Since March 2020 when a certain virus cancelled my holiday plans I have been holding some “credit” with both NAD in Lembeh and Gangga Island Resort.
When Indonesia re-opened the Visa on Arrival in April 2022, I started the booking process to use my credit in June/July 2022. In between booking and the holiday Indonesia also removed the PCR test requirement for Vaccinated travellers (That’s me). Entry on the day of writing is also possible for non-vaccinated but it still needs a PCR test and an additional 5-day quarantine.
There are some differences in the air travel, Scoot has replaced Silkair for the Singapore to Manado route and currently flies only twice per week. This is the route I took as my dive equipment is stored in Thailand and I was transiting there before onwards to Indonesia. Travel via Jakarta is available every day of the week.
Scoot is a low-cost regional airline owned by Singapore Airlines and does have some tight restrictions on checked and hand baggage, but if you arrive in Singapore on a Star alliance flight, they will check your baggage through. Upgrading the checked baggage is also very easy on the Scoot website if you need to re-check in Singapore.
Arrival in Manado was easy once the pilot managed to get on the ground (3 attempts in stormy weather), off the flight, buy VOA, temperature and vaccine check, immigration, baggage and then into the transfer car to NAD Lembeh. The airport has been expanded since my last visit, so the layout is slightly different with more walking and higher ceilings. The new toll road also speeds up transfers to Bitung.
Like all the resorts in the area this has only recently re-opened so is still scaling up to meet the coming demand, so I saw fewer staff than my last visit but more than enough to supply the services needed in the resort. It was also a very pleasant surprise to see many of the same staff from two years before were again working at the resort, chatting to them it seems to be because of the management style of the owners that they were happy to return.
For the first week of a 9 day stay I was the only guest, like being a king, anything I requested/asked for was delivered super quick e.g. some cold medicine for a little congestion, laundry dropped in the morning was back at lunchtime. The onsite manager also had lunch/dinner with me on most days even when he had already eaten.
There was some building renovation going on in the beachfront rooms, expanding the smaller ones, but this caused no disturbance at all as all the noisy tasks were done while I was out diving.
It seemed like the re-opening was going well with additional staff returning in line with the numbers of guests which I was told would be returning in greater numbers from July to September when the resort was going to be close to capacity again.
The diving was same as before with all the usual Lembeh critters, but I saw far fewer dive boats as everywhere was still in the start-up stage. I’ll attach some pics at the end.
Transfer was by car from the NAD dock on mainland to Gangga mainland dock.
Gangga Island (Resort)
The resort is on an island next to Bangka, and the diving is a little different to Lembeh in that it is mostly white sand and much more “reefy”. They do have interesting critters but also opportunities for wide angle. They also attract more non-divers and more non-photographer divers.
The resort is part of a small chain (Lotus) and is also scaling up to meet the returning demand. While many of the dive guides/boat crew are the same but the staff in the hotel have seen a much bigger turnover from my last visit. Plenty to cater to guests, just new faces.
On arrival I was only the third guest in the resort and over the next 10 days some people came and went as numbers gradually increased to 5 divers and a few non-divers.
Just before arrival I received an email telling me their Nitrox system was not working, and during my stay the many parts they received did not fix this – However after a couple of days they did manage to obtain some Nitrox filled tanks from a nearby resort (thanks Murex, reception ladies and dive centre)
Talking to the staff the resort is hosting more and more customers until returning to near capacity in October.
The diving was again the same as I remember, with the exception that their wooden boats are now gone, and the diving is now done from fibre glass cruisers.
Finally as a bonus, in the afternoon of my last diving day the turtle nest on the beach produced 50+ little monsters.
Scoot and Singapore transit home was uneventful, but flight MDC-SIN was full and quickly ran out of overhead locker space. Last people on the flight had their hand baggage checked at airplane door.
Pictures, not all just some of my favourites.