Scuba Diving In Indonesia VS. The Philippines

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Are you starting to daydream about your next dive vacation? Wondering where to go next? Are you looking at the possibility you will dive the Philippines or Indonesia?

Both are excellent destinations and should be on every diver’s bucket list.

Not to slight other locations, but if you love corals and marine life the best diving in the world is in the Coral Triangle.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) gives this description on their website:

The Coral Triangle is a marine area located in the western Pacific Ocean. It includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. Named for its staggering number of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals alone), the region nurtures six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2000 species of reef fish.

The Philippines and Indonesia are both outstanding dive destinations within the famous Coral Triangle.

Which one to select, can be a difficult decision.

This article will give you some guidance to help you determine which one is the best for your diving interest and level of skill.

Marine Life and Reefs

school of barracudas

Marine life and reefs go hand in hand. The better the reefs the more marine life you have. The best reefs have access to nutrient rich waters and low impact by man.

The Verde Island Passage in the Philippines has the highest number of different marine species in the world, almost double the number found at the Great Barrier Reef.

Over 60% of all marine species in the world are found here with previously unknown ones found very often. 

Anilo and Puerto Galleria are outstanding dive destinations with diving in the passage and the adjacent reefs. 

fish and corals in raja ampat
Raja Ampat

The Raja Ampat Archipelago of Indonesia is a very close second. Many marine biologists believe that Raja Ampat may have more but the area is not as well studied and much larger than the Verge Island Passage.

Komodo National Park in Indonesia and El Nido, Palawan in the Philippines are also great destinations for outstanding reefs and marine life.

Sharks are found in most areas of the Coral Triangle, however, your best chance to see multiple sharks daily will be the dive destinations around Cebu Philippine. Whale sharks as well. 

A little smaller but equally impressive are the ocean sunfish aka Mola mola.

mola mola
Mola Mola

The adult ocean sunfish has an average length of 6 feet (ca 1.8 meters) and a fin-to-fin length of 8 feet (ca 2.5 meters).

The weight of a Mola mola can range from 545 pounds (ca. 247 kg) to 4,400 pounds (ca. 1,996 kg). A number of dive sites in Bali, Indonesia have daily sighting of these strange looking fish. 

Lombok Indonesia is a truly unique destination known for muck diving and for its pelagics.

school of hammerhead sharks in gordo banks

Spend one dive looking for nudibranch, seahorses and other small critters and the next for great and scalloped hammerheads and schooling mobula rays.

Wreck Diving

wreck diver

Misplaced reefs, bad weather and acts of war has filled the waters with sunken ships in both the Philippines and Indonesia.

Most of these ships have been lost in time or are too deep for the recreational diver.

There are still a vast number that can be dived.

The Philippines has the edge over Indonesia for wreck divers with two destinations that each has more wrecks than you can dive in a week.

Coron and Subic Bay each have over a dozen ship wreck dive sites for recreational divers.

Subic also has a few aircraft and even a pair of half-tracks. Coron has a number of outstanding reef sites to add to their 14 shipwrecks.

The USAT Liberty Shipwreck is Bali’s most popular dive site and often found on list of the worlds best shore dives.

Liberty sits in shallow waters just 10 feet (ca. 3 meters) at the top down to 100 feet (ca. 30 meters) at the bottom.

She is 395 feet (ca. 120 meters) long, and 60 feet (ca. 18 meters) in beam. Damaged in WWII and beached, it was sunk by an earthquake triggered by Mount Agung’s volcanic action in 1963.

Having almost 60 years of coral growth, the site is covered with corals and has over 400 species of fish.

There are at least three other ship wrecks in the area but many require a few hours of land travel before getting to the dive boat. 

Liveaboard Diving In Philippines and Indonesia 

agos liveaboard diving boat in coron
The Agos Liveaboard (click to see prices) is a great budget friendly option in the Philippines.

Liveaboard dive vacations is one element that Indonesia has a clear advantage over the Philippines.

Both have excellent liveaboard diving, just that Indonesia has more choices. Indonesia has about 100 liveaboard compared to around 15 for the Philippines. 

Each country has a liveaboard destination that often shows on list of the best remote liveaboard destinations in the world.

The Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is the most popular liveaboard remote destination in the Philippines.

However, keep in mind that the dive season here is only from March to June and conditions require an experienced diver.

sailboat for diving deck
The Coralia Liveaboard (click to see prices) is an incredible wooden sailboat liveaboard that sails Raja Ampat & Komodo.

The Raja Ampat Archipelago is Indonesia’s claim for best remote liveaboard destination.

raja ampat reef

The dive season here is from October to April, most liveaboards will suggest being an Advance Open Water Diver, but experience levels are not often a concern.

Raja Ampat has three regions that liveaboards visit, each with a different personality.

The Philippines has two other main liveaboard destinations, one around Cebu and the other focusing on Coron and the Apo reef.

Indonesia has about a half dozen popular liveaboard destinations. Komodo National Park is one of the most popular after Raja Ampat and there are four different departure ports. 

Is It Better To Dive The Philippines Or Indonesia?

scuba divers in barracuda lake, coron philippines
Barracuda Lake in Coron

Is It Better To Dive The Philippines Or Indonesia? Is it better to drink a Coke or a Pepsi?

You get the same answer, it is mostly about what you like. Besides the diving, there are a few other factors to look at.


If your vacation time is restricted to certain parts of the year then the local weather and diving conditions may be a factor.

While both locations have year round diving, the dry season will mean less likelihood a dive day will be canceled due to weather and you will have better visibility.

While there is significant regional variation in Indonesia, the dry season is April to October, while the wet season is November to March.

This is just the opposite of the Philippines where the dry season spans from November through to May.

The Western New Guinea potion of Indonesia, where you will find the Raja Ampat Archipelago, has weather patterns similar to the Philippines.  


raja ampat indonesia

Cost wise, the two countries are similar.

Both have a wide range of accommodations with different levels of comfort and luxury. Based on western expectations, they are inexpensive.

You can get decent place to stay at dive destinations in either country for under 30 USD a night. You will likely find that Indonesia will offer more choices and at a slightly lower cost.

If you stay away from international fast food places and tourist targeted restaurants, you can eat well for under 10 USD a day.

Lunch may be only 2 USD. Diving cost vary for the destinations in each country. On average, a 2 tank dive in the Philippines will cost around 60 USD, while it will cost about 80 USD in Indonesia. 


I hope that this overview has peaked your interest in diving one or both of these outstanding destinations.

If you have any comments, please feel free to post them.

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