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Dive Review of Eco Divers in
Indonesia/Lembeh and Manado

Eco Divers: "Incredible Diving In Indonesia", Feb, 2016,

by Brent Barnes, OK, US (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports with 5 Helpful votes). Report 8822.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I returned from North Sulawesi and had an excellent experience with Eco Divers in Lembeh and in Manado. I am a well-traveled diver but had never been to Asia to dive and Lembeh has been on my bucket list for a while. Last spring, I placed in a photo contest through Beneath the Seas and won a 7 night stay with Eco Divers in Lembeh and was thrilled when I received it. But, I noted at the bottom of my winning certificate that it was only valid in 2015 and I had already taken major trips to the Socorros and Cat Island in the Bahamas and did not have time to get to Indonesia in 2015. I sent an email to Eco Divers in Lembeh and got an immediate response from the owner himself, Andrea Bensi. I inquired if they would extend the certificate to 2016 if I paid for a second diver to come with me and he immediately assured me they would. He also highly recommended that I extend my trip a few days and dive with Eco Divers in Manado in the Bunaken Marine Park. These two experiences are very different as Lembeh is muck diving with amazing and bizarre critters and the Bunaken park is amazing walls with some pelagic life. They are 2 hours apart by ground and in my opinion it would be neglectful to travel across the world to dive one without the other. I agreed and made travel arrangements for early January and Andrea immediately answered any questions I had by email before the trip. As it was my first time to travel to Asia, I dreaded the travel but found the trip to Asia to be long but fine. We flew from the Midwest in the United States to Los Angeles and overnighted there. We then flew from L.A. to Manado on Singapore Airlines. This involved an 11 hour flight to Tokyo with a two hour layover in Tokyo and then a seven hour flight on the same plane from Tokyo to Singapore. Thus, we did not have to worry about making connections. We then had a six hour layover in Singapore and caught a 3.5 hour flight from Sinagapore to Manado on SilkAir which is a regional branch of Singapore Airlines. The United States based airlines could surely learn a thing or two from Singapore Airlines in regards to comfort and customer service. The service was outstanding and the Singapore Air stewardesses were incredible in attending to our needs. Singapore Airlines allows two free bags of 50 pounds each per person. Unlike U.S. based airlines, they try and minimize carry-on luggage for the comfort of its passengers so limit carry-ons to a maximum of 15 pounds. Mine was about 18 pounds but it was never weighed and I never had a problem but don’t think about trying to carry on a 40 pound piece of travel luggage like the U.S. carriers allow as Singapore Airlines will not allow it.
Upon arriving to Manado, we purchased our visa and collected our bags and went through customs without problems and Eco Divers had a driver waiting for us. He collected our luggage and drove us the 1.5 hours to the resort in an air-conditioned van. Upon arrival, we were immediately met by Sandra, the resort manager from Germany. She oriented us to the resort and explained the daily routine and took us to our room. The Eco Diver resort is a small resort in Bitung and was created specifically for divers. If a big resort with a pool, beach and a party scene are important to you do not stay here. The resort is very small and fully enclosed with a wall and sits in the town of Bitung and is about a 15 minute drive from the Lembeh Strait. There is no pool or beach. However, the resort is clean, comfortable and has outstanding personalized service. It is the smallest of the Lembeh resorts with a maximum of 18 divers. The resort has a central area with a restaurant and small library and media area. Across from it is a small gift shop, a digital camera center, a dive equipment room and three accommodation areas. Each accommodation area has a central living area with chairs and couches and there are three bedrooms each with private bathrooms. Each room has a personal air conditioner and overhead fan. Electrical plugs are 220 V with the Europlug, but the resort has 2 – 3 electrical converters per room for U.S. conversion. Indonesia has frequent power outages but the resort has a backup generator so any loss of power only lasts 2 – 3 minutes. The rooms were small but the beds were comfortable, the showers had excellent water pressure and plenty of hot water. Each living area also had a camera room with a computer and work desks and extra plugs for charging batteries and cameras and for storage of your camera. We were asked to put our dive gear outside of our room the first day by 7 AM and it was collected and then we never touched it again the rest of the week as it was handled for us. Eco Divers in Lembeh advertises as a “liveaboard” experience with the comfort of a land based resort and that is exactly what it provides. The daily routine is simple. A hot breakfast was available starting at 7 AM. It was order from a menu and included pancakes, French toast, eggs, omelettes, etc. Service was quick and we had our food within 10 minutes of ordering. After finishing breakfast, we were then asked to place our order for dinner that night from a set menu of appetizers, soups and Indonesian and western dishes. We then left at 8 AM in an air conditioned van for the 15 minute ride to the Bitung marina where we boarded one of the smaller speedboats for the 5 minute ride to the large “home” boat, the Nautica. The Nautica stays permanently anchored in the middle of the strait and acts as your home for the day. Three dives are done per day with divers taken to dive sites by a smaller speedboat. Dive sites ranged from 3 minutes to 25 minutes from the Nautica. In between dives we returned to the large Nautica. Cookies and hot chocolate were served after every dive. A large buffet lunch was brought to the boat each day which we had after our second dive. After the third dive we were taken back to the marina and picked up by the van and taken to the resort and were usually back by 5:30 PM. Dinner was between 7 and 10 PM and was ready quickly as you had already ordered it that morning. The final day, the crew rinsed our gear and delivered it to us. The food was outstanding throughout the week and we had large portions. My daughter had a full vegetarian diet without problems. The Nautica was incredibly comfortable with two full bathrooms, outdoor showers, a large covered second deck with padded large seats excellent for napping or reading between dives. Multiple books are available on the boat for identifying the many critters you will see. The diving is almost all muck diving, the guides are incredible at finding bizarre and tiny creatures. They are very careful in handling dive gear and cameras. I found almost every item on my wish list including the blue ring octopus, pygmy seahorses and pipehorses, cuddlefish embryos, many frogfish and nudibranches and the flamboyant cuddlefish. We did a night night dive to see the mandarin fish spawn and I would highly recommend it. We did 18 dives in 6 days with only 2 repeats at our request. If you want to see lots of coral, I would recommend Angel’s Window which is a unique site. We did a side trip to the Tangkoko National Park one evening and saw several tarsiers, black crested macaques (large monkeys) and cuscus and I would highly recommend it. Take plenty of water and insect spray. We also visited the Tasikoki Nature Center which is a center for confiscated animals from the illegal exotic animal trade in which they are trying to get back in the wild and I would highly recommend the 2 hour tour there. Tangkoko is $72 per person and the Nature Center is free with a recommended donation of $20 per person. At the end of the week, we were taken by air conditioned van for the 2.5 hour trip to the Minahasa Lagoon just south of Manado where Eco Divers Manado is based out of. This is a spectacular resort with individual villas on the beach that are large with spectacular outdoor showers. There is an infinity pool, a bar and spa and the grounds are beautiful and would be excellent for a non diver also. We did three days of diving with 3 dives per day. We spent one entire day at the Bunaken park with its dramatic walls and heavy fish. At Bunaken, we saw 21 green turtles and 1 hawksbill on our 3 dives but not much other pelagic life. Bunaken is a 45 minute boat ride so we had lunch on the boat which was excellent. The other two days we dove off of the mainland and came back to the resort in between each dive. The meals at the Minahasa Lagoon were outstanding and they did an outdoor shiskabob barbeque for us the final night. My final bill was paid in US dollars by credit card and the nice part is that any tips are collected as a lump sum at the end of the trip and split evenly between the entire staff at the resorts so you do not have to worry about exchanging any money to Indonesian rupiah as everything can be paid in dollars at the end of the trip including tips.
The incredible part of the tip for us? We went in January which is the low season. During our 7 nights with Eco Divers at Lembeh, we were the only two people there for 3 of the nights and the other four nights they had one other guest. I was concerned about a drop in customer service due to it being just us but found the service to be excellent. On three days, my daughter and I had the whole Nautica and resort to ourselves! The day before we arrived, the resort only had one diver but she was still treated to a complete dive experience and had the full Nautica to herself including a full buffet lunch served to her. At the magnificent Minahasa Lagoon resort, there was only one other diver so we had the large resort to ourselves there also! I asked the owner if there is marked changes in the weather or diving during the year and he said there was not. December through April is considered the rainy season but that does not impact the diving, critters or visibility much. As the resorts cater to you even if you are the only one there, I would highly recommend going in the low season of January or February for a wonderful personalized experience. In short, I would highly recommend Eco Divers in Lembeh and Manado and would highly recommend the Minahasa Lagoon resort.
Finally, if you travel through the Singapore airport and have 6 hours or more, try and catch one of the free city tours or the night City Lights tour. The airport is incredible with shopping, entertainment areas, gardens, day rooms and a free theater running movies all the time. On the way back, we had a 11 hour layover in Tokyo and used Rainbow Tours to give us a four hour tour of Narita which included an English speaking guide picking us up and taking us on the tour for $50 per person. We then got a day room for 4 hours with a personal shower and got a nice nap and refreshing shower in between long flights.
Websites Eco Divers   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Bahamas, Saba, St. Eustatius, California, Socorros Islands, Cocos Island, Belize, Cozumel, Curacao, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, West Palm, Cabo, Dominica, Mexican Cenotes
Closest Airport Manado Getting There Flight to Manado usually through Singapore

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 78-82°F / 26-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 20-60 Ft/ 6-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No limitations, we generally followed the guide as they were superior at finding critters but were not required to stay with them at all times. Depths were usually a maximum of 60 feet at Lembeh and 80 feet at Bunaken and dives were 50 minutes to 80 minutes
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments I dove both Lembeh and Bunaken at Manado. They are completely different. Lembeh is exclusively macro photography with incredible small bizarre critters. Bunaken is dramatic walls with large pelagics so bring appropriate lenses for each as needed. The crew at each site was outstanding in handling cameras and had large rinse buckets available and had camera rooms at the resort for camera work. Odd batteries will not be available in Lembeh so bring them.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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