Alor Diving: What if Lembeh had a Raja?

Indonesia’s well kept secret
By Max Holba

The Lembeh Strait and Raja Ampat in Indonesia - two regions that are undoubtedly well known for their stunning underwater beauty, especially to the avid underwater photographer and ocean lover in general. And two regions that we have extensively covered here on the Underwater Photography Guide in the past, with articles, tutorials and of course also in the form of photo workshops (check out our Lembeh September workshop led by Erik Lukas!) So you have heard of both, read of both, perhaps even already dived both. And you are most likely familiar with the fact that Lembeh is known for its critters, while Raja Ampat offers big stuff and arguably the most stunning coral reefs you can find. 

Alor Coral Reef

Macro or Wide

Obviously you can also encounter the tiny and the weird in Raja Ampat, and the Lembeh Strait has some dive sites with surprisingly stunning coral. However, usually as a photographer, you would focus on shooting macro in one location and wide angle in the other. With perhaps a day or two, when you switch out your lenses and ports, to add diversity to your trip’s portfolio. But generally you center your work around what the respective region is famous for. After all, Lembeh is the macro diving capital of the world and Raja’s tropical aquarium is literally asking for you to shoot wide angle reef scenes. Can’t have it both. Or can you?

Alor's muck and reefs are full of frogfish!

Enter: Alor

Alor, what? If you have never heard of Alor before, don’t worry! Many divers and photographers, even the very experienced ones, haven’t either. Not yet. Alor, part of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province, is one of these until now very little known regions, where diving still feels like true exploration and is considered a secret among underwater photographers. There are a mere 7 operators around on an island that is almost half the size of Bali with its countless dive centers - which means most of the time you will have the dive sites completely for yourself (no unwanted bubbles in your shots!). And these dive sites really bring the best of both worlds, macro and wide angle, to the scuba menu.

Spiny tiger shrimp in the muck

Alor’s Pantar Strait - that’s the channel formed by Alor itself and the neighbouring island of Pantar with Pura Island at its center - has some of the best coral reefs you can find anywhere in Indonesia and are definitely on par with the ones in Raja. This is mainly thanks to some heavy currents pumping through said channel, pushing nutrient rich waters from the depths to the shallows, making the reefs thrive. In Alor’s Kalabahi Bay however, the water is much calmer and protected. Therefore the explorable sites are of a mucky kind. Looking at the map you’ll notice how narrow the bay is - it’s pretty much like the Lembeh Strait, but with just one “opening”.

Alor’s Pantar Strait

 How to Alor - things to know

The season in Alor usually starts mid March and runs until mid December, when resorts close for the rainy season, with the driest months being July & August. As mentioned, as of now there are just a few operators around and spaces are limited because resorts often host only up to 12 divers, guaranteeing a personal experience. More and more photographers are catching up on the fantastic shooting in Alor and therefore places such as Alami Alor have added camera rooms to their existing set ups. Just like in Lembeh you can even participate in photography workshops taught by an on-site photo pro. Add comfy rooms, tasty food with full board accommodation and free Nitrox and you are in any photographer’s dream.

Ocean sunfish in crystal clear waters of the Pantar Strait.

You can reach Alor via Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara. There are several daily flights to Kupang from major Indonesian hubs such as Bali (DPS) and Jakarta, but only one flight per day to Alor, which means there really aren’t a lot of other divers around! Admittedly it is not a super easy task to get to Alor, needing to stop over in Kupang, however it’s definitely worth it as you are rewarded with diving and shooting far away from the crowds. If you need help to organise your trip, the travel experts over at our sister company Bluewater Travel will happily sort you out!

The shallows of Alor are full of life.

Last but not least is to figure out what system to bring when shooting in Alor. After reading all of the above, you probably guessed it: definitely equip yourself for doing both macro and wide angle, as this really is the beauty of the region - being able to fly home with a massively diverse portfolio - from tiny tiger shrimps and the freaky wunderpus ocotpus to (with a bit of luck) huge ocean sunfish. And of course when it comes to camera gear, anything you need, you’ll find over at Bluewater Photo.

Guides in Alor will assist you with backlighting and other shooting techniques


Max is an underwater photographer, dive resort owner and freelance journalist. Although born and raised in land locked Austria, he started scuba diving quite young at the age of 10. About a decade and many dives later he made his passion his profession and became a diving instructor and subsequently a dive resort manager & owner, as well as a professional underwater photographer. With his underwater imaging and ocean storytelling he is now thriving to inspire the next generation of sea advocates and underwater shooters.


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