The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
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Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, approximately 1,000km east of Bali, Alor and the Pantar Strait provide world-class diving on one of the most well-preserved coral reef systems in Indonesia. With its currents, critters and hammerhead sharks, volcanoes and villages lost in time, Alor is one of Indonesia’s last frontiers; nowhere else in this extraordinary country can visitors trek to the rim of a volcano, visit traditional villages or dive the beautiful reefs of the Pantar Strait, and discover why this destination is rated among the best in the world by adventurous travellers.
Diving around Alor is characterized by clear waters and currents, a near-pristine reef system and endless fields of beautiful corals, sponges and anemones. Unusually for such a small area, visitors can explore an entire spectrum of different dive sites - from colourful reefs packed with marine life, to current swept pinnacles with big pelagic species and sheltered bays with amazing muck diving - all in a single day. Add to the mix the occasional eagle ray, reef sharks and sea snakes, the possibility of encountering hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and even mola mola and whales, and you can understand why Alor and the sites of the Pantar Strait are considered to be amongst the best in Indonesia.
Some of the classic reef sites include the Great Wall of Pantar, Cathedral, Max’s Point, Current Alley and Apuri, or Clown Valley. These sites offer beautiful drift dives along dramatic walls or over fields of colourful corals and anemones, as well schools of snapper and unicornfish, prolific reef life and plenty of macro fauna such as pygmy seahorses, leaf scorpionfish and frogfish. At sites exposed to the strong currents that flow through the strait, divers can expect schools of jackfish and barracuda, tuna and rainbow runners, and - if the conditions are right - hammerheads, thresher sharks and even mola mola. In fact, along with sites in the Banda Sea, Alor is one of the few places left in Indonesia where hammerhead sightings are still reasonably common.
As well as its spectacular reefs, Alor is building a reputation as a world-class muck diving destination - particularly amongst divers that would like to get away from the crowds at more popular destinations. Most of the reef sites have a fantastic diversity of life, but it is the proper ‘muck’ sites in Kalabahi Bay, Alor, and Beang, or Beangabang, Bay on Pantar in the southwest, that attract those divers in search of unusual ‘critters’. The currents that run through the strait push nutrient-rich, cold water into these bays, creating perfect conditions for exciting macro diving. Rhinopias are the star of the show here, but seahorses, frogfish, ghost pipefish, Ambon scorpionfish, Coleman shrimps, Mandarinfish, weird and wonderful nudibranchs and plenty of unusual crustaceans and cephalopods are all on the cards as well.
Many of Alor’s beautiful reefs are easily snorkeled and the area is one we would highly recommended for non-divers. Whilst the hammerheads and other big animals may be out of reach, the beautiful corals, sponges and anemones that can be found in the shallows - along with the prolific marine life that thrives here - can be explored easily using a snorkel. Our favourite snorkeling sites are Clown Alley with its carpets of anemones and Feather Star City with - you’ve guessed it - huge amounts of feather stars!
As the currents can be strong at many of the sites snorkelers should always remain aware of their surroundings and location.
The Alor region consists of two large islands, Alor and Pantar, as well as 14 smaller islands lying due east of Flores. They are amongst the least developed in Indonesia but for travellers willing to invest some time and energy to get to the islands, they offer incredible experiences both above and below the surface of the sea.
On land, steep mountains and dry savannahs blend into lush forests that hide waterfalls, hot springs and even an active volcano - Sirung - on Pantar. The rugged mountains and steep valleys that dominate the interiors of the islands have divided the people that live there into many distinct ethnic groups, with a wealth of local cultures and traditional beliefs that have been preserved to this day.
The islands are part of the Lesser Sundas and along with Flores to the west, help to define the northern boundary of the Savu Sea. The famous Indonesian Throughflow is at its strongest in this part of the archipelago - particularly through the Ombai Strait that connects the Savu and Banda Seas and further southeast beyond Timor - and an extraordinary volume of water passes through this region, funnelled through the channels that separate each of the islands. These huge currents bring with them a constant supply of nutrient-rich water, providing the perfect conditions for the marine life that so obviously flourishes around the islands of Alor. These pristine blue waters and swirling currents, along with beautiful reefs, drop-offs, caves and sheltered bays, are home to thousands of marine species in one of the richest biodiverse regions in the world.
All images courtesy of Alor Divers.
Although a remote and relatively undeveloped part of Indonesia, Alor is reasonably well-connected and a number of domestic carriers connect Alor to international airports in Bali, Jakarta, Makassar or Surabaya, via Kupang in Timor. It is recommended to arrive 1 day prior to your domestic internal flights in case of any problems with delays. Once in Alor, resorts will pick guests up from the airport.
As an alternative to a stopover in Bali, Makassar or Jakarta, guests can break up their flights with a few nights in Maumere, Flores, from which they can climb the extraordinary Kelimutu volcano.
Like many of the more remote destinations in Indonesia, much of the diving around Alor and Pantar was only accessible by liveaboard boats for many years. However there are now several resorts in Kalabahi Bay and one on the northern tip of Pantar, giving guests a range of locations and budgets to choose from. There are also operators based out of Kupang on Timor that run trips in Alor during the high season. And of course, there are still some incredible liveaboards that visit the area, giving visitors the opportunity to explore some of the more far flung islands in the region beyond Alor and Pantar.
Alor can be dived year round but during the rainy season between December and March, sea conditions can make some of the sites more difficult to dive and the visibility is reduced. Some resorts shut down during this period for renovations and maintenance. Probably the best time of year is September to November, when the currents are strong and the water is cold - increasing the chances of seeing the hammerheads and other bigger animals, including whales and dolphins that migrate through the area.
Water temperatures vary from a low of around 24-25C in March and April and again in September to November, to a high of 28C or more from May to September during the southeast monsoon. The visibility is normally closely tied to the rains and can drop to below 15m before and during the wet season but increase to an incredible 40m in the middle of the dry southeast monsoon between June and October. Plankton blooms can hit particular areas during this period so the incredible visibility is never guaranteed!
One week of diving gives guests enough time to thoroughly explore both Alor’s incredible reefs and muck diving sites, and this package includes 7 nights in a beachside bungalow, 2 guided boat dives on dive days, unlimited diving on the house reef and all meals. The resort does not charge a single supplement. Upgrade is available to the resort’s luxury bungalow.