I still have many other reviews to write about great snorkeling sites in Indonesia, but before I do this, I thought I would share with you a summary of the best sites in this country.
Indonesia is more than 17,000 islands and 5000km West to East across 3 time zones. An entire life would not be enough to fully visit this snorkeling paradise. One thing for sure, Indonesia is probably the world best country for snorkeling, followed by the Maldives, the Philippines and Egypt. Even my snorkeling in the Maldives have not been as good as in Indonesia. Travelling to the best snorkeling spots can sometime be a challenge. Infrastructures are not well developed in all islands, especially to reach the best snorkeling spots (Raja Ampat, Alor Archipelago and Komodo).
But first here is how my ranking works :
*****: World class snorkeling you have been dreaming of. Must be on your bucket list
****: Excellent snorkeling, worth the trip in itself
***: very good snorkeling to be integrated in your trip
**: Good snorkeling, worth the detour
* : OK snorkeling, if you are in the area
Padangbai : ** (bloo lagoon beach)
Amed area : **to*** (Japanese wreck is the best)
Tulamben : ***
Menjangan : *** North West of Bali
The best snorkeling of the Island
But 4 hours drive from Denpasar
Nusa Lembongan : **
Nusa Penida : *** Island off the coast of Bali
You can snorkel with Manta Rays year round
Otherwise snorkeling is just **
Both Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are two islands off the south coast of Bali. Those islands are actually better for diving than for snorkeling. Be careful of the strong currents in some areas. Snorkeling is usually not children friendly there. This only real perk is to swim with Mantas at Manta point, which is a cleaning station in shallow waters. But you will need to arrange this with local boats or a diving school.
Alor Archipelago : ***** One of the world best snorkeling
Komodo Archipelago : ***** One of the world best snorkeling
Alor Archipelago is quite difficult to reach but really worth it. This is at the very East of Flores and best is to fly there via Kupang in Timor. Kepa island has nice accomodation and wonderful snorkeling.
Komodo is best via Labuan Bajo. And the good news is that there is now a direct flight with Garuda from Jakarta (started beginning of 2017). You can easily organize boat trips from Labuan Bajo or sleep in the basic bungalows of Kenawa island.
Bunaken : **** Great snorkeling
Easy to reach from Jakarta
Manado area : **
Wakatobi : ****
Donggala : *
Togean Islands : ***
Most of those spots are difficult to reach, except Bunaken Island and Manado area. There are frequent and direct flights from Jakarta or Singapore to Manado. Bunaken is about 45 minutes boat ride from Manado. To be honnest, we love Bunaken. It is one of the best snorkeling in Indonesia that you can easily reach and travel on a budget. Diving is fantastic too.
Banda Islands : *** to ****
Ambon area : **
The Banda Islands are the best place for snorkeling in the Maluku, especially Pulau Ai. But this part of Indonesia is so difficult to reach. You need to fly to Ambon (direct from Jakarta, so easy), but then take the 6 hours boat ride which leave Ambon 2 times a week. There is a very unreliable flight from Ambon to Bandaneira. Yet, the good side of all this pain is that you will get fantastic snorkeling all to yourself. But this is not better than Bunaken which is much easier to reach.
Around Ambon there are some nice coral reef but which are much better for diving than for snorkeling.
Raja Ampat : *****
Raja Ampat is in the top 3 diving destination of the world. And the truth is that actually, snorkeling there is also more than fantastic. But it comes with a price : you need to fly to Sorong, which is expensive and no direct flight from Jakarta. You need to go thru Makassar or Manado in Sulawesi, often with a short red-eye night flight. Once there you need to take the morning ferry to Waisai. And then, accommodations are very expensive. Yet, you can now find basic bungalows with little comfort but at good prices.
Raja Ampat is the Holy Graal of Snorkeling. It just does not get any better than this.
Pulau Weh : ***
Banyak Islands : ***
Pulau Weh can be reach by boat from Banda Aceh. Quite easy actually, and Banda Aceh has some direct flights from Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
Banyak Islands are more difficult to reach, but really beautiful so worth the pain. Best is to take the ferry from Singkil. But Singkil is about 8 hours drive from Medan, so try to catch a flight from Medan to Singkil.
Krakatau Volcano : **
Karimynjawa : *
Thousand Islands : *
Krakatau volcano can be reach by boat from Anyer. Nice and different snorkeling around this world famous volcano. Lava landscape in the water gives a different and nice snorkeling. You can camp on the island but double check the volcano activity with the locals
The Thousand Islands is convenient as those can be reach from Jakarta. But accommodation is overpriced and snorkeling just OK at best.
Karimynjawa Islands is a beautiful archipelago with just OK snorkeling. You can go there by boat from Jepara or Semarang.