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My Dive Map

Reviews (12)

Kona

4
4
4
5

My review will primarily discuss the manta ray night dive in Keauhou Bay, close to the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa. This is a very unique, once in a lifetime time of dive that I highly recommend. We got on the boat prior to sundown and headed out to a secluded bay where the manta rays tend to congregate. When the sun sets, the boat lays out floats on the surface of the water with large downlights to attract the plankton, which in turn, attract the manta rays. Our boat had a combination of snorkelers and divers. The water is shallow (7m) enough that snorkelers can enjoy the manta show, albeit from the surface of the water. We had 2 mantas join us for the duration of the 65 minute dive, doing acrobatics right before our eyes. I was using a 12-24mm lens on a cropped sensor DSLR, which was barely wide enough. If I have the opportunity to do this dive again in the future, I will most likely use the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye + 1.4x teleconverter.

I understand that manta sightings at Keauhou Bay are frequent but not guaranteed. We saw 2 mantas during our dive; on a good day, many more show up. If you have the bad luck of not seeing any mantas, I believe that most operators will give you a free pass to come back and try again another night. Bearing this in mind, it is advisable not to do the manta night dive on your last night in Kona, just in case the mantas don't show up.

Kona is fantastic for topside activities. The island's landscape is amazingly beautiful, with a combination of volcanic rocks and lush greenery (I believe Jurassic Park was filmed in Kona). Various outdoor activities such as watersports, hiking, dolphin tours, etc. are easily available. And the laidback attitude prevailing in Kona is wonderful and great for the soul.

Visited on 10/2010 - Submitted on 08/27/2014
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Manado and Bunaken

5
5
5
4

Manado is a great diving place to dive. The area has healthy reefs of both hard and soft corals and a great diversity of marine life. It is typical on most dives to see reef fish such as clownfish, lionfish, parrtofish, wrasses, butterflyfish, angelfish, etc. and schools of snapper, grunts, barracuda, jacks, etc. It is also quite common to see some of the stranger critters such as candy crabs, squat lobster, frogfish, ghost pipefish, whip coral gobies and shrimps, octopi and cuttlefish, etc. Life is very abundant and you'll be constantly moving from attraction to attraction. Large animal and pelagic sightings are possible but rare. For some of the best muck diving in the world, head over to the nearby Lembeh Strait. Do both Manado and Lembeh on the same trip if you have the time and want to experience two great but very different types of diving.

Most dives follow similar profiles: start deep (usually 20-30m) and gradually head shallower, ending the dive on top of the reef in 5-6m of water. This usually means that dives can be quite long, limited only by your gas reserves. Conditions are generally very favorable with sunny skies, calm waters, and little current or surge. Diving in Manado is nice and easy.

There are both wide angle and macro photo ops in Manado, so you can't go wrong either way.

You will be spoiled for choice with respect to accommodations as there are numerous resorts catering to all price points, ranging from luxury to budget. In general, the level of service in Manado is high, with guides being well trained and staff carrying your gear and changing your tanks for you.

Visited on 12/2008 - Submitted on 08/27/2014
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NAD Lembeh Resort

5
3
5
3

NAD is a small resort targeted towards budget travelers. It is quite rustic and local. The rooms are quite basic but I appreciated the small ecological footprint as the energy and water needs are kept to a minimum. The food is local and quite good. Dive sites are all within 15 min boat ride from the resort and the boats are comfortable and fast, with drinking water, snacks, and fruits on board. I had arranged for a private guide, which was great as I got to dive on my own schedule and at my own pace.

Marine life in the Lembeh strait is legendary. There is an incredible abundance and diversity of critters living among the lush reefs and black sands. This includes all types of reef fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, sea slugs, etc. It is a good place to search for rare critters such as the blue ring octopus, rhinopias, stargazer, frogfish, etc. Most of the marine life in Lembeh is small. It is rare to see large fish or pelagics.

Visited on 05/2010 - Submitted on 08/26/2014
Read all NAD Lembeh Resort Dive Resort reviews

Lembeh Resort

5
5
5
3

Lembeh Resort is a beautiful, high-end resort for divers. It is designed with respect for nature in mind and the rooms are built around the trees and vegetation. The practices are eco-friendly, with no plastic bottles on the premises and minimal waste. Rooms are comfortable and clean. The staff is very friendly and well trained. The food is plentiful but I thought it was so so.

The dive operation, Critters@Lembeh, is professionally run and is a high quality operation. The dive guides are truly excellent – they are very knowledgeable about the local species, try hard to find good subjects, and are passionate about what they do. The boats all run smoothly and you don’t have to worry about carrying anything yourself or setting up your own gear as they do that all for you. The camera room is great, with individual table space for each photographer. There is plenty of room for gear, accessories, and battery charging. Between the dive operation and camera room, Lembeh Resort takes care of all of a serious underwater photographer’s needs. But perhaps the most differentiated aspect of the resort for photographers is the fact that they have a photo pro, Sascha Janson, based there full-time. I found him invaluable for his advice, local knowledge, and resourcefulness in dealing with camera issues.

Marine life in the Lembeh strait is legendary. There is an incredible abundance and diversity of critters living among the lush reefs and black sands. This includes all types of reef fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, sea slugs, etc. It is a good place to search for rare critters such as the blue ring octopus, rhinopias, stargazer, frogfish, etc. Most of the marine life in Lembeh is small. It is rare to see large fish or pelagics.

Visited on 10/2013 - Submitted on 08/26/2014
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Puerto Galera

5
5
4
4

Puerto Galera is a good place for nice and easy diving at a slow pace. It is much more developed than Anilao, which is just 1 hour away by boat, and the value proposition is completely different. Anilao has better marine life and critter diving, but Puerto Galera has more resort choices, non-diving options, dining options, and nightlife. If you are looking for a laidback place to relax and dive at a leisurely pace, Puerto Galera is for you.

There are plenty of dive shops and accommodations in Puerto Galera so it is easy to customize your trip to be whatever you want it to be. I prefer to stay in the areas of Big La Laguna or Small La Laguna, which are quieter than being in Sabang town proper. That way, I get to enjoy peace and quiet, and I can head to Sabang for a meal or nightlife. I highly recommend Captain Gregg's in Sabang for a hearty meal.

Puerto Galera gets deep very quickly so all the dive sites are only minutes from shore by bangka boat. The Alma Jane is a nice metal wreck in about 30m of water and very close to shore. It is covered in marine life and several schools of fish make their homes there. For exciting dives with strong currents and big schools of fish, take the 1 hour boat ride to Verde Island. Marine life is a combination of general reef fish (sweetlips, snapper, barracuda, parrotfish, etc.) and strange macro critters (seahorses, octopi, crustaceans, etc.)

Visited on 04/2010 - Submitted on 08/24/2014
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Anilao

5
5
5
3

Anilao is one of my favorite places to dive in Asia. The marine life is incredibly diverse and abundant. Most of the life is small and best suited to macro photography, for example reef fish, sea slugs, crustaceans, cephalopods, and the like. What is so amazing about Anilao is that it is not uncommon to see very special and rare creatures, such as mimic octopi, wunderpus, coconut octopi, ghost pipefish, seahorses, stargazers, bobbit worms, and the list goes on. Some people call Anilao the "nudibranch capital of the world" and it kind of makes sense when you consider that it is possible to see 100 different species of sea slugs in a weeks' diving!

Secret Bay and Anilao Pier (best done as a night dive) are my 2 favorite sites for macro life, and Twin Rocks and Beatrice are my favorite wide-angle sites, but there are many many other great sites too and it is hard to go wrong. All the dive sites are located within a 15 minute boat ride of one another, so travel time between dive sites is limited. Conditions are usually good so the diving is easy and relaxed. Water temperatures can get chilly from November to April, with a low water temperature of around 24 degrees C, so bring a 5mm suit if you are planning to visit during those times. Typhoon season is around the middle of the year, when winds can be strong and there is a small risk of typhoons. This is low season and a great time to visit if you don't mind the winds. The water is also warmest in the middle of the year.

Topside activities are limited as each resort tends to be self-contained and self-sufficient. There are limited options for nightlife in the area it is really geared towards diving.

Visited on 05/2011 - Submitted on 08/24/2014
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Bali

5
4
5
5

Bali is one of my favorite dive spots in Asia. The diving is great and diverse, the topside attractions are numerous, and it has a wonderful laidback culture that makes it a joy to visit.

The best thing about diving in Bali is the diversity. It is a big island and the diving in each part of the island is different, so you can pick and choose what suits your interests. Personally, the diving highlights are, in no particular order:
- the chance to see mola molas and manta rays at Nusa Penida (not for beginners due to rough and unpredictable currents).
- the AMAZING wreck of the USAT Liberty in Tulamben.. This can be done as a (long) day trip from most parts of Bali, but to really enjoy it, stay in the area for a few of days and do some dawn dives on the wreck. It is covered in hard and soft coral and there are many fish that call it home (grouper, snapper, sweetlips, etc.).
- the black sand muck diving around Tulamben and Seraya. These areas are a macro photographers' heaven, with all manner of strange tiny critters like frogfish, seahorses, pipefish, cephalopods, crustaceans, and sea slugs.
- beautiful reefs that are easy to get to at Padang Bai. In addition to the typical reef fish, white tip and reef sharks and turtles roam the area.

Topside attractions are also great. There are a number of cultural landmarks such as temples, villages, and historical sites worth visiting. Biking down Mount Agung is one of the most fun topside activities. There are lots of other more laidback options, such as dining out, lounging by the beach, and going to the spa.

Visited on 08/2014 - Submitted on 08/24/2014
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Lembeh Strait

4
5
5
3

Lembeh is one of the world's muck diving havens. Lembeh's volcanic sands are home to an amazing variety of strange macro creatures. This includes all kinds of small fish, seahorses, cephalopods, sea slugs, crustaceans, etc. It is a great place for macro photography, where you can observe marine life and animal behavior up close.

The dive sites generally have either black sandy bottoms or coral reefs. Because the dive sites are all within a sheltered strait, the surface conditions are very easy and travel time to get to the sites is short. This makes the diving very easy and not strenuous. Most sites are relatively shallow, allowing you plenty of bottom time.

Overcrowding has become an issue in recent years. The dive operators have done quite a good job of self-regulation, with a maximum of 3 boats allowed at any one dive site (if you are the 4th boat to arrive, you have to head elsewhere). Also, the mandarinfish dives are highly regulated with a maximum number of divers allowed at any one site.

There are plenty of resorts in Lembeh to suit all tastes and budgets, from high end villa/spa resorts to family friendly and budget offerings.

What Lembeh is not so good for:
- Large animal life. Most of the marine life in Lembeh is quite small and best suited to macro photography.
- Topside activities. There is not a lot to do for non-divers.
- While the area is quite picturesque, the waters are filled with litter such as plastic bags, snack wrappers, plastic bottles, metal cans, etc.

Visited on 10/2013 - Submitted on 08/24/2014
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Crystal Blue Resort

5
4
5
3

Crystal Blue is a great resort and I would highly recommend it.

Accommodations are local style and comfortable. One thing to note is the property is on a slope, so the rooms are located at various levels of elevation. If you do not like steps, request one of the rooms closer to the restaurant.

The dive center is right by the water, so diving logistics are very simple. Crystal Blue is very well located in the strait, so boat rides generally take less than 10 minutes. The guides are knowledgeable and keen. Marine life in Anilao is fantastic. Expect loads of nudibranchs and macro critters of all shapes and sizes. Most of the photography in Anilao is focused on macro, but you can find excellent wide angle opportunities at Twin Rocks and Beatrice.

Food is plentiful and the staff try hard, but I found the food a little bland.

Visited on 05/2011 - Submitted on 08/23/2014
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Liberty Dive Resort Tulamben

5
4
5
3

I stayed at Liberty Dive Resort for 3 nights in August 2014. Overall, I liked it very much. The resort is slightly off the main road (so it is nice and quiet), quite private, and comfortable. Rooms are spacious, clean, and well lit. Bathrooms are also spacious and comfortable. There are 2 swimming pools and a nice garden in the middle of the property.

The main attraction is the proximity to great dive sites. LDR is about a 5 min walk to the Liberty. This proximity is very handy if you want to do dawn dives or night dives on the wreck. The resort is also just a few minutes by truck to all the other sites in the area. Most of the sites are black sand muck diving sites, where you will seek lots of macro critters and nudibranchs. For wide angle photography, head to the Liberty or Drop Off.

The guides are great. They know the sites very well and are happy to accommodate any requests you might have. They provide full service like carrying all your gear and changing your tanks, so you feel quite pampered.

The only thing about LDR that is not outstanding is the food, which I found to be mediocre. The menu is large but nothing really stood out to me.

Visited on 08/2014 - Submitted on 08/23/2014
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