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Dive Review of Villa Markisa in

Villa Markisa: "Best dive resort on Bali for black sand and small animals", Sep, 2017,

by Marilyn Walker, CA, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 12 Helpful votes). Report 9827 has 1 Helpful vote.

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 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 2 stars
Snorkeling 1 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments The Villa Markisa attracts European and Asian divers, but is not well known in the USA. Guests this week included a Swiss couple, a Swedish couple, a German woman and her non-diving parents, and a couple from Hong Kong. He dives but his wife does not. We are served by a staff of 39 people, who take exquisite care of all of us. The European owners, Pedro and Christiane, are in residence. The other guests and staff speak English adequately to quite well. The restaurant menus have pages in German and pages in English. The word markisa refers to passion fruit, an Indonesian favorite.

Divers who visit here tend to be serious photographers. Most of them have cameras, some small point-and-shoot and some enormous SLR's. There is a work table for u/w photo gear in the main house with plenty of towels and plenty of electric outlets for charging strobes and batteries.

The resort is so well landscaped that it feels much larger than it really is. The flowering shrubs of bougainvillea and frangipani are decorative. The scuba compressor is on the property, but we do not hear the noise such machines generate. We hear chirping birds and crowing roosters, rustling leaves, surf grinding lava stones into black sand, perhaps the occasional truck rumbling by on the road, no barking dogs. The charming gecko lizards call their name sometimes. It's said to be a social thing.

The resort's wi-fi service is slow and erratic, often dropping the connection and requiring that we log in again, which is inconvenient and old-fashioned. I advise examining your favorite apps at home and download parts that can be done beforehand. For example, if you have Google Translate, download the Indonesian dictionary when you have strong, fast wi-fi. Download the GPS maps for Bali to your device. Download the Reef Life app for species identification, too. The resort does have the well-known critter id books in the library. Download beforehand whatever e-books you might want to read while you lounge poolside between dives.

Our bungalow is thoughtfully laid out, with plenty of closet space, plenty of electrical outlets, a cool-to-the feet concrete floor and a shady patio. It is air conditioned, but we soon turned that off in favor of the breeze – well, more of a wind – that blows strongly in the dry season. The bed is protected at night with a romantic tent of gauzy netting. We were there in September and had no problem with insects.

The bathroom is wonderful, entirely out of doors, entirely private, with a glorious open-air shower. The big-leafed tropical plants in the small garden beside the shower can serve as fig-leaves in a photograph that includes the shower, the frangipani, the sky, and the bather. The toilet has a separate bidet hose, which we have come to see as a hallmark of civilized living.

The housekeepers keep the bungalow very clean in the most unobtrusive manner. When we go down to breakfast, they service the room, and when we go down for dinner they service the room again and turn down the bed and open the gauze tent for the night.
The tap water is okay for tooth-brushing, but they provide twice-filtered drinking water in steel bottles for drinking. They have eliminated plastic water bottles and paper straws and similar debris to protect the environment.

Meals are served in the restaurant next to the main building. We order European or Indonesian breakfast from the menu. After breakfast we order lunch from a menu that changes daily, so they can have it ready when we come in from diving. They serve afternoon tea and later open the bar for a drink before dinner. The dinner is buffet style, with soup and entrees and dessert that changes daily.

Behind us is the then-dormant volcano, Gunung Agung. The 1963 eruption poured lava across the rice fields, removing any way for farming to make a living. The mountain's rain shadow makes the Tulamben climate much drier than the rest of Bali, so even in the fields spared by the volcano they can manage only one rice crop a year.

The volcano was entirely quiet during our stay here, but only two weeks later, earthquakes alerted volcanologists to the strong possibility of eruption. Mountain villages and Villa Markisa were evacuated. Check the Internet for the most recent status.

The diving here is on black sand and volcanic rubble. The best-known dive site is the wreck of the USAT Liberty, a US cargo ship torpedoed by the Japanese in January, 1942. It was beached to prevent it from sinking, and stayed on the beach until the 1963 eruption pushed the wreck down the slope, an easy few kicks from the beach. The resort brings guests in the boat. The wreck makes an environment that attracts sea creatures, with well-observed habits. For example, the resort schedules a 6 am dive there, to view a school of bump-head parrotfish. There are many divers on the wreck at all times of day.

The local regulations forbid building piers or jetties. Christiane says the local people fear that evil spirits will emerge from the ocean to invade the land. Doing without a pier means that every dive begins with a wade out to the boat. They do not bring the dive boat (or even a dinghy) onto the beach. Instead the staff swims the dive gear and weight belts and cameras, very carefully, out to the moored boat. The guests hobble into the mild surf with rocks rolling uncomfortably underfoot, threatening a painful fall if you lose your balance, until the water is deep enough to float. My thin-soled tropical dive booties are entirely inadequate to protect the feet from the rocks. My old cold-water booties would have served better. As it is, wading in and out is quite uncomfortable.

Most dives are characterized as “reef” or “muck”, but here “reef” means rocky substrate supporting sponges but limited coral. “Muck” means muddy sand, easily kicked up.

The black sand slopes are appealing to those who love to photograph very tiny animals that live here and nowhere else. There is relatively little hard coral and few colorful soft corals, although specific dive sites have some. They renamed the Coral Gardens dive site to Mimpi Gardens, because the coral is gone. Visibility is adequate for keeping track of your dive buddy and for macro work. The wreck is the only wide-angle subject around.

Blue ribbon eels and white eyed moray eels are abundant. Lucky-to-find medium-sized animals include harlequin shrimp and mantis shrimp eyeing you from their holes. A big octopus lives on the house reef and seems very acclimated to divers, not hiding but just pumping its siphon blast your way. Even familiar fish have markings different from those who live in other seas. The big prize was a red rhinopias scorpionfish.

Our dive guides adhere to high standards for customer service, assiduous to show you the subjects you have asked for. Each guide takes care of one or two divers at a time. They have keen eyesight to find the teeny-tiny creatures. There seems to be guide-pride in uncovering vanishingly small nudibranchs and crustaceans, and always that crowd pleaser, the pygmy seahorse. Bring your macro lens.

Before the dive, of course, the boat crew assist you to don your gear. You do a backwards roll into the water. After the dive, the crew help you to remove all your gear in the water and the strong young men do the heavy lifting. The boat ladder is unusually well designed: the first rungs are deep enough to step on easily and the rail goes higher than usual for a good grip while you step aboard.

While most of the dives are free of current, several divers reported strong current which they could not readily kick into, and which even dragged them down the sand slope, which is quite dangerous.

The spa offers a delightful Bali-style massage at a very reasonable price. Everybody should treat themselves to at least one hour's worth.
Websites Villa Markisa   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Caribbean, Australia, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, Micronesia
Closest Airport Denpasar Getting There Car and driver from the resort to pick us up at the airport for a long drive across the island.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas calm
Water Temp 80-81°F / 27-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30-40 Ft/ 9-12 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Easy-going but safety-minded.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Staff handled the equipment very carefully.
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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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