Crystal clear water with amazing sea life and topography, is how we would describe Alor in one sentence.
Unlike Raja Ampat and Komodo Islands, Alor is less well known to international travelers due to its location and relatively challenging accessibility compared to its neighbors. Alor is part of Nusa Tenggara Timur province where there are a handful of boutique dive centers who has in depth knowledge of the area. Most of these dive centers are located about 1 hour away from nearest town of Kalabahi and provides transportation from the airport to their locations. Accommodations are usually included in the dive packages you selected. Thanks to the near vicinity to town, purchasing normal necessities is easy to do.
Getting to Alor from Jakarta is pretty convenient with only one layover. We took a red-eye flight with Batik Air departed from Jakarta to Kupang at 02:00 AM. After 1 hour 50 min layover in Kupang, we continued our flight with Wings Air and arrived in Alor at 08:45 AM. The luggage allowance with Batik Air is 20 kg and if you exceeded the maximum allowance, additional fee of Rp 120.000/kg is applicable.
The good thing about taking a midnight flight is that we arrived in Alor in the morning. We had the whole day to rest and even managed to do our check dive later that day.
There are at least 50 dive sites in Alor. We only managed to visit about 11 of them during our week-long trip. One of the most astonishing things about diving Alor is the visibility. It was so clear, even in depths of over 30 m, we still had plenty of sunlight that gave us lots of opportunities to take great pictures. At one dive we were able to see the twinkle of light on the coral from when the light hit the surface of the water. With visibility like this, it’s no wonder the locals love to spearfish to get some fresh fish for the family.
Picking a favorite dive spot in Alor is difficult since each of them are just extraordinarily beautiful and offer different kinds of thrilling experiences. It truly feels like an underwater amusement park. But to keep this post short, we will highlight three dive spots that we think are representative of our overall diving experience in Alor.
Munaseli (Yellow Corner)
The speedboat ride to this dive spot can get a bit bumpy because of the waves. As soon as we descended into the water we were welcomed by magnificent coral walls. Not long after, we were greeted by schooling batfish, red toothed triggerfish, and Moorish idols. The fish traffic was intense and was overwhelming at first, but it took less than a minute to let everything sink in and let ourselves be immersed by the sight. We encountered at least six blacktip sharks that noticed the presence of divers, became curious and swam closer. To add to the fray, eagle rays then swam majestically above us headed into the blue. That moment of being surrounded by an abundant amount of fish was definitely the highlight of the dive. What an amazing experience!
Contrary to the name, this spot is more of a cavern than a cave and it’s excellent even for beginner divers. There are two caverns, the first one’s located in about 12-15 m depth with a large entrance and an ample space inside. The entrance to the first cavern is massive and is about 4 meters high with a large boulder in the middle of it.
Once inside, the cavern feels like a playground with pebble stone bottoms and jagged rocks on the side and the top. It was spacious enough to dive around comfortably without having to worry you would kick or hit your head on anything. It was almost like entering a living space that for a moment made you forget that you were diving underwater inside a cave until you realize the sound of your own regulator making lots of bubbles when you exhale. Being the picturesque place that it is, we took lots of pictures with divers taking turns being the object in an impromptu photoshoot. We also found shark eggs inside, but unfortunately there were no sharks around.
Next, we moved to the next cavern located very near the first one. The entrance to this one is much smaller than the first one where divers needed to take turns to enter. So, beware of your buoyancy, if you’re a beginner diver and are not comfortable with your buoyancy (or an enclosed space), let your divemaster know and maybe skip this cavern. Unlike the first one where the inside was a dead end, in the second cavern we could swim through and exit the end. You will find lobsters (big ones) in between the crevices of the rock inside the cave. While the entrance was small, the inside of the cavern was a comfortable size for the five of us.
The exit way was an astonishing spectacle of itself, as if not wanting to be less impressive than the first cavern. After a smaller exit ‘tunnel’ you will see a very large opening at the end of it, spanning about 10 meters top to bottom. Schooling fish were hanging out inside just near it, the brightness of our torch made it disperse as soon as the light was directed towards them. This made the cavern very lively with schooling fishes swimming in all sorts of directions. Moreover, we were lucky enough to get sunlight from the outside of the opening which gave the opportunity to take snapshots of this picturesque spot. What a fun and dramatic dive!
The last dive spot, but definitely not least, is Bama. This magnificent spot probably has the most color compared to the other spots. There are multiple overhangs and mini caves where lots of lobsters and small anthiases reside. The overhangs covered in corals with a plethora of fish swimming about is a sight that would take anyone’s breath away. Just at a little corner towards the end of the dive there is a spot where butterfly fish feast the eggs of another fish. The interactions between them, the protective mommy fish and the sneaky butterfly fish, was so fun to watch.
The safety stop area makes an ideal place to do some freediving. This is the most lively safety stop location during our trip with colorful corals, lots of different fish swimming about, and our dive master freediving. There’s a big banyan tree just on the edge of the island that adds drama to the half and half photos. Can’t say enough great things about this dive site.
We had the opportunity to stay at two different accommodations during our stay. They have different concepts but are equally fun.
Air Dive Alor
The stay at Air Dive was cozy, convenient, and suitable for divers. There are four rooms available, each is equipped with air conditioners and ensuite bathroom with hot showers. The atmosphere is very chill and homey. The dive center is located inside the same compound complete with its office, equipment room, and washing basins. The dining/common area is located in front of the rooms so every time Bibi (friendly way to address older women in Indonesia, equivalent to aunt) prepared food we could smell the freshly cooked fish and eggplants for our room signaling that it’s time to eat.
From the dive center it was only a 2-minute walk to the beach where the speedboat is parked. The friendly divemasters helped us prep our equipment every morning and transported them from the accommodation to the speedboat.
Marangki Kepa with Lazy Turle Dive
If you are feeling more adventurous, you would probably be interested to stay at Marangki Kepa bungalows. During our dive with Lazy Turtle Dive, we opted to stay at the bungalows which are located on the small island of Kepa on the adjacent side of the strait just across the dive center. To get here we had to take an “ojek laut” or sea taxi that would take us to the bungalows from the dive center on the main island within 5 min. One trip cost between Rp 10.000 to Rp 20.000 per person depending on the amount of luggage. Or the dive boat could drop off/pick you up to start your dive or at the end of the day.
Although located just about 300 m from the main island, there’s no electricity running in the island of Kepa. Every night between 7 – 9 PM, the owner would turn on the generator for electricity so you have time to charge your phone, camera, or laptop. We left our dive gear and camera gear in the dive center for charging so it’ll be ready for the next dive. There’s an equipment room to store the dive gear after it was rinsed and a common area with charging ports for camera stuff.
In Kepa, no electricity means no hot water and no air conditioning. But you’ll be surprised how cool it is from the sea breeze flowing in. The bungalows are made out of woods with thatched roof equipped with ensuite bathroom and comfortable bed and simple furniture. The sitting area on the balcony facing the strait and the main island makes the perfect place to watch the dolphins come and play during sunset. And when you’re hungry, the dining hall is just behind the bungalow where breakfast, dinner, and lunch will be served everyday.
Always keep your eyes on the ocean because you’ll never know what you’ll see. You might see whale passing by just like we did, although from a distance. Spinner dolphins swimming alongside the speedboat are also a common sight you’d never get enough of.
While in Alor, make sure you visit the most famous dugong on the island named Mawar. He lives in the shallows near the airport. You could pay the local fisherman to take you on his boat to see Mawar. Somewhere in the shallow the boat would stop and Mawar would come and play around. Swimming with Mawar is not recommended for safety reasons. So, stay on the boat and enjoy the friendly interaction with this cute and photogenic dugong.
You. Need. To. Experience. Alor.
Our words here will not be enough to describe the beauty of Alor. Luckily, we have the talented Jhon Henriano capturing the beauty of Alor with his amazing underwater photos and a documentary style video. Please click here to watch the video. You would want to see this.
The current is one of the challenges of diving in Alor. Be mindful of the right time to dive to avoid the current. Make sure you discuss it with your dive masters, always pay attention during dive briefing, and be communicative of how you feel about the dive.
Best season in Alor runs from March to December with water temperature ranging from 26-29 C sometimes with thermoclines. Diving courses are also available for those of you who are interested. The current is one of the challenges of diving in Alor. Be mindful of the right time to dive to avoid the current. Make sure you discuss it with your dive masters, always pay attention during dive briefing, and be communicative of how you feel about the dive.
Dive packages in Alor varies from 5 days 4 night and more. Package usually includes accommodation, food, transportation, and dive trip. Dive equipment are available for rental. If you are planning to visit, check out the available packages from Air Dive and Lazy Turtle Dive in here. Send us a message and we will be happy to help you arrange your trip!