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Dive Review of Murex/Serenade in
Indonesia/North Sulawesi

December, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by David Haupt, KY, USA
Report Number 1512
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Most of the Caribbean, Kona
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
82   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
500 PSI  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
1 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
No dedicated camera table. Decent rinse tanks. Electricity for charging was
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
5 stars    
We were met at the airport by reps. of Murex and loaded up into 2 minivans.
I jumped up
front and away we went. I am a fairly aggressive driver (although I am
mellowing out in
my old age) and I was literally scared stiff. Two lane roads are really
three lanes here
because a lot of drivers pass in the centereven if there is on-coming
vehicles!! Why
there is not a wreck every 15 minutes is beyond me!! We were unloaded at
the resort,
given a welcome drink, fed supper, filled out the mandatory paperwork and
loaded onto
the boat.

If you are looking for Aggressor style pampering, you will be very
disappointed on this
boat! If you want excellent yet economical diving with great foodyou have
found it!
The Serenade is old; has no ice, only cold water and the rooms are small
& dank.
However, the rooms are air conditioned (after supper  until morning), and
the beds are
decent. Nitrox is advertised but there is no fill station on-board. If you
desire Nitrox, they
shuttle it from one of their 3 resorts to the boat. No one dove it on this
trip. The food was
quite tasty and plentiful! Breakfast included such things as pancakes, rice
with vegetables
& meat and eggs. Lunch & supper usually included one fish dish and
one chicken dish,
rice, vegetables, potatoes and awesome soups. One entrée per meal
had a little zing
(spicy) to it. Dessert alternated between pineapple, watermelon and mango.
$1,470 for
8½ days of diving is a steal, but you have to want to dive and dont
mind rustic 
conditions. Couple this with $1,300 airfare and it is a bargain for sure.
With 13 of us on
-board, and 11 with cameras, it really never felt any more crowded than any
other live
-aboard I have been on. 12 of the divers were experienced divers with
previous live
-aboard experience, so the etiquette required for such conditions was
inherent. The crew
was extremely helpful & friendly and the guides were awesome! Entry was
by either a
giant stride off the back of the boat or a backroll from one of the
Zodiacs. Most of the 
time we were picked up by the Zodiacs. My biggest complaint about the boat
is that most
of the surfaces are painted metal and very slick once they are even
slightly wet. We had 3
falls during our trip and I broke my little toe in one of the mishaps! A
little sand mixed in
with the paint would help.

The boat headed to Bangka while we slept. We woke up the next morning; ate
bananas and drank some coffee. A dive briefing was given, we suited up and
hit the
water. I have never seen color like this! Soft corals.hard corals..and
more different
fish than I have ever seen on one dive site. We spent 2 days at Bangka then
slipped off to
Lembeh in the night. 5 dive days in Lembeh with the same routine: cake,
coffee and tea followed by a 7:00 AM dive. Eat breakfast after the first
dive, dive again! 
Spend your next SI eating lunch, then dive again. The night dive commenced
around 6:30
PM followed by supper. All totaled, 4 dives per day were offered including
the night
dive. After the 5 days in Lembeh, we steamed back to Bangka for the final 1
½   days of 

The diving in Bangka is slopes covered in VERY healthy soft & hard
corals with a
plethora of multi-colored fish, shrimp, crabs, shrimp and Nudibranchs. The
diving in
Lembeh was the legendary muck diving. We saw 3 different colors of
Seahorses (in ONE
dive),  3 different colors of Pygmy Seahorses, Star Gazer (I missed that
one), Octopi, 2
Wonderpi (?), various shrimps, various crabs and more Frogfish and Nudis
than I can
remember (its hell getting old). Every briefing in Lembeh was the same;
sandy slope
with a maximum depth of 30 metersFrogfish, Pygmy Seahorses and maybe a
Ghost Pipefish!

One day we opted to do an evening land tour to see the monkeys. We lathered
up with
Deets products and rode the Zodiacs to shore. The guide led us through the
jungle and
would stop every so often, listen, and say 100 more meters. After hearing
this about 6
times, we finally find where they were up in the treetops. The guide
informed us that they
would not sleep in these trees. They prefer to bed down in much larger
trees and if we
waited, they would come down. We waited & waited. Then as if on cue,
they all (30 - 50)
quickly scaled down the trees and ran off. So many of them plopped down it
was as if it
were raining monkeys! It was well worth the hike & wait.

Once the 8 ½ days of diving were completed, we were dropped off at a
new resort named
Kima Bajo Resort & Spa. This Resort is not officially open yet (it
should be in 3-4
weeks) but has entertained some guests. One of the Organizers of our trip
is friends with
the owner and made the arrangements. The on-site dive operator is Odyessea
They have 3 nice dive boats, new Scubapro rental gear and an awesome camera
With lockable storage. It is a very short boat ride to Bunaken from here. A
couple from
our group dove with them and said Bunaken was awesome. Most chilled out
around the
Resort. Between my broken toe and flooded strobe (last boat dive, last
day), I elected to
chill out.
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