South Halmahera Off Limits for Diving

South Halmahera Off Limits for Diving

01. September 2014


No diving zone South-Halmahera

While sailing along the south-western coast of Halmahera with the Indonesian live aboard Tambora last May, the Cruise Director manager of the ship was confronted with a letter of the Regency of South Halmahera. The government paper declaring the “whole of South Halmahera region off limits for diving“.

The area is huge and comprises nearly 9000 km² of sea and small islands. Though there has been intensive dynamite fishing taken place in the past, this vast area still boasts of high biodiversity and there are many amazing dive sites with plenty of marinelife, which are worth a dive.

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


The letter of the regency of South Halmahera

Off Limits for Diving in South Halmahera

Interestingly, the governments document – dating June 4, 2014 – mentions two exceptions from the “no diving“ ban:

The first one is the the diving vessel Liburan, owned by extra divers worldwide, a German dive agency. The second exeption being the Halmahera Resort, a diving resort still in the project stage. According to rumours a joint project of Rudi Ring, the former owner of Liburan, extra divers and a yet unknown Indonesian investor with the aim to build a new dive resort on Bacan island in the south of Halmahera.

The Liburan has been around in the area for quite a time. Rudi Ring, the former owner has established good relations with the local government and always promoted his trips by stating that the Liburan is the only live aboard in the area having a permission of the sultan of South Halmahera to dive the area. This sultan´s letter never had the legal power to completely prevent other live aboards to enter the area but it nevertheless caused some trouble. Some ships were forcibly thrown out of the area. In 2013 the live aboard 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 and delay the Amira and guests were allowed to leave the area.

The new letter of the South Halamahera Regency however is of a different quality. 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 !! There are no more canons, but there are armed policemen and government officials threatening with the confiscation of ships.

Extra divers reacted quite nervously after being asked for a comment. The German agency only reacted with a lawyer`s letter threatening with a lawsuit in case I continue to convey the impression they bribed the regional government to get the letter.


  1. 1. September 2014 at 13:35

    This is the English version of my article on South Halmahera. There will also be a report in the next issue of undercurrent.

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  2. gaby
    2. September 2014 at 21:26

    cooler artikel, michael. bin schon gespannt, wie die sache weitergeht. Keep on going! 🙂

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  3. 6. September 2014 at 5:24

    Hello Micheal,

    probably there is another letter? This letter only says the are looking for investors to open a resort and that they are not interested in a live aboard.
    Says nothing about who is allowed to dive the area or not.
    Anyway, everybody is welcome at Central Halmahera, Weda Bay and North Halmahera (the island of Rao e.g.).
    Rob Sinke
    Weda Resort and Magic Bay Villa, Rao.

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  4. 6. September 2014 at 15:57

    Hello Rob,

    this is the letter which was presented to Tambora and local authorities in South Halmahera act accordingly: They prevent passing by live aboards from diving in the region. I know of at least four vessels which got problems there and they were all confronted with this letter. There are other live aboards which changed their itineraries in order not to pass through the regency of South Halmahera. I always try to point out that this is only a letter for South Halmahera regency and that the other regencies are not affected. However there are few people here who know about these differences and in the end it is Halmahera which is getting a bad reputation. It is a pity! The regents of Central – and North Halmahera should have a talk with their colleague in South Halmahera!

    Best regards

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