Diving in Alor - Trip Report Review

Alor Island Diving Review Report
This is a special trip report and review about scuba diving in Alor Island, at East Nusa Tenggara. In late August 2017, I was part of a group that was on a dive trip around the eastern part of Indonesia, and Alor Island was one of the dive destinations we visited.

Previously in 2016, I had the opportunity to experience scuba diving in Komodo Island, and on this recent dive adventure from Trip of Wonders 2017, I was once again going to dive Komodo, Alor and Raja Ampat.

Before I go on, I would just like to highlight that diving in Alor really opened up my eyes, due to the incredible visibility at all of the dive sites. I have never experienced such amazing visibility on a dive trip before and here is my Alor scuba dive trip report.

Alor Island scuba diving review
The scuba divers group for the Alor dive in August 2017
Alor Diving Trip Report Review 2017

First and foremost, many of you may not know where is Alor Island, so here is a rough idea and you can also see it in the map below. Alor Island is part of East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur or NTT in Bahasa Indonesia), which belongs to the Alor Archipelago and is located just next to Flores Island (Labuan Bajo and Komodo).

Alor is an island by itself and is probably one of the lesser developed places of Indonesia. There is only one town that visitors and divers will visit, which is called Kalabahi and located on the north western side of the island.

Bandar Udara Mali Alor
Alor Island's only airport called Bandar Udara Mali-Alor
There is only one airport that is serviced by the local Indonesian airlines, and flights here are a couple of times a day. Sadly, this is the best way to get to Alor, as other alternatives include taking a fast boat from Sorong, which is the capital of East Nusa Tenggara on West Timor.

Alor Island is also recommended for experienced divers or those with advance open water certification levels. I am serious here, though it looks harmless, you should read on below.

Dive Alor Dive Company
Donovan Withford from Dive Alor Dive briefing us for the 1st dive. Nick, Shelley and Jackson on the right
Dive Operators in Alor 

While our Alor dive was arranged by the organiser, we were fortunate to be diving with the pioneer dive operator who has 25 years of experience diving in this region. Dive Alor Dive was our operator, and run by Mr. Donovan Whitford, who originally hails from Australia.

Speaking to Donovan during the trip, he explained that to date, there are only four or five dive operators in Alor, and three of them had only recently opened. Probably due to the infrastructure of the island, it is quite difficult to manage a dive business here.

But lately, due to Bali and Komodo being over crowded by dive operators, a few are now exploring other places, and Alor Island is one of them. Donovan says, "they come and go, at the end of the day, it's how you manage your business, keeping cost low, and many new operators do not see this."

I somehow agree with Donovan on his statement, after all, he has seen it all, spending a whopping 25 years of living and scuba diving around here. Many do not understand the dive economics of operating a business, the high cost involved and so on, hence Donovan is one of the smart operators.

Alor Island scuba diving best time
Scuba Diving in Alor with fantastic visibility
Best Time to Dive in Alor

According to Donovan, the best time to dive in Alor is from March to December. Other months are the rainy season, and not conducive for diving, but is still possible. The ultimate best time is also from October to November, for those wanting a sure thing.

Donovan has mentioned that the optimum time to dive in Alor is from August till October, where September is the peak. Some even say that chances to spot the unique Mola Mola or Sunfish is also good in September, and if you are lucky enough, you can spot an Orca or Killer Whale passing by.

Alor Island Diving
Scuba diving in Alor Island. Marischka Prudence in frame
 Water Temperature in Alor

For those who love the cold waters, Alor is the place to dive at. The underwater temperatures around here can go as low as 25° Celsius and average around 27° to 28°. From May till September, it can get up to 31° or 32° Celsius, depending on the monsoon.

This means, you can still dive with your 3mm wetsuit, but if you are those who feels cold during and especially after a dive, I would recommend a 5mm wetsuit. At some sites, as you go much deeper, the temperature can change drastically and drop to as low as 21° Celsius. 

When I explored the many dive sites around Alor, I initially started with a 3mm full wetsuit, but the chore of getting in and out of it resulted in me diving in my t-shirt and shorts in the 27°-28° waters. I wish I had brought my O'Neill shorties along.

Alor Island diving visibility
The amazing visibility while diving at Alor Island
Visibility at Alor Island

This is one of the main selling points of diving in Alor, the incredible visibility found at almost all of the dive sites. On a really good day, you can get up to 40 or even 50 meters visibility, but on average, we are looking at around 25-30 meters of visibility. Isn't that amazing?

The visibility can change mid-dive due to the sudden current changes, but overall, if you are an underwater photographer, Alor is one of the amazing places for landscape shots. Thanks to the rich marine and coral life, you can only imagine a free diver doing his or her thing with beautiful colors and great visibility.

water current alor island
The strong currents seen along the Alor Straits
Currents in Alor

One of the concern for beginner divers and a bonus for current lovers, they can get from mild to strong around Alor Island. Most of the dive sites are mild or medium currents, but can change within hours.

This simply says that you really have to listen carefully to your dive master or dive guide during the briefing. What he or she shares is very important, especially if the current changes during mid dive.

Because of the strong currents that flow through the channel and into the bay area, you see massive sections of water ripples on the surface, sometimes whirlpools too, and they can look really scary from the boat.

Bubu Fish Trap Alor Island
A traditional Bubu fish trap seen at Babylon dive site in Alor Island
Popular Dive Sites in Alor

I counted a total of 43 dive sites found in the main Alor area alone, which is quite stunning. But in actual fact, there are 62 recorded dive sites all over Alor island.

However, we only managed dived at five of them, which Donovan claimed as some of the best. The most popular dive site at Alor Island is The Cathedral and Kal's Dream, but due to strong currents, we had to forgo both dive sites for safety reasons. 

We had two full days of diving in Alor which was quite amazing. The list of dive sites in Alor that we dived are;
  • Babylon - Easy and interesting dive by Ternate Island.
  • Mike's Delight - Located by Pura Island and mild currents. 
  • Aquarium - The name says it all, located opposite Ternate Island on the main Alor Island. 
  • Clown Valley - Probably my favourite dive site in Alor. One word - Amazing!
  • School's Out - One of the best drift dives, located on Pura Island. 
You can read a more detailed description about the Alor Island dive sites as I focused on each of the sites mentioned above. There is information about the depth, currents, marine life and so on.

Alor Island Sea Apples
A beautiful Sea Apple among the corals at Alor Island
What to See While Diving in Alor

Generally, the marine life here is overall rich as the entire place is undisturbed by mass diving. This is excellent news for those who love quiet dives. As for what to see while diving in Alor Island, you can find quite a lot of interesting things. 

First of all, at some of the dive sites you may get the opportunity to see the local Alor Bubu Fishermen in action underwater. These are the local Alornese people who free dive and set their fish traps underwater at incredible depths.

For general marine life, it is extremely rich here due to the locals only catching what they need to consume. The entire place is gazetted as the Alor Marine Park and you can be sure that no illegal fishing techniques are practised here.

Alor Island Clown Valley Dive Site
Part of the sea anemone seen at Clown Valley dive site in Alor Island
As for muck divers or macro divers, Alor is well known for this and for those who enjoy anemone, just request the Clown Valley dive site which is touted to be the largest sea anemone concentration in the world.

One of the unique corals to look out for are the Sea Apples, who are bright in color and standing out from the usually corals. I must have seen about four to five of them while diving at Alor Island.

Nelayan Bubu Pulau Alor
The traditional Bubu fishermen of Alor Island
Conclusion to Diving in Alor Island Review

After I have shared all of the above, what you are getting is one of the best dives in Indonesia. Imagine rich marine life, cold waters, mild currents for drifts with no one else around, this is truly a scuba divers paradise.

My dive trip report and review on Alor Island was based on an overall experience exploring this part of Indonesia. The trip was arranged by Tourism Indonesia under the Wonderful Indonesia Adventure Dive campaign for 2017.

Together with 9 other divers, we traveled from Bali to Alor, then to Komodo Island and then to Raja Ampat for some of the best scuba diving in east Indonesia. Be sure to follow me for more articles on scuba diving in Indonesia as I will be publishing my other dive trip reports here. 

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