The Alor Archipelago is one of the last frontiers of Indonesia. A great unknown even for the most traveled and experienced divers. It has the perfect mix of macro, adrenaline diving, pelagic sightings and vibrant coral gardens teeming with life. Diving in Alor has so much to offer that it’s hard to believe that it still doesn’t appear in all the annual lists of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.
Situated between Flores and the Sawoe Sea, the Alor Archipelago lies to the east of Komodo and Flores, close to East Timor. It is made up of 20 islands, has at least 50 dive sites with great visibility and a perfect topography to provide a lot of variety to each of your dives.
There’s still more. The average temperature of the water is between 25 and 29 degrees centigrade, it receives currents loaded with food and is in the middle of the Coral Triangle. The breeding ground that we divers like the most. If we add to this the respect of the local authorities of the environment together with the maintenance of respectful and traditional fishing techniques, no wonder why this corner of the world is one of the areas with the greatest biodiversity in the ocean.
Although it has some dives with pelagic species such as sunfish, turtles, manta rays or sharks (you may even see dolphins and pilot whales from your liveaboard) the diving in Alor stands out for its macro life and muck diving.
Alor is much less well known and is not usually included among the main diving routes in Indonesia such as Raja Ampat, Sulawesi Flores or the Lembeh Strait. So if you travel there, what you will see is an almost virgin destination, both because of the difficulty in accessing it and because it is unknown to most divers, as well as because it is little exploited in terms of tourism.
Some of the best diving eco-resorts in all of Indonesia are being born on its shores, carefully planning and developing eco-tourism as part of a local government conservation strategy. Aware of the potential of the Alor Marine Park, it works closely with local communities, promoting sustainable fishing techniques so that the Pantar Strait and Alor remain a true underwater paradise.
WORLD-CLASS MUCK DIVING
Alor and Pantar are the main islands of the archipelago and the strait that forms between the two receives currents that make this point an area that any diver who loves marine biodiversity and rare creatures should consider visiting at least once in the life. In fact, the Pantar Strait is already regionally recognized as a protected area and is currently in the process of becoming a National Park, as in the case of Komodo.
This volcanic island boasts a varied underwater topography and is excellent for muck, with some of the rarest and most sought after nudibranchs as well as rhinopias, pygmy seahorses, lion and scorpion fish, mandarin fish, blue-ringed and mimic octopuses, orangutan crabs and many other species typical of muck diving.
Alor diving sites
It is true that Alor has good diving ecoresorts, but it is more advisable to dive there through liveaboards that do visit all the most interesting points of the archipelago.
Alor is usually divided into two dive areas: Kalabahi Bay for macro photography and muck diving and Pantar Strait for pelagic encounters, access to its reefs, coral gardens and strong current diving.
Kalabahi Bay has its main strength in black sand dives, being the best place to dive with those macro species that we have already seen. But it also has more than respectable depths, up to 200 meters, which makes some pelagic species “go wrong” and appear before your eyes. There we can dive in what for many is the largest and most spectacular garden of anemones known. In Clown Valley, also known as Anemone City or Anemone Valley, you will find yourself surrounded by anemones and clownfish, but also by a multitude of nudibranchs, all kinds of crustaceans and even the occasional whitetip shark.
Another interesting point for macro is Pink Forest, an area full of pink soft coral where we can see a large number of rare nudis, all kinds of crabs, frogfish or moray eels.
In the Pantar Strait the underwater landscape changes completely, here the diving is around the reefs and walls loaded with coral where you can look at the blue in search of large critters. Mike’s Delight is one of those perfect spots to hang from the reef in search of pelagics. This wall with large rocks can no longer receive strong, extreme currents, which bring schools of sunfish, hammerhead sharks, mobulas, wrasse fish, blacktip reef sharks, giant groupers, schools of barracuda, some green or hawksbill turtles or jacks & giant mackerel. If it’s your lucky day, you may even see manta rays, whale sharks, marlins or dolphins.
Finally, we recommend you The Cathedral, possibly one of the best diving spots in the area due to the possibility of encountering gigantic sunfish.
Best time to dive in Alor
Alor liveaboards are offered in combination with other Indonesian liveaboard routes. It is a good option to combine it with Komodo in August, to also be able to see the manta rays of Manta Alley. October is the best time to see the giant mola-mola. Actually, it can be visited throughout the year, being the best time to dive in Alor between March and December, trying to avoid October and November due to the strong currents. During the rest of the year conditions can be a bit harsher and visibility will be reduced due to a higher chance of rain.
If what you are interested in is only the macro you will not see great differences between months. What is clear is that if you end up diving in Alor you can feel lucky to have immersed yourself in one of the most pristine, complete and unknown scuba diving destinations in the world.