Tracey - Bluewater Dive Travel



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Reviews (3)

Villa Markisa - Private Beach Bungalows - Dive Resort


We finished up the last leg of a five week diving trip to Indonesia with four nights a Villa Markisa, in Tulamben, Bali. I did not have high expectations of Bali, Bali diving, or the resort that we chose to stay at. BOY WAS I WRONG! We only stayed four nights, and now, I wish it would have been four weeks! Everything about Bali is unique and beautiful, and Villa Markisa and its diving fit right in.

Let me start with the diving. I just could not get enough!!!! I chose Villa Markisa for two reasons. 1) It was a five minute boat ride from the USS Liberty wreck and 2) the house reef, Seraya Secrets claimed world class muck diving. The USS Liberty is a once in a lifetime dive. It is not only noted as one of the world’s top wreck dives, but also as one of the world’s best dive sites. The USS Liberty was literally a five minute ride on the super fast and clean Zodiac boats. This is important, because in the later morning, the wreck gets very crowded with divers, who have to be transported several hours from their resorts to dive the wreck. The Liberty dive leaves Markisa at 630 am. This allows divers to be among the first to get to the wreck and beat the crowds. The USS Liberty is covered so close to shore, it is usually done as a shore dive. Villa Markisa drops her divers just about on top of the wreck, leaving more time for diving the wreck and less time for swimming from and to the shore. The Liberty is covered in colorful soft corals surrounded by tons of IndoPacific fishes. It really is a once in a lifetime dive! For those who love wreck diving, this alone may be a reason to stay in Tulamben.

The house reef, Seraya Secrets, discovered and named by Christiane (who built the resort on this reef, after she discovered it), is amazing. In four days, I photographed over one hundred different nudibranch species found by our eagle eye dive guide, Dharma, who is as excited as nudis and any macro photographer! We loved the diving so much, that we postponed our scheduled early morning departure for UBUD to the late afternoon so that we could squeak in two more dives!

When we were at the resort, we felt that we were in our own private little heaven! At first, we wondered what we would do besides diving, as the resort is very secluded, and nestled between two towns with no tourism. It is so private that there is no sign for it on the road! Our driver got lost several times trying to find it. As we pulled down another dirt road and driveway that lead to nothing, we began to worry. What kind of place was this? A perfect oasis, away from it all! This tiny, Balinese style dive resort has very few rooms. A few quaint bungalows, a large main villa with some guest rooms and one Villa with two units, and a shared open air living area. This is the villa we chose, as we were traveling with another couple. The accommodations could not have been more perfect. Each bedroom was new, updated and beautiful. The beds were so comfortable and each unit had its own outdoor garden bathroom and shower decorated with a lush tropical garden. It was so romantic. I especially appreciated that the air conditioners were efficient and worked perfectly! The shared living area had a sofa, and kitchen with full refrigerator freezer and stocked with beer and soda.

The grounds were covered with beautifully manicured Balinese gardens of bougainvillea, tropical palms, and flowering plants. Stone stepping blocks placed in the center of a beautiful koi pond, lead the way to the open aired restaurant. The infinity pool was a perfect place to cool off with a cocktail after a day of diving.

When I was in Indonesia, I fell in love with Sarongs. Villa Markisa had the best supply of sarongs I had seen in Bali! They were so beautiful and inexpensive.
The Spa was also amazing. We enjoyed several massages, that were priced just right. Balinese women have magical hands.

Unfortunately, Christiane was not present when we were there, but her co-owner, Pedro provided utmost hospitality. We still talk about Villa Markisa. In the cold winter we are experiencing now, we often talk about how we wish we could return and stay for an entire winter!!

Visited on 12/2013 - Submitted on 02/10/2014
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NAD Lembeh Resort


Wayne and I stayed at NAD resort, Lembeh in November of 2013. This was our second trip to dive Lembeh Strait, and I was not disappointed! NAD is a lovely family run dive resort that is much easier on your bank account than some other resorts on Lembeh. What I enjoyed most about NAD is the “family” atmosphere. The resort owners, Simon and Zee, not only personally run the resort, but live here, too, with their adorable daughter Bella. Zee is an amazing, loving woman who instantly makes you feel warm and welcome. When it was time for me to leave, after six short days, I Zee and all of the employees stood at the doc and waved goodbye to us. I had tears in my eyes and I felt like I was leaving a family that I wouldn’t see for a long time again!

The atmosphere at NAD is casual and relaxed. The bungalows, which are a little more expensive than the beachfront rooms, are nice, but a little on the older side. The beachfront rooms are newer and more updated, and a closer walk to everything. Our friend had a beachfront room and one of the things I noticed was that the beachfront rooms had better water pressure and better air conditioning. I will choose a beachfront room the next time I return.

Meals were delicious and plentiful, mostly Indonesian cuisine, with coffee, tea and water being available 24 hours. The dining area was open air and spacious with two large tables, perfect for a large group. All guests sit together, promoting bonding and friendship.

The diving is amazing, of course this is thanks to mother nature alone! The dive guides are friendly and knowledgeable and great at finding all of the little critters! We dove with Oksin. He was amazing!

Two excellent features of the NAD resort that stand out over other dive operators are the camera room, and the dive boats. The camera room is the best I have ever seen! Simon, being a UW photo enthusiast himself, has created the perfect space for every camera! Each individual station features its own outlet strip that fits all international plugs. Also, each station has its own light, to inspect O RINGS, and work with your camera, housing and lenses. Towels for each user are plentiful, and Simon has a “drying cabinet” for any potential flooding or moisture. The dive boats are also outstanding. They are updated, clean and fast!

With the money that you save by staying at NAD, you can afford to hire a private dive guide easily, which is important, especially for the UW photographer diving the strait.

Will I visit NAD Resort again? Most certainly, YES!

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 02/01/2014
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Lembeh Strait


Ten years ago, I visited a website called Dancing Fish, created by a woman who enjoyed UW photography and published it on her webpage. I could not believe the creature that were featured on her site! The destination was called Lembeh Strait, and strange creatures that I never even imagined existed covered page after page of her site. A tiny but deadly octopus with iridescent blue rings? Another octopus that could change shape in an instant to imitate other creatures? Beautiful, tiny, colorful seahorses that were no larger than a grain of rice? Frogfish of every size and every color, even hairy ones? Hundreds of beautiful, colorful worms. I knew I could never see these creatures anywhere in the US or in the Caribbean. From this day, ten years ago, I have dreamed of going to Lembeh!

In 2012, I visited Lembeh Strait with my husband and I was blown away. Diving Lembeh Strait was not just what I expected, it was more magnificent than I could ever dream! During every single dive, our dive master, Opo would keep a list of the critters we saw on our dive. On our first dive alone, I saw 20 critters that I had never seen and, quite frankly, most of them I had never even heard of! The diving continued, and after 14 days our list still contained amazing critters that I still had not seen! Oh, and THE NIGHT DIVING!!!! WOW!!

We loved diving LS so much that we returned again this year for another two weeks. Amazingly, we saw just as many new and interesting critters this time around! I have to say this is my very favorite diving destination. I cannot imagine that I could love another place more!

The majority of diving in Lembeh Strait is muck diving. When I first jumped in and reached the bottom, I thought, “What can I possibly see in this black sand with hardly any coral?” I was absolutely amazed at what seemed to pop out of plain nothingness! Frogfish, clownfish, scorpionfish, blue ring octopus, mimic octopus, wonderpus, flamboyant cuttlefish, nudibranchs, and more varieties of crazy shrimp and crabs than you could ever imagine! Most of the critters in Lembeh Strait are tiny. Possibly the largest creature you would see would be a small cuttlefish, a giant frogfish about the size of a small child’s baseball mitt, or a small blue spotted stingray. If you love macro photography, love the thrill of discovering new critters, or love observing AMAZING marine life behavior, then you will absolutely adore Lembeh Strait.

I would not necessarily recommend visiting Lembeh for the non-diver. There is not a lot to do on the island itself, but many visitors travel to the mainland and visit Tangkoko National Park, where visitors can see the smallest primate in the world, the Tarsier, and also the dramatic Black Crested Macaques. A short boat ride, and 1.5 hours by van can get you to the park. You must be able to hike quite a way to find the Tarsiers.

Lembeh Island is located off of the North East tip of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is not always easy to find flights to Lembeh. From the US, you may need to fly into Singapore, Denpasar, or Jakarta and then chose an Indonesian airline to get you to Manado. A two hour shuttle ride and a short boat ride will bring you to the island of Lembeh. Indonesian Airline tickets cannot be purchased in the United States. Your tour operator or resort will often be able to arrange your flight for you. Because of the multiple flights that are necessary, airfare to Lembeh can be a little pricey, but SOOO WORTH IT!!!

Here are a couple of tips if you are interested in diving Lembeh Strait. Make sure you have good buoyancy control. Black sand is easy to stir up and it is difficult for other divers to see the amazing critters! BRING A CAMERA!!! You will be glad you did! Do your research and plan your trip well in advance. Make a budget for all expenses including inter-island flights and shuttles. Pack sparingly!!! The inter-island flights have a VERY small luggage allowance and charge high prices for overage.

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 01/25/2014
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