AMBON, MALUKU, INDONESIA
Macro Mecca in the Moluccas
Season: Year round diving
Water Temperature: 26-30°C/79-86°F
Diving: House reef, walls, swim-throughs, critter diving
Willing to share option on liveaboards
The Maluku region of Indonesia, more widely known as The Moluccas, is famed the world over for its spices (particularly nutmeg and clove) and comprises some one thousand-odd islands in north-eastern Indonesia. While the region covers some 851,000 square kilometres (329,000 square miles), only 10 per cent is dry land! For many years, Ambon, the provincial capital of Maluku and located on Ambon Island in the Banda Sea, represented something of an unknown frontier destination where few divers had been or even dared to go. At the height of the Dutch East Indies Company’s wealth and power in the late sixteenth century, Ambon was known as ‘The Queen of the Eastern Islands.’ More recently however, Ambon has re-branded itself as a must-visit destination for adventurous divers and photographers who appreciate an unspoiled, off-the-beaten track, world-class diving destination with much to discover. Divers do not visit Ambon expecting a five star package, but for a unique and adventurous diving experience, away from the crowds both above and beneath the waves.
Ambon is an evolving muck diving mecca and already rivals the much better known Lembeh Strait in Sulawesi. Macro enthusiasts will love the boat diving and shore diving opportunities in Ambon Bay on the south side of Ambon Island and Piru Bay to the north, as well as Haruku Strait and Halong Bay. With a huge 100-metre (330ft) shipwreck resting within Ambon Bay, and interesting topographical sites on the south coast, as well as exhilarating drift diving on the northern and western coasts of Ambon, Ambon diving represents yet another jewel in the crown that is Indonesian diving. However, it is the muck diving in the region that has reached legendary status, and now, thanks to the new convenient location of Maluku Divers, it has never been easier to explore these sites, with some of the very best of them right on the doorstep of the resort itself!
Divers who visit the muck sites in the Laha region, have long been astonished by the sheer number of interesting species that muck diving in Ambon can produce. Critters both rare and (so far) unique to this region choose to make a home in the rubble and muck on the slopes of Ambon’s expansive bay. Come and enjoy the resident Rhinopias species (scorpionfish), the Pegasus sea moths, countless varieties of frog fish, seahorses, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, ghost pipefish and Stargazers that populate the sites around Ambon. In 2008 a new species of frogfish was discovered by Maluku Divers whilst muck diving in Laha. Once discovered, scientists that were informed about the fish named the new species Histiophryne psychedelica. Both professional and amateur photographers have claimed the Laha region is a rival even to the Lembeh Strait, and with just one resort on the shores of Ambon Bay, you can enjoy all these wonders with only a very few other divers in the water!
In addition to new species, Maluku Divers is the only dive operation discovering new dive sites in Ambon. In 2009 the site Rhinocity was discovered, where a number of individual Rhinopias (scorpionfish) make their home along with Thorny Seahorses and Skeleton Shrimps. New sites are pioneered on a regular basis and some remain secret, so only with Maluku Divers is it possible to experience the best muck diving that Ambon has to offer.
Pintu Kota (Gate of the City) reveals incredible underwater architecture at 17m (56ft), with a huge underwater archway mirroring the rock formation above water. Particularly exciting is a site known as Hukarila Cave, with its twisting caverns and canyons swarming with life.
Pulau Tiga is a small group of islands found on the west coast of Ambon. The sheer number of fish that inhabit the slopes of these small islands is mesmerising. Dynamite fishing, common in other areas of Indonesia, is thankfully not a problem when diving Ambon waters. A day trip to the Pulau Tiga region, drift diving over the hard and soft coral slopes is a very special experience.
At Panti Nama you may be lucky enough to catch the cuttlefish mating, maybe this is the only time they sit still for amore than a few seconds! There have also been sightings of bobbit worms eating lionfish, all the while watched by the beguiling and fantastic Wonderpuss. Schooling Yellowtail Snappers are perfect company on the safety stop!
Just when you thought you might not need to pack the wide angle lens, you may wish to think again, for at Air Manis Jetty moray eels abound as well as Twinspot lionfish, schooling pufferfish and the ever cooperative and photogenic batfish. This site is made all the better when the sun is out, particularly for the first dive of the day.
The Twilight Zone is perhaps the top muck site in the region and is well worth multiple visits. The ever photogenic Mandarinfish are here, as are several species of frogfish, Leaf Scorpionfish, Flamboyant Cuttlefish (adults and juveniles), shoaling silver sides, Wonderpuss, seahorses, harlequin shrimps, nudibranchs and Flying Gurnards.
An array of pelagic species also inhabit the waters around Ambon. During dives along the south coast, Mobula Rays, various shark species including Whitetip Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks and bamboo sharks, and majestic Napoleon Wrasse are prolific.
Divers can also take the chance to explore the final resting place of a 100-metre (330ft) cargo vessel. Scuppered during World War II, she sits upright and intact in just 13-35m (43-115ft) of water in the bay of Ambon. As those who have dived the Pillar Room on the Liberty wreck in Bali will know, one of the fascinating aspects of a dive there is the hugely photogenic light formations. This ship also has such a feature, created by huge swim-throughs between the vessel’s empty cargo holds. For photographers and critter lovers, the sunken vessel creates it's own ecosystem, with schooling jacks, Yellow Snappers and Spotted Eagle Rays for wide angle shots and a variety of exotic critters, nudibranchs and even Clown Frogfish making perfect subjects for the macro lens. This site remains a secret from the majority of divers who enjoy diving Maluku with liveaboard vessels, as the timing of your descent is vital, and only land based operations have the flexibility to hit the site at the right time of the day.