Adventures,  Indonesia

Top 5 Destinations For Best Snorkeling in Indonesia

I was inspired to compile this guide to Best Snorkeling in Indonesia for a couple of reasons.   After spending several years working as a scuba instructor in Southeast Asia, I met countless people who loved the sea but could not scuba dive for one reason or another.  

I also had many snorkeling guests tell me that they often felt like “second-class citizens” whenever they joined marine tours with scuba divers.  

Does that sound familiar to you? 

To love, respect, and appreciate Mother Nature should not be bound by anyone’s skills, preference, or experience.   As a professional scuba diver, my passion is to share my love for the ocean and marine creatures with just about anyone who is willing to get wet. 

So I decided to put together this post for all lovers of the marine world who are looking for mind-blowing experiences in THE healthiest coral reef region in the world.  

And being located in the Coral Triangle, some would argue that Indonesia is one of the best places to snorkel in the world! 

Read on to discover the top 5 destinations for best snorkeling vacations in Indonesia, as well as travel tips, water conditions, and marine life for each of the best snorkeling places. 

Warning:  there is a possibility that you will have booked yourself a new vacation by the time you reach the end of this post.  Read at your own risk. 

best snorkeling in Indonesia_ shallow reef

Best Snorkeling in Indonesia #1: Raja Ampat

Overview

Also known as the “Crown Jewel” of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat Indonesia is perhaps the most desired and sought after scuba diving destination in Indonesia, if not the world.  Understandably so, with over 550 coral species (75% of the known corals in the world) that can be found in this region alone!

If you are a scuba diver thinking of diving Indonesia, make Raja your first stop.  But Raja does not just please the divers – it is also the best place to snorkel in Indonesia!

The diversity of the marine species in Raja Ampat is out of this world.  The abundance of magnificent hard and soft corals is known to be ten times the number that is found in the Caribbean.   Furthermore, more than 1000 species of coral fish are found in Raja Ampat reef, most of which can be seen in the shallow.

And shallow reefs are abundant in Raja Ampat.   The waters around the islands are so clean and clear that it’s not hard to see corals under the surface. 

During my last exploration trip to Raja, I saw a reef under our speedboat as we pulled up to an island, so I jumped in the water with my mask and snorkel.   And within 10 minutes I saw a turtle and 2 black-tip sharks cruise right by!   

I promise you, after snorkeling in Raja, you will never want to snorkel anywhere else!  Raja Ampat is by far one of the best places to snorkel in Indonesia. 

Water Temperature: 27°C-29°C (80-84F) throughout the year

Best Time to Go:  Oct-April.  The seas can get rough (and visibility diminished) during June-August

best snorkeling in indonesia: photo of schooling jacks

Raja Ampat Snorkeling

You can explore Raja in one of two ways:  1) join a liveaboard or 2) book a land-based accommodation and tour.   

Note that Raja Ampat is very remote – most of the accommodations are “basic” compared to western standards.   Air conditioning will be considered luxury and internet connection will be poor if it exists at all.

The majority of Raja Ampat resorts are located in Waigeo, with some spread out on Mansuar and Batanta islands.  If you are looking for a land-based snorkeling trip, check out some of the reputable operators like Papua Paradise or Misool Eco Resort

Or, head to Waisai in Waigeo for a wide range of budget-friendly accommodation options such as Raja Ampat Dive Resort

I wrote a detailed post on Waisai Raja Ampat, including how to get there, things to do, where to stay and travel tips to help you create the ultimate land-based snorkeling holiday!

A view of homestays lined up on a beach on a remote island over turquoise blue waters
A homestay on an idyllic island near Waisai

But if you asked me, the best way to explore the incredible Raja Ampat is by joining a liveaboard.

A liveaboard experience would allow you to explore far and wide, and cover a wide range of snorkeling spots throughout Raja Ampat islands (which there are many!). 

By the way, if you have never been on a liveaboard and want to learn what it’s like to live off a boat, check out my full review of life on a liveaboard here

Even though my review was based on a scuba trip, the experience of a snorkeling cruise will be very similar! 

Recommended Raja Ampat Snorkeling Liveaboard:  Katharina

all photos courtesy of Liveaboard.com

Katharina is a 40m long, classic Indonesian “Phinisi” that provides luxury onboard experience to a maximum of 14 guests.  

The beauty of this boat is that it caters ONLY to snorkeling guests.  The itinerary will include not only snorkeling excursions but also hiking, visiting villages and exploring uninhibited beaches along the way!

In addition to trips in Raja, Katharina offers a selection of additional routes throughout Indonesia including Komodo, Flores, Ambon, and Sulawesi!  

Best Snorkeling in Indonesia #2: Komodo

Overview

Komodo National Park, located in the center of Indonesia archipelago between Sumbawa and Flores, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site most popularly known for its inhabitants, the Komodo Dragons.

The Park, made up of 3 main islands, Komodo, Rinca, and Padar, is a perfect destination for those looking for the best snorkeling in Indonesia.  The chain of islands in Komodo National Park offers breathtaking colors and marine life in many of its shallow coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, semi-enclosed bays, and seamounts. 

Komodo is home to over 1000 fish species, not counting dugongs, sharks, manta rays, and 14 additional species of whales, dolphins, and turtles!    

I remember my trip to Komodo, I never wanted to get out of the water.   There was constant action in every direction.  

But there is more to Komodo than its world-class marine biodiversity.  

In addition to offering one of the best snorkeling in Indonesia, Komodo excursions can include exploring the Komodo Dragons, relaxing on a pink-sand beach, or trekking on one of the volcanic islands with stunning panoramic views.

You can be sure to experience once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Komodo National Park.

Water Temperature: 27°C-29°C (80-84F) throughout the year

Best Time to Go:  April – December

 

a blacktip reef shark swimming through a schooling fish
A reef shark cruising by

Snorkeling in Komodo:

There are a few ways you can experience the incredible snorkeling that awaits you in Komodo!

For land-based operators, you will need to stay in Labuan Bajo.  There are numerous dive centers and tour companies that provide snorkel day trips around the National Park.

If you are an adventurer and want to experience the highlights of Komodo National Park (hiking, dragons, beach hopping), you may consider this 2-day package based in Labuan Bajo.   The Pink Beach is quickly becoming insta-famous and known as one of the best beaches in Indonesia.  You can take a peek into this land-based adventure on Becoming You.

Alternatively, if you are combining your Komodo trip with a visit to Bali, these 3-day and 4-day packages will allow you to sail directly from Bali to Komodo National Park, exploring the best of Indonesia’s marine world all along the way!

For an all-inclusive liveaboard experience where you will be spoiled on-board with celebrity treatment, look no further than Komodo’s top adventure cruiser, Felicia.

Recommended Snorkeling Liveaboard: Queen of Komodo – Felicia

all photos courtesy of Liveaboard.com

With only four modern cabins catering to a maximum of 12 guests, Felicia is the ultimate cruise for snorkeling Indonesia and exploring the country’s untouched natural beauty.  Specializing in Komodo and Flores regions, Felicia sails to the best snorkeling destinations, as well as topside hot spots.  You can choose from 3- or 5-day packages!

If you want the best vessel to snorkel Indonesia, Felicia is the one! 

Ready to start shopping for a flight to Labuan Bajo?

Best Snorkeling in Indonesia #3: Bangka

Overview

Bangka is a paradise island located at the northern tip of Sulawesi, offering pristine white sand beaches and incredible marine life all around the island.

If you don’t know what an orgasmic visual experience feels like, you MUST visit this little piece of snorkeler’s heaven.  The incredible reef can be found just off of the shore, and once you enter the waters, it is non-stop action from the vibrant colored corals to fishes off all shapes and sizes.

See Bangka for yourself – you will thank me later!

Water Temperature: 27°C-30°C (80-86F) 

Best Time to Go:  April – December

best snorkeling in Indonesia: a couple snorkeling at the surface of clear ocean

Snorkeling in Bangka:

Murex Bangka Dive Resort offers beachside bungalows, world-class house reef and outstanding customer service from the moment you plant your feet on their tropical island to the moment you wave goodbye to staff that will feel like family.

While their resort focuses on diving (which is also some of the best in the world), the resort provides designated snorkeling guide when you sign up for day trips.  Or if you prefer to snorkel on your own time, you can immerse yourself in the abundant marine life just outside your ocean view cottage whenever your heart desires.

Murex Bangka has a sister resort on Bunaken, which is a National Park also known for some phenomenal diving and snorkeling.   You may consider combing your trip so you can brag about having seen two of the best destinations in renowned Sulawesi!

Best Snorkeling in Indonesia #4: Menjangan, Bali

best snorkeling in Indonesia: Menjangan island surrounded in turquoise water
crystal clear waters surrounding Menjangan Island

Overview

Menjangan Island is a part of the West Bali National Park located northwest of Bali, about a 5-hour drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport.    

The uninhabited island is a protected marine reserve that is known to be home to garden eels, moray eels, flounders, nudibranchs, anemone fish, crocodile fish, trumpet fish, spadefish, and countless other reef fishes of all colors imaginable.

The drop-offs around the island provide spectacular views of the various shades of blue, and access to some stunning underwater topographies.

The visibility around the Menjangan Island crystal clear outside the “rainy season” (between December to March), making this snorkeling destination a must-visit in north Bali.

While various snorkeling options in South Bali may be more accessible and convenient, nothing compares to the beauty of Menjangan island.

First, Menjangan is perhaps the least crowded snorkeling destinations in Bali.   Second, I have seen the reefs around Padang Bai, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Lembongan, and none compared to the colorful and pristine corals of Menjangan.

Menjangan is unquestionably one of the best snorkeling destinations in Bali.

There are several operators in South Bali that provide day-trips to Menjangan, but I do not recommend this option.   You will end up spending 10 hours in a car for 1-2 hours of snorkeling.   A better option would be to arrange to stay in North Bali for a couple of days and hire a private driver to take you there.

Water Temperature: 28°C-30°C (82-86F)

Best Time to Go:  April – December (January to March is the “rainy season,” which can cause poor visibility)

best snorkeling in Indonesia: clown fish swimming in anemone

Snorkeling in Menjangan:

There are several resorts around the National Park, but there is only one that is nestled in the jungle: The Menjangan Resort.  The resort property is so huge that there is a shuttle that transfers you between the buildings.

Staying at The Menjangan Resort is a luxury retreat.  In addition to snorkeling and scuba diving that is offered in-house, the resort offers several other activities including horseback riding, bird-watching, spa treatments, cooking class, and kayaking through the mangroves.

If that isn’t enticing enough, the Menjangan also provides a designated snorkeling guide who, at the time I visited, was amazing – he had eyes of an eagle for underwater creatures!  And he took great care of us in and out of the water.

From the beautiful marine life at the Menjangan Island, warm services of the staff, to the delectable cuisines served beach-side, I had an incredible time at the Menjangan Resort and can’t recommend it enough!

best snorkeling in Indonesia: The view of the jetty and the ocean from the Menjangan resort
A stunning view from The Menjangan Resort pier

Best Snorkeling in Indonesia #5: Wakatobi

Overview

If you got this far, you are in for a treat because I saved the BEST for last!

Wakatobi is perhaps THE ultimate snorkeling destination in Indonesia, offering the most pristine and jaw-dropping reef system that I have ever seen in the Coral Triangle (and I have seen many).

Some would even claim that Wakatobi offers the best snorkeling in the world.  

Known to host the highest number of coral and fish species in the world, Wakatobi’s underwater colors and the sheer variety of corals in its National Park is unparalleled.   

Due to its remote location, Wakatobi has managed to deflect massive tourism, helping to maintain the health and abundance of the corals.

Located in Southeast Sulawesi, Wakatobi is a chain of four main islands, Wangi-Wangi, Kadelupa, Tomia, and Binonko.   The name Wa-Ka-To-Bi derived from taking the first two letters of each of the four islands.  

To get to Wakatobi, you will need to arrange a flight to Wangi-Wangi, the central transportation hub connecting you to the rest of the region. 

Getting to Wakatobi is an adventure in it of itself.  But I assure you that once you reach Wakatobi, you will be rewarded with the most stunning underwater world and snorkeling will never be the same after Wakatobi.

I met many avid snorkelers who claimed that Wakatobi was the best islands in Indonesia that they had ever snorkeled!  If you want the best of Indonesia, snorkeling in Wakatobi is a bucket list item you don’t want to miss!

Water Temperature: 25°C-29°C (80-84F)

Best Time to Go:  April – December

The crystal clear waters around Wakatobi Dive Resort

Snorkeling in Wakatobi:

The best way to experience Wakatobi National Park is to stay at the luxurious Wakatobi Dive Resort.  It may just be the best dive resort in Indonesia!

Don’t let the resort name fool you.  The resort caters to snorkeling guests as well, and the staff provides some of the most impeccable customer service I had ever experienced.   They learn and remember your name from the minute you step foot on their property.

Oh, and their house reef – it will leave you speechless!   Wakatobi Resort has some of the best snorkeling beaches, with world-class coral reefs within steps from the shore. 

You can either enter the water from shore or walk to the end of the resort jetty where you will be closer to the edge of a drop-off.    From there, it’s an instant immersion into the magical underwater wonderland

No words can do justice to the breathtaking experience of Wakatobi’s house reef and beyond. 

You can snorkel in the house reef every day for a week, and see something new each and every time.   

Wakatobi is without question, one of the top snorkeling destinations but a trip to Wakatobi Dive Resort does not come cheap.   Getting to the resort requires flying a private-chartered plane via Garuda (which Wakatobi provides in their dive/snorkeling packages) from Bali.  But once you get there, you will never want to leave. The reefs of Wakatobi represents the best of Indonesia, hands down. 

If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, you may consider staying on other islands of Wakatobi.  Neighboring islands of Wangi-Wangi, Hoga, and Tomia offer very basic homestay-style accommodations with full board packages.  

a view of the house reef from Villa 4 at wakatobi dive resort
A view of the House Reef from Villa 4 at Wakatobi Dive Resort

Summary

If you want to experience the best snorkeling, Indonesia will not disappoint.

To be honest, it was very hard to select just 5 snorkeling destinations in Indonesia.   Being the epicenter of the Coral Triangle, Indonesia hosts some of the best marine biodiversity in the world, and there are many more snorkeling spots in Indonesia that deserve a spotlight. 

No matter where you go in Indonesia, in all likelihood you will find some coral, reef fish or other marine animals that you have never seen before.   Yes, the Coral Triangle is THAT amazing. 

So find yourself on the next plane to Southeast Asia, immerse yourself in the beautiful wonders of world-class marine reserves, and discover a whole new world under the sea. 

If you found this guide helpful, I would love to hear from you!   Please leave me a comment below! 

If you are a snorkeling fan, be sure to check out some of the incredible islands in your next Indonesia travel! Located in the Coral Triangle, Indonesia has some of the best snorkeling destinations in the world - check out this guide to find out the top 5 snorkeling trips of a lifetime! #snorkeling #underwater #snorkeler #bestsnorkeling #indonesia #indonesiatravel
Snorkeling | Snorkeling Destinations |Best Snorkeling | Indonesia | The Best Snorkeling Destinations in Indonesia #snorkeling #indonesia #southeastasia #snorkelingtrip #snorkelingvacation

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16 Comments

  • Lynn

    It’s so exciting to find articles like this for snorkelers! We are currently in Wakatobi, just got in from the day of three different snorkel trips and now are editing our pictures on the camera. In a week we are going to Raja Ampat for the third time. Yes we are very lucky! You can go to Raja Ampat for significantly less than Wakatobi if you don’t need luxury accomodation. Nearing the end of our week here, I would say there is more extensive corals here than Raja but the FISH at Raja is outstanding. We have also snorkeled in Bunaken which was pretty good and easy to get to. In the next year we are going to Komodo and Alor, have heard really great things about Alor. Thanks again for your article, I will be looking up some of your suggestions. It is always difficult to find boats or resorts that accommodate snorkels like divers.

    • Mo

      Hi Lynn, that is so exciting that you are snorkeling in Wakatobi! And I agree, you are certainly lucky to be making your way around some of the best snorkeling spots in Indonesia! I have heard amazing things about Alor, I hope you enjoy your trip there next year! Thank you for your comment, I am happy that you found my post helpful 🙂

    • Mo

      Yes, the underwater world in the Coral Triangle is just incredible – it will leave you in awe for sure! Even though scuba divers from all over the world flock to Indonesia for the marine biodiversity, I think the snorkelers will be blown away too 🙂

  • Dylan

    Ohhh my, that Wakatobi Dive Resort. As a fellow diver (looking to make it to Indonesia for the first time next year!) I’m super curious to hear about new dive sites. But it’s nice to know that there are some equally gorgeous (and more budget-friendly) snorkeling options nearby as well. Cheers for the info! Hopefully I’ll be coming back to it soon 😉

    • Mo

      ohhhh Dylan I am so excited for your first trip to Indonesia!! I would just warn you that it will be hard to enjoy diving anywhere else afterwards 😛
      Wakatobi is breathtaking. It may take a bit longer to get to, but TOTALLY worth the trip (IMHO). I hope you love diving in Indonesia as much as I do!

  • Dina

    I am dying to visit Komodo island!! And thank you for sharing these snorkeling spots, as they’re often overlooked in comparison to diving (I, for one, am terrified of diving, so snorkeling is just fine!). Indonesia is calling my name again!

    • Mo

      Thank you for your comment Dina. Yes, I hear that a lot from snorkelers, that they often feel “overlooked” compared to scuba divers. I hope the post inspires you to visit some of the highlights of Indonesia 🙂 Komodo is not only great for snorkeling but there are many other topside activities to do as well! Enjoy!

  • Taru

    I love snorkeling and have been hoping to visit Indonesia soon so your post is super useful! Only problem is I have now way too many options so will be hard to decide where to go if I’ll just have few days as usual 😉

    • Mo

      I know, I think that’s a common dilemma for most us travel addicts – so many places, so little time 😀
      The good news is, you really can’t go wrong with snorkeling in any one of these destinations in Indo – they are all stunning!

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