Diving the Spice Islands: My Love For Ambon

Indonesia is becoming more and more of a popular diving destination due to its richness in reef and fish life.

There are always fads that come and go as before Bali was the great Macro heaven dive and the USS Liberty was the place to dive, then it moved to Lembeh and Manado.

And of course, Raja Ampat has stolen the show to be now the best diving in Indonesia. With all due respect, that is.

I have been working in the Indonesian dive industry and travelling Indonesia since 1995 and have seen a great change due to a growing young population and also easier air travel.
Traveling with the local air lines these days is a far cry from the old days of flying with Merpati Air if anyone remembers that.
Indonesia is still growing in the dive industry and we have not found all the new places to dive yet.
But I’m here to talk about the Spice Islands and of course the major one that we can dive is Teluk Ambon.

Ambon island is part of the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. The island has an area of 775 km2 (299 sq mi) and is mountainous, well watered, and fertile. Ambon Island consists of two territories – the city of Ambon to the south and various districts (kecamatan) of the Central Maluku Regency to the north.

The first time I came to Ambon was in 1999 on my way to work in Irian Jaya (Raja Ampat) at that time there was the civil war which was devastating for the local people and landing at the airport you could just see the houses all burnt and destroyed very sad to see and of course no one could leave the airport, just a refuel for our Merpati plane which we were counting our lucky stars that we made it half way to our finale destination.

Whilst waiting for the refuel I saw adverts in the airport for diving and I thought to myself I have to come back since then I have been back many times.
Ambon has come a long way since then the island has grown and the Ambonese are very humble and welcoming. The airport Pattimura (Indonesian: Bandar Udara Pattimura) is very well connected now from major cities like Makassar-Jakarta-Sorong-Bali. With Lionair group and also Garuda, but Garuda was having many troubles whilst I was there always cancelling flights so maybe better to stay with the Lionair group.

But let’s get to the diving my favourite place to stay is Spice Island Divers Resort (old Maluku Divers).

The staff at the resort are pretty much the same as before but with some extra tweaks, with new managers.

Ronny doing a great job running the resort he helped us with visas extensions taking us back and forth to the immigration office a great service and Benny running the dive center part, great job guys.
Dives were well managed and all requests by the guest was not a problem.

The rooms have been updated with big sized beach front bungalow’s more than big enough which overlook Ambon bay and they also have some garden rooms which are also comfortable and spacious. The resort serves great food well prepared and many products come from their hydroponic garden.

As for the diving you have around 40 dive sites to choose from, Ambon bay which pretty much is the best muck dive site in the area are anything from 2 minutes from the resort up to about 5 minutes.
The dive sites in the bay can be anything from sandy bottoms to rumble and a profusion of sponges mixed with rumble.

These types of dive sites are the best for the macro lovers as the dives are full of life. On some of the famous dive sites like Laha 1/2/3 you can see harlequin shrimps to large frogfish, rhinopias in their many different forms and colours, Nudibranchs, seahorses, it was mind blowing to see the amount of life on one dive.

The currents can be quite strong on these dive sites on one dive all we could do is hang on to a rope from an anchor if not we would just get swept away very unpredictable currents.

The dive guides are very attentive to try and make the guests happy I dived
with Alan who is very attentive and is aware of your photography needs which makes life much easier.

Another great dive site is twilight I counted 12 different frog fishes on this dive from hairy to warty to painted, even while we were on the boat waiting for the second dive you could see the frog fish coming into the shallows near the beach. On the other side of Ambon bay, the dive are mainly sandy bottoms here it’s great to see Mimics, blue rings, Mototi, Seahorses and of course many frog fish.

If you would like a change from the muck dives you can also go to the outer side of Ambon bay where you have more of a classic style of dive with corals walls and caverns which makes a change if you stay for a couple of weeks.

One week I would say is the minimum amount of time to spend here any less you don’t really get to see a good range of dive sites also you have the possibility to make black water dives in the bay which are also a
great option.

Ambon is a great stop off your way to Raja or coming from Raja as it breaks your flight up a bit and you have some time to organise in case your flights get changed which happened to me 4 times on this trip so if you have some time it would be a great stop over.

Ambon has been on the diving radar for many years but it was visited by a selected few divers but as of now flights are easier Indonesia is opening up very fast for diving and more areas are getting exposure to the diving public I just hope that all the new divers that come to Ambon respect the environment and do not destroy the delicate ecosystem just to get their photo, which has happened in so many other places, so please lets be respectful of this wonderful diving environment for us and future generations and respect your dive guide not put pressure on them to try and find a rare specious so you can take hundreds of photos and just keep one of them.


WORDS and PICTURES by Vinny Apuzzo

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