Topside, Indonesia might look every bit as tropical and lush as neighboring Papua New Guinea and the Philippines—but underwater, this island archipelago blows away the competition with more species diversity than any other destination on the planet. Indonesia alone, the focus of The Arenui 16-passenger and 23-crew-member liveaboard, holds the most superlative titles when it comes to the highest numbers of coral and fish species diversity. For divers, this means a wonderland of never-ending possibility where there is always something more to discover.
According to Conservation International, an environmentally focused nonprofit, 70 percent of the world’s flora and fauna diversity thrive in just 17 countries—with Indonesia ranking among them. It’s home to 3,000 fish species and 77 percent of all known coral species in the world. Six of seven marine turtle species also are found here.
Take in the numbers, and it’s hard to immediately grasp how one destination completely surpasses its neighbors with biodiversity. Truly, Indonesia is peculiar. It’s a biological anomaly that seems like it shouldn’t exist—yet it does.
Here’s how: The world’s most powerful current supercharges the waters with nutrients; cooler water than that of neighboring regions protects species from drastic climate changes; a unique distribution of landmasses shelter much of the coastline and reefs; and a surplus of minerals from constant volcanic activity adds diversity of color to corals. Together, each of these factors plays a role in making Indonesia the species-rich powerhouse divers know and love.
Start with the fact that Indonesia is home to the strongest current in the world. The Indonesian Throughflow, as it’s known, carries water from the Pacific Ocean north of Papua New Guinea down through the straits that separate the landmasses of Indonesia. It’s also the largest movement of water on the planet. The current is further powered by the differences in height between the two bodies of water: The Pacific Ocean sits 6 inches higher than the Indian Ocean, which also drives constant movement. With all that motion comes more life. This massive volume of water sweeps millions upon millions of eggs and larvae into the region to become established on the coral reefs. Plus, those eggs and resulting marine life also serve as food for other species to feast on. Here, the food chain is powering along at the highest levels—which means a surplus of animals big and small populating every reef.
Moreover, consider the fact that Indonesia’s underwater expanses also contain many deep-water basins. These oceanic features helped preserve species diversity during the Ice Ages. Here, the water was too deep to freeze—which meant that not all species died out, and survivors continued to thrive and evolve. Today, these deep-water basins are protecting reefs from the opposite extreme: They help protect corals from the heating waters of increasing climate change.
The way Indonesia’s islands are laid out is also unique. The perimeter of the country more or less forms a massive oval. Each string of islands acts as a breakwater. Java, Bali and the rest of the islands in the Fire Belt protect Indonesia from weather moving in from the south. Papua New Guinea and West Papua protect it from the east. In the north, Halmahera, Sulawesi and Borneo form another shelter. Finally, the island of Sumatra and the nation of Malaysia serve as shields in the west. The result is that the waters inside—both the Java Sea and the Banda Sea—are as protected as if they were in a swimming pool. What this means for coral reefs is unimpeded growth, as opposed to the stunted growth when waves repeatedly hit reefs.
Cruise through Indonesian waters and you can’t help but be mesmerized by volcanoes zig-zagging along the horizon—some of which still issue a mix of steam, gases and minerals that resemble smoke. But those volcanoes do more than just add drama to the scenery: The constantly released minerals seep into the seawater. As a result, the corals are much brighter and more colorful here than anywhere else in the world.
Finally, Indonesia straddles two continents: Asia and Australia. British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace first recognized in 1859 that a boundary line separating the zoogeographical regions of Asia and Australia runs right through the heart of Indonesia, making this one destination an epicenter with an exceptional amount of diversity. The species diversity in east Indonesia is vastly different from that of west Indonesia.
It’s a lot to explore, which is why The Arenui offers such a choice of itineraries, targeting five regions of Indonesia, including Komodo, Alor and Flores, Maluku and the Spice Islands, the Forgotten Islands and Raja Ampat. This luxury boutique liveaboard serves to maximize the underwater experience of every diver, which is why five dive guides join every sailing. These staff members, along with an on-board masseuse and expert chef, ensure that your Indonesia escape is both invigorating and relaxing, delivering the utmost in service while you explore this wild, unparalleled destination.
For more information, visit www.thearenui.com.
Address: Simpang Siur Square Block C5, Jalan Setiabudi Simpang Siur, Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Zip Code: 80361