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N. Sulawesi: Bunaken or Gangga??? (following 10 days at Lembeh)

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I'm looking for advice about where to stay in North Sulawesi following 10 days of muck at the Lembeh Resort?

 

My focus is on the diving & photography (rather than resort facilities), ideally staying close to the dive sites. I want a nice place with a quality dive operation. I'm looking for lots of fish, pretty reefs or walls (vs muck). Should I focus on Gangga or Bunaken National Park? Siladen Resort and Gangga Resort both look great - but I doubt I'd take advantage of any of their (or anyones) resort facilties.

 

 

If Bunaken National Park is the answer - should I stay on the island or mainland? Which resort?

Murex, Cocotinos, Minihasa Lagoon, Siladen Resort and Spa, Tasik Ria Resort, Bunaken Island Resort, Two Fish Divers? Other??

 

Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom. :)

 

 

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Clearly in my mind, Gangga has an advantage over all others. If you say pretty reefs and lots of fish, that's exactly what Bangka area is all about. Don't look further, you can have a look in my gallery, I've been 4 times in Bangka, only once at Gangga, which is a little expensive for me since I am going 3 times a year in SEA, otherwise Murex Bangka is a fine midrange option with excellent guides.

 

First off Bangka/Likupang is my favorite dive place in the area, the one that allows you both wide angle coral reef and macro shooting.

Sahaung2 and Batu Pendita are probably two of the most colorful divespots in Indo outside Komodo and Raja Ampat, there are.at least three different dives with different lenses ranging from fisheye to 100mm for the only Paradise Pier spot.

add on top Tiga Batu, Busa Bora, HBO, Demak, Tanjung Usi, Batu Mandi i could name ten spots that are all different but deserves a dive around that part, while for me almost every Bunaken dive look similar, like a swimming session against a wall.

 

Secondly, I take Gangga island resort as the best organization for diving and the best boats in North Sulawesi.

 

If you want to have a look on some of my Bangka photos, it's here http://www.flickr.com/photos/luko/ look and click on the right handside for my UW Bangka set.

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A few Bangka area "pretty reefs" shots, just in order to illustrate my point above. You won't find those in Bunaken :

 

6226333853_668409c1fe_z.jpg

7181414129_72ff2c496f_z.jpg

6226334485_ece8219e43_z.jpg

7433921524_2c7a8c7083_z.jpg

 

 

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Santika resort with Thalassa dive centre is right on the northern Manado coast meaning the best Bunaken sites are only ten to fifteen minutes away and they run regular day trips to Gangga and Lembeh so the best of both worlds,

The sun sets directly behind Manado Tua here too giving you something to shoot topside before hitting the Bintang in the bar ... Perfect

 

There's also mangroves which are diveable at high tide right next to the boat jetty.

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A few Bangka area "pretty reefs" shots, just in order to illustrate my point above. You won't find those in Bunaken :

 

6226333853_668409c1fe_z.jpg

 

 

7181414129_72ff2c496f_z.jpg

 

6226334485_ece8219e43_z.jpg

 

7433921524_2c7a8c7083_z.jpg

 

 

Am going to bunaken so now am a bit concerned

Shots similar to those I have take. Pretty much everywhere I have been it is close focus wide angle.

Does it mean there is no fish in bunaken?!

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Have had two separate weeks diving Bunaken - last time was 2009. Personally I was disappointed in the fish life - lots of pretty, small stuff but very little of any size except the occasional very wary blacktip. Medium sized fish - eg butterflyfish and such like - were very wary and difficult to approach but then there is a lot of spearfishing goes on there so that is not too surprising. Local people on the Bunaken islands are allowed to spearfish to catch fish for subsistence but not for sale and we saw lots of them doing this.

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Spear fishing is sustainable if done few diving and does not lead to little fish. Dinamite and nets instead decimate the animalsAnyway I will report back my finding in a short time

 

Have had two separate weeks diving Bunaken - last time was 2009. Personally I was disappointed in the fish life - lots of pretty, small stuff but very little of any size except the occasional very wary blacktip. Medium sized fish - eg butterflyfish and such like - were very wary and difficult to approach but then there is a lot of spearfishing goes on there so that is not too surprising. Local people on the Bunaken islands are allowed to spearfish to catch fish for subsistence but not for sale and we saw lots of them doing this.

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I stayed at Siladen island (in the Bunaken park) last year and it was great, good guides, great service, nice hotel, food good.

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I have dived quite a few times in Bunaken, Gangga (Bangka) and Lembeh.

 

In the last few years I have mostly split my time between Gangga Island and Kasawari Resort Lembeh as I've found the variety of diving in the Bangka area to be much better than in the Bunaken area. I still visit Bunaken, but this is now a "day trip" from Gangga instead of staying there.

 

Over the last few years I have also seen more and more Lembeh type critters in the Bangka area.

Edited by BigJeff

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Although I spent a few months in N.Sulawesi a couple of years ago I never actually managed to get to Bangka. I loved Lembeh and could have stayed there a lot, lot longer but I was extremely disappointed with Bunaken and agree with most of the comments above - ie fairly pretty reefs with not a lot else happening. Sure you get the odd turtle or even a shark now and then, but there is nothing really to write home about and the environmental situation is complicated to say the least. It is possibly a great example of how a marine protected area can sustain a population while not being totally destroyed, but that does not necessarily make it a great diving location. In its pristine state it could be spectacular with huge shoals of fish and pelagics, but that's just not the case and I'll definitely be trying Bangka next time as my break from muck!

Cheers, Simon

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Another vote for Bangka over Bunaken, but I wanted to add something else...

 

My husband and I just ran a great workshop with a small group in Lembeh focusing on wide angle imagery - May of 2013, so we are just home. Lembeh Resort helped us put this together, so they will know where we went and have guides adept in finding wide angle subjects and sites for you (I am sure other ops could do the same, of course). There are FANTASTIC w/a opportunities to be had in and around the Strait, so don't discount it as all macro. Following is a video we made using images from our participants - Andy and I each stuck in about 8 images, as well.

 

http://www.avitsky.com/Underwater/Lembeh-Wide-Open-group-video/29577995_r8ccRh#!i=2529758778&k=xQnnB7M

 

Allison

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I would also put in my vote for Bangka over Bunaken, based on diving.

If you prefer small and nice Island resorts. Then Bangka has an advantage in my book.

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Thank you for your input. I have it narrowed down to the following:

 

  • Bangka Island: Murex Resort
  • Bunaken (or thereabouts): Village Bunaken, Bunaken Island Resort, Two Fish or Living Colours

 

Any strong opinions?

 

 

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Just back from 12 nights in Sulawesi I was at two fish resort in both Bunaken and Lembeh.

I was expecting more schooling fish in Bunaken but I had to go all the way to Manado Dua or to Siladen to see more fish

There were many turtles on the Bunaken sites on Lekuan III I had 8 turtles approaching on the same dive but other than a few napoleon wrasse it was mostly a lot of small fish

Best dive sites on Bunaken was Mandolin where the current was pumping, Lekuan III and Sachiko. Siladen and Manado Dua offered more fish. The only schools of snappers, jacks and others I have seen were on Panalingan.

One of the good things was the mandarin dive were I was on my own with the guide twice quite a change from other experiences with plenty of people trying to take a shot

I have put together a short video of the mandarine dive here

Flickr sets

Bunaken Bunaken2013

Lembeh Lembeh 2013

 

Lembeh is incredible for critters you literally get bored with sea horses and similar. There are also some good reefs but the visibility is poor so not that good for video maybe better for close focus wide angle

 

All in all Lembeh is definitely a place to go for critter checklists as it offers everything, night dives are also extremely good for a change

Bunaken seems to have suffered not only from fishing but there was a lot of trash in the water, whilst this was actually a feature on the black sand of Lembeh did not seem to help the ecosystem in Bunaken

 

I have been in most places in Indonesia except Komodo and Ambon and so far the place where I have seen more fish has been Raja Ampat, all other locations do not compare slightly with the amount of life you have there.

 

Comparing to other locations and excluding macro and weord critters Indonesia is not really a place for schooling fish based on my experience except RA

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Bangka Island seems to be winning this thread.... LOTS of support for Bangka.

Where does one stay while on Bangka... and how rough is it? (I have this view of living in a hut - maybe I'm way off)

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Where does one stay while on Bangka... and how rough is it? (I have this view of living in a hut - maybe I'm way off)

 

Actually Murex Bangka provides more comfort than a hut : wooden bungalows for 2 or 3, open air bathroom with a warm water shower (sometimes a bit tricky to tweak), mosquito nets and aircon at night, although no electricity during the day but that is fine if you're lodging in one of the shaded wind cooled bungalows at the entrance of the beach.

 

The beach is small but nice, clear blue waters on white sand, no algae. Food is okay, clearly not their forte, no bar only Bintang beers in the fridge, instant coffee and tea all day, weird local edible snacks at 4PM that you get for dessert at dinner of you don't finish them. :)

The boatmen, the dive staff play in a string band at night, the elder boatman has a quite a voice indeed.

 

I'll try to find some images of Murex Bangka on my hard drive and revert.

 

Edit : done. Here's the beach with the dive boats, the restaurant buidling from the beach and inside one of the smallest bungalow, all packed up and ready to go.

 

post-1354-0-18551400-1372102684_thumb.jpg

 

post-1354-0-66349500-1372102740_thumb.jpg

 

post-1354-0-06434100-1372102774_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

Edited by Luko

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Did you realize that there are 2 Bangka Islands in the Indonesian area? One near Lembeh - Bangka Island - and then another called Bangka-Belitung Island - just down from Singapore on the map. Can be confusing is you are not looking at the right one.Was for me when I was trying to check out places to go next year. And there is more than one Murex Dive Resort in Indonesia. So be careful when checking them out.

 

Just a quick note - DiverPam

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Clearly in my mind, Gangga has an advantage over all others. If you say pretty reefs and lots of fish, that's exactly what Bangka area is all about. Don't look further, you can have a look in my gallery, I've been 4 times in Bangka, only once at Gangga, which is a little expensive for me since I am going 3 times a year in SEA, otherwise Murex Bangka is a fine midrange option with excellent guides.

 

First off Bangka/Likupang is my favorite dive place in the area, the one that allows you both wide angle coral reef and macro shooting.

Sahaung2 and Batu Pendita are probably two of the most colorful divespots in Indo outside Komodo and Raja Ampat, there are.at least three different dives with different lenses ranging from fisheye to 100mm for the only Paradise Pier spot.

add on top Tiga Batu, Busa Bora, HBO, Demak, Tanjung Usi, Batu Mandi i could name ten spots that are all different but deserves a dive around that part, while for me almost every Bunaken dive look similar, like a swimming session against a wall.

 

Secondly, I take Gangga island resort as the best organization for diving and the best boats in North Sulawesi.

 

If you want to have a look on some of my Bangka photos, it's here http://www.flickr.com/photos/luko/ look and click on the right handside for my UW Bangka set.

 

Does Gangga Island Resort have a decent house reef? Also, their website doesn't really do justice for dive packages. I am wondering if we can arrange a 14-17 night stay and if those dive rates are for boat dives and unlimited house reef shore diving. Any thoughts on this?

 

Joe

Edited by Kelpfish

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Does Gangga Island Resort have a decent house reef? Also, their website doesn't really do justice for dive packages. I am wondering if we can arrange a 14-17 night stay and if those dive rates are for boat dives and unlimited house reef shore diving. Any thoughts on this?

 

Joe

To be honest I have never dived the Gangga's housereef, if I remember well they were artificially growing corals. It is not really the kind of dive I am interested in. I think it was a dive that wasn't even charged.On the other hand they can take you to nearby sites (Lihaga just in front) for (chargeable) nightdives.

 

Except for the artificial coral garden dive, I am not sure their dive rates are based on a per day basis (ie. with a fixed or unlimited dives per day), but rather on a per dive basis.

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Found 5 dive resorts on Bangka Island, the one near Lembeh - (thanks Diver Pam).

 

Any info or experience with these resorts (such as how well are they run, do they have air conditioning, electricity, hot water, camera facilities, etc.)?

  • Nomad Divers
  • Mimpi Indah
  • Coral Eye
  • Bangka Lagoon
  • Murex (already booked)

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Nomad divers are a newish brit dive centre. Not sure they have sufficient experience on the area from what I read from a friends report who missed most of the good sites. they've probably improved since last April.

Mimpi Indah surely doesn't have aircon and no beach, they're dutch I think and been there for a while, somehow basic though.

Coral eye is italian, they are marine biologist on the island loated in the area for a while, i've read good reports about them, but they dont have hot water

Never heard about Bangka Lagoon they must be the new kids in town...

You forgot german run Blue Bay on Sahaung island, which would be my second choice after Murex, good boats but no aircon.

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Hi Luko,

 

Do you have any opinion on Weda dive resort (who also owns Divers Lodge Lembeh)? Very rustic, no nitrox at Weda and remote, but good Trip Adviser ratings from the few who have been there. No AC either. Lack of creature comforts is my kind of place:)

 

Appreciate any opinions on this place.

 

Joe

Edited by Kelpfish

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Hi Luko,

 

Do you have any opinion on Weda dive resort (who also owns Divers Lodge Lembeh)? Very rustic, no nitrox at Weda and remote, but good Trip Adviser ratings from the few who have been there. No AC either. Lack of creature comforts is my kind of place:)

 

Appreciate any opinions on this place.

 

Joe

Sorry Joe, I haven't been to Weda resort yet, I don't usually stay at DL when I'm diving Lembeh (I like Lembeh resort). Halmahera was on my shortlist but that was West coast (Ternate,Guraici) and further North (Tobelo, Morotai), I dealt with a local guide for a trip last year but it appeared -once I already had booked my plane tickets- that the guy wasn't reliable at all and asked me for huge sum of money a few days before coming.

 

That said (which had nothing to do with Weda and Rob Sinke), if you can read french you may be interested in this report from a very reliable french girl blogging about her divetrips. I am quite sure if you contact Corinne she'll be happy to reply all your questions in proper english. You will also find hints about Bangka.

Edited by Luko

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Did a Google translation. She speaks very highly of the operation, especially the diving. Varied visibility. Rob emailed me and was honest. When it rains the viz can be zero on the house reef, and just okay on the reefs. But is commonly over 100 feet. Mostly wide angle according to Corinne.

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