Diving in the 3 Pearls

June 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Nature

Indonesia is the widest archipelago in the world, with more than 80,000 km of coastline and 3.1 million square km of marine area. With such a large marine area, it’s no wonder Indonesia is often described as a diver’s paradise. There are plenty of attractions for all kinds of marine lovers, but this time around, we will focus our attention on three small gleaming pearls – North Sulawesi’s Gangga Island, Bali’s Candidasa, and Lombok’s Gili Trawangan.

Photo credit - Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

Photo credit - Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

The Gangga Island, North Sulawesi

The Gangga Island arises from the depth of the ocean north of Sulawesi, in the Bangka Archipelago, just off the National Marine Park of Bunaken. A volcanic island, Gangga is adorned with lush tropical trees and colorful flowers. There are several diving areas within reach from Gangga Island, suitable for beginners and experienced divers. The diving spots available in Gangga offers an astonishing kaleidoscope of life forms in more than 25 first-class dive spots in its central position between Bunaken and Lembeh Straits, which also happens to be one of the major playgrounds of paradise for macro-photographers.

Another island paradise bound to attract scuba divers is the renowned Raja Ampat, long heralded as scuba diving’s Holy Grail. Be mesmerized by the crystal clear water, white sandy beaches and pristine marine beauty in this jewel in the ocean!

Photo credit - Hagwall

Photo credit - Hagwall

Candidasa, Bali

Towards the south of the Indonesian Archipelago is Bali, the Island of Gods. At the Eastern coast of this island, far from the crowd, lies the small village of Candidasa, a key location where your choice of tours in the water, and out, begins. Bali has a superb reputation as a diving destination, and overal there is as much diversity of dive sites and marine life here than anywhere else in the region. In the eastern coast of Bali, the feature is on the Mantas, mola mola (sunfish) and tiny pigmy seahorses.

Candidasa is also home to the Bat Cave Temple (Pura Goa Lawah), an important temple to the religious locals which is home to thousands of bats hanging on the rock of cave walls. Legend has it that the cave extends all the way to Pura Besakih up at Mount Agung, more than 30 kilometres away. During various holy days, thousands of pilgrims would visit Pura Goa Lawah to join in sacred ceremonies, before heading up towards Mount Agung.

From water-sports at white sandy beaches to first-class shopping, to luxurious gourmet treats and a relaxing escapade at a hillside cafe, Bali has it all. Here are some of the must-do things in Bali, the Island of Gods.

Photo credit - Jos Dielis

Photo credit - Jos Dielis

Gili Trawangan, Lombok

Last but not least on our quick island hopping is Gili Trawangan, one of the three small islands off the coast of Lombok. Here, visitors can experience the serenity of a small island, the excitement of the underwater world, and the energy of island nightlife all at once. The island was renowned as a backpacker mecca in the 90s, and while it is still true to some extent, there is now a range of luxury and glamour on the island, and especially so on Gili. On one hand, you have a multitude of relaxing laid-back beach-side cafes serving home-made drinks and local delicacies, but on the other end you also seafood buffets, gourmet treats and luxurious stays.

The diving on offer is excellent, and the island is well-known as a teaching center for diving newbies. There are however, spots with strong currents and drifts better suited for the experienced, with the focus on barracudas, manta rays, sharks and hundreds of turtles.

Other than the above three gleaming pearls, the archipelago of Indonesia boasts plenty other diving attractions. Be sure to check out our list of amazing dive spots in Indonesia before you book your trip down South!


Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best travel ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.

Peering into Papua New Guinea

August 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Enchanting Oceania, Nature

Papua New Guinea, a unique country by the Pacific ocean who managed to remain relatively unspoilt thanks to its low urban development (only 18% of the population live in urban centers). As well as having a rather ‘unique’ name, Papua New Guinea is also home to over 850 indigenous languages, and (it is believed) a number of species of plant and animals yet to be discovered!

The country has remained relatively unexplored even since the nation’s independent from Australia in 1975. However, the few tourists who do make it to these sunny shores will find the effort well worth it.

Papua Market. Photo credit by Paul in Uijeongbu and Kahunapulej.

Papua Market. Photo credit by Paul in Uijeongbu and Kahunapulej.

Market Shopping

A great Papua New Guinea experience is to wander the stalls at a market. Many of the goods on display are authentic and homemade. You’ll find indigenous souvenirs such as: a bilum – a string fiber bag, a Bouganville baskets – considered some of the finest baskets and trays made in the Pacific, or a mask – not as practical perhaps, but fun! Be mindful of anyone trying to sell you “ancient artefacts” – anything made prior to 1960 is restricted export to protect the nation’s heritage.

Beautiful Papua sunset. Photo credit - Boogies with Fish.

Beautiful Papua sunset. Photo credit - Boogies with Fish.


Underwater beauties. Photo credit - Boogies with Fish.

Underwater beauties. Photo credit - Boogies with Fish.

Water Sports

Scuba diving is huge in Papua New guinea and places to dive seem full of limitless potential. This is partially due to geography – the ocean floor drops dramatically just a few feet away from the shoreline – but the abundance of WWII wrecks also adds to the experience. For wreck dives, head for Kavieng, Loloata, or Madang. If you want to see some spectacular coral reefs, head for the Eastern Fields, nearly 200km from Port Moresby towards the Australia coast.

Kokoda Trail. Photo credit - Solo Roamer.

Kokoda Trail. Photo credit - Solo Roamer.

Hiking

The rugged terrain of the island makes Papua New Guinea the perfect spot for the serious hiker. For a bit of history and some fantastic sights, check out the Kokoda trail, a 60 mile route through the peaks of the Owen Stanley Range. History buffs will know this site as a WWII battlefield where Japan and Australia crossed paths.

If it’s height you’re after, head for the top: Mount Wilhelm is the highest point in the island, a picturesque spot on the island and relatively accessible depending on your fitness level. Make an early start to arrive around dawn for the best chance for good views.

Regardless of where you go, be mindful of the conditions: the nights are chilly and bitter, the days are muggy and hot. There is also malaria risk and low lying areas easily flood during periodic rains. Head out well equipped and informed.

If You Go…

The only practical way to travel to Papua New Guinea is by air; service is available from both Air Niugini (codeshare with Quantas) and Airlines of Papua New Guinea.

Tourist Visas are required for most visitors; 60-day permits are available at the airport, Port Moresby, upon arrival. Similar to other Oceania countries, make sure you bring all your travel documents confirming your planned departure date. A number of festivals are open to tourists, like the Coffee Festival in May, the National Mask Festival in July and the Hiri Morale Festival in September.

There are reports of violence and crime in various parts of Papua New Guinea. HIV/AIDS infection rates are some of the highest in the region. Travel safely – I urge you to seek advice from an experienced travel agency before booking any trip. Single female travellers are strongly encouraged to not travel unaccompanied.

For more information, check out the official Papua New Guinea Tourism Website.

Photo creditPaul in Uijeongbu, Kahunapulej, Boogies with Fish, Solo Roamer.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.

8 Diver’s Paradise in Indonesia

More than 5 million square meters of water surrounds the island archipelago of Indonesia. Undoubtedly, it is a grand settlement for hundreds if not thousands of underwater species and beautiful, colorful coral reefs. At once, this country offers plenty of spots that many diving enthusiasts can only dream about.

Thanks to the unusual political turmoil and usually exaggerated travel warnings, you’ll rarely find this country on the average traveler’s itinerary. Fortunately for the brave and adventurous, that means less tourists, more peace and quiet, and a better chance of enjoying all the serene beauty on your own sweet time. Here’s a list of Indonesia’s 8 Amazing Dive Spots for you to dream about, and one day try on your own!

Bintan Island. Photo credit - jensen_chua & Roro Fernandez.

Bintan Island. Photo credit - jensen_chua & Roro Fernandez.

Bintan Island, Riau

Probably the most accessible island from outside Indonesia, this diving hotspot is less then an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore. The island boasts of 18 km of pristine white beaches with rich marine life, and various dive spots for your enjoyment and perusal.

Not far from the northern coast line there is a small gorge 8 meters deep with a flat bottom, a perfect site for those trying out scuba diving for the first time. Another unique site here is Ship Wreck Point, where you can explore the remains of an old tanker boat sunk years ago in the depth of the sea.

Pulau Seribu. Photo credit - tjhinn & Ria Qorina Lubis.

Pulau Seribu. Photo credit - tjhinn & Ria Qorina Lubis.

Pulau Seribu (Thousand Islands), Jakarta

This unique area consisting of over a hundred small islands (thus the exaggerated name), has always been the playground for divers from Jakarta. From the various islands, a few of the more popular ones are Pulau Kotok Besar, Pulau Kotok Kecil, Karang Bongkok, Pulau Sepa and Pulau Pantara.

Pulau Seribu is very accessible, you can simply rent a speedboat from the Marina, or a fisherman’s boat from one of the various piers. About one to two hours worth away from Jakarta and you’ll be able to dive to your heart’s content. Some of the larger islands provide better accommodation such as resorts and villas, but you’ll have to rent a boat to visit the smaller islands – that’s where the beautiful corals are!

Karimun Java, Central Java

Another side of Java Sea that’s also a diver’s paradise is the island across the sea at Semarang, Central Java. This area, called Karimun Java, is a collection of 27 smaller islands surrounded by ocean water rich with blue coral Acropora reef. Divers can explore the remains of Indonour, an ancient merchant ship that sank long ago in 1955. An additional treat here is the various sea turtles that hatches in the conservation park.

Derawan Island. Photo credit - degi.

Derawan Island. Photo credit - degi.

Derawan Island, East Kalimantan

About 50 miles away from the Tanjung Redeb, Berau Province’s capital, is an area covering several smaller islands. Its filled with spectacular corals and underwater caves for adventurous exploration. Derawan has more than 17 dive spots across the area, each with its own unique attractions for you to consider. Some of the more popular sites are at Pulau Sangalaki, Pulau Kakaban and Pulau Maratua.

At Sangalaki, you can find eagle rays, sting rays, leopard sharks and cuttlefishes as well. It is also the preferred hatching spot for giant green turtles, which you can view every night. The main attraction at Pulau Kakaban is the 5 square meters saltwater lake filled with stingless jellyfish and goby fish. And finally, at Pulau Maratua, you’ll find plenty large-sized fishes such as barracuda, tuna and mackerel. Sightings of hammerhead sharks, and up to eight species of whales are also often reported here.

Scuba diving enthusiasts should also check out our photographic journey through the marine paradise of Raja Ampat, long renowned as the Holy Grail of Scuba Diving.

Komodo Island. Photo credit - smulan77 & thejerk.

Komodo Island. Photo credit - smulan77 & thejerk.

Komodo Island, Flores

This island is usually associated with the Komodo Dragons, with it playing host to these fiery gigantic lizards species. But in regards to scuba diving, this area also plays host to a score of dive spots that are known to be some of the best in the country. From Sebayour Kecil, Pulau Tengah Kecil and Pantai Merah, various underwater attractions are on offer, such as various mackerel, cod and grouper fish.

At Pantai Merah, or roughly translated as Red Beach, you’ll find not far from the coast a 5 meter drop-off filled with colorful fishes. There are more dive sites at the western coast of Flores, such as Pulau Tatawa, Pulau Tatawa Kecil, Pulau Rinca and Pulau Nusa Node.

Nusa Penida. Photo credit - Saylow's & whitecat-singapore.

Nusa Penida. Photo credit - Saylow's & whitecat-singapore.

Nusa Penida, Bali

Pulau Nusa Penida, located east of Bali, is a popular dive spot amongst both local and international divers. About one hour away from Bali, this island has some of the healthiest coral reefs, with exceptional visibility of 15 to 35 meters.

For beginners, there are various dive spots at the northern coast of the island better suited for exploration. At the southern coast, there is also Blue Corner, Nusa Lembongan and Gamat, for those more experienced divers looking for a challenge. The sun fish is often sighted at Crystal Bay, while manta birostris are common occurrences at Manta Point.

Diving at Bunaken. Photo credit - naturemandala & Erwin Kodiat.

Diving at Bunaken. Photo credit - naturemandala & Erwin Kodiat.

Bunaken, North Sulawesi

This is another hotspot that is better known internationally compared to the rest, consisting of the smaller islands of Pulau Sialdoen, Gangga, Mantehage, Nine and an old volcano in the middle of the sea, Manado Tua (Old Manado). Snorkeling and diving are both extremely popular, with up to 16 dive spots spread amongst the islands in the area. Bunaken features a slope with up to 30 meters drop-off housing various species of fishes and marine life. Sightings of shark are not uncommon, so beware!

Indonesia is home to so many amazing diving destinations, its simply impossible to write about them all at one go! Here’s another diving-related article – Diving in the 3 Pearls in Indonesia.

Diving at Lembeh Straits. Photo credit - CW_Ye.

Diving at Lembeh Straits. Photo credit - CW_Ye.

Selat Lembeh (Lembeh Straits), North Sulawesi

Still at North Sulawesi is another icon of the diving world, Selat Lembeh (Lembeh Straits). This dive site is famed internationally with its diversity of marine life, some unique to the site. Here you can find the mimic octopus, pygmy seahorse, flamboyant cuttlefish and hairy frogfish among others. It’s a haven of underwater photography, and is often called the “Mecca of Macro Photography”. Be warned however, that the delicate nature of Lembeh Straits means it is only appropriate for experienced divers.

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For some of the best car-rental pricing comparison, check out Cyprus car hire!

Summer Holiday at Redang Island

January 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Feature Highlights

My weekend get-away journey to Redang, the island of Summer Holiday fame, began with an excruciating twelve hours bus ride up north towards the state of Trengganu, Malaysia. From there on, I had to wait another hour as the ferry lumbered on. But even then, I was already restless with thoughts of white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Halfway through the trip, I gave up trying to fall asleep and joined several other tourists up on deck, enjoying the windy ocean breeze. As we marooned slowly by the pier, a noticeable air of enthusiasm broke out amongst the passengers – we have arrived.

Panoramic view of Redang Island. Photo by sumasiapa at deviantart.

Panoramic view of Redang Island. Photo by sumasiapa at deviantart.

Redang Island is famed for its crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and the tropical fishes that inhabit the numerous coral reefs.

Measuring a mere 7 km long and 6 km wide, this island paradise is the largest amongst the nine that forms the Redang Archipelago. It is a favorite destination amongst Malaysians and Singaporeans, with most tour packages offering a three days, two nights stay that is just the right amount of time for you spend here. The island is very low on sights, so most visitors spend their time lazing on the beach or exploring the corals.

The roads on the center of the island connect together the airport, the jetty, two resorts, and the southern fishing port, but provide no connectivity elsewhere. Most resorts provide their own means of transporting tourists in from outside, but exploring the other side of the island would be almost impossible. There was no room for exploration, for wandering around, getting lost in a foreign far away place. Instead, I was stuck in my own resort, only able to enjoy the services available here.

Villas and resorts stood side by side next to the beaches.

Villas and resorts stood side by side next to the beaches.

Redang Island.

Redang Island.

Redang Island. Photo by sumasiapa at deviantart

Redang Island. Photo by sumasiapa at deviantart

Once I conceded this point however, I grew to enjoy my time here a lot more. The famed beach did not disappoint, with smooth, soft white sand and crystal clear ocean water.

Snorkeling is a popular activity, and I didn’t even have to go on a boat trip to enjoy being with the fishes. Arm yourself with bread for fish food and you can see them already very near to the beach. For the more initiated, there are also various dive sites for you to enjoy. Several of these sites are fairly new diving destinations, with the visiting restrictions lifted only in 1999. You’ll be able to enjoy good visibility in the deep clear waters, although visibility can drop dramatically after a storm.

At night, Redang’s clear sky provides a breathtaking view of the myriad of stars. I lay on the cool sand and let my eyes adjust to the darkness, revealing even more stars. Thousands and thousands of them. Yet another way to pass the time here, lazing the night away. Thoroughly, this island is a place to relax, escape from the numbness of nine to five and just while your time away. There isn’t much to see or do, but for those who know what they want, this may just be the perfect fit for that much needed summer get-away.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being (till 2010) in Jakarta, he’s focusing his efforts on social media and his location-independent-service-provider career.