Anna’s Favourite Warm Water Dive Destination #5 – Efrata, Indonesia
EFRATA, NORTH EAST SULAWESI, INDONESIA
Where is Efrata and what’s so special about it?
Efrata, rather than being an area, or a village, or a resort, is the name of a specific dive site that sits off a beach, at the far end of the very tip of the immense peninsula that is Minahasa, North Sulawesi. It looks out on the shore of the little island of Bangka, home to big currents mixing the Celebes with the Molucca Seas that whoosh around towering underwater pinnacles and along deep walls. Efrata is also only 40 minutes by boat from the other dive mecca of Lembeh, famous for muck diving and its tiny critters. So logically, Efrata has the best of both worlds but without the downside of a ton of other divers.
What’s it like?
The dive site of Efrata – the name has a loose connection with the religious cross or effigy that stood on the hill overlooking the coast which was the victim of a hill fire a number of years back – hugs the coastline that juts out of the cliff and drops dramatically into the ocean. The dive starts at around 5 metres on some beautiful coral heads that we will circle back to and meander around on our safety stop. As we head deeper we can get in some muck diving and look out for the bizarre seamoth shuffling along in pairs. At 18m, our left turn is marked by an unexploded sea mine coated with coral, and we shallow up along the bottom of a vertical wall, looking for blue ringed octopus, nudibranch, frogfish, leaf scorpionfish and more. To return, we drift back along the beautiful coral encrusted wall to our entry point looking for the local resident cuttlefish fond of hanging out on the coral heads. Snorkelling along the wall during the surface interval is relaxing and colourful too. It’s like three dives in one!
When to go?
Because of the currents and the prevailing winds, high season here is between April and Early December (when you could go on to Lembeh Strait for a week of muck diving in the lee of the island). Water gets up to 30°C in September, land temperatures even higher.
What to take?
Your own entertainment! This is almost as remote as a liveaboard! Take comfy trainers/ walking shoes for the surrounding land, as well as dive bootees (and open heel fins) as the exposed shoreline, whilst fascinating to explore, is pretty sharp. Take a hat, good coral friendly sunscreen (I recommend Badger brand from the UK, a little goes a very very long way). And of course, a camera.
Preparation, preparation, preparation !
I will always recommend the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course – useful everywhere but really good buoyancy control is particularly necessary on the walls, and navigating the coral heads as well as on the sand. Indonesia is a destination that I’d also consider Coral ID and Fish ID specialties. Particularly if you’re keen on actually identifying something as a fish, they can be extremely weird around there!
Where to stay:
Most accommodation around this area is either on Bangka island OR on Lembeh Strait, however the tranquil haven of Pulisan Resort is bang between the two, and you get all the benefits of the very quiet dive spots around the Pulisan Cape where the other dive centres come only when their own dive sites are blown out.
Splurge. Come to the Pulisan Cape for a week, “splurge” on a beachfront bungalow (€60 pp full board) then go on to Raja Ampat for your next week (or a liveaboard out there). Let’s face it… Raja Ampat (Sorong) is a cool hour and a half from Manado airport where you’d land for Bangka/Pulisan/Lembeh. Why not combine the two?
World famous Tangkoko National Park is just 20 minutes from Pulisan Resort by boat beach to volcanic sand beach. You’d go here for the world’s smallest primate – the Tarsier and the incredible Black Macaques. You’re also quite likely to run into a BBC film crew who are often there filming. Request Rene as your guide, she’s an incredible spotter and is also a divemaster and one of the only women guides. You can also visit the highlands and hike a volcano!
How to get there?
From London, you’ll go via Singapore, Doha or Abu Dhabi and Jakarta then an hour and a bit by car via local villages and a quick descent through the jungle to the resort where the road finally peters out on the beach.