Halmahera Snorkeling – Gorgeous Reefs Teeming With Colorful Fish

Halmahera snorkeling is rather incredible from our limited experience. It was certainly one of the better snorkeling experiences of our lives.

In 2023 we spent four days snorkeling a few different areas around the Halmahera area, as part of a longer Indonesia liveaboard trip. We snorkeled some small islands just to the southeast of the large Island of Halmahera, and also some islands that are right in the narrowest stretch of the Patintie Strait, with the Bacan Islands to the west of Halmahera.

Halmahera snorkeling is superb, with stunning corals and lots of colorful reef fish.

The reefs were in very good health in Halmahera, and the fish life was at times so dense you could hardly see the water. In some ways our days snorkeling in Halmahera reminded us a bit of Alor. More about that later.

Snorkeler over a bright red sea fan with lots of reef fish in Halmahera

Where Is Halmahera and Where Did We Snorkel?

Halmahera is a large island in northern Indonesia, with between Raja Ampat to the east, and Sulawesi to the west. It is a remote part of the world, and the main island is home to only about 200,000 people.

Kids in a dugout canoe in a remote village of Halmahera

The Patintie Strait is a narrow body of water between the southwest shoreline of Halmahera, and the Bacan Islands chain to the west. Strong currents that flow through this strait are one of the reasons why the reefs and sea life are so abundant here. It flushes in lots of fresh nutrients and helps keep the reefs from getting too hot.

Halmahera Snorkeling Map

Halmahera Snorkeling – What Did We See?

Halmahera snorkeling is excellent, although it is not the easiest place to visit, being so remote. But that also means that every spot we snorkeled we had to ourselves. We really felt like we were back in time a bit.

Halmahera Snorkeling Video

Watch the video below to get a sense for what the snorkeling in Halmahera is like.

One reason Halmahera snorkeling is so very good is because the reef depths are ideal for snorkelers. The majority of them are fringing reefs along the shoreline of smaller islands. So you can normally snorkel right over the top of corals, in shallow water, allowing excellent viewing for snorkelers who don’t freedive. And if you swim a little farther out, the reefs tend to slope off gently, before getting much deeper.

The reefs also have a lot of variety in terms of what the ecosystems look like, at different snorkel spots. That makes a multi-day Halmahera snorkeling trip very interesting.

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Scorpionfish sitting on a coral, with colorful reef fish behind, in Halmahera

And the amount of fish life was really incredible. It is not a protected area, so we did not see a lot of larger species of fish, and not a lot of sharks. But in terms of smaller colorful and interesting reef fish, there were just gobs of them. A few Halmahera snorkeling spots we visited had more small reef fish than anywhere else we have ever snorkeled.

Variety of hard corals in Halmahera, with clouds of small fish.

Night snorkeling was also very good in Halmahera. Being able to see walking sharks at night is a rare treat, but our group saw a number of them and some other cool creatures, too.

And during the day there are some unique creatures to see. There are tons of pipefish, and many nudibranchs to find, an amazing Crocodilefish, as well as some very interesting looking sea stars. We enjoyed seeing a few different Banded Sea Kraits too.

Pair of Nudibranch in Halmahera
Pair of Pipefish in Halmahera
Pair of Pipefish on a coral head in Halmahera

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There were so many different and beautiful anemones and their resident fish, that we had to stop hanging out and watching them all and taking pictures, because there were just too many. We love them though.

Bubble Anemone and its resident Spinecheek Anemonefish.
Closed Magnificent Anemone and Orange Clownfish in Halmahera

We also did a muck snorkel in front of a village on the main island of Halmahera. We saw a number of interesting muck critters, including nudibranchs, eels, beautiful fire urchins, razorfish, and squid eggs attached to corals. But maybe the best thing about it was that tons of kids from the village, and many adults, seemed to get a thrill watching all of the snorkelers. Many of the kids swam out to check us out.

Kids in a Halmahera village watching snorkelers
Halmahera village kids sitting in the dinghy, waving to snorkelers
Squid eggs and Xenia soft corals in Halmahera
Squid Eggs nestled under some feeding Xenia corals.

And, as mentioned, there was a huge variety of different hard and soft corals, in different colors and sizes, from fields of staghorn, to huge coral heads. There were colorful soft corals everywhere, and many beautiful sponges.

Bright and colorful sponges and corals in Halmahera
Red Dendronephthya soft coral, with blue sea star and anthias fish in Halmahera

For the variety of coral reef ecosystems, and the abundance of smaller reef fish, we found Halmahera snorkeling to be somewhat similar to Alor. And we loved Alor.

Now in our opinion, Halmahera still does not compare to Misool, in terms of the abundance of larger fish species, and reef sharks. That is likely due to the marine protections at Misool. For that reason Misool is still our favorite.

But Halmahera snorkeling was so good that we could easily see coming back to explore it more.

Snorkeling Sunburns Suck!

Check out the snorkeling rash guards, wetsuits, and reef safe sunscreen we use to protect ourselves and to protect fish and coral from sunscreen chemicals.

Halmahera Snorkeling – How to Do It Yourself?

We joined a liveaboard snorkeling tour of northern Indonesia that was organized by our trips partner. We spent a number of days in Raja Ampat, then Halmahera, and ended up in checking out Lembeh Strait just off the coast of northern Sulawesi and saw some very rare creatures. Our trips partner is not currently offering this trip itinerary.

Snorkelers on a dinghy returning to the liveaboard in Halmahera

Our trips partner also offers a resort based Halmahera snorkeling trip. We visited the Kusu Resort while we were in the area, and met the owners. The resort is beautiful, and is very reminiscent of how Misool is constructed. There are some fantastic snorkeling spots close to the resort, and they have an excellent house reef as well. The picture below is from the house reef at Kusu Resort.

Clouds of small fish over coral on the house reef at Kusu Resort in Halmahera

Suggestions and Questions From Other Snorkelers

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