Sunset Baguala Bay - Ambon 

Ambon - Moluccas or Maluku

Ambon became the Provincial capital for the Province of Maluku in 1999 when the Maluku province was divided in two Indonesian provinces: North Maluku (Maluku Utara) and Maluku, click here for more about Maluku.

In 2013 the government decided to make Masohi in Seram the provincial capital and Ambon would serve as a city of trade and education in Maluku.

The island of Ambon is divided by Ambon Bay in 2 parts. The main part is called Lei Hitu and the peninsula, where Ambon city is located, is called Lei Timur. Lei Timur is predominantly Christian and Lei Hitu predominantly Muslim.

Between 1999 and 2002, Ambon was at the centre of sectarian conflict across the Maluku Islands.
The conflict had a significant effect upon the 2.1 million people of greater Maluku. Leading up to the Malino agreement, Malino II Accord 13 February 2002,
the International Crisis Group estimated that 700,000 people had been displaced by the four years of fighting in the Moluccas which is thought to have claimed a minimum of 5,000 lives.

Many websites still warn against visiting Ambon while Ambon has been as safe to visit as any other place in Indonesia for years now.

We have circumnavigated the whole of Lei Timur on a motorbike and we thoroughly enjoyed that. The roads, once out of Ambon city, are not busy and the scenery is beautiful. Everywhere we came the people are friendly and always ready to have a little chat with you.
After our visit to the Banda islands we explored Lei Hitu, the rest of Ambon island. For this we made a couple of trips by car and visited historical sites, villages and some beautiful beaches.
Ambon is a very interesting destination with a lot of history and has therefore, next to diving, a lot to offer.

Geography of Ambon

Biogeographically, all of the islands apart from the Aru group lie in Wallacea, the region between the Sunda Shelf, part of the Asia block, and the Arafura Shelf , part of the Australian block. (click here for detailed map of Wallace Line).

Malukan biodiversity and its distribution are affected by various tectonic activities; most of the islands are geologically young, being from 1 million to 15 million years old, and have never been attached to the larger land masses. The Maluku islands differ from other areas in Indonesia; they contain some of the country's smallest islands, coral island reefs scattered through some of the deepest seas in the world, and there are no large islands like Java and Sumatra.

History of Ambon

Ambon was named Amboyna by the Dutch.
Ambon was colonized by Portugal in 1526 and originally named Nossa Senhora de Anunciada, founded by Portuguese-Moluccas governor Sancho de Vasconcelos. The Portuguese were driven out by the Dutch in 1609. Except for brief periods of British rule, the island remained under Dutch control until Indonesia's independence in 1949.
(click here for more detailed history of the early period).

During the Dutch period, Ambon was the seat of the Dutch resident and military commander of the Maluku Islands. It was also the site of a major Dutch naval base, captured Fort Victoria - Ambon city by the Japanese in 1942.
The town was protected by Fort Victoria, and a 1911 Encyclopedia characterized it as “a clean little town with wide streets, well planted”.
The population was divided into two classes, orang burger (citizens) and orang negri (villagers), the former being a class of native origin enjoying certain privileges conferred on their ancestors by the old Dutch East India Company (VOC).There were also, besides the Dutch, some Arabs, Chinese and a few Portuguese settlers.

In 1950 Ambon was the center of an uprising against Indonesian rule, caused by the rebellion of Republic of the South Moluccas. Most of the people were loyal to the RMS movement. Indonesian troops invaded the city and reasserted control just in few months. Many important buildings such as the Victoria Fort (APRMS main base) were heavily damaged during the confrontation.

Dive conditions Ambon

Indonesia has two seasons: dry season influenced by the southeast monsoon winds, and the rainy or wet season, influenced by the northwest monsoon winds. In most of Indonesia the dry season falls between May and September and the rainy or wet season between October and April, but in the Moluccas it is reversed (click here for detailed weather graphs).

Best time for diving in the Moluccas are the months March and April and from mid-September until late December.

Ambon offers two types of diving: Muck-diving mostly in Ambon bay and reef/wall diving around the island; best of both worlds.

Ambon bay has a depth of more then 500 metres, it is 23 kilometres long and at its "mouth" 8 kilometres wide.
(click here for detailed map of the water depths around Ambon).

Muck diving

Muck diving usually takes place in brackish water, mangroves and harbours - environments that offer many possibilities for shelter. It gets its name from the sediment that lies at the bottom of many dive sites, frequently muddy or "mucky" environment, or may consist of dead coral skeletons, discarded fishing equipment, tires and other man-made garbage. Competition for food and habitat is less and the pressure from predators is lower than in a coral reef.

Animals in these environments have evolved incredible shapes, colours and behaviors. Ambon Bay has just the variety and quantity of debris to provide habitats for great muck diving and the water is unusually clear for muck diving.

It has an average visibility of 15 metres, but during full and new moon the currents in the bay are quite strong and visibility decrease to a couple of metres.
Between full moon and new moon there is usually very little current and good visibility, 20 metres.

Underwater we can find some amazing critters, including the recently discovered species of frogfish - Psychedelic frogfish Histiophryne psychedelica - but also Rhinopias, Mimic octopus, Zebra crabs and dozens of different nudibranch species.
A very popular find is the Ambon scorpionfish in differing colours of red, pink, green, yellow and orange. Then there are the other members of the Scorpionfish family too, including the Spiny devilfish, Stonefish, Zebra lionfish, Ragged-finned lionfish and Leafy scorpionfish - all venomous but beautiful!

Wall diving

Sea fans and more.. - Matt Oldfield - Alcyonacea

The reefs aren't heavily dived yet so they are in superb condition. The highlight of diving the Southern side of Ambon are the underwater gardens.
Walls are covered with bright colours of both soft and hard coral colonies, large Sea fans and Barrel sponges. There are many different types of Whip corals with Xeno crabs, Whip-coral shrimps and Gobies.
Big numbers of fish, but the bigger pelagic are not so often found here. Blankets of Red-tooth trigger and schools of Fusiliers and Snappers scoured the reef with huge Napoleon wrasse, Bumphead parrotfish, and Groupers regularly spotted.

Shark numbers are decreasing at a shocking rate.... What all, especially divers, should know about the shark population.

Dive sites Ambon

When we came back from the Banda islands to Ambon we did all our dives in Ambon bay i.e. muck diving, since we had done so much wall diving around the Banda islands. Here we describe most of the dive sites mentioned on the map including the ones we did not dive ourselves. This information is mostly from other divers whom we met during our travels.
Dive site number 9 until number 18 are muck dive sites.

Use the map to jump to the dive site :
Ambon dive sites

Batu Lompa - [1]

Famous for it's volcanic activity, bubbles rising up from the sea floor and between the rocks, the water around Batu Lompa is shallow with a maximum depth of 25 meter. Visibility is very good in these clear waters and you can see all the way down to the bottom. This site has strong currents and the water temperature is between 25 and 29°C.
Beautiful soft and hard corals covering around 40% of the total area. Turtles have been spotted regularly here as well as Longfin bannerfish, Red-toothed triggerfish, Lionfish, Anthias, Fusiliers, Sweetlips, Butterfly and Cardinalfish. Bigger stuff like Jacks and Barracudas and smaller like Scorpion leaf-fish are here as well.

Tanjung Setah - [2]

school of Fusiliers - Franck Fogarolo - Caesionidae

Literally Devil's cape is a beautiful dive site with a good variety of soft and hard corals.
Drop off with a maximum depth of 40 metres and a visibility of 15 metres. Here you will see various kinds of coral reef fish like Bat, Angel, Trigger, Puffer, Butterflyfish and Groupers. Schools of Jacks, Snappers, Fusiliers, and Barracudas are a treat. For the very lucky diver Turtles and Hammerhead sharks might show up, although this is very rare.

Tanjung Sial Timur - [3]

Tanjung Sial, Cape of Bad Luck is located on the southerly tip of Seram.
Many boats sunk or underwent problems here due to the strong currents hence the name.

This vertical wall does not have a lot of coral due to the currents but when it transforms into a slope coral growth picks up. Maximum depth around 40 metres with good visibility.
Strong currents go hand in hand with a lot of fish and here you might encounter schools of Jack, Snapper, Fusilier and Barracuda. Also Tuna, Bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse can be around.
Great site, but for the advanced divers since there can be down currents!

Sea fan with featherstars - Gorgonian with Crinoids

Tanjung Sial Barat - [4]

The west side of this cape, Barat means West and Timor means East, has more or less the same conditions as Tanjung Sial Timur.
Same fish can be encountered here like the schooling Snappers and Fusiliers.
This dive site is also for the more advanced divers, because of the strong currents.

Nusa Ela (pulau Tiga) - [5]

This is the only island of the three that has people living on the island. Diving around the three islands is simply amazing with the beautiful corals and marine life around.
Sloping reef with drop of at 24 metres and maximum depth 35 metres. Visibility around the islands is around 15 metres, depending on the weather conditions.
Strong current so lots of fish around here: Surgeonfish, Fusiliers, Bannerfish, Long-nosed emperors, Trevally, Napoleon wrasse and a few Bumphead parrotfish. Giant trevallies, Groupers and Black-tip reef sharks have also been sighted here.

Nusa Hatala (Pulau Tiga) - [6]

A small rock island with a beautiful white sandy beach, good place for lunch after the dive. The island is surrounded by crystal clear water and has gorgeous coral reefs and underwater life.

Potato grouper -Pete Niesen- Epinephelus tukula

Maximum depth is 40 metres and great visibility of 20 metres.
Schools of Red-toothed triggerfish swarm the waters, together with groups of Eagle rays and Black-tip reef sharks. Also great for snorkeling.

Nusa Lain (Pulau Tiga) - [7]

Again a beautiful island with an amazing underwater world. Sloping reef and walls with average depth of 25 and maximum depth of 40 metres. Visibility depends on weather condition, but can be up to 20 metres.
Currents can be strong, but offer a lot of fish like Jacks, Snappers, Fusiliers and Barracudas. For the lucky ones there is the Giant Potato grouper, Tuna and the Black-tip reef shark.

Tanjung Alang - [8]

This dive site has a beautiful mix of soft and hard corals unlike the other dive sites who are manly covered in algae and soft corals. After a couple of muck dives this is a nice change of scenery in Ambon Bay.

Devilfish - Inimicus didactylus

Batu Berdiri - [9]

This is the start of the critter dive sites on the northern shores of Ambon Bay. The underwater topography of the dive sites is a change of sandy areas, rubble covered slopes and valleys in between with some coral outcrops.
Here you can find everything you find in Lembeh with the advantage of the lack of divers and with 20 metres visibility....
Most members of the Scorpionfish-Family can be found in Ambon, noticeable are the many Devilfish variations, Inimicus didactylus, on sandy patches.

Airport Jetty - [10]

Past the end of the airports runway is the pier which offers a shelter for many juvenile fishes. The columns are covered in sponges and are a sight on their own. Best light, so best time to dive, is between 11am and 2pm.
Large schools of small fishes and juvenile Batfish between the columns and on the sand you find small critters like Nudibranchs, Eels, Lionfishes and sometimes Rhinopias scorpionfishes.

Air Manis - [11]

This dive site is in the area of a working pier so there can be boats overhead. There is rubbish around, but also plenty of interesting critters. There is so much to see on this between the rubbish, patches of soft coral and rocks.
This site offers a good mix as it has a variety of critters as well as massive schools of fish circling under the pier. Just to name a few species that are around here: Frogfish, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Eels, Pipefish, Ghost pipe-fish, Batfish, Nudibranch and Crionoid crabs.

Rhino City / Twighlight - [12]

The whole area from Rhino City through the Twilight Zone to Laha is a great place for diving. The dive sites are basically slopes with stones, patches of corals, sponges and soft corals. It seems to be one of the places you regularly find Rhinopias scorpionfish.

Blue ringed octopus -Michelle- Hapalochlaena maculosa

Although when we were diving here they all seem to have moved to the other site of the bay where we spotted a couple of them. We encountered a variety of other Scorpionfish, Seahorses, Octupus, Cuttlefish and many special Crabs. At dusk watch out for the dancing beauties performing their mating dances...Mandarin fish.

Laha - [13]

The site is the general area around the jetty at the village of Laha, on the northwest side of the harbour close to Ambon's airport. A small sheltered bay with a sloping sandy shoreline that offers protection for both the ships at anchor and the inhabitants beneath the surface.
The slope levels off a little at 12 metres before continuing down again into Ambon Bay's murky depths. Nearby jetty you can find many Moray eel species, several species of Lionfish and Stonefish, including the Spiny and Spotted devilfish.
Lots of small Crustaceans, Octopus, Cuttlefish and much more. Laha is a great critter site.

Mimic point - [14]

This dive site has a fine sandy sloping bottom which is pretty much barren until you start looking closely. Famous for the Mimic octopus, which was not around while we were diving here, but we did see Cuttlefish, Ambon scorpionfish, Seahorses, Ornate-ghost pipefish and more.

Wreck SS Aquila / Duke of Sparta - [15]

Inside the SS Aquila

The wreck-site of the SS Aquila is marked by a large rusty buoy attached to the stern, which is in just 12 metres of water.
SS Aquala is 134 meters in length and 17 meters wide measured by Marcel Hagendijk who conducted a series of penetration dives inside the shipwreck.
He also established that the ship was bombed in Ambon harbour during Operation Haik -
a clandestine Cold War CIA operation against Indonesian communist rebels in 1958.
The initial bombing did significant damage to the SS Aquilo, but not enough to sink her and it was another month before she finally went down on the 27th May.

The wreck is located at the busy part of Ambon's harbour which results in a not so good visibility. The visibility varies between 5 to 15 metres and the best time for diving is during incoming tide.
SS Aquila lies facing down the slope of the harbour with its foredeck at 32 metres and the bow at 40+ metres. The wreck is covered in deep pink and purple soft corals and is irresistible for the profuse amount of fish in the area.
Lots of fish around and of course a multitude of cleaning stations with Wrasse's and Shrimps for the local inhabitants.

Amahusa - [16]

Clown Frogfish-Michelle-Antennarius maculatus

Less sites on the east side of the bay, but both the west and the east side are all located on the fairly steep slopes of the bay. It starts with a sandy slope leading to a nice patchy reef with a lot to see like Leaf scorpionfish, Hinche-beak shrimps, many Nudibranchs and more.
Anemonefish, Clown frogfish and take a look at all the Whipcorals for Shrimps and among the other Coral fans for tiny Crabs and the Decorator spidercrabs.
Back in the shallows there is healthy Coral and a lot of Featherstars and Jawfish around. This is a site you can dive more than once...

Blue Jetty - [17]

The area is covered with sand with some sponges, corals, some garbage and a lot of critters. Here we spotted the tiny white Clown frogfish in a car tyre on the sandy part. Also a couple of small Cuttlefish and a Coconut, also known as Veined, octopus using a green bottle as her house.
The columns are covered in sponges and are a real sight with juvenile Yellow-spotted boxfihes, Valentinni's sharpnose puffers lots of tiny Crabs and Shrimps. There are Batfish, schools of different small fishes and often Frogfish can be seen on the columns. At the end of the dive we came eye to eye with a beautiful Blue-ringed octopus....after 5 minutes observing this little creature we decided to signal the other divers.

Pantai Paregi - [18]

This dive starts about 100 metres south of the jetty with a steep slope covered with nice corals and large sponges and with some sand coming down in channels. The slope turns in a wall with nice small crevices, lots of Turnicates and large Coral outcropping's. Damselfish, Angelfish, Trumpetfish, Starfish, Black triggerfish and a huge Moray eel between the corals.

Pantai Nama Wall - [19]

This is a very nice wall covered in lots of corals and large Sponges. While looking closely to the reef do not forget to turn around and look in the blue. There were several large Groupers, a Hawksbill turtle and also a Sea snake around.
One area is completely covered with Black coral bushes with a lot of small Damselfish and Longnose hawkfish. Then at another point there is a large outcropping with a bit of current and lots of Butterflyfish. In between there are lots of Shrimps, Nudibranchs and Orangutan crabs in the Bubble corals to be seen.

Commerson's Frogfish-Marco-Antennarius commerson

Pantai Nama Slope - [20]

Close to Pantai Nama Wall is this site where the wall becomes a slope with less coral and more rubble. Not as nice as the wall but a good place for Frogfish, Ornate Ghost pipefish, Sea cucumbers with Emperor shrimps on top and lots of other critters.

While looking for something small we nearly oversaw a big Giant or Commerson frogfish minding its own business on a leaf of a soft Coral.

Depan Tupa - [21]

Southern side of Ambon are the dive sites are manly walls with both soft and hard coral colonies, large Fans and Barrel sponges. Depan Tupa has not so much corals due to the current that can be strong around here. Visibility is around 20 metres with an average water temperature of 28C, like most of the dive sites on the southern side of Ambon.
Schooling fish like Jack, Snapper, Fusiliers and Barracuda passing by together with the, for Indonesia, normal diversity of reef fish. To name some of them: Butterfly, Angel, Anthias, Parrot, Trigger, Puffer and Porcupine fish.

Namalatu - [22]

This is a wall dive on a nice Coral reef with lots of sea Fans and Gorgonians. Visibility is good, around 20 metres, with a maximum depth of 25 metres. Also here you will find schools of Jack's, Snappers, Fusiliers, Trevallies around. Sometimes you can see a Sea snake and of course keep a look out for the Moray eels, who can be quit big around here.
This is a good site for a night dive.

Pintu Kota - [23]

Pintu Kota

Pintu Kota, or City Gate, one of the famous sites on the south coast, gets its name from the several large arches that creates the impression of large gates.
Visibility can be an amazing 30+ metres on this site and there can be strong currents at the surface, but this will grow less while going deeper.
Underwater there is a very large archway at 17 metres that mirrors the ones above water and the healthy surrounding reef and clear blue water. There are strong currents on the other site of the arch so big fish, even Manta rays, can be around here sometimes. Napoleon wrasse's are seen on this site many times.

Tanjung Mahia - [24]

Mahai has a nice wall and sloping down to 37 metres with a cave at 30 metres. Abundant coral growth is found here, including beautiful coloured Tubastreas and big Fans at 24 metres.
Schooling of Jack, Snapper, Fusilier and Barracuda and sometimes Manta ray, Tuna and, if you are very lucky, even Hammerhead sharks can be seen here. In the shallows the bottom is carpeted with golden-hued Hydroids. You can see the waves above you crashing along the rocky shoreline, while sunbeams added a magical touch.

Tanjung Kilang - [25]

This is a sloping reef with a maximum depth of 35 metres and some currents so visibility a bit less than the other sites here, around 15 metres. The Corals are in a good condition and schools of Jacks, Snappers, Fusiliers and Barracudas can be seen here. There is a nice underwater cavern to be explored.

Tanjung Hukurila - [26]

Hukurila cave - Matt Oldfield

Hukurila Cave is further east along the coast from Pintu Kota. The interesting twisting chimney can be best entered from the top. It is the most famous and liked dive site on the south side and is located underneath two rock arches. These natural formations can be seen from the surface and lead to a swim-through covered in sponges and soft corals.

The visiblity can be up to 28 metres here which makes the scenery even more spectacular.

This site is quite an unusual dive, offering the thrill of making your way through twisting passages, caverns and canyons. The Barrel sponges, huge Sea fans and plenty of Table corals indicate little or none disturbance from human activities.

Hukurila Cave is literally swarming with life.

Lehari - [27]

More north from Hukurila cave is this site located. It has a sloping reef that drops down to 40 metres. Visibility is normally around 20 metres with moderate currents, that can be strong depending on the moon phase.
During this drift dive you see beautiful coral with schools of Jacks, Snappers, Cardinal and Angelfish. and even Bumphead parrotfish are around this site. Always great to see a huge school of Barracuda's passing by....

Batu Kapal - [28]

The name Batu Kapal means Ship Rock. There can be strong currents around here so keep your eyes open for the bigger pelagic in the blue. The wall has patches of soft and hard coral and has a maximum depth of 32 metres.
All different fish to be found around here; small colourfull Anthias, Gobies, Blennies and the bigger Moray eels and Groupers. Look out for Rays and schools of Barracuda's and Sweetlips.