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Reviews (5)

The Menjangan Resort


We stayed at The Menjangan Resort and dove with Abyss Ocean World in April 2023 after three weeks diving in Raja Ampat, one week diving in Amed (Bali), and five days diving in Tulamben (Bali). This review covers both The Menjangan Resort and Abyss Ocean World. We were at The Menjangan for five days.

We had pre-booked our five day stay and diving through our travel agents, Anne and Scott with Blue Water Dive Travel, who did a great job with our entire trip.

The Menjangan Resort, Abyss Ocean World and the diving, particularly at Menjangan Island, far exceeded our expectations. Menjangan is really off the beaten path. In fact, it about as far as you can get in Bali from the hustle and bustle of Denpasar and still be in Bali. I suspect that we would have never found the place on our own but Anne with Bluewater lives in Bali and strongly encouraged us to visit Menjangan. We are really glad she did.

The Menjangan Resort is a magical place. There are a small number of rooms in a very large (382 hectares) but mostly undeveloped area within the national park. The food, accommodations and service are all first class. Don’t miss the tree top views from the top of The Bali Tower or dining on the oceanfront deck at the waterfront area. The area outside the resort is mostly rural villages. I enjoyed exploring the area by bike.

There are restaurants at both the Tower and the waterfront area. One can walk most everywhere within the resort and and the walking is delightful with numerous monkeys, birds and other things to see. However, depending on the location of your room, it could be a long walk to the Tower and/or the waterfront area for meals and activities.

There are loaner bicycles placed around the resort. They are a great way to get around. However, the quickest way to get around is to simply take one of the free shuttles (they are like large, open air, double decker golf carts) that constantly shuttle guests around the resort. We used them a lot simply because we had other things to do (including diving, snorkeling and kayaking) and sometimes did not want to take the time to walk or bike.

At the time of our visit, there was no dive operation within the resort. However, the resort works closely with Abyss Ocean World. After many weeks diving in Indonesia we had been spoiled by the high level of service that seemed to exist most everywhere (at least at the places that Bluewater Dive Travel books). However, Abyss Ocean World is right up there with the best of them.

We dove two days with Abyss Ocean World. Each day we did three boat dives. The first dive day we dove Pemuteran Bay which is in a small town about 15 km from the resort/national park. Abyss picked us up from the resort by private car. All of the dives were made from a very unique local fishing boat. The captain picked us up from the beach. We were the only guests on the boat. Abyss supplied lunch from a local restaurant. We ate on the beach. The whole day was a really nice experience. The diving at Pemuteran was quite good, but not spectacular. Well, it probably was spectacular by most standards, but we had just spent three weeks in Raja Ampat so that skewed our perspective.

The next dive day was Menjangan Island. Abyss Ocean World picked us by fast boat from the resort jetty. Menjangan Island is really spectacular. It must be is the best kept dive secret in Bali. Divers who go to Bali and never discover Menjangan Island are missing out. Yes, it is off the beaten path and requires a long car ride to get there, but the diving is worth it.

The Menjangan Resort/Abyss Ocean World was then one place on our entire trip where we really felt we made a mistake not staying longer. Anne had told us how nice it was, but we just could not get comfortable extending our trip beyond 45 days. But the next time we go to Bali, we will go back for more diving at Menjangan Island.

Visited on 04/2023 - Submitted on 07/30/2023
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Villa Markisa - Private Beach Bungalows - Dive Resort


We stayed at Villa Markisa in Tulamben in March 2023 after three weeks diving in Raja Ampat and one week diving in Amed, which is just down the road from Tulamben. There was some minor overlap in dive sites between Amed and Tulamben, primarily the Liberty Wreck, but both areas have many close by dive sites.

We had pre-booked our five day stay at Villa Markisa, including three days of diving (two tanks per day) through our travel agents, Anne and Scott with Blue Water Dive Travel (who did a great job).

Villa Markisa is located in very quiet area. There are very few restaurants within walking distance so we were glad that we had booked the full board package. The food was excellent. We met people who were staying a lot longer than us and no one seemed to be tired of eating at Villa Markisa. The open air dining area is quite elegant.

Villa Markisa is a small operation. We got the impression that at least one of the owners is on site most, if not all, of the time. It shows. All aspects of the resort run like clock work including food service, housekeeping, grounds maintenance and the top notch dive operation.

We stayed in Room #4. It was luxurious with a comfortable king size bed, a giant bathroom and a nice front porch with a big daybed overlooking the pool and ocean. The internet worked fine for the most part.

The on-site dive operation caters to very serious divers and even more serious photographers. While almost all of the other dive operations in Tulamben and Amed offer primarily shore diving, Villa Markisa specializes in boat dives.
Villa Markisa has two modern, high speed dive boats. Most the dives are immediately offshore and are typically only a few kilometers from the resort. We find boat dives more comfortable than shore diving so were were happy to see the dive boats after spending a week in Amed doing shore dives (although we are not complaining, the shore diving in Amed was also great).

Villa Markisa also specializes in muck diving and blackwater diving. Some of the more serious photographers did mostly muck diving and blackwater diving, both of which are apparently particularly good in the Tulamben area. We usually just did reef dives when the others were doing muck or blackwater diving. Although, the muck diving we did was very interesting.

One of the Villa Markisa owners is apparently the lead sponsor of the Mero Foundation which operates a marine biology training center just down the beach from the resort. The center appears to specialize in training young Indonesian women to become PhD level marine scientists. Ask if a tour is possible. We really enjoyed meeting the young scientists.

In summary, Villa Markisa is a great option for those looking for world class diving and a high end, all inclusive resort that is easy to reach via the international airport in Denpasar.

Visited on 03/2023 - Submitted on 07/29/2023
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Puri Wirata Dive Resort & Spa Amed


We stayed at Puri Wirata in March 2023 after about three weeks diving in Raja Ampat. We were at Puri Warita for one week. We had booked the stay, including four days of diving and two excursions through our travel agents, Anne and Scott with Blue Water Dive Travel (who did a great job).

The location is great. The hotel is on the ocean and the views are gorgeous. There are two oceanfront infinity pools, an elevated open air restaurant looking out over the water and numerous places to lounge outside, including plenty of shade if desired.

The hotel is upscale but showed a bit of wear and tear. We stayed in a Villa Master Suite. It was a huge one bedroom apartment with a separate bedroom, a large bath, full kitchen and a large combination dining/living area. The internet worked well. The apartment also had large outdoor balconies on two sides with ocean views.

The food at Puri Wirata is delicious and reasonably priced. For those seeking variety, there are also many good restaurants and a grocery store within easy walking distance.

During our stay there were a lot of caterpillars around the property. They were harmless but a bit of a nuisance. Some of them came into our room. I’m not sure whether the presence of the caterpillars was a normal event or something unusual. Although, in a very Balinese fashion, the local people seemed to be living in harmony with the caterpillars. We tried to do the same.

Bali Reef Divers has a full service operation at Puri Wirata. I did four dives a day with them most days, including a couple of night dives. My wife did a few less dives because most of the dives required a shore entry and the sand and rocks were rough on her knees. Each dive, the divers from Puri Wirata travelled in the back of a pickup truck to either a central meeting point (often another Bali Reef Divers location) or directly to the beach. At some point the divers and their gear eventually all made it to same beach, mostly by pickup truck but occasionally by motorcycle. Everything is well orchestrated. I thought the whole process was great fun.

Bali Reef Divers provides a very high level of personal service. For example, our dive guide, Sari, who is absolutely fantastic, made sure that someone (often him) carried my wife’s gear into the water to make it easier for her.

In addition to many shore dives, we did one two tank boat dive. It was unlike any other boat dive I had ever done. Sari arranged for a fishing boat captain to pick us up on the beach after completing his early morning fishing trip. The boat was a modern version of a traditional Balinese fishing boat which is similar to a large canoe with outriggers. It was a unique experience and one of the highlights of our time in Bali.

The black sand in Bali made the diving quite unique. There was also lot of unique marine life, especially on the night dives. Sari was able to plan and execute our dives to avoid having to swim against strong currents. Other than the usual challenges of shore entry diving, the diving was relaxed and quite enjoyable. The Liberty Wreck has to rate as one of the top wreck dives in the world.

Sari made everything great fun. The best advice I can give anyone planning to dive in the Amed/Tulamben area is to try and dive with Sari. You will not be disappointed.

Visited on 03/2023 - Submitted on 07/21/2023
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Cove Eco Resort


Cove Eco Resort

We were visiting Raja Ampat as part of a 45 day trip to Indonesia. We spent 11 days at Sorido Bay (reviewed separately) before our stay at Cove Eco, which was also 11 days.

Anne and Scott with Blue Water Dive Travel assisted us with our trip planning. They did a great job. Our goal was to dive us much of Raja Ampat as we could staying at land based resorts rather than on liveaboards. Splitting our time between Sorido and Cove Eco allowed us to dive much of northern Raja Ampat with very little overlap in dive sites.

Cove Eco is more remote and less polished that Sorido Bay. It is located on Yeben Island very close to the Fam Islands, which turned out to be one of our favorite places to dive in Raja Ampat (it may be our favorite place on the planet).

The staff is all Indonesian with most coming from the surrounding islands, although some of the dive staff were from Sulawesi. The staff could not have been more delightful.

During our stay, the Cove Eco guests generally seemed to be less experienced divers than the guests at Sorido. However, the dive operation, run by Obin, is top notch and would not disappoint even the most experienced diver. Each evening everyone would gather together before dinner and Obin would present the plan for the next day. He moved people around from boat to boat to make sure that everyone got to visit the best dive sites and to accommodate personal preferences.

Many of the guests were snorkelers rather than divers. Obin ran separate dive and snorkeling boats every day. That seems to work better than having divers and snorkelers together.

The boats were reasonably fast outboards with plenty of shade and good ladders. Each diver was assigned a storage bin under his/her seat, which was handy. Our divemaster, Raquel from Sulawesi, was outstanding. Elvin, our boat captain at Cove, turned out to be the husband of Usal, our diver guide at Sorido. Raja Ampat is indeed a small place.

Each morning was a two tank dive, typically involving a 30 to 45 minute boat ride in either direction. Most mornings we went to either to the fabulous Fam Islands or the remote and mostly pristine western part of Gam island.
The afternoon dives were single tank dives a short boat ride away. We seldom duplicated a dive site. Many days, my wife and I were the only divers doing afternoon dives. It was luxurious.

In general, we found the area around Yeben to be much more deserted that the Kri area with far fewer liveaboards. Although, we frequently encountered other groups who had made the trip to the Fam Islands. As near as we could tell other than a few homestays, Cove Eco is the closest dive resort to the Fam Islands. That is a big point in Cove Eco’s favor.

We found the dives from Cove Eco to generally have better visibility and less current than the dives we did in the Kri area. Although, the diving from Sorido was also world class in every respect. We only used reef hooks very occasionally on the Cove Eco dives and we would have been fine without them. We saw fewer Mantas on the Cove Eco dives, but to be fair, we saw so many Manta’s on the Sorido dives that by the time we got to Cove Eco, we were more interested in seeing other things. We did not seek out Manta dives as some other guests did. Those who wanted “Manta dives” saw plenty.

In mid-March, the water temperature ranged between 83 and 84 F. We never wore wet suits, but most people did. Most dives were around an hour, which was plenty. Nitrox was not available during our stay, but Cove Eco is going to add it. We would have dived Nitrox is available, but really didn’t miss it.

Cove Eco is the only “civilization” on Yeben Island. We were able to swim or hike anywhere on the island that we wanted to go. That was nice. The large house reef is quite good, especially for night dives or snorkeling.

Cove Eco, by most standards, and certainly by Raja Ampat standards, is high end. However, the facilities are a notch below Sorido’s. The place is just so remote that it must be very hard to maintain. That showed a bit but was not a problem for us.

We had one of the large “Superior” cottages with an enclosed open air shower and sink room. The A/C worked great and we slept well in the largest bed we had ever seen — ours was configure for a couple but they can be configured for up to four people.

All of the cottages are directly on the water with wide ocean views. It is truly a spectacular setting. We loved lounging on the covered front porch on our cottage after a day of diving. The outdoor furniture, which included a cushioned sofa and a large day bed, was very comfortable. Unfortunately, there was a lot of plastic and other trash that washed up on the beach every time high tide came in. However, the staff would walk the beach as a group and pick up as much of the trash as they could. We appreciated that but it is a shame that it was necessary.

Some people used bug spray but we live in Florida and are used to bugs. We hardly used the provided bug spray. The Raja Ampat bugs are lightweights compared to the heavy hitters in Florida.

Cove Eco has a beach resort feel. The open air (but covered) outdoor lounge and dining areas had white sand floors. It was a laid back vibe. If you never put on shoes, most of the staff and other guests would probably not even notice. Meals were served plated, rather than buffet style. The chef and her very able staff offered a few special options for each meal and there were always standby options available if one did not like any of the special items on the menu. The food and service were outstanding.

The resort offers shared cell-based internet, but it only worked sporadically and, even when it did work, it was painfully slow. Our iPhones with Telkomsel SIMs cards rarely got enough of a data connection on Yeben to be usable. Although we found that we could sometimes use them during our surface intervals on days when we dove other islands.

In summary, Cove Eco is a great option for those looking for spectacular diving, comfortable accommodations and great food in place so remote that its hard to believe that a resort can function at all, let alone excel as Cove Eco does.

Note: The photos included with this review are not necessarily my best photos. I took hundreds. I am still sorting them out. These are just a representative sample.

Visited on 03/2023 - Submitted on 07/13/2023
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Sorido Bay Resort Raja Ampat (Papua Diving)


We were visiting Raja Amapt as part of a 45 day visit to Indonesia. We spent five days in the Ubud area of Bali before traveling on to Raja Ampat via Jakarta.

We were looking for places to visit in Raja Ampat where we could dive a lot of diverse dive sites. Based on our preference for small resorts rather than liveaboards, our travel agents, Anne and Scott with Blue Water Dive Travel (who did a great job), recommended that we start our Raja Ampat adventure at Sorido Bay. That recommendation turned out to be superb.

Sorido is located on Kri Island in the Dampier Strait. The resort is a stone’s throw from Cape Kri, which is world renowned for its biodiversity. While the resort is on the ocean, I would not consider it a beach resort. With its setting in a heavily wooded area, it has more of a high end jungle resort feel. In addition, each guest cottage faces the lagoon with a sandy beachfront providing beautiful water views as well.

Everyone who works at Sorido is laser focused on making sure that the guests have a fantastic experience. We have been to many nice resorts over the years, but few places where the service matched that at Sorida. It is truly world class.

The current onsite management team is made up of a Brit and two South Africans. All three were delightful. They worked very hard and seemed to love what they do. The rest of the staff was mostly Indonesian. Everyone was warm and friendly, notwithstanding the occasional language barrier.

Each evening the dive master plans the next day’s dive schedule for the following day taking into account personal preferences. Each couple is assigned to a dive guide for the entire stay. Our guide was Usal, a young woman from a neighboring island. She was extremely competent and delightful to dive with. The dive boats are custom designed for Raja Ampat conditions and are built at Sorido’s on-site boat yard. The boats are basic but reasonably fast, have reliable outboard power, plenty of sunshade and good ladders. There is limited storage space on the boats. Bring a dry bag.

We typically did three to five dives a day with some night dives. Special excursions were offered on some days. Don’t miss the excursion to the Fam Islands which includes a dive at Melissa’s Garden, which has to be one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. I have been diving over 40 years and thought I would never again see coral as healthy as the coral at Melissa’s Garden.

The Sorido house reef was nothing special and had a surprising amount of macroalgae, especially compared to most of the other sites in the Kri area, which were generally very healthy. But there was little reason to dive the house reef as there were more boat trips offered than most guests could handle. The exception to this rule, is Saturday, when the dive boats do not go out (so the staff can observe their religious day of rest). On Saturday, you can make a self guided dive at the house reef with the tanks left out on the dock near the entry.

Many guests skipped dives so the they could have more downtime, but for me the diving was so good that I was hesitant to skip dives. I stayed busy but still found some time to relax in the afternoons.

In early March, the water temperature ranged between 80 and 84 F. We never wore wet suits, but most people did. Most dives were around an hour, which was plenty. Nitrox was available at no additional charge.

In general, the diving lived up to Raja Amat’s reputation with healthy and diverse coral and marine life. There were plenty of big animals, including mantas. And plenty of very small and unique animals.

In general, the visibility was ok, but not great. The conditions varied considerably from day to day and dive site to dive site. We were glad that we stayed for 11 days as some marginal weather days were offset with some beautiful days. Currents varied widely from site to site and day to day. A reef hook was mandatory on Manta Ridge (but we saw a lot of mantas). Most other dives did not require a reef hook, but some did. I got in the habit of keeping one in my BC pocket just in case.

As with the rest of Raja Ampat, the amount of trash floating near the surface, particularly plastic, was disappointing. But underwater most sites were mostly pristine.

There were always many liveaboard dive boats in the area around around Kri (for good reason) but Sorido’s nimble outboard boats allowed us to mostly have each dive site to ourselves.

The resort is very small with about 10 waterfront “bungalows.” The bungalows have large, comfortable beds and nice waterfront porches (although the lounge chairs were a bit hard). For photographers, each bungalow has a large work counter with plenty of electrical outlets, bright overhead lighting and a dedicated sink. The A/C worked great, although we only used it at night. We did not find that we needed much bug repellant, if any.

There are other small resorts and homestays on Kri Island besides Sorido, including Kri Eco, Sorido’s sister facility. However, none of the other facilities are visible from Sorido and it would be difficult to visit them except by boat. We tried to hike though the jungle to Kri Eco but give up before we made it. The staff apparently does it all the time, but they are quite a bit younger.

The free internet was marginal, which is to be expected in such a remote place. Cell coverage with Telkomsel was also marginal but we could usually get a little data using our Telkomsel sim cards (purchased in Bali).

Meals are buffet style. The restaurant/lounge is a second story, open air facility with elegant Indonesian architecture and stunning views. The food was excellent as was the entire dining experience.

In summary, for world class diving, great facilities and concierge level service it would be hard to beat Sorido Bay. The fact that it even exists in such a remote and pristine area is remarkable. A big thanks to Anne and Scott at Bluewater Dive Travel and the entire Sorido Bay team for providing us with a trip we will never forget.

After Sorido our next stay in Raja Ampat was Cove Eco Resort which I will review separately.

Note: The photos included with this review are not necessarily my best photos. I took hundreds. I am still sorting them out. These are just a representative sample.

Visited on 03/2023 - Submitted on 07/12/2023
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