Menjangan Dynasty Beach Glamping and Diving (October 2018)
The resort is located in northwest Bali. Diving is a combination of coral diving and muck. The muck dives are especially worthwhile. In the northwest of Bali are famous places such as Secret Bay, Puri Jati and Pemuteran Jetty which are great places to explore.
Dive trips depart from the beach directly in front of the resort. Menjangan Island, where the majority of the dives are made, is only a short boat drive away. Diving is done on walls, reef slopes and in coral gardens. Sometimes there is some current, but not always.
Beach glamping means that the cabins are tents, with a wooden front door, big double bed, bathroom with all ameneties are available. During the day, the tents are opened by the staff, sides are mesh, so the wind cools the cabin, but no insects can get in. During the night the sides are closed again, and the airconditioning is turned on. Lack of sleep due to the heat is no issue in Menjangan.
The food in the restaurant was excellent. We had a fantastic time.
16-28 October, 2018
KM Ambai & Maluku divers (West Papua & Ambon) (April 2016)
Part 1: KM Ambai
After a long journey (Amsterdam-Singapore, overnight at the airport, Singapore-Manado, 2 nights in Manado, Manado-Sorong) we finally arrived in Sorong. We embarked on the KM Ambai, our home for the next 2 weeks. There were 17 divers on the boat: 6 Dutch, 4 Germans, 6 French and 1 Italian. An additional 16 staff took care of us during the trip.
The itinerary took us to the north, to the north Raja Ampat, the Dampier Strait. A nice diving area, the water was a bit on the cool side, the vizibility wasn’t great, but we made beautiful dives.
Then the journey continued to south Raja Ampat, near Misool. The water here was considerably warmer, and we once again enjoyed the beautiful corals, the manta rays, the wobbegongs, and so on.
After Misool the journey continued to West Papua (Pisang Island). The goal here was to find new dive sites for the organization. This failed however, because of the bad weather.
Our journey continued to Koon (an amazing place with lots of fish) and the Banda islands. We did a land excursion on Banda, to Fort Nassau. This is a historical interesting place, with a lot of examples of historic disgusting behaviour of the Dutch.
After Banda the route continued to Ambon. In the bay of Ambon it was time for some “muck dives”. These are always greatly appreciated by our group. We were not disappointed, it was exactly as expected: great!
Part 2: Maluku Divers, Ambon
After 2 weeks the live-aboard was finished, but luckily that wasn’t the end of the holiday for us. We booked a few more days at Maluku Divers, near the village of Laha on Ambon.
Here we enjoyed the special critters that can be found in the bay. We were lucky that we had our own dive boat with our 2 friends. We have seen many special things again: Rhinopias, many moray eels, harlequin shrimp, angler fish (frog fishes) and so on.
KM Ambai: April 11-25, 2016
Maluku divers: 25-30 April 2016
Alor Divers on Pantar (Nusa Tenggara) (September, 2014)
The owners of Alor Divers have bought a stretch of beach on Pantar Island, near Alor. It is quite a hassle to get there: from Bali, the next stretch of the journey is a flight from Bali via Kupang on Timor, to Alor. Then by minibus to Kalabahi Bay, and finally a boat crossing to the resort. But after this long jouney, travellers arrive at unspoiled reefs and a small-scale resort.
The bungalows at Alor Divers resort are located almost directly on the beach at the bottom of a high hill. It is small scale. At the moment (2014) there are 7 bungalows that can accommodate 14 guests, including a maximum of 12 divers. The food is buffet style, simple, but very good.
When the weather is nice, the sun will wake you up before six, it will be shining directly into the bungalow. The orientation is true east. Disadvantage is that at four in the afternoon and the resort is completely shaded by the hill. And this disadvantage has an advantage, the bungalow never gets too hot, so airconditioning is not needed at night.
A mosquito net is supplied against the mosquitoes and insects, the houses are fully open, so things crawl and fly inside.
2 guided boat dives are offered per day with a maximum of 6 divers per boat. The first dive is at 8 a.m. in the morning, the second at 2 p.m. In between, free additional dives on the house reef are offered. The water temperature was very variable. The coldest dive was 19 degrees, the warmest around 26 degrees. A cap is highly recommended to keep your head warm. This really helps against the cold.
The divers are transported over a distance of about 50 meters from the beach to the dive boat in a canoe. After that, the dive sites are a maximum of 15-30 minutes by boat from the resort.
The dive time is usually around 70 minutes, but if the temperature is very low, the divetimes will be less.
The area offers a mix of coral gardens, walls, and muck diving.
The reefs are unspoiled. There are beautiful corals, lots of fish.
At some dive sites, large schools of fuseliers, anthias and chromis were present. At the muck dive sites many nudibranchs, rhinopias, razor fish, cuttlefish, ribbon eels, shrimp, and so on can be spotted. There is also large fish, but not in large quantities, we have seen a number of sharks (white tip, black tip, gray reef) mostly in the blue, a few bumphead parrotfish, and one time eagle rays hunting a school of fish.
Normally it is not unusual to see mola molas in Alor, but we were unlucky that the water was not cold enough (!!!!).
On the way back to the resort we often encountered the dolphins and melon head whales. .
The normal colored coral fish can be found on the reefs.
Especially worth mentioning is a dive site with fields of anemones. Pantar is known as the only place in the world where anemones can be seen on this scale.
We had 2 wonderful weeks at Alor Resort and made very beautiful dives.
September / October 2014
Wakatobi & Pelagian (Sulawesi) (September 2013)
In south Sulawesi a group of 4 islands can be found: Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko. Together they are called “Wakatobi”. A luxury diving resort has been built on the island of Tomia. The resort also offers trips a live aboard, the Pelagian.
After 2 days of rest in Bali, we left on September 19 with a private jet to Wakatobi. On board were only guests for the resort and the Pelagian.
Part 1: Pelagian live aboard
We had booked a very nice and spacious cabin, with a wonderfull big bed, but a little small shower. Everything looked clean and new.
There were 10 guests on the boat, of all different nationalities: 7 divers and 3 snorkelers. That meant few divers on the reefs.
For the diving zodiacs were used. After briefing and analyzing the oxygen percentage of the nitrox, we were quickly loaded into the rubber boats. It was always just a few minutes travelling to the dive site. The diving regime was quite tough, with 4 dives a day. Fortunately we started at a luxury time, around 7:30 am. The last (night) dive ended around 7:30 PM, just before dinner.
The water temperature was 26 degrees, on the cool side for longuish dives of 70 minutes. All in all, everyone was exhausted at the end of the day. At 9 p.m. in the evening, everybody was asleep.
The route took us from the island of Tomia, via Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota, to Pusar Wajo on the Buton peninsula on Sulawesi.
We did muck diving in Buton. We have seen many special critters here. After Buton the journey continued to Wangi-Wangi, past Kaledupa, back to Tomia.
Besides the “muck” at Buton, we mainly made wall dives. There were some sites that were very spectacular with lots of fish (Fishmarket Pinnacle and Outer Pinnacle). However, on most dives we mainly found macro critters on beautiful reefs. Small seahorses, nudibranchs, crabs, and other small stuff. The dives were very beautiful.
We made a night dive every day. One was a fluo dive. With a Blue and yellow filter for lamp and mask, fluorescent light emitted by the corals can be made visible. Many corals and some fish glowed bright green. Because we had already purchased the filters for the camera and flash in the Netherlands in advance, we were also able to take photos of this phenomena. We had to guess a bit with shutter speed and aperture, but the result was above expectations.
Just like on the boat, the food at the resort was w=excellent. It was not a-la-carte, but buffet-style. Everything was cooked with great care and very tasty. The most delicious snacks were served as a starter and dessert in a tapas style on the buffet.
Also at the resort the dives were 70 minutes and again it was a cold experience. Theo and I both put on a cap to prevent heat-loss from the head.
Most dive sites are a few minutes’ boat ride from the resort. Between the 2 morning dives, a short stop is usually made at the resort to allow guests to get on or off.
September 19-24, 2013: 5 days Pelagian Liveaboard
September 24-30, 2013: 6 days at Wakatobi Dive Resort
Maluku Divers Ambon (October 2012)
Ambon Bay is a shelted area, which is great for muck diving. The combination of cold seawater and fresh inflow from rivers ensures that special animals live in this place. There is not much coral. Some cleaning stations are present, but no coral gardens can be found in the bay. For corals and clear blue water, divers must visit the south coast of Ambon.
There is much to see at this cleaning station. A pair of miraculously camouflaged giant frogfishes live on the sponges at the moment of our visit. Another fish that relies very much on camouflage for its hunting strategy is the leaffish. These can often be found in combination with their favorite food, the cardinal fish. They sit down in a strategic place and simply wait for a fish to come near them. When one does, they just open their mouths very wide, creating underpressure and simply suck up the unfortunate fish.
Cardinal fish are mouth breaders, meanong that the males hatch the eggs in their mouths. Every few minutes they spit out the eggs to provide them with oxygen. Young eggs are pink, older eggs are gray and more transparent. The young fish can already be seen in the eggs. This is of course special to see.
When we revisited Pante Nama Pos a few years later in 2016, unfortunately this whole spectacular cleaning station was gone.
Rhino city dive site
Rhino city is named after the rhinopias fish that live there. Of the rhinopias, 3 species have been described, of which the Lacy rhinopias and the Paddleflap rhinopias can be found in Ambon and specifically on this divesite. For divers who become bored with the rhinopiases, they are not very active, and uncommon, but ugly, fish, there is much more to discover at the cleaning station: beautiful nudibranchs, a school of cardinal fish, shrimp, leaffishes and so on. In the deeper parts of the site, the dive becomes a real muck dive. Here a sparsely overgrown sandy slope with all the special muck-loving creatures can be found. In the deeper parts we have seen starfish with coleman shrimps, thorny seahorses, and frogfishes (adult and baby). No diver will be bored at this dive site. Rhino city is located on the north side of the bay, near the resort.
Diving site Kampung Baru
The dive site is named after the village of the same name, Kampung Baru. The bottom is littered with junk: diapers, paint cans, discarded toys, plastic bags with the waste still in it. Residents really throw everything in the sea! However, the resort has ideas to do something about this, organize clean-ups and provide the village with a container to burn their waste. The situation may improve in the future. Despite the waste, there is a lot to see during a dive at Kampung Baru. We spotted 2 young harlequin shrimps, the thorny seahorse, a pair of pink frogfishes, and a flamboyant cuttlefish. A good result for a dive on a garbage dump.
Dive site Batu Badiri
Batu Badiri is on the north side of the bay and it is really muddy. The mud was deposited on the site during the excessive rain of the 2012’s rainy season. This has resulted in huge mud flows. One clumsy fin movement immediately resulted in a huge cloud of dust. So beware …..
In the mud we found young seahorses, emperor shrimps on their preferred type of sea cucumber, and fields full of garden eels. With a lot of luck, specimens of the mimic and wonder octopus can be found here. These are very shy and as soon as they see a diver they hide in the sand. It takes a lot of luck and an observant guide to see these animals. An octopus spots divers a lot sooner than the other way around. At the end of the dive, just like in some other places, there is a small muddy coral wall with the usual coral fish.
Ambon is a very special diving area. The resort is very good. The bungalows are clean and spacious. There is a bathroom with a pleasant shower with hot and cold running water.
The entire staff is very friendly and helpful. A hot meal is served three times a day at four large tables. This gives everyone who wants the opportunity to exchange experiences with the other guests or the management of the resort. Occasionally there is a barbecue, which is a nice change from the standard pattern.
Lembeh & Manado (September 2008)
Lembeh is known for its muck diving. The bottom is generally made of black volcanic sandy slopes. Between the garbish on the bottom (such as ropes, bottles and cans, shoes, tree trunks, algae, etc.) you will find the special life forms that have made Lembeh famous. Life has adapted to the circumstances in Lembeh. Masses of frogfishes, ghost pipefishes, octopuses, special slugs and shrimp have found a home on volcanic sand. Sometimes well camouflaged, sometimes very visible from a great distance.
Ping ping ping! Our guide calls us for a mimic octopus. Awesome! This octopus can imitate all kinds of animals and almost immediately shows his entire repertoire of tricks.
Ping ping ping! This time we are called for bright orange frogfish that just sits in the middle of a barren area of black sand. And it goes on and on, your attention is constantly drawn to the following highlight: a flamboyant cuttlefish, a super toxic bluering octopus, ghost pipefishes in all sorts of colors, pygmy seahorses, a brightly colored nundibranchs, rhinopias, a hairy frogfish, a hairy octopus and even a hairy shrimp!
We stayed at the Lembeh Resort. This is a small 4 star resort with 14 rooms, up to 28 guests. Because the resort is small, you quickly get to know most guests and staff. That makes it very cozy. The resort is hidden on a slope in the jungle of Lembeh Island and you can hardly see it from a distance. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, the meals delicious, the bungalows of excellent quality, nice swimming pool, a beautiful landscaped garden makes it perfect. From your cottage you have a view of the Lembeh strait, the volcanoes of Sulawesi and the city of Bitung.
After a week the visit to Lembeh unfortunately came to an end and the transfer to Tasik Ria Resort at Manado started. Tasik Ria is a bit of a Chinese-style resort. Here too the accommodation is of very good quality, the food is very tasty, there is a huge swimming pool, the bungalows are set in a beautifully landscaped garden. Tasik Ria is also a 4-star resort and is located directly on the beach.
Diving in Bunaken is beautiful, but it is “just” coral wall diving: blue water with the usual reef fish that you can see in other places. The surprise findings, that you almost get used to while diving in Lembeh, are not a given in Bunaken. After a day we were used to the new clear-blue-water scenery again, and could fully enjoy the beautiful coral walls in Bunaken. There was quite a lot of current and so many drift dives were done. Along the walls huge barrel sponges can be easily spotted, large sea fans, and practically every inch of the wall is covered with all kinds of life. Bunaken is primarily a macro site, but you also occasionally encounter larger fish and turtles. In Bunaken you can find: pygmy seahorses, ghostpipe fishes, ribbon eels, leaf fishes, nudibranchs and the like.
Pygmee seahorses in Manado (September 2002)
Our stay: Tasik Ria Resort. Eco Divers, the resident diving school, offers 3 boat dives per day in its program. This concerns: 3 times a week 3 dives in the Bunaken National park; 4x a week 2 dives in the Bunaken National park + 1 dive on the house reef. In addition to these trips that were included in the standard diving package, there are also 2 extras that can be booked at an additional cost. Banka Island and Lembeh strait. You can also do night dives on the house reef.
Bunaken National Park:
Bunaken consists of a number of islands off the coast of Sulawesi: Manado Tua (looks like an extinct volcano), Bunaken Island, Siladen, Nain. It is 1 very large dive site around these islands. In general you do wall diving in the park. The walls often run straight down.
These walls are richly covered with all kinds of coral and contain all kinds of life: from tiny (nudibranchs, crabs up to 1 cm) to fairly large (turtles, trigger fishes, napoleons of about 80 cm). We were very pleased with how many larger fish were still present. Manado is typically a macro paradise, but lovers of larger stuff weren’t disappointed either.
Off the coast of Sulawesi the Molas wreck is a well visited divesite. The reef on and around the wreck is very nice again. We have followed a friendly mantis shrimp around for some time, seen ribbon moray, anemones with clownfish and shrimp, and so on.
Banka is approximately 3 hours by boat from the Tasik Ria resort. Eco Divers normally plans 2 dives there, instead of the usual 3.
We were unlucky on the day we selected Banka as our trip. There was so much current that it was actually not that comfortable anymore to swim against it (full moon, we could have expected this). That was a pity, because the dive site is a pinnacle. Of course, you were supposed to stay a bit above that, so you had to swim against the current.
Nevertheless, Banka was definitely worth it: the corals were beautiful, we saw a large whitetip reef shark, bumphead parrotfish (group of 6-10 parrotfish of 1-1.5 meters), sleeping white-tips under coral tables.
The second dive was again on the mainland of Sulawesi opposite Banka, also here beautiful corals, beautiful nudibranchs, many reef fish.
We knew in advance that we would probably like Lembeh very much. And….. we were right!
Lembeh is a prime “muck diving” area.
On the first dive “Nudi Retret” there was still some coral on the volcanic sand. In that coral the guides spotted our first pygmy sea horse, a sea horse of 1 cm in size, which is so small and well camouflaged you can hardly spot it. A few meters further a coral branch with 2 pygmy seahorses were found. Furthermore: beautiful nudibranch, pegasus seamoth (or nicknamed by us: ‘the great gonzo’, we had never seen something like this), flying gurnard, waspfish, shrimp fishes, pipe fishes, beautiful nudibranchs to mention just a few.
The second dive was at “Hairball”. That is a vast area of volcanic sand with some algae growth on it, but nothing else! Occasionally an anemone resides in a dip in the sand. At regular intervals, bits of junk, a piece of wood, a pile of leaves or a discarded can is the home of special creatures. Seahorses, big and small, frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, octopus, snake eal, the inevitable shrimp and nudibranchs, beautifully colored sea urchins, very strange scorpion fishes, flounders …… words fail to describe everything.
It is quite a journey from Manado to get there, first about 2 hours in a minibus, then on a small fishing boat that looks nothing like the luxury boat of Eko Divers. But it is well worth the effort (our second visit was on Sunday and then it was a lot quieter on the road)!
Tasik Ria house reef:
It is not often that a house reef is especially worth mentioning, but in Tasik Ria that is the case. Where do you finally find on a house reef: a herd of lionfishes, a group of sepias, 2-3 leaf fishes, 2 blue/yellow ribbon eels, a seahorse, frogfish and 2 ghost pipefishes, hordes of razorfishes, and also countless pipefish in the seagrass ? And all that close together! Take a night dive and various types of octopuses (between 1 and 20 cm) are added; one of about 1 cm was trying to hide itself in a small shell. Here you don’t try to find the big stuff, you go for the macro.
Highly recommended …….