dive in caves and swimthroughs. Several nice dives sites are found around Saparua, specially to the south, around the cape and Molana island and Nusa Laut. Here you find mostly large schools of fish, pelagics like tunas and jacks and sharks.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE SITES
Airport Jetty – This dive site is underneath a long pier which lies just past the end of the airport runway. There are always large schools of small fishes and juvenile batfishes between the columns covered with sponges and on the sand you find small critters like nudibranchs, morey eels, lionfishes and sometimes Rhinopias scorpionfishes.
Kauri Point – You dive on a slope covered with sand and rubble. Among the stones there are small sea fans where lots of Kauri snails are living. We found a total of four different species just on this dive site, among them the beautiful tiger Kauri (Crenavolva tigris) and some kauris that look like they are part of the coral (Prosimnia piriei and Phenacovolva rosea) and are usually rather difficult to find. On an other sea fan dozens of small porcelain crabs and several species of spider crabs were crawling about.
Air Manis Jetty – It is a working jetty, so there were boats overhead. Underwater there is some rubbish around, but also plenty of interesting critters. A special find were the shy yellowhead dwarfgobies (Trimma stobbsi) and a Lined Fire Worm (Pherecardia striata), about 20cm long.
Middle Point – A rubble slope with a lot of waving soft corals on the top and special sponges that look like grayish leaves. There is a large coral block with leaffishes and lots of cardinalfishes on about 17m and we got stuck there because there were so many photo opportunities. Some of the cardinalfishes had eggs in their mouth and two pufferfishes were circling and fighting. Further down our guide found a pair of Halimeda Ghostpipefishes (Solenostomus halimeda) nearly invisible among the Halimeda plants and another single one the same color as the special sponges. Part of this dive site was covered with the colorful poisonous sea urchins (Asthenosoma ijimai), some with Coleman shrimps (Periclimenes colemani), some with Zebra crabs (Zebrida adamsi) or both.
Kampung Baru – This dive site is just outside of the village, at a place where the boats are anchored. You start on sand and then swim to a slope with lots of stones, sponges and some corals. Towards the end you go back to the sand where there are some large coral blocks. We were lucky and saw two Rhinopias in this shallow area, so we could spend a lot of time with them. The pink one actually swallowed a fish while we were watching – but much too fast for any of us photographers!
Rhino City – The whole area from Rhino City through the Twilight Zone to Laha 3 is a great place for diving. The dive sites are basically slopes with stones, patches of corals, sponges and soft corals. It seems to be one of the places you regularly find the exquisitely colored Rhinopias scorpionfishes. These beautiful animals come in yellow, blue, red, pink to peach and brown and are actually not very shy. There is a lot of confusion about the three Rhinopias species. In Indonesia you find only the weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa) and Eschmeyer’s Scorpionfish (Rhinopias eschmeyeri). But not the lacy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias aphanes) – that species is only found in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Twilight Zone – The area from Laha 1 to Laha 3 is also called the Twilight Zone. This are is also the area, where the psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) was found. A slope covered with stones and small sponges, corals. Lots of frogfishes, nudibranchs and slugs and sometimes flamboyant cuttlefish, jawfishes, lots of gobies, small crabs and shrimps and ghostpipefishes to be found.
Batulubang-Wreck (Duke of Sparta / Aquila) – The wreck is 137m long and lies from about 15 to 35m deep. From a plaque detailing a serial number of a Water Heater which was discovered in the machinery of this wreck it was possible to find out, that it is the cargo ship SS Duke of Sparta. The ship was launched in 1940 from the William Gray shipyard, West Hartlepool, sold in 1951 to an Italian company from Naples and renamed SS Aquila. She sunk in 1958 in the northern part of the Ambon Bay.
Devion Point – We spend most of our time on a large coral block, where there were breeding cardinalfishes, a small clown frogfish and some leaffishes. Finally when we were low on air we ascended and started observing the jawfish in the sandy are who were excavating their burrows.
Kaca Lengkung – A gentle slope covered with stones and algae and some sponges and coral blocks. Out dive guide found one small colorful nudibranch after the other. One coral fan was full of small gobies and lots of transparent shrimps. We ended the dive on a small reef with a stonefish, two leaffishes, a juvenile ribbon eel and several jawfishes.
Hollywood – You can’t miss this dive site, because on the seaward wall somebody wrote in large letters HOLLYWOOD! No idea what famous fishes or shrimps live there, perhaps a Brattus pitti or Angelinamus joliea with paparazzi-divers gathering around?!
Dark Blue Jetty – The blue roofs of the fish factory close to this jetty can even be seen on Google Earth. The area is covered with sand with some sponges, corals and some garbage. We found a brick red Clown frogfish, a very unusual color, two different species of stonefishes and under the jetty on the pillars lots of sponges, hydroids and small soft corals several Black-saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini) and the rare Honeycomb Pufferfish (Canthigaster janthinoptera). Our dive guide found a minute boxercrab (Lybia caestifera which is different from the more common Lybia tessellata) waving minute anemones. On the pillars you also often find frogfishes perching there and batfishes or schools of small fishes gather underneath.
South side of Ambon Island
Pantai Parigi – This dive starts about 100m south of the jetty. It is a steep slope covered with nice corals and large sponges and with some sand coming down in channels. After a while the slope turns in a wall with nice small crevices and large coral outcroppings. There are a lot of bryozoans and small hydroids growing on the wall and everywhere are blue and yellow tunicates. Between we found nudibranchs, a harlequin shrimp and a juvenile frogfish. At the end of our dive everything was covered with Black Triggerfishes (Melichthys niger) and mackerels darting among them.
Pantai Nama Wall – A very nice wall, lots of corals and large sponges. Its worth to look closely to the reef but also look out in the blue. At one point there is an area completely covered with black coral bushes with small damselfishes, longnose hawkfishes and butterflyfishes flittering among them at another point there is a large outcropping with a bit of current and lots of butterflyfishes. On the start of our dive a small group of juvenile batfishes accompanied us, later a group of mackerels were hunting around us and at the end everything was covered for a short time with fusiliers, so this dive sites also offers good opportunities for wide angle shots. There were also a sea snake and several large groupers around. Between we saw lots of nudibranchs, orang utang crabs in the bubble corals and shrimps.
Pantai Nama Slope – In this area the wall becomes a slope, less coral and more rubble. Good place for frogfishes, ornate ghostpipefishes, sea cucumbers with emperor shrimps riding them and other critters.
Nusaniwe Point – Seems this is also a nice place for a walk on the beach and up to Nusaniwe point, where you have a nice view over the Banda Sea and where you can see “Batu Konde” which means Coil stone, a rock resembles a woman’s hair coil.
Namalatu – The name of this beach was taken from the words Nama which means Name and Latu which means King. Wall dive on a nice coral reef with lots of sea fans and gorgonians.
Pintu Kota – This is a well known dive spot in the south, the name can be translated as Gate of the City. On land a giant rock juts out to the sea with a large hole so it forms an arch. Underwater there is also a archway lying at about 15 to 17m and covered with sea fans and gorgonians. On the other side the slope goes down steeply, so you do most of the diving on the arch and finish at its highest point on 7meters. Good wide angle opportunities but also look out for small critters.
Mahia Cave – Sandy slope with several reefs and a small cave at 30 meters.
Hukurila Cave – An example of some amazing underwater architecture – you enter from the top through a hole or chimney in the reef and then have a choice of several swim throughs. The place is covered in sponges, soft corals and sea fans. Normally good visibility and lots of fish life.
North West tip of Banda Island
Pulau Tiga (Pulau Ela, Pulau Hatala, Pulau Lain) – A good place for a day trip with some nice reef diving and lunch at one of the beaches.
Dive Season: The best months for diving are September to December and March to April but also the months between. The Moluccan islands have the seasons reversed from the rest of Indonesia, when they have the dry season, its rainy season in Indonesia.
Visibility: Usually is good (20-30m) except some muck sites close to the harbour or where sand is easily stirred up.
Water Temperature: 20C/68F – 27C/80F
Skill Levels: Dive sites are available from beginner through advanced.
Dive Access: Land based diving, boat diving and shore diving. Many live-aboard start and end their itinerary in Ambon. Good option to add land based diving at the beginning or ending end of you live-aboard trip.
How to get there: Ambon airport (AMQ) is the main airport for Maluku province. There are daily flight from Jakarta (CGK) and Bali (DPS) and Makassar (UPG).
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