Scuba diving in Gorontalo, Indonesia

There is some superb diving in Indonesia, but drew my attention to Gorontalo in particular. Gorontalo, a province of Indonesia on the northern part of Sulawesi, is situated on the northern shores of the huge Tomini Bay. Along that coastline, towering limestone cliffs plunge directly into the deep waters of the Bay making for some spectacular dive sites.

Gorontalo’s equatorial waters have been named Indonesia’s best kept secret. The cliffs were once ancient reefs and you can clearly see evidence of the patterns of coral growth in the rock. A narrow, shallow coral shelf rims the coastline sometimes only a few meters wide, bottoming out within a few meters of the surface where the wall begins. Most dive spots are wall dives. Other spots include a multiple pinnacle dive, sand bays, and two wrecks.

The limestone walls have been eroded heavily by natural forces creating complex underwater formations full of holes, crevasses, fissures, and caverns.  The first wall bottoms out in the 30 to 40 metre range, followed by another vertical drop. The waters then fall to 120 m before plunging again.It is an incredible area. You will cross from shallow to phenomenally deep seas when getting to some of the dive sites – in some places the depth is as much as a thousand metres! Because of the extreme depth right off the coastline, you are very likely to see whale sharks, whales, and pods of Risso’s dolphin – a larger dolphin than the one we are all used to.

You can find some amazing sponges on the wall including hanging blue rope sponges and huge vase, barrel and trumpet sponges. Gorontalo also has its very own unique sponge – a huge sponge known as the Salvador Dali because of its intricately carved surface. A similar beast is found on other vertical walls in Indonesia, but without the fantastic swirled surface – this is particular to Gorontalo.

Perversely, diving is only possible during the rainy season (November to April) when west winds create very calm conditions on that side of Tomini Bay.

Regular flights now connect Gorontalo with the outside world. Daily flights are available from Jakarta via Makassar (Ujung Pandang) to Gorontalo and there are daily flights to Gorontalo from Jakarta, Denpasar (Bali), Surabaya and Makassar (Ujung Padang).

Feature photo courtesy of


Lola Jones

Tags: ,