This is quite late, but I felt that I should finally post a trip report about my trip to North Sulawesi over the summer. My family and I stayed at Tasik Ria for five days of diving, and NAD Lembeh for four days of diving.
Enough has been written about the diving in these places that I don't feel the need to go too in-depth here, but suffice to say, it was awesome. The walls of the Bunaken Marine Park were gorgeous, but to be honest, I found them a bit monotonous after five days. Tasik Ria typically does two dives in the morning in the park and then returns to the resort in the afternoon. A third dive is available in the afternoon, usually a muck or macro dive somewhere on the mainland Sulawesi area. These macro dives were good, but nowhere near as good as the muck diving in Lembeh.
Tasik Ria doesn't get much recognition on the web, but I think that it is a good way to dive the Bunaken area. Their boats are big and comfortable, with a good lunch served on board each day, and it only takes about 45 minutes to get from the resort to the marine park. I enjoyed these rides quite a bit, as there were lots of flying fish to be seen, and the scenery on the mainland was gorgeous. We even saw a pod of pilot whales on our way back one day, which was very cool. It should be noted that twice a week, I forget which days exactly, Tasik does three dives in the Bunaken Marine Park. These were my favorite days of diving, as I definitely preferred the corally goodness of Bunaken to Tasik's local muck dives (we did see a Lembeh Seadragon on one dive, though).
Tasik itself looks a little tired at this point and could definitely use some work, but I wouldn't hesitate to go back. The staff were extremely friendly, and the manager Dan(?) was a very nice man who bent over backwards for us. There was actually a teachers convention while we were there, and they occupied the main restaurant every night, so Dan had his staff set up a separate dinner buffet for us and the other diving guests out on the dock so we could eat away from the crowds. The food was good and varied, especially after a long day of diving. Finally, the dive staff were incredibly safety conscious and kind. Pre-dive briefings were extremely detailed, and they actually drew pictures of the site with all of the topography just from memory. Special shout out to our guide Noldy and Christ, one of the managers of the dive shop.
After five days at Tasik Ria, it was on to NAD. Our stay there started off well before we even arrived. My camera had started acting up the day before and after talking to Simon over email, we decided that the best course of action was to buy a new camera in Manado. After being picked up by NAD's driver, we arrived at the mega mall in Manado only to discover that it was not open due to church services (it was a Sunday). We called Simon and agreed that we should get as much money as the ATM would give us and then head over to the resort. Simon and Zee loaned us the rest of the money that we were missing, and the driver went back to Manado that afternoon to buy my camera. I was very impressed by this high level of customer service, and it was certainly representative of the rest of our stay. Everything was perfect at NAD: the food, the accommodations, the diving layout, and just the atmosphere in general. Four days was not enough!
One of the things that I liked the most about NAD was the dining arrangement. Everyone sits at one long table for all of the meals, including Simon, Zee, and their daughter Bella. Because of the way dining was arranged, we were forced to get to know the other guests, and this really created a special atmosphere that is lacking at most other resorts I've been to. Even the one antisocial member of my group came out of his shell and really warmed up to the other guests after a day, something that I don't think would've happened if he hadn't been pushed into it.
Both resorts cater to photographers. Tasik has an extremely awesome, air-conditioned camera room with individual charging stations and baskets for each station that have tissues, lint-free towels, and q-tips in them. NAD has both a wet and a dry camera room, both of which provide ample space to charge batteries and configure camera rigs. Simon and Zee are both photographers and know what they are doing, which is an added bonus of staying at NAD since they are more than happy to give advice if you are having trouble. Simon actually offers a workshop in which he dives with you for the day and then reviews your pictures with you afterwards. I didn't get to take advantage of this, but he did let me borrow a snoot and weighted tripod, which was unexpected and a very nice gesture.
So, in summary, both places are great. I much preferred the diving in Lembeh and will probably spend all of my time there when I go back, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either resort. The folks at Tasik are great people, and Simon and Zee over at NAD are excellent hosts. I'll be back, but not soon enough!
Last but not least, here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip. All taken with a Canon S110 in a Nauticam housing with a YS-D1 strobe, and either a UWL-100 wide angle lens or Dyron +7 diopter.