Indonesia is the largest island country in the world, made up by more than 17 000 islands of all shapes and sizes. The biggest and most developed islands are Sumatra, Java, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi, and New Guinea (Papua). Sulawesi is one of the largest islands and is well known for some of the best diving in the world with spectacular coral reefs and unique marine life at famous dive areas like Bunaken National Park, the Togian Islands, Wakatobi National Park and Lembeh Strait. This massive island is still home to some spots yet to be discovered by dive tourists. The ‘off the beaten track’ Tanjung Bira beach, located on the southern tip of Sulawesi is one such hidden treasure. Check out our Indonesia Dive Guide for all our favorite dive spots and islands around Indonesia
The massive island Sulawesi is home to some of the most famous dive sites in the world. In the south the remote Wakatobi National Park with the largest barrier reef in Indonesia is known for pristine, untouched coral reefs teeming with a massive variety of creatures. The rich fish life and interesting critters create one of the most biodiverse places in the world. In Central Sulawesi prepare for awesome island adventures exploring the spectacular Togean islands. Dive in the crystal clear water of Tomini Bay, the calmest bay in the world, meet the famous Badjua people (sea gypsies), and swim in a jellyfish lake filled with millions of these beautiful creatures that lost the ability to sting over centuries. North Sulawesi is known for Bunaken National Park with crystal clear water and massive breathtaking coral walls being home to more than 2000 species of coral and 400 different fish species. Not far from Bunaken is the magnificent Lembeh strait with some of the best muck diving in the world. The black volcanic sand hosts a huge variety of unique alien creatures seen nowhere else on earth.
Starting to explore Indonesia in Bali? see our Complete Guide to Dive and Travel Bali
Pantai Bira – South Sulawesi
Known for powder white sandy beaches, palm trees and crystal clear water Tanjung Bira beach is a true tropical paradise. Still off the Indonesian dive tourist trail, at the tip of Sulawesi large schools of pelagic fish and a variety of sharks hunt on the vertical walls teeming with marine life in ripping currents. In sheltered areas with less current you can see nice macro life including a variety of nudibranchs and seahorses.
Diving on a couple of sites around Bira we saw some nice marine life; turtles, moray eels and quite a variety of small critters such as mantis shrimp, anemone shrimps, scorpion fish, a variety of nudibranches. We saw a mix of pelagic and reef fish, and some sharks. Reef fish were the usual suspects in South East Asia, like clown fish, butterfly fish, damsels and even big reef fish like bumphead parrot fish Our dive leader told us to keep an eye out for Napoleon wrasse and large big grouper. Pelagic species, there were some trevallies hunting on the reefs and we saw a couple of white and blacktip reef sharks. Other pelagics that are sometimes seen around Bira are big bull sharks, hammerheads, tunas, barracudas, giant marble rays, manta rays, sunfish and even whale sharks at the right time of the year.
Diving Conditions in Bira
Diving conditions were good with water temperature of 29C, it fluctuates between 27 and 30C. During our stay visibility was decent at 15m, visibility can be over a crystal clear 30m diving at Bira.
Bira is a nice place to do dive training with warm water, good visibility and dive sites for all abilities. I enjoyed diving here with Bira Dive Camp, the dive leader was good, he knew the area, had good knowledge of marine life and we did long dives of longer than an hour.
Sulawesi is an awesome island to explore if you enjoy dive travel. It is a great place to start a trip over the island and definitely worth diving, in my experience it was not as good as the famous dive sites of Indonesia like Komodo or Lembeh and I would not spend a lot of money on flights and travel only here for diving.
To get to dive spots in the south such as Wakatobi and Bira, fly to Makasar and make your way from here. To get to sites in the north such as Bunaken and Lembeh, fly to Manado and continue traveling from here.
Dive Sites from Bira
Shark point – Not far from the harbour. Drift dive over a sloped bottom, expect strong current. LIke the name says a good place for sharks, white tip and black tip reef sharks and if you are lucky bull sharks. Keep an eye out for turtles, sea snakes, and big fish like tunas and trevallies.
Cape Bira – Some nice swim throughs. Beautiful coral reef; Sharks, rays and barracudas are often seen at this site.
Bira bay (Tanjung Bira) – a site known for its sharks, large reef sharks are often seen here and if you are lucky even a hammerhead.
Goat Wall – nice site located between Selayar island and Bira. Steep wall dropping down to 60m. Sometimes strong current. Variety of sharks found on the wall. Schools of pelagic fish such as mackerel, tunas and great trevallies hunt on the wall. Groups of large bumphead parrotfish frequently feed here. Scorpionfish, cuttlefish or octopus can be seen in the coral in the shallows.
Fish Market – advanced dive, underwater sea with plenty of fish; huge groupers, jacks and Napoleon wrasse seen here.
Coral garden – Doing your advanced course? – popular site for night dives close to Bira harbor, turtles, cuttlefish, octopus, sometimes Spanish dancers!
Things to do in Bira
Go to Bara Beach!
The two sister beaches, Bira and Bara and you can walk from one to the other at low tide. The beautiful powder white sand Bara Beach is fantastic, a long sandy beach great for a run or spending the day on the beach. With 30C luke warm water it is fantastic to go for a swim or snorkeling from the beach.
Go Snorkeling from Bira
There is good snorkeling right from the beach at Bara beach. Just swim out 50 to 100 metres from the shore, nice coral reef, a drop off for freediving. You should see some turtles and a variety of other marine life. Liukang Island is a great option for snorkeling trips being located close to Bira. There are plenty of turtles, reef sharks and fish.
Rent a Scooter
If you spend a couple of days here, renting a scooter is cheap and it is nice to go and explore the area.
- Backpacker Budget – Phinisi Hostel Bira Cosmos Bungalows
- Midrange – Bara Beach Bungalows
- Luxury – Amatoa Resort
How to Get to Bira
From Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi, to Bira is a 5 to 6 hour drive. Makasar has an airport accessible by flights from major cities in Indonesia. In Makasar you can take the public bus or a shared car/minibus from Mallengheri Bus Terminal. Busses depart daily at around 9AM-10AM, to the port of Tanjung Bira. Shared vehicles depart whenever they are full. From Bira I went with a minivan and a bus to Rantepau in Tana Touraja, central Sulawesi. Check here for some more cool things to do around Sulawesi.
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Things to Pack
I pack my own mask, camera and dive computer when I travel. I have been diving for a couple of years with my The Mares Smart computer, nice computer for a good price.
Myself and Alya dive with Mares Star liquid skin masks, great quality, comfortable mask.
Canon G7x camera in combination with an ikelite housing great for quality underwater photography. Unreal quality footage you get with the new Go Pro Hero 8 camera, you will also need a scuba housing to dive deeper than 10m with your Go Pro.
Little things to have in your dive bag. Currents can be strong from Bira, it is important to have a SMB.
SMB+REEL | RASH VEST | HOODED RASH VEST | ORCA TORCH | BUFF | KEY CHAIN O-RING KIT | ANTI-FOG | SILICONE SACHETS | SURF HAT | MICROFIBER LENS CLEAN KIT | POLARIZED FISHING SUNGLASSES | WATERPROOF DIVE LOGBOOK
Going on a dive trip? – Dive Trip Packing List+Tips
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.
More South East Asia Diving Resources
Bali is the most popular holiday location in Indonesia with some great diving, check out Nusa Penida for diving with manta rays and the gigantic oceanic sunfish. Diving from Bali itself the USAT Liberty wreck at Tulamben is a nice dive
Pulau Weh island is a great off the beaten track place with interesting diving close to Sumatra.
The Phillipines is one of the best countries in the world to swim with whales sharks, see our review for different places to swim with whale sharks in the Phillipines.
If you are not a qualified diver, Koh Tao in Thailand is a great place to do your dive course, everything from openwater to professional qualifications. See our guide for Choosing the Best Dive School in Koh Tao Thailand
Indonesia has so many amazing places, see our 17 favorite places in Indonesia!
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