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April 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Considering a dive trip to Indonesia?

these resorts merit your consideration

from the April, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Indonesian diving is rapidly becoming the first choice for divers with plenty of travel time -- flights are 24 hours or more -- and money, although bargains are there. The archipelago covers a vast area, so would-be travelers should recognize that it is usually impossible to visit more than one island for diving within a short time.

Indonesia is heaven for macro photographers, and if that's what floats your boat, then North Sulawesi, with its airport at Manado (connecting via Bali or Singapore) and the Lembeh Straits are just the place for muck divers. Furthermore, there is fine reef diving in the Bunaken marine park, which is close to Manado.

One's first impression of Lembeh may be that it's an underwater garbage dump but every piece of trash lying on the black volcanic sand seabed will have an animal living in it -- or what you think is trash might even be a strange animal. It's covered with odd, wonderful critters. By all means, take a powerful magnifying glass and a camera equipped for extreme close-ups. Now, let's look a few recommendations from our welltraveled, expert readers.

Black Sands Dive Retreat at Lembeh received overwhelming approval from Eileen J Councill (Milton, FL) who traveled there in March this year. "This resort was amazing and completely blew away my expectations. The owners are incredible hosts; they are knowledgeable about everything above and below the water, they care about every detail from food to service to accommodations and comfort, and they are passionate about diving." With macro photography the prime reason to dive there, she added, "There is a maximum of four divers on a boat with one guide, which keeps things calm and easy given all the cameras. The equipment is great and the boats are clean. The camera room just off the dive area is superb, but I wish they had a high-pressure air hose." (www.blacksanddive.com)

C. Kapfler (Vienna, VA), who visited in October 2014, agreed whole-heartedly, but adds, "If you don't like black sand diving or muck diving, this is probably not the place for you."

The Lembeh Resort also got good reviews from Ken New (Minneapolis, MN) who said, "We went to Lembeh in February for 'muck' diving, to see all the weird and amazing creatures that live in that part of the world; we got everything we hoped for and more . . .the dive operation is a separate business: Critters@ Lembeh. It is a superb operation and the layout is great -- individual locker for your gear, dedicated rinse tanks, well-appointed camera room, and easy boat access." (www.lembehresort.com)

It would be remiss not to mention Lembeh's Kungkungan Bay Resort, the first diving resort established there and still highly regarded. It was there that the late, legendary dive guide Texan Larry Smith put muck diving on the map. Ann McGrath (Alexandria VA), a repeat visitor who was last there in November 2015, declared. "For an experienced diver, it doesn't get much better than Lembeh Straits and KBR is the best of the resorts available. They now have their system down to a science, and treat their guests as well as any resort I've visited." (www.kungkungan.com)

After visiting Lembeh to muck dive, Ken New (Minneapolis MN) also traveled this March to Siladen Island Resort, on one of five islands in Bunaken National Marine Park, which "offers beautiful diving; the dive guides are expert at pointing out everything from tiny nudibranchs to passing turtles. Most dives are drift dives, some with currents that really sail you along; but if you're a photographer, the divemasters will find you lazier currents for easy shooting. . . .The walls, which descend thousands of feet, are covered with pristine hard corals; there are lots of healthy, huge schools of fish -- and lots of turtles! The shallow reef-tops provide soft corals, sponges, and colorful fish in dappled sunlight . . . . . the resort is a real island paradise. Beautifully landscaped, immaculate grounds, charming rooms with all the amenities and even the Wi-Fi works! We stayed in their most 'basic' accommodation and still felt luxuriously pampered. (www.siladen.com)

Linda Rutherford (Montara, CA) favors Gangga Island, northwest of Lembeh, where she went this February. She mentioned that Gangga Island Resort & Spa has no convenient camera room near the dock and added a rider that "Diving is very pleasant; however, currents can suddenly emerge. Our dive guide seemed as surprised as we were, when after 30 minutes of mild current, a sudden strong current swept us off course. Our guide directed us to swim against this current, to a coral outcrop not yet visible through the spray of sand." (www.ganggaisland.com)

Elsewhere in Indonesia, Bali doesn't have a strong reputation for diving and that's a shame, but it does have good diving on the north coast or off the island of Nusa Penida in the South East, which is famous for its manta cleaning stations and mola mola (sunfish).

Undercurrent reader Ben Glick (Williamstown MA) has made repeated visits to the Scuba Seraya Resort at Tulumben on the north coast and is enthusiastic about good service, excellent divemasters, nice rooms, but says the food is only only average food. (He was last there in November.) Tulumben is where you'll find the remains of the USS Liberty and one of the best dawn dives anywhere. You see, the wreck's a roosting site for hundreds of bumphead parrotfish that stream out at first light, as would a swarm of bees. (www.scubaseraya.com)

AquaMarine Diving was the choice of Lisa C Evans (Fort Collins CO) for a trip in May last year, traveling around the island via van with five friends diving the best Bali can offer, lodging in different places each night. Their trip included muck diving from the shore at Secret Bay. The diving was varied, but she confirmed, "Highlights were the good dives around Tulamben -- the wreck and from the resort -- Mimpi Resort - to the south; as well as the Pacific side of Nusa Penida." They used day boats in some cases. She said, "It was interesting to see and dive so many different places around Bali. It was relatively inexpensive, a good value." (www.aquamarinediving.com)

Michael J Millet (Dublin CA) took a day boat with Blue Season to Nusa Penida in late 2015 and won't be using them again. After wading through low tide to board the boat, it was very crowded with no rinse tank for cameras, and they were limited to 45 minutes dive time during which they hand one manta encounter for about 15 minutes. "Upon return to the boat departure area at 3.00 pm., there is a wade of several hundred meters due to the low tide. Then we had a van ride back to the dive shop to rinse gear and hose off camera, then another van ride to the resort." Currents around Nusa Penida can be extremely strong at times. Some would even say they are dangerous. (www.blueseasonbali.com)

We offered a full review of Wakatobi Dive Resort in October 2014. Recently, a public airport opened on the island, but stick to Wakatobi's charter flights on their modern 70-seat ATR72 aircraft to cover the 635-miles from Bali.

As a bit of history, in 1997 our intrepid webmaster together with our then editor, John Shobe, found it took two days to travel there from Bali. They said: "After a day getting from Bali to Kendari, we were met by a guide who took us to a ferry. We remember it being around a 6 hour ferry ride to BauBau, where we overnighted in some hotel, and next morning traveled across Butan by jeep, to a rickety pier, where we caught another ferry that ran between the Wakatobi islands (Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, Binongko). A small boat from the resort met us mid-water near Tomea and took us to the resort. Wakatobi consisted of a long house with about four rooms, with separate building for toilets, kitchen, and diving. Only one other guy showed up during our stay. We were divers 36 & 37 in their record book - they were unknown at the time. The Undercurrent article introduced them to US divers and started the stampede to get there. That article got lots of mileage for Wakatobi Resort."

The waters around all the Indonesian islands can be subject to strong currents, which is why the marine life is so abundant. Andrew Bernat (Arlington, VA), diving Wakatobi last November, notes "On one house reef dive coming back next to the jetty was like trying to swim up a waterfall. We ended up crawling back along the rocky bottom." Catherine R Mack (Washington DC) adds that at Wakatobi in February of this year, "currents were strong and quite changeable. I did not think our divemaster was particularly skilled to handle them. He just let us keep swimming into the strong current instead of adjusting our dive or using a reef hook. However, the resort itself is perfect and the food delicious. They have a dedicated divemaster, an Italian, who is an expert in photography and everyone who hired him for a couple of days raved about his assistance. This place is serious about photography!" (www.wakatobi.com)

Komodo, east of Bali, is usually thought of as a liveaboard trip but Giuseppe Corcione (Bologna BO) stayed at the Puri Sani Beach Resort in September last year and dived with Dive Komodo. He told us, "Expect really good dives around Komodo as Cauldrons, Batu Bolong, Castel Rock, Cristal Rock, Tatawa Kecil and Manta Point. The Park fee is like $15 per day and has to be paid before leaving the port every morning. If you like to dive the southern part, be ready for colder water and less visibility since Pacific waters entering from south bring a colder stream. Currents usually are strong and sometimes unpredictable. Overall, the coral is healthy and fish life is great. Labuan Bajo the town with the airport that serves Komodo is one of the ugliest place in the world though." (www.divekomodo.com) (www.purisarihotel.com). That's it for this month.

In upcoming issues will write more about other Indonesia regions and liveaboards.

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