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Dive Review of Salli Bay Resort in
Indonesia/Halmahera

Salli Bay Resort: "The Gap", Apr, 2018,

by Michael Joest, Kehl, DE (Top Contributor Top Contributor 36 reports with 24 Helpful votes). Report 10256 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments
Most avid divers have heard of or even dove Bunaken and Lembeh Strait. Same goes for Raja Ampat, Irian Jaya and the lower chain of Moluccas like Ambon, Flores and Komodo. There is a gap in between, where it seems only few divers have been so far. It´s Halmahera, the biggest island of the Moluccas. I went there once on a live aboard MS Liburan in 2008. We found promising good coral and sponges, amazing fish life and typical pelagic like jacks and barracudas in the 100 circling above you. A travel agents newsletter last year in autumn caught my eye when it showed a small resort with only 12 bungalows on a little island near Halmahera. On the picture from the air you saw a small cozy place right on the beach in a little bay with a house reef in front. It looked so awesome, the Robinson inside me screamed immediately “yes”. Remote paradise is never easy to reach. It took 12 hours from Frankfurt to Singapore, another 3.5 h to Manado. There I spent one night to catch up on sleep and adjust a bit. Next day onward jump via Ternate to Labuha. This was scheduled for 2:45 p m. Baggage allowance is only 10 kg, had to pay 220 000 Rupia which is around 13 € for the additional 10. 3 p m no plane no announcement, which is so typical for Indonesian airlines. If you can´t tolerate this, better don´t go! 5 p m still nothing, now at least they explained it was due to some operational issue, the plane would be 2 h delayed – Western 2 or Indonesian?!? 5:30 came and I slowly worried about my onward trip as I still had to catch a car and boat transfer on Labuha arrival. Now 6 p m was planned, 6:20 we boarded, 6:30 we were airborne to Ternate a 1 h ride on AT 73 twin prop. There I stayed on board expecting the plane to continue, which wasn´t the case. All passengers had to disembark, one night in a hotel was waiting. I later learned Labuha is not equipped for night landings. Got my suitcase and the promise the flight to L would go in the early morning. Wings Airline provided two vans to get all passengers to some accommodation. This was a place called Losmen Kita Solamat Datang, a lousy not even 1 star motel for maybe locals but not tourists. Expected us to share a room, lucky me, they couldn´t find a Muslim who agreed to be with a Westerner in one bed. A more than modest room waited for me, no towels, no drinking water, blotchy mirror, fat roach on my toothbrush in the morning. Went to bed on an empty stomach, since a small snack for lunch nothing and here or close by not a thing to find to eat, no restaurant no street stalls, poor show and disgrace for Wings Airline. Only one of the staff spoke some English. The onward flight was supposed to leave early, pick up would be at 7. I just could not believe or trust that and set my alarm for 5:30, shortly after a wake up knock on the door. We got some tea and strange coffee with lots of silt in the cup. Some toast with chocolate sprinkles was offered. Would I reach my final destination today? Transfer to the airport 6:20, no plane at 7, no plane at 8, 8:30 boarding and take off for a 30 min flight to Labuha. While Manado had been cloudy rainy hot and humid all day through, here were only scattered clouds and sunshine. 30 min by car, another 45 with boat through some fantastic far away islands scenery. Sali Bay was opened in Oct. 2017 on the island of Sali Kecil. 12 bungalows are hidden in lush green with only 3 steps into the water, house reef in front, steep rain forest in the back. The bungalow is huge and comfortable with AC and chopper on the ceiling, a nice bathroom with open space for sun to pour in, a really big anteroom and terrace. Safe deposit locker, fridge tea making facilities and enough sockets to charge all your batteries on. From the jetty I already spotted baby black tips cruising the lagoon, the coral looked great, lots of small colorful fish around. As soon as I had unpacked I took my snorkel gear for a first glimpse under water. Wouh, aquarium everywhere in lovely 28 degrees of water. Turtle triggers bat fish sweetlips file fish, jacks, unicorn fish, angels trumpet, surgeons 3 big trevally 3 humphead parrot fish, clown trigger, 1 eagle ray, lion fish, one huge mixture of everything cruising around, an ideal place for the not diving partner or kids.
We had a some serious photo guys with large camera settings with us, they wanted to do a muck dive. Well, I´m not too keen on that, follow once in a while though. Mostly there are critters and other small stuffs my eyes just can´t find or see. Dive guide brought magnify glass. We went to a small local village jetty, curious kids eyes followed each of our movements. Below the jetty a bunch of bat fish were waiting for us hovering above some big table coral. We found 1 barracuda, a whole field of pastel colored soft coral, plenty of critters, a cuttle fish, porcelain crab, seahorse, blue ribbon eel and some deep red sea fans on the wooden pillars of the jetty. Dive 2 lead along some mangroves, vis 30 m, good fish life, soft and hard coral plus sponges cocktail. The Indonesian dive guides are fantastic. They will find, spot and point out everything you ask for. 3 tiny brown creatures in a sea fan of the same color, a pigmy seahorse in a Gorgonia, some nearly transparent shrimp underneath an anemone, things I would never find on my own. I´m happy to see a scorpion fish once in a while but most times spot it only when it´s moving. Maybe my eyes roam to fast above everything always looking out into the blue for Mr. Big. Yesterday the guide found a 10 cm cuttle fish which stayed in place only changing color and features all the time with 5 divers crowding him. He then lifted two of his arms as some kind of warning “ guys, that´s close enough”. Again and again we heard the guide banging on his tank when some new surprise was waiting for us, nudis, cleaner shrimps, eels etc. On my first dive with only 3.5 kg weight belt on me, I noticed some slight positive buoyancy on safety stop. No big deal, I could balance this with breathing. On board my guide suggested for me to put o.5 kg more onto my belt, wouh to that. I even noticed, these guys press the purge when opening the tank, a thing I always do and love to see being done to my gear. In some places you watch guides walking down the tank row and poff hit all one after the other without releasing a bit of the pressure building up in hoses and on valves. Current on the surface sometimes looked really dangerous and tricky, sometimes we even saw circular whirlpools where tide currents met. Definitely no spot to jump into. Shocking for me to find so much plastic floating in the water even in such a remote place. Once we had a lovely drift dive where current carried us along an awesome reef plateau. Taking photos then proved to be a tough job, you only managed that by hiding behind some boulder. In the hazy blue one mobula was cruisng past, later 6 of these hurried past, too far for a good shot. Most sites were coral slopes, only a few walls reaching down to a sandy bottom around 30 m. We had humphead, 3 different species of sweetlip and plenty of fuesseliers surgeons angel and trigger every day. Only few jacks and barracuda cruised our path, once in a while a shy turtle. Again we did a muck dive in some lagoon inside an island, a lot of transparent animals (salpen?) were floating near the surface, for me the only interesting thing on that dive . No fun at all with 3 guys with huge cameras, my job was waiting hovering slowly getting mad. Even one of the photo guys complained later on, because the guide most times only looked after one guest who was only keen on extreme macro. This just is not fair at all, sometimes it took up to 8 minutes for these guys to finish one spot. They not only shot a lot of pictures but checked them again and again only to shoot more. Guests who would love to cover ground and look around don´t get their value for money. Imagine, you want to dive down into the deep blue and there is a strong upcurrent running. What to do?!? Well, I kicked and fought down to 8 m, grabbed a hold and waited for the current to slowly fade. On the other hand, this place proved to be one of the best so far, humpheads, sharks cruising by and a reef teeming with life. On surface interval we anchored close to an island full of flying fox, funny to see these guys circling round their sleeping place and fighting with others for their favorite spot. Later I saw some of these in a butcher shop already cooked ready to eat, wurgs. My last two dives went along a nice slope with orange soft coral in a whole area, this later changed into nearly only black coral, there were more than 100 of redtooth trigger hiding in crevices or swimming around, amazing. Here we had sharks cruising by in the deep, 3 humpheads, 3 turtle, Napoleon, 1 eagle ray, all these rather shy and difficult to take pictures of. Shy means not used to divers yet, a good sign. Here vis changed from 30 to around 10, we even had thermoclines which dropped the water temp to 23, brrrr. From home I had prebooked a 12 dive package, for one more they charge 40 €, Nitrox is possible. My last day there I joined the divers for some snorkeling along the reef, with lovely islands small beaches lush tropical forest and mangroves nearby, really worth it.
Meals were really mouthwatering, breakfast, cereals, some jam honey Nutella, plenty of fresh fruit, pancakes, eggs to order – due to delivery problems and production there is nearly no cheese, sausage, milk products on the island. Lunch and dinner was served on plate, starters like spring rolls freshly made, salad, shrimps; main course mostly Indonesian dishes with rice or noodles, meat and fish, some rather spicey; dessert ice cream, cake, fresh fruits, coffee etc. for self serving. I enjoyed the easy friendly atmosphere with the staff. There is no “sir” when the waiter is serving you. We soon were on first name terms. Meals were not that big, which worked quite well with me, they looked after my gluten free problem. You must try the fish soup, spicey and mouth watering delicious. Meals were a lovely treat delight and surprise every new day. The view from the dining area is spectacular. Often they served some lilac fruit juice looking like a poison drink out of a fairy tale. It was dragon fruit and tastes like heaven.
Websites Salli Bay Resort   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving worldwide more than 100 destinations
Closest Airport Labuha Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 28-°C / 82-°F Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 10-30 M / 33-98 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 1 h 50 bar
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Report currently has 2 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By peter bernstein in FL, US at May 14, 2018 10:27 EST  
Was the triip home any better ?? Great report-thanks
By report author: Michael Joest in Kehl, DE at May 14, 2018 14:25 EST  
went home via Bali for another 10 days of diving and yes thank you, this time all flights were good :-)
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