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Dive Review of Villa Markisa in
Indonesia/Tulamben, Bali

Villa Markisa: "Supermacro Diving in Tulamben", Apr, 2015,

by Rickie Sterne/Chris Button, AR, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 8497.

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 4 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments We chose to do only muck diving during our week at Villa Markisa, although we were offered the opportunity to visit coral sites and the Liberty wreck. We had just finished two weeks of diving from the Pelagian and knew from a previous visit to Tulamben that the local coral sites would be disappointing in comparison. The muck sites, however, were anything but disappointing.
We saw many, many species of tiny nudibranchs. There were a number of exotica we had never seen before. We saw several color morphs of the "donut" Doto, species 9. A tiny Sagominopteron psychodelicum was a highlight of the week. We encountered a Thecacera picta breeding ground one morning, where dozens of pairs were mating and several animals were laying egg ribbons. We still have not identified all the new species of nudis we saw at Villa Markisa. On one dive we even encountered a nudi that the guide had never seen before. But the diving was not all about opistobranchs. We also saw numerous species of shrimp, including a pair of large harlequin shrimp, tozeuma shrimp, tiger shrimp, and beautiful almost translucent shrimp floating in the water column, as well as the more usual crinoid, wire coral, anemone, and mantis shrimp. There were boxer crabs, several types of elegant squat lobsters, and mud crabs. The broadclub and pygmy cuttlefish were willing to pose for our cameras. We saw no octopus, although other divers in the resort did. Frogfish of several species hid in the corals and sponges, as did leaf scorpionfish. We saw elegant sand divers in full display. One afternoon near the end of our dive at Melasti, we swam over a patch of begdaggled-looking coral. To our surprise, this unpromising habitat was richly populated with tropical fish, including some beauties like palette surgeonfish and a pair of lagoon triggerfish.
The two of us always enjoyed our own dive guide. We dove with four different guides, and all were quite skilled. We waded and swam from shore to the dive boats, carrying our fins and cameras. The dive guide kindly began carrying my camera for me when he noticed that I, being short, had to swim at least twice as far as the other divers. The sea bottom falls to a long shelf which must be about 5 feet 4 inches deep. The dive boats are small, carrying only four or five divers under a canopy. Our cameras sat on a rubber mat in the bow. Crew assisted divers in donning gear before the back roll entry. I explained that I prefer to put on my gear in the water, and the crew obliged me willingly. At the end of the dive we handed our gear up and climbed the ladder back into the boat. The boats return to the resort after each dive. Most of the sites are very close to the resort.
There are two large rinse tanks for cameras, computers, and masks in the dive area on shore. At the end of the day we rinsed our wetsuits in one of the tanks, the other being kept clean for night diving cameras. The water was changed at least daily. Gear is stored by day on racks and in baskets outside, but moved inside by the staff at night. There is a toilet in the dvie area as well as a pitcher of cool water. At the end of the week, the staff rinsed all our gear and hung it out to dry before we packed up. Much of the diving in Tulamben is deep - Hippocampus bargibanti living at 92 feet, for example - so nitrox is needed. While the currents are certainly not strong, they are pesky for photographers focusing on very small subjects.
We chose to dive at Villa Markisa because dive friends had told us the resort was a lovely, relaxing place to stay. Our friends are accurate reporters. The resort is seafront and beautifully landscaped. It offers a range of accommodations, and accommodation prices, from a small bedroom without a view to a two bedroom villa. We stayed in a deluxe bedroom in the main villa. Our room was huge and the bathroom was almost as large. We had one of those vast Balinese beds with reading lamps on each side. There were two large closets, an electric kettle, a small fridge, and a desk. The bathroom provided a big chest as well as storage shelves. Our bathroom was guarded by a large wooden carving of a man. I was very tired the night we arrived and interpreted the figure as an angry warrior god. After night's sleep, he looked quite benevolent to me and I grew fond of him. There was good water pressure and ample hot water in the large open shower. The resort provides a full range of good quality toiletries, and a hair dryer was provided on request. The towels are large and fluffy. Cool woven robes hung in the closet for each of us. Our bedroom also had a large porch, made private by landscaping. There was room for a Balinese settle as well as a table and chairs. I read on the settle in the afternoons, and we drank tea and ate a small snack on the porch each morning before the first dive. The room was thoroughly cleaned each morning and our selection of tea bags replenished. When our bed was turned down in the evening while we were at supper, the mosquito netting was dropped around the bed. We were encouraged to keep our windows and doors closed from dusk onward, but I never actually saw a mosquito.
The resort staff was considerate. The evening we arrived, we were exhausted. The woman who escorted us to our room and showed us its features looked at us closely. Then she said, "You are tired. Let's fill out all these forms in the morning." Covered pitchers of water are placed throughout the resort, and a staff member strolled past the water stations regularly to be sure the pitchers were filled and clean glasses available. We observed the dive staff assisting a slightly disabled diver in a most discreet and considerate manner.
Villa Markisa has a very nice pool, just large enough to get in some actual swimming. It also has a sort of hot tub area at one end and is very nicely landscaped. There are lounges by the ocean for relaxing with the sea view beneath palm trees. The resort has a very good marine ID library in the main building's lounge area. Christiane, one of the owners, is a real resource for nudi ID.
The resort's schedule was first dive, breakfast, second dive, lunch, third dive, snack, night dive if desired, dinner. Night life consists of visiting with the other divers. Meals are served in the open air restaurant entered via stepping stones through a pond, where a pair of turtles as well as koi live. Breakfast and lunch are ordered from a menu. The breakfast menu is always the same, but the lunch menu changed from day to day. The Western breakfast included artisan breads baked fresh at VM. The mie kwah was the best I have eaten in Indonesia, and I eat that dish at every opportunity. Coffee was served to each coffee-drinking guest in his own French press. Lovely. Lunches were three course and usually included a pasta choice. The owner told us that an Italian guest had gone to the kitchen and taught her staff to make some "mama recipes." The resort grows its own fresh herbs. There were also more Asian entrees on offer. Fresh fruit was always available for afters, but there were sweet desserts. Afternoon tea consisted of brewed coffee or tea and a sweet and a savory snack. Dinner was a buffet. A soup was available each evening. Desserts included ice creams in tropical flavors made at the resort. One need fear neither hunger nor weight loss at Villa Markisa.
VM would be a good choice for single divers because rooms are priced by the night rather than by the person. Diving and board packages are charged separately. Yes, I understand that a single diver is effectively paying more than we did because only one person stays in the room. At least he would not be tacking on a 60-75% single supplement. One oddity about pricing at VM is that divers pay a separate boat charge on top of the dive package. The owner explained that some divers spend a good deal of time on the house reef, so they feel those divers should not be charged for boat rides they did not take. The boat fees were modest, but you do need to have some extra cash to pay them. We thought that Villa Markisa was very moderately priced for the level of luxury we enjoyed there. Tulamben is a long drive through heavy traffic from the airport, but several divers spoke of the ease of flying into Bali and not dealing with inter-island flights. If we dive at Tulamben again, as we would like to do, we shall certainly go back to Villa Markisa.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving around the Caribbean, Australia, Sea of Cortez, Fiji, Truk, Yap, Palau, other areas of Indonesia
Closest Airport Denpasar Getting There long flight with great direct service from Houston on Singapore Airlines

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 84-86°F / 29-30°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 5-35 Ft/ 2-11 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions We stayed with our private dive guide, who was finding lots of cool, often tiny critters. Our dives lasted from 60 to 85 minutes, so we were ready to come up when the dive guide said we should. The dives were always paced to our photography.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Villa Markisa definitely caters to photographers. There is a camera area in the main building with plenty of space and electrical outlets. All crew members handled cameras, many quite large, very carefully. Dive guides pointed out interesting subjects and let divers have all the time they wanted to get their shots. None of the divers we were with were rude, destructive photographers. On the boat after one dive, the guides joined with the guests in expressing horror at having watched a diver from another resort harass a turtle. "We don't have divers like that," said one guide. Several of the dive guides are themselves very skilled underwater photographers. The only weak point in the system is that there is no real protection for cameras on the boats. Many divers held their cameras during the brief boat rides.
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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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