Alor – Pearl in the Far East, Indonesia
Diving in Indonesia has its own template plastered to many divers’ itinerary: Bali, Lombok, Komodo and Raja Empat. However, among the best dives lies the dark horse of Indonesian tourism. The little brother to Komodo National Park, Alor is located within the same province of East Nusa Tenggara, and the Alor archipelago offers a spectacular diving experience. Great visibility, pristine coral reefs, endemic species (serving as one of the routes for cetacean migration), and more make Alor beyond special for divers. This “uncharted” dive destination offers the best of every aspect of diving.
Welcome to Alor, Indonesia
Upon your arrival at Mali Airport, you are welcomed with a spectacular view of the landscape, consisting of hills, the bay, the beach and crystal blue water, making it very irresistible to dive right in. The car ride to most dive centers will take approximately around sixty to ninety minutes. Some might require you to take another additional scenic boat trip to reach the dive center. If you need to stock up on personal supplies, I suggest making a stop in Kalabahi, the island’s biggest town. Otherwise you might find it difficult once you have reached the dive center.
Gear Up and Dive Right In
Yes! That glittering crystal blue water creates so much temptation to jump right in; gearing up has never been faster. Excitement piques. One…two…three…GO you hear as the water splashes behind you. You enter a diver’s wildest fantasy: great visibility, pristine, rich coral reefs and plenty of marine life. If I had to place specific marine life on pedestals, I would say the Hammerhead Sharks, Thresher Sharks, Rhinopia and Frog Fish truly stand out.
Whether you are looking for the sharks, the nudies or happy enough to cruise on the scenic coral reefs, Alor caters them all perfectly. Wiggle your way into the 5mm wetsuit as some of the site can go below 22°C / 72°F, and with the right calculation for the moon cycle and time, currents should not be an issue but rather an enhancement.
One thing that makes Alor interesting is the recent popularity of Hammerhead Shark and Thresher Shark conservation in Alor’s Marine Protected Area. Because of it, the local government, NGOs and the diving community in Indonesia have acknowledged Alor as one of the hidden gems for marine tourism.
The dive sites surrounding Alor archipelago are very diverse, from gentle slopes full of anemones, drop-off walls decorated by giant sponges, overhanging steps of coral wall, rock & pinnacle, to the easy black sandy bottom and fantastic jetty for muck dive lovers. Most of the sites located around Alor such as Pantar Strait, require some calculation of dates, tides, and moon cycles.. When people blindly jump to water without considering these factors, they might need to deal with Alor’s notorious strong current.
There are notable dive sites in Alor which are quite popular among divers. Let’s begin with Kal’s Dream: this dive site is known for its two pinnacles. Sharks, Dogtooth Tuna and Eagle Rays often swim by with schools of Baracuda and Surgeon Fish around. And we have The Cathedral: descend down to a wall where you can dive in between narrow passages that lead you to the shallow upon exit while drifting on rich coral reefs. Sweet-Lips and Groupers are local to this site and sometimes, if we are lucky, we might spot Thresher Sharks. Last but not least, among the amazing sites in Alor, we have The Great Wall of Pantar, also known as Bama Wall. This is definitely one of the best wall dives. Acclaimed by many, this wall is decorated by breathtaking coral and when the water is extra clear, you can see right through the cliff on the surface and see how two different worlds meet. Keep your eyes close to the wall for some amazing macro or at the blue for something big passing by. These are fantastic dive sites which full of life, pelagic fish and colorful coral reefs.
For those who like muck diving, Alor has black-sandy bottom sites in Limarahing Bay and Teluk Mutiara, such as Black Rhino & the Mucky Mosque, in addition to Beang Bay, which located a bit further to the South. However, there are also some locals’ favourite and “secret” dive sites that operators usually take their guests to as the climax of the trip. Sites which are not located in the diving map for public. Curious enough to visit Alor?
Say No More, Take Us There Now!
Unlike Bali or Komodo National Park, which are relatively easy to access, going to Alor archipelago requires extra effort to take multiple connecting flights, especially for those who come from outside Indonesia. But hey, you will get an unmatched experience when you find yourself diving exclusively with your own group, as there are almost no other floating boats on the same dive site. An intimate & personal diving experience is the highlight of Alor’s diving.
There are daily 120 minute flights from Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport to Kupang El Tari International Airport and then daily 50 minutes flight from Kupang to Alor Mali Airport. Some connecting flights require you to stay overnight in Kupang. Another option is take a 5-6 hours speed boat from Kupang to Alor, which runs twice weekly. A new locally designed stylish airport is being built to accommodate longer haul flights, so hopefully in the near future we will have direct flights to major cities in Indonesia.
Not Just The Diving
We hear some stories about divers who would rather take a day or two off from diving and do some sightseeing (Gasp). Alor offers other tourist attractions such as traditional Umapura village, a variety of amazing waterfalls, famous signature woven fabrics, and the opportunity to meet the local resident Dugong (his name is Mawar, which means rose in Bahasa Indonesia).
Alor has a fascinating demographic and history. Once ruled by multiple kingdoms, Alor has plentiful tales to tell. Alor is the most linguistically diverse region in Indonesia. Fascinatingly, languages can differ from village to village. Fortunately, Bahasa Indonesia came as a bridge or else imagine the amount of language courses everyone would need just to make friends in different villages.
Alor regency is divided into seventeen districts and 158 villages and has an area of 2,928 km2, with the population estimated in 2020 at 206,806. Currently there are only six dive operators scattered in Alor archipelago and two more are opening soon. We should be proud that two of them, Air Dive Alor and Nautika Dive Alor are SDI facilities who collaborate for diving, training, and exploration.