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Best Liveaboards in Indonesia – Ultimate Guide

by Max
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Best Liveaboards in Indonesia - Ultimate Guide

Drifting through Indonesia’s southeast Asian waters on a liveaboard is an experience like no other. From the shallow reefs and wrecks of Komodo National Park to unexplored sites in Raja Ampat (check out our dedicated liveaboard guide for Raja Ampat), Indonesia offers some of the world’s most extraordinary diving experiences. With its vast array of colorful marine life, incredible coral diversity, and countless dive sites – it’s no wonder why so many divers love Indonesia.

Indonesia features over 17,500 islands, and it is home to some of the most exciting diving in the world. Whether you’re a first-time diver or an experienced one, a liveaboard is a great way to explore all that Indonesia has to offer. From luxury yachts to traditional Phinisi vessels – many Indonesia liveaboards cater to different budgets and preferences.

Not sure where to start with choosing the best liveaboard diving in Indonesia? This ultimate guide to Indonesia liveaboards will help you find the perfect boat for your next adventure.

Why Indonesia Is Great For Liveaboard Diving

Indonesia’s tropical climate, combined with its location at the crossroads of two great oceans, the Indian and Pacific, makes it a wonderful vacation destination. It has a wide variety of dive sites, as well as plenty of wrecks, marine life, and corals. Indonesia also has excellent travel links, with many international airports, making it easy to get around.

If you’re unsure what a liveaboard is, it is essentially a boat that offers accommodation and diving services. When you board any Indonesia liveaboard, you can expect to be taken from dive site to dive site – all in the comfort of the boat. You usually have access to essential dive gear, guides, and/or instructors, plus delicious meals prepared for you on board.

Let’s take a look at some more reasons why you should consider booking one of the many liveaboards in Indonesia:

Large Variety of Dive Sites

With thousands of islands scattered around the country, Indonesia offers various dive sites and depths. Whether you want to experience the waters of Bali, explore the macro life of Komodo National Park, dive with mantas and sharks in Raja Ampat or discover sunken wrecks – Indonesia has something for everyone.

The best part of Indonesia liveaboards is you can explore many different dive sites in a single trip. You would likely struggle to do that from land-based locations, making liveaboard diving in Indonesia the smart choice for avid explorers.

Prime Location

Indonesia really has it all. Located on the equator, it has warm waters for year-round diving, and visiting during any season is an enjoyable experience. Additionally, Indonesia is also part of The Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle is home to the highest marine biodiversity in the world, offering unique underwater explorations.

It isn’t just what’s happening underwater that makes Indonesia a superb location for traveling – it is also located in the Ring of Fire. This means Indonesia’s landscape features stunning volcanoes amongst the scenery.

Wonderful Water Conditions

Almost 80% of Indonesia is made up of water, and with the warm tropical climate it enjoys, you can expect excellent visibility. The average visibility can be 10-60 meters depending on the season and location. As for water temperature, each area does differ, but it is usually between 78-86°F (26-30°C)

These conditions mean you often find liveaboard diving in Indonesia on many divers’ wish lists – for a good reason!

Assorted Marine Life

Indonesia’s wide range of dive sites means there is plenty of marine life to be seen. From colorful critters to big, majestic creatures, you can find it all underwater. With more than 500 species of coral and over 3000 species of fish – including manta rays, whale sharks, and reef sharks – Indonesia is home to some of the most diverse and stunning marine life in the world.

In addition, Indonesia is famous for its muck diving sites, where you can find weird and wonderful ocean animals like blue ring octopus, pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, and more!

A Liveaboard Holiday for Everyone

While Indonesia is a divers paradise, not everyone you travel with needs to be a diver. Many Indonesia liveaboards cater to non-divers as well, offering activities such as snorkeling, sightseeing, or just relaxing on the boat.

Not to mention, various price points and types of boats are available. From luxury yachts to shorter trips at a budget-friendly price – you will be able to find something that suits you and your group.

Why Indonesia Is Great For Liveaboard Diving
Why Indonesia Is Great For Liveaboard Diving

Liveaboards vs. an Indonesian Dive Resort

Indonesia has a wide range of dive resorts scattered across many islands. These resorts are a good option for those wanting to stay in one place and explore the surrounding area or take daily dive trips.

However, if you want to experience the best of Indonesia underwater – Indonesia liveaboards are the only way to go.

As stated earlier, you would struggle to see as many dive sites from a land-based resort in such a short amount of time. This means when staying at a dive resort, you will miss out on many of the fantastic dive sites that Indonesia offers. Nothing can truly beat the convenience of a liveaboard, so if you have the budget, we highly recommend it!

Things To Consider When Booking A Liveaboard In Indonesia

Going liveaboard diving in Indonesia may be a fantastic opportunity, but when you’re faced with so many options – it can be overwhelming. To ensure you choose the best liveaboard for your needs and budget, here are a few things to consider:

Locations Visited

Some liveaboards only visit a few locations, and others have extensive itineraries. If there is something special you would like to see, make sure it is included on the trip you are considering. As Indonesia consists of thousands of islands, it may help to choose one or two areas you wish to explore and then pick an itinerary that visits those.

Let’s look at some lovely locations you can visit on the liveaboards in Indonesia:

Komodo National Park

Have you ever heard of the infamous Komodo dragon? Well, the Komodo National Park is home to these magnificent creatures – and some of Indonesia’s most stunning dive sites. Located in the Nusa Tenggara region of Indonesia, this area is a popular spot for liveaboards and is full of vibrant reefs, colorful corals, and spectacular walls.

Liveaboards that visit the Komodo National Park usually include trips inland to explore the home of these iconic dragons.

Raja Ampat

The Raja Ampat islands are located in the eastern region of Indonesia and offer some of the most diverse diving on the planet. With an incredible variety of hard and soft coral species, as well as a wide range of sea life – Raja Ampat is truly an underwater paradise.

Here you can expect to encounter manta rays, turtles, and, if you’re lucky – the elusive wobbegong shark! You can often find Indonesian liveaboards that cater to just Raja Ampat. For more information on liveaboard diving in Raja Ampat, be sure to check out our dedicated guide.

Bali

Bali, one of the more famous Indonesian islands, is a great place to visit on your liveaboard adventure. Bali offers long drift dives in areas such as Nusa Penida or beginner-friendly wreck dives in Tulamben. The waters of Bali are full of interesting creatures, such as seahorses, frogfish, and nudibranchs. Surrounded by stunning scenery and a varied culture, it’s no surprise that Bali is a popular destination for liveaboard diving in Indonesia.

The Gili Islands

While the lands of the Gili Islands may be quite popular amongst tourists, the waters are full of mystery. The Gili islands consist of three small islands located close to Lombok. The shallow lagoons and reefs make these islands a good destination for macro lovers and those who want to delve deeper into the depths.

Some liveaboards in Indonesia include the Gili Islands as part of their itinerary, which is ideal for those wishing to explore the best of Indonesia.

Bunaken

Located in the north of Sulawesi, Bunaken is one of Indonesia’s most stunning dive sites. Here you will come across so much marine life you won’t know where to look! The slopes consist of vibrant colors, with anemones and whip corals decorating the walls. The surrounding coral gardens are home to angelfish, damselfish, and clownfish – amongst other species. Whale sharks also frequent the area, making Bunaken an ideal spot for shark diving.

These are just some of the many breathtaking locations you can visit when liveaboard diving in Indonesia. Consider your budget, the places you want to explore, and what type of dive experience you are looking for, and you’ll no doubt find the perfect Indonesia liveaboards to suit!

Boat Type

When liveaboard diving in Indonesia, you will have 3 main boat options: yachts, catamarans, and traditional phinisi boats. Before you assume that the yachts offer the most luxurious experience, consider the traditional phinisi boat. These wooden boats are handcrafted and often provide a truly unique experience – and usually have all the same amenities as modern boats. Catamarans are also great options, providing plenty of space and stability.

Duration of Your Trip

Long or short trips are available when liveaboard diving in Indonesia. Longer trips often include more destinations, allowing you to truly get off the beaten track. Short trips are perfect if you’re looking for something quick or don’t have the budget for a more extended vacation. Most Indonesia liveaboards will set sail for around 11 days, which offers plenty of time to explore the best dive sites.

Number of Daily Dives

The amount of time you spend underwater is determined by the operator of the Indonesia liveaboards you choose. Most boats offer 2-3 dives daily, but some may schedule more or less. Safety is always the top priority for liveaboards in Indonesia, so external factors, such as weather, may impact the number of daily dives. Always check what weather to expect in the area before booking your liveaboard in Indonesia.

Required Experience

Indonesia does often experience strong currents, so some liveaboards may have a preference for advanced divers. However, plenty of boats cater to all levels of experience. When booking your Indonesian liveaboard, always check the required number of logged dive hours before booking.

Dive Insurance

Ensuring you have adequate dive insurance should be a priority for anyone considering liveaboard diving in Indonesia. Most liveaboards in Indonesia require it, so it is in your best interests to get dive insurance. Not only will it protect you in the event of an accident, but it will also avoid any potential disappointment during your trip.

We recommend DiveAssurethe leading dive insurance with the most comprehensive Diving Accident and Dive Travel insurance plans. Get your dive insurance now and enjoy your scuba diving vacation without worries.

Nitrox Availability

Using nitrox is a firm favorite with many divers when visiting multiple dive sites in one trip. Some Indonesia liveaboards offer nitrox fills for an additional fee, whereas others may include it as part of their package.

Be sure to check with your boat operator before booking, so you know what is included in the price. If you do not have a nitrox certificate, but like the idea of using enriched air, you may be able to complete the nitrox course while on board.

Required Gear

Some liveaboards in Indonesia do offer gear rentals. If you do not own any gear or are looking to travel light, this could be the perfect opportunity. If you prefer to bring your own gear, you should check what is required. No matter what you decide to do, always read the liveaboard’s policies and equipment requirements before packing your bags.

What Is The Best Season For Liveaboards in Indonesia?

Indonesia offers year-round diving, but like any destination, certain months are considered best for liveaboard trips. It is important to note just how large Indonesia actually is. It is not unusual to travel from one area to another and experience completely different conditions.

Generally speaking, the dry season (April to October) is the best season for liveaboards in Indonesia. The wet season (November to March) can bring rain and storms, but it is not usually enough to put a damper on your trip. Sometimes excessive rainfall can cause visibility issues, but this can also be the case at any time of year.

If the weather is something you are concerned about, you are best to check each area before you book. This way, you will better understand what to expect at each destination. For example, the best season to visit the following areas are:

  • Raja Ampat: October to April
  • Bali: April to October
  • Komodo: June to September

The Best Itineraries For Indonesia Liveaboards

Indonesia liveaboards offer a wide range of itineraries, so you should have no problem finding one that suits your needs. Whether you are looking for an adventure-packed trip or a relaxing dive vacation, there are plenty of options.

Let’s look at some of the best itineraries for Indonesia liveaboards:

Komodo – North and South

Komodo National Park is a mecca for scuba divers. Drift dives, manta rays, and some of the best macro critters in the world make this a trip of a lifetime. These trips are often only short, usually 3 or 4 days, but they are packed with adventure. From diving at Crystal Rock or a Dragon walk on Rinca Island, you will never be bored in Komodo.

Raja Ampat – North and South

Ideal for experienced divers, this itinerary takes you to the breathtakingly beautiful Raja Ampat. With plenty of colorful coral reefs and varied marine life, this could be a trip of a lifetime for underwater photographers. These excursions often last around 10 days and offer some of the best diving in Indonesia.

Banda Sea

With 7 or 8-day options, you can explore some of the best-untouched dive sites in the Banda Sea. This part of Indonesia is often overlooked, giving it the nickname ‘Forgotten Islands.’ Situated between West Papau and Flores, the Banda Sea provides some exhilarating muck dives and the chance to see some delightful underwater architecture.

Some other Indonesia liveaboard routes can include:

  • Flores and Alor
  • Bali to Komodo
  • North Sulawesi and the Derawan Archipelago

Be sure to research and check itinerary details carefully before making your reservations. This way, you can ensure the trip is exactly what you want.

What Is The Required Budget For Liveaboard Diving in Indonesia

For an entire week or more of liveaboard diving in Indonesia – you should expect to pay luxury prices. Indonesia liveaboards are not the cheapest option, with most setting you back around $3000 for a 7-11 day trip. There are more expensive options, ranging up to nearly $10,000 for a 16-day excursion on a luxury liveaboard traveling to various locations.

Shorter trips are available for those on budget, with 3 and 4-day excursions costing around $700. No matter your budget, it is possible to find a liveaboard in Indonesia that will accommodate you.

The Best Liveaboard Boats In Indonesia

There are so many Indonesia liveaboards to choose from, with each varying traveling routes and offering different services. To make choosing easier, here are some of the best liveaboard boats in Indonesia:

Carpe Diem

Length: 34m Width: 6.6m Nitrox: No Cabins: 4 Maximum capacity: 8 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The Carpe Diem phinisi liveaboard provides a unique, personalized experience like no other. With air-conditioned cabins and daily housekeeping, guests will be treated with utmost comfort and convenience. This makes it the perfect choice for small groups and individuals who want to spend quality time together.

Following many routes, including the Flores and Amor itinerary, trips aboard the Carpe Diem can last up to 10 days. The near 1:1 guest-to-crew ratio means you can enjoy plenty of attention – which is great if you’re not a diver but still want to join the expedition. Moreover, Carpe Diem offers family cabins so you can make memories that will last a lifetime.

Emperor Raja Laut

Length: 31m Width: 7.2m Nitrox: Yes (free) Cabins: 6 Maximum capacity: 12 guests Rental Gear: Yes

Exploring Indonesia by liveaboard has never been easier than with Emperor Raja Laut. This traditional Indonesian phinisi offers year-round trips to various locations around the islands, depending on the weather.

Whether you choose 8, 10, or 13 days, you can visit areas like Komodo National Park, Banda Island, or Raja Ampat. The many amenities, like a full-board option, paid internet connection and en-suite bathrooms, make your excursion even more luxurious. To complete the experience, take in nature from the sun deck, which provides grand views of this tropical paradise.

White Manta

Length: 46m Width: 10m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 14 Maximum capacity: 20 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The White Manta liveaboard yacht is a dream come true for divers. It’s one of the largest purpose-built liveaboards in the area, offering a full package for luxury diving trips. With its dedicated dive deck, camera station, and camera room – it is ideal for dive photographers.

Enjoy 5 meals a day aboard White Manta, relax with a massage, or chill out on the leisure deck. This liveaboard has everything you need for your perfect vacation! The White Manta travels to Banda, Raja Ampat, and Ambon areas, with trips lasting up to 10 days.

Empress II

Length: 26m Width: 18m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 5 Maximum capacity: 10 guests Rental Gear: Yes

If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure around Indonesia’s renowned dive sites, then the Empress II liveaboard is ideal. Choose between short 4-day and longer 11-day trips that will take you to areas including Raja Ampat, Komodo, Bali, and, most notably – the Forgotten Islands. On board, you’ll enjoy top-notch amenities such as seaview cabins, free internet access, and DIN adaptors.

Perhaps best of all are the various diving areas that await you – picture-perfect reefs in crystal blue water buzzing with schools of tropical fish just waiting to be explored. What more could a traveling diver ask for?

What to Bring For a Liveaboard Trip in Indonesia

Packing for liveaboards in Indonesia doesn’t have to be challenging. Depending on the size of your liveaboard and the storage options, you are always best packing light.

Here are some ideas on what to bring for a liveaboard trip in Indonesia:

Essentials:

  • A valid passport and any required travel documents
  • Climate-appropriate clothing – a few outfit changes
  • Towels (while most liveaboards will provide you with towels, bringing an extra one can pay off)
  • Beach outfits
  • Swimming clothes
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, sunhat)
  • Any required medication
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, soap, etc.)

For Diving:

  • Dive and nitrox (if owned) certification information
  • Dive log book
  • Scuba equipment and gear – if bringing with you
  • Credit card or local currency
  • Dive insurance
  • Surface marker buoy (SMB or DSMB) – you may need to provide your own

Additional:

Final Thoughts on Liveaboard Diving in Indonesia

Liveaboard diving in Indonesia is a great way to explore the islands and get up close to some of the world’s most amazing wildlife. From Komodo National Park to Raja Ampat and the Forgotten Islands, there are plenty of dive sites to discover.

When picking between the many Indonesia liveaboards, consider what amenities you want, the size of the boat, and the trip length. You can have a luxurious experience in a large liveaboard or try something more intimate in a smaller boat; it all depends on personal preference. Regardless of the liveaboard you choose, you are in for the trip of a lifetime. So get ready to be amazed and have an adventure worth remembering!

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