In the ever-expanding scuba diving realm that is Indonesia, the island of Ambon is slowly but steadily growing in popularity. It's reputation builds on the growing realisation that there is some outstanding muck diving right beside Ambon city as well as many other spectacular diving sites close by.
Small Nusa Tiga island has exciting wall dives and Nusa Laut has an underwater promontory that hosts enormous schools of resident jacks along with larger animals like bumphead parrotfish, eagle rays and small reef sharks. Ambon also has a great wreck dive, the Pertamina Wreck, which is covered in healthy corals.
However, the biggest attractions for most divers are the famous critter dives in the channel that leads to Ambon. The diving is not dissimilar to the Lembeh Straits – there may be slightly fewer critters by number, but there are as many species with everything from rhinopias to seahorses.
This area was, until recently, bereft of diving resorts and best seen from a liveaboard. A new resort, Maluku Divers, is now open.
The Banda Seas have gone in and out of favour as a tourist destination due to localised political unrest. Yet this region is historically one of the world's most important – the location of the famed Spice Islands. These islands were the sources of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, once the most valuable commodities on the planet.
Popular with divers until the civil unrest that ignited in 1999, Ambon has now settled into an easy calm and divers are paving the way for tourism to return. This is not the easiest part of Indonesia to reach as internal flight schedules change frequently but there are daily flights from several hub cities. Tourist facilities are improving and the diving is worth the trek.
The Ambon Channel is best as a muck destination, with critter life that rivals Lembeh. This is where the team at Maluku Divers discovered the new frogfish that hit the news in early 2009. There can be strong currents in the channel and visibility errs on the low side but there is also good wall and reef diving within striking distance.
It had long been an ambition to dive the Spice Islands as the mystique of these far flung, historically important islands captivated us. Plans to dive the area had been aborted due to the civil war in the late 1990’s but we finally made it and it was absolutely worth the wait.
UPDATE We returned to this region in April 2012. There didn't seem to be any substantial changes to the diving styles or sites. We dived futher afield, including the north coast of Ambon but felt the sites along the south were a little more exciting. Tidal patterns were very different affecting the water in the Ambon channel – it really was muck diving – but we still saw incredible creatures and plenty of them.