This time we tried a new dive center which was less than 2 weeks in operation when we arrived- Dive Into Ambon( DIA ), managed by Kaj and Barb - 2 familiar names, former manager of KBR ( Kungkungan Bay Resort ) in Lembeh Strait.
With the operation of DIA, at least 4 commercial DC currently operates in Ambon. The other 3 are Maluku Diver (MD), Blue Rose Diver ( BRD ) and Blue Motion; all based in Ambon Bay; while DIA is located on different side of ambon island, ie. at Bagoala bay, southeast ambon.
DIA is sitting on the west wing of the hotel Aston Natsepa, 4-star hotel (? ) with white sand beach and amazing sunset.
The hotel facilities is generally good, typical of big four-star hotel; beautiful, well manicured gardens, swimming pools , a playground and large meeting room.
Aston Natsepa Hotel by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
Unfortunately, they still struggling to satisfy the appetite of international traveller. Typically, the food is a limited selection of local dishes ( chicken and fish ) and vegetables mostly overcooked, very hot and spicy. Nothing wrong with local and spicy foods but I will expect more variety and better quality.
This problem is fully understood by DIA. They provide separate or additional menu for the divers or we can order selection of a la carte menu with a price of about Rp. 100,000 .
We tried the a la carte menu. Oxtail soup and black pepper beef is okay but a bit tough. The Chicken Cordon Bleu was slighly overcooked and only comes with 11 pieces of thin french fries.
The hotel staff is generaly very friendly and try the best to accomodate gues request; though not always succesfull due to lack of competency.
Kaj told us, Aston group will not longer manage the hotel at the end of November; Instead, new GM from from Swiss will be managing the hotel. He believe, the new management will bring significant improvement.
DIA is a first class operation dive center with its new spacious building facing to the bay. The camera room is excelent, all UW photographer will love it. The compressor room is very clean and well designed including for Nitrox. I will put the DC on the same league as KBR and other top class DC in Indonesia.
Nothing better than sitting in the DC with cold bintang or hot coffee; fish books and beautiful Bagoala bay
DIA 2 by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
The location of DC at Bagola bay provide direct access to Haruku strait between the island of Ambon and Haruku, known as dive sites with high visibility, healthy coral reef and pelagic fish - great for WA though still lot of opportunity for macro.
And what about access to the bay of Ambon ? No doubt, the ambon bay with the twillight zone is still the main attraction for the divers to visit Ambon .
Do not worry, DIA built a jetty at Ambon bay side, which can be reached 15 minute drive from the hotel. Their day boat is spacious, adequate for 10 people plus 3 diver dive guide ; equipped with a toilet and a canopy. Apparently, it is similar boats used by Tasik Ria Diver in Manado .
At Bagoala bay, they allocate two boats, one large boat similar side as the boat for ambon bay ( capacity 8-10 diver ) parked right in front of the dive center and another smaller parking on the right side of dive center .
Usually they set a schedule 1 day ( 3 dives ) Muck diving in Ambon bay and the next day in the southeast or east . However, this schedule may be changed if desired by the guests.
When we were there, the famous macro underwaterphotographer, the guru of compact camera - Brian Mayes and his lovely wife Jill were also there. They prefer the east side of the island of Ambon where much cleaner than the Ambon bay. Amost every day, they were diving there with the smaller boat .
With only 3 days of diving, we had the opportunity 2 days diving in Ambon bay and 1 day on east side ; this was to my initial expectations, though I will be happy to reverse as well.
Muck diving in Ambon bay, especially in the twilight zone ( Laha ) is not for everyone . Do not expect to see a healthy coral reef. You'll find sandy seabed, rubbles and brown silt (could be due to the floods that hit Ambon some time ago ) and the rubbish strewn everywhere. Howvere, these are the real treasure laid for. The rubbish and sediment sediment provides optimal cover for exotic wildlife. The rubbles and rock crevices are the comfy condo for the amazing crittres.
Little crab by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
Harlequin shrimp 1 by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
Goshpipefish 4 by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
Coleman shrimp by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
Unfortunately, the superstar - Ambon frogfish ( Histiophryne psychedelica ) still not interested to welcome us. For more than 3 years do not show up . Hopefully this extraordinary fish was not extinct ; rather just hide somewhere or sabbatical to then appear again when we visit there on another occasion .
Anyway, we were not disappointed at all. There were many other critters we encountered in two productive days (7 dives), including this purple Rhinopeas .
Rhinopea 3 by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
Getting bored with muck diving? Or sick with these
Deco Tuna by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
You could easily choose to dive in a very healthy coral reefs, both hard corals and soft corals, crystal clear water, bigger fish and pelagics.
Pity, we only had one day ( 3x diving ) in the eastern part of the island of Ambon, at dive sites Batu Lompa / loncat (literaly mean jumping rock).
Ambon seascape 6 by Wisnu Purwanto Family, on Flickr
At this location we could see the group bumphead parrot fish in large numbers as well as a shark swimming in the distance . Unfortunately, the fish are still very shy so they move away when we approached.
What is also very interesting, in this location there is a underwater volcano. The small crevice on the sandy seabed at a depth of 24 meters discharge very hot water . We placed a dozen eggs and covered with hot sand. About 5 minutes, the egg was well cooked and ready to eat ... so good , much better than boiled in the usual way. Basically, it is a pressure cooker.
I proposed to DIA to try with tuna or prawn, marinated without salt and wrapped in aluminum foil. I imagine the delicious tuna for our lunch while enjoying the beauty of the Batu Lompa scenery. Perfect.
Unfortunately, the next day we had to go back to Jakarta . A good reason to visit again.
More pictures of our October Ambon trip can be seen here: