Scuba diving in Halmahera, you will be in a seldom visited, untainted paradise. Halmahera scuba diving encompasses many kinds of dive sites, including muck, drift, wall, coral gardens and impressive volcanic formations. Diving in these formations, you will be enjoying swim-throughs, cavern zones, overhangs, ledges and cracks, each attracting a unique variety of species.
Halmahera is the largest island of the Moluccas, situated in North Maluku Province in Indonesia. Diving in Halmahera is infrequent due to its remote location, and many dive sites have yet to be discovered let alone explored. This, combined with Halmahera's remoteness means that dive spots are in pristine condition, and an absolute joy to visit.
Halmahera lies on an island arc that also includes the very famous Indonesian scuba diving location, the Raja Ampat Islands. Just like Raja Ampat, you will also be scuba diving on reefs that lie within the abundant coral triangle. This arc of islands was originally formed by powerful tectonic movements. As the Australian continental plate moved towards the north, the Pacific oceanic plate was forced beneath, creating a subduction zone. The result of this collision was the formation of islands, following the edge of the continental plate. Even to this day, there are active volcanoes, such as Dukano, that sits on the northern end of Halmahera Island.
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Marine life in Halmahera
Recently, limited surveys have been conducted in order to categorise the diversity of species found in Halmahera. These short surveys, that were by no means extensive, returned incredible preliminary results. Conservative estimates suggest that there are a staggering 686 species of fish and 450 species of coral in the crystal clear waters of Halmahera.
There are quite the variety of things to see here, from huge pelagic species such as hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, and even manta rays, all the way down to teeny macro species such as nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses and harlequin shrimp.
In addition to the prolific species diversity, Halmahera holds several wrecks that are perfect for scuba diving. During World War II, a Japanese naval base was situated in Kao Bay, close by. In fact, several of the surrounding islands served as military bases for both the Japanese and Americans. There are many wrecks to explore here, most of them now totally encrusted in vibrant soft corals and gorgonian fans, and most of them awaiting their first visit from divers. Some lie beyond the scope of recreational diving, while others remain inaccessible to day boats.
Best dive sites in Halmahera
Halmahera Strait is where divers go to see big pelagic species. Scuba diving in this narrow passage of ocean, you are likely to see huge schools of barracuda, solitary hammerhead sharks and even manta rays. There are several large cleaning stations where shrimp and cleaner wrasse congregate, waiting for an easy meal off the back of a big pelagic.
The best dive site for wall diving in Halmahera is said to be Napo Siko. This site often sees fairly strong currents, making for an adrenaline-filled drift dive. Oceanic whitetip and blacktip sharks hold steady in the current, waiting for prey to come within easy reach, while macro species take shelter in amongst the coral formations lining the wall.
Nenas Island is best known for its macro species producing capabilities. Hiding in anemones you are likely to see harlequin shrimp, while pygmy seahorses cling on to branching corals.
Pisang Island is located in Halmahera Sea, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It is surrounded by several smaller islands, which are all connected via very wide underwater ridges. It is upon these ridges where you will be scuba diving. Fairly large pinnacles are commonplace, decorated with vase and branching corals.
Best time to dive in Halmahera
The best time to go scuba diving in Halmahera is between the months of March and November, when it's dry season. Water temperatures are a very pleasant 84 Fahrenheit (29C) almost all year around with barely a degree of fluctuation between seasons. However, between the months of June and August, strong trade winds sweep over the islands in this area, and can create choppy seas.
Experience level for diving Halmahera
The trade winds that blow during June and August can make scuba diving less comfortable for newer and less experienced divers. The seas will be rougher, and altogether more challenging. Some sites are also prone to very strong currents. It is highly recommended to bring along an SMB and finger spool to ensure your ascents are marked. Overall, scuba diving in Halmahera requires an intermediate or advanced level of diver.
How do I get to Halmahera
The best way to reach your dive trip in Halmahera is to first fly to Jakarta or Manado Airport. Long haul flights will usually connect via Singapore, but sometimes Kuala Lumpur depending on your departure location. Once in Jakarta or Manado, catch a further flight to Sultan Babullah Airport, located on Halmaheraís neighbouring island, Ternate. From here, it is a short boat ride to Halmahera.
Indonesia liveaboard dive tours that take you scuba diving in Halmahera will sometimes set sail from Bitung on the northern coast of Sulawesi, instead of Halmahera. Bitung is a short car journey from Manado Airport.