Ambon is part of the famous Spice Islands, which were hugely popular with European traders of the 16th – 19th centuries. Located in the heart of eastern Indonesia, Ambon is a truly special place for scuba diving. At the beginning of the 21st century, there were violent political troubles which caused the island to be closed to foreigners for a couple of years, and this has only gone to help the quality diving on offer there. Now, 12 years after the reopening of Ambon to tourism, the infrastructure is at a good level for divers who want a certain amount of creature comforts and convenience without being on the main tourist route, and therefore enjoying dive sites which have very few divers. Getting there and staying on the island is easy enough, but most diving visitors do so by liveaboard cruise that is most likely based in Raja Ampat, West Papua. However, those who want to enjoy day trip diving at Ambon can do so from a number of dive resorts on the island itself as well as on the much larger island of Maluku just a few kilometres north.
The diving season is open all year round, but the area is affected by two monsoons, and can be very unpredictable and often opposite to the rest of the country. March & April, and the final four months of the year tend to be the best and most popular, though.
The diving to expect at Ambon is excellent and varied. There is a huge natural harbour, which leads out to seas nearly 600m deep, and lots of shallow brackish and sea water for all kinds of creatures. Obviously, due to its location in the Banda Sea and the nutrient-rich currents brought up from depth, there are lots of large pelagic fish, including sharks and Mola Mola (Sunfish) in the area. Whales are also often spotted both above and below the surface. However, Ambon is most famous for muck diving and macro photographers come from far and wide to get up close and personal with small fish and invertebrates which can be found nowhere else on earth. This list of exciting species is endless, and to put things in perspective nearly 800 new fish species were discovered here in the late 19th century. That’s more than all of the species of fish in the whole of Thailand.
Getting there – Although it appears to be a million miles from anywhere, Ambon has its own airport, and there’s also one on Maluku Island as well. Flights come in several times per day from a range of airports within Indonesia, and are much more reasonably priced than many would first presume.