LauraTaylor - Bluewater Dive Travel

LauraTaylor

LauraTaylor

My Dive Map

Reviews (16)

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa

5
5
5
5

Bunaken Oasis Resort provided possibly the best dive resort experience I have had in 15 years of diving in Indonesia. From the luxury vehicle 30-minute airport transfer, and another 30 minutes on a lovely timber-trimmed boat (interestingly named after the owners’ horses) to arriving at the resort pier, I felt like a cherished guest.

Warmly welcomed by the management team, I was given a brief tour, deposited my camera into the huge camera room, and then escorted up a few flights of stairs to my standalone bungalow, where I had a great view of the lushly landscaped hillside of the Oasis, over the infinity pool and beyond to the sea from the comfortable deck chairs.

My room had everything one could desire, a beautiful fruit basket, a Nespresso coffee maker, lots of teas, hot & cold water, a mini-bar, wine, waffle robes or silky kimonos, lots of towels, organic body wash, soaps, shampoo and conditioner and a magic basket, where your laundry goes in and returns clean and folded. Importantly for me, WIFI was available in the room and throughout the resort.

I left the cocoon of my room to venture up to the spa for a blissful massage before wandering down to the impressively designed bar and lounge over 3 levels. As one looks around you can’t help but notice the many detailed design elements of the resort that are beautifully maintained. One morning I noticed a loose paving stone, but on my way back from breakfast one of the groundskeepers was already repairing it and inspecting others.

Meals were all ordered a la carte from an extensive menu for breakfast and lunch and a menu of the day for dinner. Fresh squeezed juices, baked pastries and fancy egg dishes and espresso coffees for breakfast; lunch ranged from salads, grilled fish, curries to burgers and exceptional house-made ice creams.

With a small number of guests, we all had dinner together with the resort owners and management team. One night we had a 7-course tasting menu where the chefs were flexing their creativity and impressive presentation skills, which occurs almost weekly. On the last night for some guests, we were presented with a concert of local and pop songs by some of the talented F & B team as a farewell.

The Bunaken Marine Park dives were a surprising treat, featuring wall diving, at times a comfortable drift and one for advanced divers with more challenging currents but all with very clear water and lots of marine life, both macro and pelagic. I had a tip to dive at Manado Tua, at the base of the volcano, and on request that was easily added to the itinerary.

The dive operation was top-notch too, with everything fastidiously managed, from the boats, to the dive prep area, camera room and even the compressor room. Two of the dive team were being certified to teach tech/rebreather diving, so they will have that option there by now too. I was lucky to be one of the only divers in a lull between 2 busy periods and I dived with the owners and one of the managers. But my dive guide and buddy Hentje Pontoh is a legend in Bunaken, having discovered a new pygmy seahorse species in 2008: Hippocampus pontohi. We had a lot of fun.

Visited on 09/2023 - Submitted on 01/18/2024
Read all Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa Dive Resort reviews

Murex Dive Resort Manado

5
4
4
5

I was only at the Murex Manado Resort for one overnight from 12 am to 8 am, but I left entirely impressed by my experience.

After a delayed flight, a patient transfer driver stopped for me at an ATM and SIM card provider, I arrived to a light midnight supper and retired to my large air-conditioned garden-facing room. I noted plenty of outlets to recharge my devices and was provided a crate to load my dive gear for the next morning.

After a short comfortable sleep, I awoke to a lush garden with its own river and water features and met the owners Danny and Angelique. A delicious breakfast was provided, a huge buffet of fresh fruits, juices, cereals and pastries, with eggs cooked to order. The team were well organised and incredibly friendly, all coming to see me and the other guests off for our 2 dives and transfer to Murex Bangka, the second leg of the Murex Passport to Paradise.

The Murex Passport to Paradise offers 3 resort locations, allowing guests to experience the entire North Sulawesi dive areas of of Manado, Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh without missing a dive day or needing to pack up your dive gear or disassemble your camera. Your seamless transfers include dives along the way to your next resort.

The boat transfer from Manado to Bangka takes about the same time as an airport transfer by road and then boat, but during the 2-hour boat transfer, you can enjoy a couple of dives along the way.

Visited on 09/2023 - Submitted on 01/15/2024
Read all Murex Dive Resort Manado Dive Resort reviews

Coral Eye Dive Resort

5
5
5
5

An hour by car and 40 minutes by boat brings you to the Coral Eye Resort at Bangka Island with a beach landing for the boat.
The resort was originally a research station and there is a large 2 story centre structure which houses the bar, dining areas, lounge areas and library on the ground floor and then 8 standard rooms with AC around a second level mezzanine. There are also 8 new minimalist Italian-designed beachfront villas with AC which are quite different from most traditional Indonesian designed bungalows.
All room types are provided with fantastic homemade soaps, shampoo and conditioner and a luxury shower. Linens were also minimal, with no blankets provided, I found it necessary to turn the AC off and rely on the breeze.
The rooms had a safe, no fridge in Standard rooms, but available in Villas.
A shared tea and coffee station was just outside the standard rooms, and individually available in Villas. Good WIFI was available in all rooms.

Individuals, couples, and families should note that meals are a shared experience with other guests. In the dining area were 3 large communal tables for 8 to 16 people, and offered quite a different way to serve a good quality meal service, somewhere between family-style and a la carte. Each corner of the table had shared condiments, breads and some side dishes. Main courses were pre-ordered at the previous meal from the daily menu, with a vegetarian option, and were individually served at the table, more or less at the same time. Dessert of the day was served at dinner, fruit at lunch. Breakfast items were also shared at the table with eggs cooked to order.

Espresso coffees and drinks service was available all day from the bar or from the table service during meals.

Photographers will appreciate the well-appointed camera room with AC and around 15 workstations for assembling and charging.

Diving was well organised from attractive and comfortable boats, provided with towels, hot drinks, water, snacks and my first experience with a warm facecloth between dives. The dive guides were good spotters, and strictly observed a 60-minute dive limit, but I had a different one each day. Diving is interesting and varied at Bangka and guests were offered a variety of experiences. The house reef offers an excellent dive or snorkel as well.

Coral Eye is affiliated with Siladen Resort in Bunaken National Park and Lembeh Resort and can, at an additional cost, offer boat transfers to or from either, which is faster than the road option and will include dives along the way.

Visited on 09/2023 - Submitted on 01/13/2024
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Gangga Island Resort & Spa

4
5
4
5

Arriving by boat from Manado to a large, fixed pier, guests are greeted by uniformed staff and cheerfully guided to your room through the Gangga Resort set on a flat sandy island. A walk past the dive center and camera room, leads to the main complex open-air reception, lounge, bar (open from 6.30 am) and restaurant overlooking a beautiful infinity pool. Plan to spend any afternoon free time keeping cool in the pool or in your AC bungalow as it can get quite hot.

Spread out along a meandering path, which looked a bit dry with not much green landscaping as other tropical resorts, accommodation is in air-conditioned duplex beachfront bungalows, each with an outdoor day bed and own beach cabana. The rooms are large with every amenity (except WIFI) TV’s, satellite channels, mini-bar, tea and coffee station, water dispensers, bathrobes, and toiletries.

The dining was a highlight, with full service, white tablecloths, and excellent quality meals. On arrival for lunch and dinner, you are greeted and place your order from a menu board of the day with an appetiser, first course, and a choice of 3 main courses and 2 desserts (or ice cream). It really was too much! Breakfast was an extensive buffet with eggs cooked to order. Lunch had mostly western food options and dinner had both local and western choices. Afternoon tea and coffee was served by the pool with a selection of local snacks.

The resort had more snorkellers than divers during my visit and the dive sites were chosen with the snorkellers in mind, so I passed on the 2-tank morning dive and was pleasantly surprised by an afternoon boat dive on the house reef as the only diver. The morning dives from Gangga tend to go to the better Bangka sites.

The boats are comfortable, with a snack and hot beverages between dives, plenty of water and towels provided. On the next days' morning dive were 2 guides for 6 divers and no snorkelers. The normal ratio is 1:4 and my guide was excellent at spotting macro on one of my favourite sites of the trip. The entry was a backward roll and a good ladder was provided to get back on board.

Following my dives I was efficiently transferred to another Bangka resort, so I never even had to repack my dive gear.

Visited on 09/2023 - Submitted on 01/10/2024
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Tawali Dive Resort

5
4
5
4

Tawali Resort clings to the rainforest, sloping to the sea, like a sprawling treehouse on the outer peninsula of Milne Bay. We previously dived this area by liveaboard as it was hard to access otherwise. Arriving is via a 45-minute flight from Port Moresby to Alatau, then a 90-min ride in a new mini-bus and finally a 20-minute boat trip to the resort.

The main jetty, wrapped around the house reef and mandarin fish dive, leads to some stairs past rinse tanks and then a sloping walkway and then some more stairs to reach the accommodations level. The main complex is fan-cooled and houses reception, WIFI access, lounge, bar, indoor dining area and large outdoor decks with views through the rainforest to the sea below, where devil rays (Mobula rays) could be seen on the house reef.

The 19 timber bungalows perched on the hillside are connected by a timber walkway through the tree canopy. Some are in a duplex arrangement which can be connected internally. Further along the walkway, the resort also has a 2-bedroom Ocean villa, a large conference room with 3 attached single rooms, and eventually meanders down to beach level with a nice pool.

The air-conditioned rooms are large with 2 queen beds, a mini fridge, tea and coffee station (in future a smart TV and WIFI are planned) and a long bench good for cameras but lacking convenient electric outlets. There was a great view from the balcony seating area and an outdoor drying rack.

The included meals were a mix of buffet and cook to order depending on the number of guests or the plan of the day. Most days, eggs were cooked to order, lunches were western-style plate of the day and dinners were usually a buffet of a good selection of dishes including plenty of seafood and crab. Fresh tropical fruit was offered at each meal. The most unexpected was the best lunch on a 3-dive day boat that we have had. They put a food warmer on board and were able to serve up hot dishes of rice, curry, vegetables and crumbed shrimp as well as cold salad and fruit from the cooler.

The meal and bar server was excellent, attentive and thoughtful, and made pretty good cocktails. In fact, the whole resort and dive operation was well run by the long serving team, with no apparent supervision.

Tawali has a small but well-coordinated and experienced dive team lead by Alfred, who have been diving this area for over 10 years. There were 2 guides for our group of 4 or 6 experience divers, all were good with their air and bottom times averaged 70 minutes, with no rush to surface if there was something interesting to see which the guides were enthusiastic to find. Several divers using Nitrox found the readings inconsistent day to day.

They have a large new dive boat which is comfortable but with a ramp at the front like a landing barge that lowers for divers to walk into the water with a giant stride. In rough weather, they use the side exit, which means stepping up onto a narrow ledge before stepping off. The ladder is attached here for getting back on board and is going to be better adapted for divers as it can be a bit slippery in bare feet.

We were happy to find the boat was strictly non-smoking. Amenities on board included, towels, water, tea, coffee, fruit and cookies and the best banana cake, until the kitchen ran out of ripe bananas. Cameras were well handled and a rinse bucket was provided on board.

The resort is well located to some great walls close to the resort and is an hour to the mouth of Milne Bay where the reefs are colourful and host amazing numbers of fish. Albert came to the dining room each evening to confirm the next days’ dive plan and we alternated days between closer and farther dive sites. Tawali and Milne Bay are well known for muck diving, however our group had an appetite for the walls and reefs with some current, which had plenty of seasonal pelagic and fish action and as one diver exclaimed after a great dive at Tania’s Reef, “With a dive like that who would want to do muck diving?”

Visited on 12/2023 - Submitted on 12/28/2023
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Walindi Plantation Resort

5
5
4
4

We last visited Walindi Plantation Resort over 30 years ago and it is still charming and welcoming by the same family that established the resort.

After a 1-hour Air Niugini flight from Port Moresby to Hoskins and a 50 minute drive, Walindi emerges out of the rainforest. The shore is lined with enormous fig trees and its grounds are lush but tamed by their busy team of landscapers.

12 standalone bungalows with verandas face the sea, providing cooling breezes that supplement the ceiling fans. Rooms are fitted out with comfortable queen or twin beds, ensuite bathroom, tea and coffee station, wardrobe storage and long benchtops. There are also 2 groups of 4 Plantation rooms, smaller but similar style a bit further along the level garden path. These have shared walls and verandas.

The main house has been renovated, overlooking a new infinity pool and Kimbe Bay beyond.
Reception, bar, lounge, boutique, outdoor dining and an indoor airconditioned lounge and dining area make up the complex, where the resort’s WIFI can be used in a pleasant ambience.

A continental breakfast buffet is served indoors, and eggs or pancakes are cooked to order. Brewed local coffee is excellent and available all day.

An a la carte lunch menu is available for those not diving, while the divers have a simple lunch spread on the dive boat.

The generous and tasty dinner buffet was presented outside, usually starting with a soup and bread course. There were a variety of protein choices and different flavours each night, including a beautifully presented whole fish, expertly boned and portioned, with plenty of vegetables and salad. Highly anticipated was the dessert of the night, always accompanied by fresh fruit salad and good quality vanilla ice cream.

Walindi has a large dive operation, as well as being the home port for the MV FeBrina and MV Oceania liveaboards. The dive centre also houses a lockable camera room with several charging stations.

There are 3 sized (S, M & L) dive boats tied up to the jetty which is aligned alongside a natural stream providing a calm area to load up gear, provisions and divers. At 7.45 am divers meet to check their gear already set up on a tank and Nitrox % before it is loaded onto their assigned boat, with their own crate of fins & mask etc. It is a somewhat meticulously guided process.

The plan for the day is made in consultation with divers before dinner the previous night. Either 2 or 3 dives are planned out, with a preference for 3 dives if the boat is travelling to more distant dive sites. With groups and individual divers arriving every day, it is a quite the challenge to optimise diver preferences, sites, and boats to everyone’s satisfaction.

The 2 larger boats were roomy and comfortable with good sun and rain shelter. There is plenty of water, tea or instant coffee, fruit, cookies, a picnic lunch, and a towel each on board. There were 1 or 2 freshwater crates for cameras. Smoking is allowed on the top deck of the boat and unfortunately can filter down into the cabin.

Divers stepped off the back of the boats into the water and cameras were passed in. There was a good ladder to get back in the boat. Dive guide to guest ratio was 1:2-4; or a group of 8 would have a guide in the lead and tail. They were very observant of diver NDL, and air consumption and adjusted groups so similar profile divers were together.
The guides knew the sites well and were very good spotters of both large and small marine life.

See my review of our PNG Diving for more about the diving in Kimbe Bay.

Visited on 12/2023 - Submitted on 12/16/2023
Read all Walindi Plantation Resort Dive Resort reviews

Murex Dive Resort Bangka

5
4
5
4

The Murex Passport to Paradise with it’s 3 resort locations, allows guests to experience the entire North Sulawesi dive areas of of Manado, Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh without missing a dive day or needing to pack up your dive gear or disassemble your camera. Your seamless transfers include dives along the way to your next resort.

I began at Murex Manado where after a delayed flight, and patient transfer driver (even stopped for me at an ATM and SIM card provider), arrived to a light midnight supper before retiring to my large air-conditioned garden facing room, noted for plenty of outlets to recharge my devices. The next morning I was greeted by a lush garden with its own river and water features and met the owners Danny and Angelique. Breakfast was a huge buffet of fresh fruits, juices, cereals and pastries, with eggs cooked to order. The team were well organised and incredibly friendly, all coming to see me and the other guests off for our 2 dives and transfer to Murex Bangka.

The boat transfer from Manado to Bangka takes about the same time as an airport transfer by road and then boat, but during the 2 hour boat transfer, you can enjoy a couple of dives. We had one dive on the mainland over sloping sand looking for critters and then the wind came up and were diverted to the protected side of Bangka for my favourite dive of the trip, Busabara 1. I discovered that Bangka diving includes both beautiful coral reefs and critters.

Arriving at Murex Bangka we were greeted by Danny and dive manager Ross. While given a short tour, my luggage, dive and camera gear were delivered to their respective destinations, including a new, well appointed camera room and dive centre. After a quick freshen up, a buffet lunch of Indonesian fare was served on the beach, under shady trees. My dive buddy arrived later in the afternoon and we enjoyed a fun briefing with Elina over Margaritas.

The accommodations are a choice of standard beachfront bungalows or newer hillside deluxe oceanview bungalows. New beachfront bungalows are being added early 2024. The deluxe bungalows are large and well laid out for sharing. The beds are surrounded by mosquito net curtains, and had a huge desk and work area with plenty of outlets and a fresh water dispenser. The shower room was partly outdoors, with an adjoining indoor wardrobe and vanity area. There was a safe, night lantern and umbrellas available. The rooms did not have a fridge or tea and coffee making.

The next days were a routine of a buffet breakfast, eggs cooked to order; 2 morning dives, back for lunch on the beach, afternoon and night dives offered and then dinner on the beach, unless bad weather relocates dinner indoors. Wifi is currently only available in the dining room, so the bar is kept busy with pre-dinner drinks.

The diving is well-organised with a guide ratio of 1:4 divers and 70 minute dives are allowed NDL and air permitting. The boats are comfortable, with shelter, dry areas and marine toilets on board. Snacks, hot drinks and towels are offered after dives. Dives were planned to go to different sites each day and I only repeated one dive site, which happened to be my favourite. There is a good house reef for afternoon or night dives weather permitting, reported by others to have pygmy seahorses, so you may want to use a guide!

Visited on 09/2023 - Submitted on 10/05/2023
Read all Murex Dive Resort Bangka Dive Resort reviews

Sipadan

4
5
5
4

Sipadan Island is highly prized marine sanctuary and therefore very regulated by Malaysian authorities. Where there used to be accommodations, is now a ranger station, day-use pavilions and facilities on the North side of the island. Divers must be certified to advanced open water level and both qualification cards and passports are checked by the rangers each day before being allowed to dive. They are strict about no-touch of anything, even the sand, and there are fines if you are observed and photographed by the rangers that can just appear like any other diver in the water.

Daily, 20-30 boats with up to 257 permits for divers and their guides diving a maximum of 2 dives per day would seem to put some pressure on the marine environment. The resident schools of jacks and bump headed parrot fish did not seem to mind, but the barracuda schools kept away from larger groups and seem to be seen only by smaller groups of 2 - 3 divers.

Depending on the tide and current, most of the dives are at the South point or Barracuda Point on the north side, with boat drops hopefully in the direction of the current, so you will drift along a wall, past colourful corals, fans and sponges and encounter many turtles and occasional sharks until you meet up with the resident schools of Jacks at South point, or Bumpheads at Barracuda point, or sometimes you will see the schools shortly after entering the water and then continue along the wall for the rest of the dive.

On the days you do not have a permit to dive Sipadan, resorts take divers to Mabul, Kapalai and Seaventures Rig for dives. Our favourite was the Kapalai house reef, with many old house frames encrusted with corals making homes for nudibranchs, frog fish and other juvenile species.

Visited on 04/2023 - Submitted on 07/03/2023
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Seaventures Dive Rig Resort

5
4
4
5

Seaventures Rig is a one-of-a-kind dive resort situated on a converted oil rig. Upon arrival, diving equipment and people were lifted to the main deck using an open elevator. We were well-received with a cold drink and a thorough briefing. The main deck housed the dive center, restaurant, bar, and offices, providing refreshing breezes and panoramic views of Mabul and stunning sunsets.

The modest accommodations were located on the three floors above the main deck, while the deluxe rooms required climbing a rabbit warren of stairs to the fourth floor. The air conditioning and wifi worked perfectly, the beds were comfortable, and the private bathrooms were "wet" rooms where the shower drained across the floor.

A notable convenience was the camera room on the main deck, eliminating the need to carry cameras to the top floor. This room was continuously monitored by CCTV and remained unlocked.

The meals were served buffet-style and offered a delicious variety of hearty and healthy options. On one memorable night, a special BBQ with fresh fish was organized as a farewell for a group, accompanied by live music. There was always someone attending the bar, ready to answer any questions and keep the keys safe.

One of the highlights of the resort was the house reef, where the checkout dives took place and where divers can freely explore at their own pace. Navigating the reef was easy with numbered support columns and excellent visibility. The marine life was interesting, featuring juvenile species, macro life, and unfortunately, some newly discarded waste that had not yet become part of the habitat.

Visited on 04/2023 - Submitted on 07/03/2023
Read all Seaventures Dive Rig Resort Dive Resort reviews

Sipadan Water Village, Mabul Island

5
5
4
4

The setting for the Sipadan Water Village or SWV as they are known, is all over-water. The nicely appointed bungalows, reception, dive center and restaurant are connected by a series of boardwalks and all enjoy a refreshing ambiance and cooling breeze. The most outstanding quality we encountered was the professional and friendly hospitality of their well-trained staff who are very attuned to the needs of the guests, from the transport, concierge, reception, restaurant and dive centre.

Our over-water bungalow was large, with a huge sea-facing deck, and offered AC, which we did not need. The only downside was the long walk to the dive center, especially when carrying a big camera. Wifi was only available at Reception, which was the center node also housing the bar and jars of fresh baked cookies. The restaurant was nearby and we had a water-side table for most meals. Meals were served buffet style, with eggs cooked to order at breakfast. Plenty of fresh fruit and salads and multiple tasty protein choices including vegetarian, shellfish and crab.

On arrival at the resort, Manny from the dive team provided an orientation and offered a check out dive on their house reef. We were tired from diving Sipadan that morning, so unfortunately missed that dive. But we were given a thorough tour and explanation of dive and gear organisation for our dives the next day. The dive center has a coffee and snack station, also providing water fillls and fresh towels for the boat each day. We set up our gear ready for the early start to Sipadan.

Our dive guide the next morning was Manny again, and with only 4 divers and a guide it was a fast and comfortable trip to Sipadan and nice to dive with such a small group and competent guide. The surface interval between dives was spent at the island where sheltered picnic tables, and shower and restrooms facilities are available. Depending on the dive schedule, we either had breakfast or lunch provided by the resort on the island. We were lucky to have 3 dives at Sipadan that day because our fellow divers had booked prior to the change to the current maximum of 2 dives per day, so it was a long day before returning to the resort, having seen the resident schools of jacks and bump headed parrot fish, and plenty of turtles. The barracuda were elusive, seeming to avoid the crowds, as there are 257 permits for divers every day.

The next day we did local dives around Mabul and Kapalai, with the Kapalai house reef being a trip favourite. We had a different guide who was a great spotter of frog fish and nudis.

We left SWV very satisfied with the whole experience and would not hesitate to recommend it for your stay in Mabul.

Visited on 04/2023 - Submitted on 06/14/2023
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