Fascinating macrofauna for muck diving amateurs, pristine waters, spectacular night diving, all of these can be found at Alor Archipelago which is one of the few destinations not yet affected by the tourism.
Alor Archipelago is located in the south-eastern part of Indonesia being part of the volcanic belt stretching along Bali, Java, and Sumatra.
The Archipelago consists of 20 islands. Among the inhabited islands, there are Terewang, Pantar, Pura, Ternate Kepa, Kangge, Buaya, Kura, and Alor. The latter is the largest Island with the only main town of Kalabahi. As Pulau Alor has a volcanic origin, only the area around Kalabahi is not rugged and it is suitable for living.
You can arrive at Alor by air from Kupang. There are several airline which service this direction and the flight takes about 1 hour.
If you prefer to travel by sea, you can arrive by ferry from Kupang to Larantuka. It usually takes about 12 hours with the following 1-hour transfer on a wooden boat to Kalabahi port.
Pulau Alor is less famous in comparison with the other neighboring Indonesian islands. However, this area offers more than 50 spectacular dive sites between Pulau Alor and Pulau Pantar. Pantar Strait is considered to be the best spot for diving.
You can explore dive sites on a liveaboard. Currently, there are no liveaboards which concentrate solely on Alor Archipelago. Usually, they offer combined itineraries to cover several areas along the volcanic belt. That is why you will have a chance to see only some of the dive sites at Alor Archipelago.
If you wish to take a closer look at this area, as well as to have an opportunity to try muck diving and night diving, then it might be better to choose land accommodation and daily boat diving.
Alor Archipelago is famous for its muck diving. The best spots are located on Pulau Pura, Kalabahi Bay, and Pulau Pantar. Some dive clubs organize specialized muck tours to discover such unusual critters as Pegasus Seamoth, Devilfish, Zebra Crab, Hairy Frogfish, Rhinopias ( a special type of Scorpionfish), Coleman Shrimp, Harlequin Pipefish, Velvet Pipefish, and others.
Night diving among all the weird and bizarre creatures in Kalabahi Bay will hardly be forgotten. Most likely you will encounter countless Nudibranchs, Octopuses, Cuttlefish, Shrimps, Crabs, Stonefish, Frogfish and many other creatures active at night.
Local dive operators are ready to offer personalized diving trips depending on the guests’ requests and the length of stay.
There is a conservation fee which is paid by all divers and snorkelers visiting Alor Marine Park. Currently, it is 35000 Indonesian Rupiahs (~2.6 USD). If you are buying a dive package together with accommodation from the local dive shop, this fee is usually already included in the package.
Best Dive Sites Overview
Clown Valley and Sharks Galore
Clown Valley is situated on the eastern side of Pulau Pura. It astonishes by the number of Anemones covering this area under the water. They are accompanied by Tomato Clownfish and Clark’s Anemonefish. It is also possible to find Sea Apples (Sea Cucumbers) and different Nudibranchs here. In some areas, you can notice bubbles coming from the bottom because of the volcanic origin of the Island.
You can also try to visit the nearby Sharks Galore. This area used to have many sharks. Now you can still spot occasional Grey Reef Shark and Whitetip Reef Shark, though their number has been reduced.
This dive spot is widely known and it is usually visited by the liveaboards in the northern part of Pulau Kepa. There are 2 pinnacles under the water starting at 2m (6ft.) and 7m (22ft.). They are exposed to strong currents, and this area used to attract much big fish. Currently, big pelagic is not always guaranteed, but you still have a chance to spot Grey Reef Shark, Blacktip and Whitetip Reef Shark, Barracuda, Tuna, Rainbow Runners, and Marbled Electric Ray. Even if there are none of the big ones, you can enjoy the pinnacles as they burst with colors of soft corals, Anthias, Snappers, Surgeonfish, Nudibranchs, Sweetlips, and Fusiliers. The site is recommended for experienced divers because currents can be very strong and they even can change direction during the dive.
The Twilight Zone
This dive site is located at Pulau Pantar in front of the BIangabang Village. The seascape consists of lava formations, reefs, and black sand. This is one of the best areas to challenge your eyes while spotting the critters. Though some parts of the dive site go down to 40m (131ft.) the smallest creatures are usually found in the shallow areas. The main residents of the area are Mimic Octopus, Pegasus Seamoth, Spotted Snake-eel, Mantis Shrimp, Bobbit Worm, Lionfish, and Soapfish. You might be lucky to see the most remarkable representative of sea slugs: Spanish Dancer and Djibouti Giant. The latter can reach 0.6m (2 ft.) in length.
Here you can find the wall with crevices, overhangs, cracks, and an arch at the depth of 20-30m (65-98ft.). Such topography makes this area attractive for photographers. The wall is covered with Whip Coral and huge Gorgonians. You can try to find tiny Wire Coral Shrimp, Filefish, Nudibranch, and Marble Goby here.
The area along the northern coast of Kalahabi Bay features several dive sights know as Mucky Mosque. It is the most spectacular area for muck diving and night dives. Here you can fully concentrate on macro life. Zebra Crab, Boxer Crab, Nudibranchs, Leaffish, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Robust Ghost Pipefish, Thorny Seahorse, Tiger Shrimp, Bobtail Squid, Scorpionfish, Dragonets, all of them are waiting there for you.
Best Dive Season
If you wish to enjoy the best visibility, then it is best to arrive between June and October. During August-September, it is possible to spot Mola Mola.
Weather conditions do not affect small creatures residing in this area, so you always have a chance to enjoy the amazing macro life as well as other reef inhabitants.
You can dive at Alor Archipelago all the year round, probably avoiding only January-February with the heaviest rains.
The area around Pulau Alor is famous for strong currents. The Indonesian Throughflow, which goes from north to south, is the main reason for this. Pantar Strait faces the streams of water coming from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean over the chains of islands; Pulau Pura, Pulau Kepa, Pulau Buaya, and Pulau Ternate being among these islands on the path of water flow.
The water temperature stays around 25-27ºC (77-80ºF) with the warmest water of 29-32ºC (84-89ºF) between May and August. This is the period when plankton arrives and the visibility can drop to 15m (49ft.) while the best visibility in other months can reach 25-30m (ft.).
It is possible to face thermoclines when currents bring streams of colder water from the deep. In such areas, the water temperature can go down to 23ºC (73ºF).
Being located in the Coral Triangle the area of Pulau Alor and especially of Pantar Strait features the highest level of biodiversity under the water. You can find different types of hard and soft corals. As for the fish and macro world, it is like living encyclopedia. Ghost Pipefish and Frogfish, Seahorse and Seamoth, Mantis Shrimp and Soapfish, Bobbit Worm and Lobsters, various species of Nudibranchs and Sea Slugs, Boxer Crab and Zebra Crab, and many others will amaze you under the water with their shapes and colors.
It is common to meet Mimic Octopus, Turtle, Napoleon, Bumphead Parrotfish, Cuttlefish, Crocodilefish, Scorpionfish, Eels, Whitetip Reef Shark, and Blacktip Reef Shark.
Cold water from the deep brings some occasional guests like Mola Mola, Deep Sea Angelfish, and Thresher Shark. Sometimes Hammerhead Shark can be spotted around Pulau Alor.
Whales and Dolphins are often seen from the boats while they are travelling through this area.
There are about 15 accommodations available around Pulau Alor. Most of them are integrated with dive shops. Some of the resorts are rather small so if you are travelling in a group, you can charter the whole resort for yourselves.
Alami Alor Dive Resort
This is a small Resort specializing in diving and snorkelling services. Guests can stay at waterfront Bungalows. Each of them features King bed, wardrobe, hot water rain shower, terrace, open-air garden bathroom, and natural stone sink. The stock of drinking water is provided daily at each Bungalow as well as coffee and tea on the terrace. There is a lounge, sundeck area, and a buffet-style restaurant on site.
Alor Diving Kepa
This Resort is built in a village style featuring 10 different bungalows. You can choose from Exclusive, Standard, and Basic Bungalows and Traditional Huts with a bedroom under the roof. All of them are build with rapid grow materials like coconut trees and bamboo. There are no A/Cs or fans in Bungalows, however, the sea breath is usually enough to refresh the area. Breakfast is privately served while lunch and dinner are provided in the restaurant.
Alor Divers Eco-Resort
This is the only Resort which is located on Pulau Taman. There are 6 private wooden Bungalows built in traditional Indonesian style. As the night breeze is refreshing enough there is no need in A/Cs. Each Bungalow has an own terrace with the views over the sea. You can enjoy 3 meals a day served either in a buffet or in a family style. There are also afternoon snacks and sweets as well as tea and coffee available at any time of the day. There are special packages offered for those who would like to charter the whole Resort.
La P’tite Kepa Resort
The Resort can be found on the north-western side of Pulau Alor. It offers Bungalows built in traditional village style and Traditional Huts. The latter type of accommodation has a bedroom under the roof and shared bathroom facilities. Bungalows have a terrace overlooking the sea and private bathrooms. There is a restaurant on the territory of the Resort.
Pulo Alor Hotel
Opened in April 2016, this newly built Hotel offers Standard and VIP Rooms to the guests. VIP Rooms have a spacious guest area. All types of Rooms have private bathrooms. There is a pool area with a bar on the territory of the Hotel.
There are many liveaboards which include Alor Archipelago into their itinerary. Often, these are the trips from Komodo or Maumere and the boats spend 1 or 2 days to allow diving in the area of Pulau Alor and Pantar Straight. Generally, the trip lasts about 12 days. However, you should check the scheduled trips and details with your dive operator. Below is the list of the best vessels.
The full name of this vessel is Water Adventure Ocean Wide. This is a 58m (190ft.) long luxury wooden sailing liveaboard. She can accommodate up to 18 divers in private Cabins. Each Cabin has an entertainment system and en-suite lounge area. There are 2 sun deck, 2 shaded lounges, and a spacious dive deck. 3 Zodiacs are attached to the liveaboard to access the dive sites. Each guest is provided with a diving location system device (Nautilus Lifeline).
M/V Seven Seas
This is a 35m (114ft.) long Phinisi liveaboard. The vessel can accommodate up to 16 divers in Cabins with private bathrooms. You can also book a private lounge area attached to one of the Cabins. Guests can relax in indoor or outdoor dining areas and lounges. There are 2 Zodiacs to access the dive spots and several kayaks aboard. Meals are provided in a buffet style.
MSY Damai II
MSY Damai II is a 40m (131ft.) long liveaboard built in Phinisi schooner style. Though the boat is very spacious it usually takes aboard not more than 10 divers to provide maximum comfort for the guests. There are Single Cabins, Double Cabins, and a Master Cabin to choose from. The latter features a private balcony. The dive deck is huge and each diver has a personal rinse tank. After diving, guests are provided with a complimentary beer or a glass of wine. There is a large air-conditioned saloon, a camera room, a sun deck, a shaded area, and a library aboard. Diving is usually made from 2 dinghies.
KLM Sea Safari VI
She is a 29m (95ft.) long Phinisi schooner. Up to 20 guests can be accommodated in Deluxe and Standard Cabins. Each of them features a private bathroom. There are 4 decks where guests can relax, including a sun deck, spacious diving deck, and lounge areas. There are kayaks and 2 Zodiacs attached to the vessel.
Formerly known as Komodo Dancer, Indo Aggressor is a part of Aggressor Fleet. It offers different itineraries around best diving destinations in Indonesia. The vessel is 38m (124ft.) long. She is ready to accommodate up to 16 divers. There are 2 Master Double Cabins, 2 Deluxe Double Cabins, and 4 Standard Twin bunk bed cabins. All Cabins have private bathrooms, wardrobes, and kimonos. Evening meals are accompanied by a complimentary glass of wine. There are 2 Zodiacs from which dives are performed.
KM Black Manta
This is a 32m (104ft.) long steel liveaboard. She is ready to take aboard up to 20 divers accommodating in one of the 9 Double or Twin Cabins and 1 large Cabin for 4 persons. All Cabins have A/C, private bathroom, and wardrobe. There is a massage service offered aboard. You can also relax in one of the lounge areas. The dive deck is very spacious and there are 2 dinghies belonging to the liveaboard.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
Snorkeling is one of the main activities on the Island besides diving. The best snorkeling spots are Clown Alley, Feather Star City, and Ribbon Eel Reef.
You can also enjoy trekking tours, traditional village tours, fishing, and bird watching tours around the Alor Archipelago.