Main Menu
Join Undercurrent on Facebook

The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975 | |
For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
September 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 40, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

A “Too Exclusive” Island in Indonesia

liveaboards banned from a region twice the size of Raja Ampat

from the September, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you've heard of Halmahera, an Indonesian island north of Misool and the Raja Ampat region, and hope to dive there, here's a head's up. Undercurrent subscriber Michael Bode (Braunschweig, Germany) sent us this note about his dive trip to Indonesia earlier this summer.

"While sailing along the southwestern coast of Halmahera aboard the Tambora, the boat's cruise was confronted with a letter from the Regency of South Halmahera, declaring the 'whole of South Halmahera region off limits for diving.' Now, this area is huge and comprises nearly 5,600 square miles of sea and small islands. Though intensive dynamite fishing has taken place there, South Halmahera still boasts high biodiversity, and there are many amazing dive sites with plenty of marine life.

"To ban liveaboards from diving an entire region is something new in Indonesia. We are not talking a ban against diving the house reef of a resort, which might be understandable. No, we are talking an area about double the size of Raja Ampat! If other regions in Indonesia copy this precedent, it would mean the end of liveaboard diving in this country.

"Interestingly, the government's document -- June 4, 2014 -- mentions two exceptions from the 'no diving' ban. The first one is for the dive liveaboard Liburan, owned by a German dive agency. The second exception is for the Halmahera Resort. According to what I've heard, the resort, still in the concept stage, is a joint project of: 1) Rudi Ring, the Liburan's former owner; 2) Extra Divers, a dive center and resort management company based in Lichtenstein; and 3) a yet-unknown Indonesian investor. They aim to build a new dive resort on Bacan island in South Halmahera. "Ring established good relations with the local government, and always promoted his trips by stating that the Liburan is the only liveaboard in the area to have permission by the sultan of South Halmahera to dive there. The sultan´s letter never had the legal power to completely prevent other liveaboards to enter the area, but it nevertheless caused some trouble -- some ships were forcibly kicked out of the area. In 2013, the Amira was stopped in the harbor of Labuha on Bacan Island by government officials and the police. They threatened to confiscate the ship, and only after long talks were the Amira and its guests were allowed to leave.

"However, the new letter of the South Halmahera Regency is different. Here, for the first time, a regional government acts like the colonial powers did 400 years ago. They try to build a diving monopoly preventing all other competitors from entering this market. In colonial times, these monopolies were defended by canons and gunboats. Nowadays, it is not much different in South Halmahera, with armed policemen and government officials threatening the confiscation of ships.

"Extra Divers reacted quite nervously after I asked them to comment, sending me a lawyer`s letter threatening a lawsuit if I continue to convey the impression that it bribed the regional government to get the letter."

We asked some of our Indonesian dive experts whether they had heard of these boat evictions from South Halmahera. It's common knowledge, but no one wants to go on the record about it because the dive community is as small as a village. But one told us, "Rudi Ring has been the source of much trouble at various Indonesian dive sites previously, including Bunaken and Lembeh, where supposedly he had to leave. There seems to be lots of interest in getting this and other such exclusivity overturned . . . he's not on firm legal ground because national law prevails in such matters."

Maurine Shimlock, a regular Undercurrent contributor who leads dive photography trips in Indonesia, was personally affected by South Halmahera's closure. "We had to change itineraries for a couple of trips, but nearly all our guests understand the situation. In the larger view, this is a bad precedent for a regional government to set within the larger context of developing tourism in Indonesia. This is the type of thinking that held back progressive, sustainable tourism development in Indonesia for so long. I really thought the country and its tourism operators had finally changed their attitude and wised up to the fact that word-ofmouth is possibly the best advertising. Any resort concession in South Halmahera should be inviting every liveaboard to stop by, have a sunset cocktail on the deck, etc. Every diver would talk about his experience and recommend the place to their friends who love to dive but don't want to dive from liveaboards, and are constantly searching for new resorts situated near good diving. They won't be going to Halmahera, proving the dictum of diminished returns for those who attempt to 'own' the reef."

-- Vanessa Richardson

I want to get all the stories! Tell me how I can become an Undercurrent Online Member and get online access to all the articles of Undercurrent as well as thousands of first hand reports on dive operations world-wide

Find in  

| Home | Online Members Area | My Account | Login | Join |
| Travel Index | Dive Resort & Liveaboard Reviews | Featured Reports | Recent Issues | Back Issues |
| Dive Gear Index | Health/Safety Index | Environment & Misc. Index | Seasonal Planner | Blogs | Free Articles | Book Picks | News |
| Special Offers | RSS | FAQ | About Us | Contact Us | Links |

Copyright © 1996-2024 Undercurrent (
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.