This video explains everything you need to know about all the different options of what to wear during one of our snorkeling safaris.
In my experience as a snorkel guide for Snorkel Venture, I’ve found that a lot of guests turn up on tours thinking that they will be comfortable snorkeling in their swimming suit and a lycra rash guard because the tropical water is warm. While this may be true for certain individuals who are immune to being cold, the vast majority of guests who didn’t bring an insulated exposure suit like a wetsuit, do start to get cold several days into our snorkeling expeditions. No matter how warm the water, after three to four snorkels every day for a few days in a row, most will find that they are getting cold soon into the snorkeling session and eventually end up renting or borrowing an exposure suite from the resort. To avoid this, I always suggest to guests that they bring their own. Then of course there is the question and debate about which kind of exposure suit is best for your. To make things quick and simple, here’s a little break down of the pros and cons of the two most popular types of exposure suits, the more traditional neoprene wetsuit, or the newer and very popular thermal suits, both of which now have an eco friendly option from one of the industries most trusted brands.
Neoprene wetsuits have been around for ages now and have become the most common type of exposure suit. There are a variety of styles from full suits, shorties, ones with hoods, front zips, back zips, and ones with cup holders. Just kidding about the cup holders. These are not the only options either, each of these different style will be offered in a variety of thicknesses to suit each persons susceptibility to getting cold and water temperatures. Wetsuits are a great option as an exposure suit as they are quite durable so long as you take care of them and they instantly make you look like a super hero. However, there are a few downsides to them with the most common complaint being their difficulty to put on one. They are very tight, particularly the first few times you wear them, and it does take some time to get one on and take it off again, which a lot of people find very annoying. So annoying in fact that I’ve known people who would rather be cold then put on a wetsuit. However, once you move beyond that ‘getting to know each other phase’ a wetsuit can be very comfortable and offer a significant amount of warmth. In regards to traveling, they are quite heavy and a rather large item to pack into your suitcase, particularly the thicker ones.
Thermal suits have becoming increasingly popular since the were released in the last decade or so, particularly for those who are tired or cumbersome neoprene and also for those with an allergy to the material. These thermal suits may look, feel, and fit more like a pair of trendy pajamas than an underwater exposure suit, but don’t be fooled because these will keep you a very comfortable temperature for the duration of your snorkels. In terms of how they fit and feel thermal suits are very different than wetsuits. Instead of being made from neoprene, they have a soft fleece lining and a durable nylon exterior. The function in the water is nearly the same as a wetsuit though, as the fleece traps a thin layer of water which your body heats up and in turn keeps you warm. However, out of the water they fleece wicks the water from you skin which again helps keep you comfortable during windy surface intervals, unlike neoprene. The designs are as varied as the wetsuit designs, with full suit options, top and bottom sets, shorts, bikinis, vests, hoods, and anything else you could imagine. The top and bottom set fit just like a fleece sweater set would and are very easy to put on as they have front and back zip options. Another point in the ‘Bonus’ column, particularly for those that like to duck dive, is that thermal suits are neutrally buoyant which means you don’t need to wear weights to counteract the buoyancy of neoprene. The thermals are also very light weight, dry very quickly, which relieves a lot of the stress of packing.
An Eco Twist
Whether you are preferential to the old school neoprene wetsuits like I am, or prefer the more sophisticated thermals, there is an awesome and highly durable eco friendly option to each type of exposure suit thanks to Fourth Element, a company who’s products have been on the cutting edge for years already. Their sleek thermal option is all fabricated from recycled ghost nets, which are responsible for unimaginable destruction on reefs and marine creatures alike, and transforming them into a thread which their thermals and an assortment of other products are then made from. For their wetsuits, since they are made largely of rubber based, they are using post consumer scrap tires along with a host of other post consumer materials to formulate the neoprene. Regardless of your choice, you can snorkel easy knowing that not only they you will be warm throughout the trip, but also that your new suit is not contributing to the production of excess materials with a significant reduction in energy consumption during the manufacturing process.
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Indonesia is a massive country with over seventeen thousand islands so it’s understandable when people get confused about what location is where. To help with that this short video will break down all of Indonesia’s top snorkeling destinations including what you can see and how we arrive. Don’t hesitate to ask any further questions, we are always happy to help!
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Indonesia is a massive country, and because it’s broken up into over seventeen thousand islands it can be a bit confusing to know what is where, especially if you are a bit geographically challenged as I was before I moved here. I don’t want to make broad assumptions about people I have yet to meet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people might not know a lot that Borneo is not it’s own country and in fact three countries, the majority of which is Indonesia and known as Kalimantan. Or, that Indonesia also occupies about half of the world’s second largest island, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of—New Guinea. The Indonesian side is known as West Papua and is the home of Raja Ampat, while east of the border is Papua New Guinea. If you already knew all this, gold stars for you! Anyway, the objective of this blog isn’t to make you self conscious of your Indonesian geography, I know for a fact that many Indonesian people couldn’t point out Wakatobi on a map. The point of this is to simply break down one of the most beautiful countries in the world, by focusing on the locations which also conveniently happen to be Snorkel Venture destinations!
Fun Indo Facts
- 17,000 Islands
- 127 Volcanoes
- 300 Different Languages
- Center of Coral Triangle
- World’s Highest Coral and Reef Fish Diversity
Jakarta and Bali
I’m not going to spend a lot of time with these two locations but they do deserve mentioning as a lot of our trips will begin at either one of these locations. Jakarta as you probably know is the capital of Indonesia and located on the island of Java. Jakarta is, for lack of a better description, a big city really well known for it’s traffic jams. Lucky for us this is just a transitory stop where we are essentially just using the airport and it’s comfortable hotel to relieve some of the jet lag before taking off to our final destinations.
Bali on the other hand, while we also use the airport and it’s hotel the same way as we do Jakarta’s, is well worth a visit beyond the boundaries of the Airport. I would even suggest spending a bit of time here before or after the tour just to get a better feel for the island as it really is amazing. The island is full of interesting cultural sites, luxurious villas and boutique resorts, amazing food, jungles, and wonderful beaches.
Moving onto one of Indonesia’s most famous locations, Komodo. Komodo National Park is just a short one hour flight from Bali, and also one of Indonesia’s most iconic destinations. The park is made up of twenty nine islands, four of which are home to the Komodo Dragons. The snorkeling here is exceptional with over seven hundred species of fish and two hundred and sixty coral species. There is such a concentration of marine life in this park that you can readily predict what each snorkel session will be like. Manta rays are all over the place and can, quite frequently, be encountered in large numbers. Turtles are also prolific as well as other creatures like cuttle fish and large schools of fish. One of the beauties of Komodo is that the reefs are so diverse that no two snorkels will be the same. There are mangroves, sloping reefs, plateaus, walls, drifts, bays, manta cleansing stations, and of course the resort’s pier which attracts a ton of marine life.
A quick video showcasing our Komodo Tours
Alor is a small cluster of islands just east of Komodo and accessed by a short flight from Jakarta. Alor is still quite un touched by tourism and with only a couple snorkel and dive resorts in the area. This is not to say the snorkeling is any less spectacular than some of Indonesia’s other top destinations. It’s quite the opposite. Because Alor is only now just becoming familiar with snorkelers and divers, and the local villages have really looked after their reefs by practicing more sustainable fishing methods, the areas reefs have remained in a near pristine state. Fringing the entire coastline of the area you can find a truly some of the most colorful and diverse reefs on the planet. The cold water rising from the south brings in nutrients that sustain the smaller fish which in turn bring in the larger animals like super pods of dolphins and melon head whales, mola mola, and if you are lucky a blue whale or two! These larger species are difficult to snorkel with as they are quite shy, but no less spectacular when they pass just in font of the boat. Much like Komodo, the reefs in Alor are very diverse not only in coral species and marine life, but also in style. We have a few piers that make fantastic and highly unique snorkeling spots—one of which is our resort’s pier and only a few feet from your bungalow, but also some fantastic mellow drifts, walls, and sloping reefs, all of which just seem to keep going and going.
A quick video showcasing our Alor Tours
One of the other major islands in Indonesia is Sulawesi, it’s the big silly shaped one in the middle. It is also home to some fantastic snorkeling, outstanding resorts, and really easy to arrive to from Bali. In the north we have five island just off the coast known as the Bunaken Natioanl Park, and in the south east we have another marine reserve known as Wakatobi. But now, lets talk about Bunaken.
To arrive to Bunaken we have to take a short one and a half hour flight from Bali to Manado, and then hop on one of the resorts large boats for athirty minute ride to the resort. So easy! The snorkeling here is really amazing with shallow hard coral plateaus that fringe the varying islands and then suddenly drop into the deep blue. Back in the day sea turtles were hunted here for their meet and eggs, but since the tourism industry has established itself and the declaration of the marine reserve the local turtle population is booming! Green sea turtles frequent the white sand beaches in front of the bungalows to nest and with a bit of luck you can witness an emergence of hundreds of baby sea turtles as they make a mad dash to the sea. Currents are vey mild here in Bunaken and the visibility and conditions are fairly consistent year round. Many of the other locations around Indonesia have a distinct high and low season which coincides with the wet and dry seasons.
A quick video showcasing our North Sulawesi tours which are either combined with Raja Ampat or Borneo
Whether it’s the private charter flight from Bali to the resort’s own air strip, the idyllic palm studded islands fringed by white sand beaches, or the surreal underwater world, Wakatobi is definitely a place you wont forget.
Wakatobi is located quite a ways off the south east coast of Sulawesi in the Banda Sea. The islandscape looks very similar to the Maldives as the area is made up of many small low lying islands with white sand beaches. The robust reefs start at the surface, and at times when the tide is low the reefs actually break the surface. From here they gradually slope away from the atolls eventually dropping of into the blue water. There is no shortage of colorful reef fish here and the reefs are actually some of the most diverse in the world with seven hundred different species of coral. Currents do tend be be quite mild as well, similar to Bunaken, and also like the Bunaken, Wakatobi’s weather and sea conditions remain pretty consistent year round.
A quick video showcasing our Wakatobi Tours
Raja Ampat is, as I said in the beginning, part of West Papua. Raja does take a bit more effort to arrive to as the flight from Jakarta is about four hours, but I promise it is absolutely worth the couple extra hours in the plane. Raja Ampat is often referred to as the crown jewel for snorkeling in Indonesia, and for many people, the world. It’s reefs are teeming with life, big and small, and astonishingly vibrant.With over 1,766 fish species and counting and over 550 coral species, Raja Ampat is the most biodiverse marine environment in the world. What’s more is that since this massive area has been declared a marine sanctuary, the marine life is thriving, and species like sharks and manta rays which were nearly wiped out years ago are coming back fast and showing some really impressive numbers. Don’t worry, the sharks are honestly more scared of you than you should be of them.
Something to make note of with regards to Raja Ampat is that it is a very very big area. If you compare Komodo National Park with Raja Ampat, it’s like six times bigger and made up of over 600 islands with endless bays, sea mounds, lagoons, and mangrove labyrinths. In light of the the marine sanctuary’s large size, it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of the different regions of Raja before you book a trip as each region is slightly different. If you choose a resort which os located in the norther portion of Raja, that’s where you will concentrate your snorkeling, in the north. If decide to do the option in the south, and area known as Misool, then your tour will be focused there. There is the liveaboard option which will do a bit of the north and the south, but once again, even with a liveaboard the area is so big you still won’t even come close to seeing it all. In my own personal experience, I worked on a liveaboard in Raja for five consecutive years and every year we would still be finding new places to explore. It’s a truly exciting place full of mystery and beautiful surprises.
What’s the snorkeling like in Raja? Well, it has it all, and a vast quantities. Big schools of batfish, jacks, barracudas, mantas, sharks, the occasional whale shark, all the reef fish you could ever imagine, and the odd chance of a whale spouting on the horizon. It’s epic.
Kalimantan- Indonesian Borneo
Kalimantan has more than some of the oldest, densest jungles in the world where giant ginger primates dwell, it also has chains ofidyllic islands surrounded by beautiful reefs. A remote island off of Borneo might seem like a real trek to arrive to, but it’s really only two short flights from Jakarta and a thirty to forty minute boat ride to the Nunuken Island, then it’s snorkel time! The reefs that surround the island are typical Indonesian reefs—abundant, vibrant and thriving.
There is also good chances to encounter mantas feeding or cleaning on one of their cleaning stations. But what is most intriguing, at least for me, is the ‘lake’ full full full of stingless jellyfish and fringed by beautiful mangroves.