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Our trip was to be a 2 centre holiday with 4 nights at Murex Manado and 5 nights at Murex Bangka. The package included transfers to and from the centres, but what made this different was that our transfer between the centres was made by boat and we dived along the way. This meant that we didn’t lose a day’s diving out of our holiday. For diving, we had a 16 boat dive package (which included the 2 dives on transfer), 1 guided house reef dive and 8 unguided house reef dives.

Our trip started with a flight to Manado with a 3 hour stop at Singapore airport. We were met at the airport and each of us were given a metal water bottle filled with cold water. The temperature was very warm and humid.

After a short transfer to our first resort, Murex Manado we were shown to our rooms. They were very nice, with adequate space, air conditioning, fridges, water dispenser, coffee/tea making facilities and reef friendly soap and shampoo. The atmosphere was very relaxed with meals taken in the open air (weather permitting), but when necessary the meals were served under cover. All the meals were buffet style. For breakfast there was a selection of cereals, croissants and cheese, with eggs (fried, scrambled or omelettes) made to order. Lunch and supper consisted of a soup, 2 meat/fish options, 2 vegetable options and rice, with special meals for Iona as she is vegetarian. In the afternoon snacks were also provided. Teas, coffee and water was available all the time.

A bar was also available but you had to pay for alcohol, smoothies and tinned/bottled drinks. Cocktails cost IDR95,000 (using current exchange rates, just under £6) and tinned drinks IDR35,000 (approx. £2).

At the second centre, the atmosphere was the same.

Now for the Diving…..

One word summary: Fantastic. More words? Beautiful, amazing, assorted, stunning etc.

We were given a large crate between 2 of us for masks, fins etc., with tags for our regs and BCD. As there were 5 of us, we had 2 dive guides. I really liked the fact that the same dive guides came with us and stayed with us at the second centre so they got to know us and how well we managed our dives.

The boats were spacious, but then there were a maximum of 8 guests on our boats. They could easily accommodate more guests. The staff set up our kit for us but then we had to check it. I think had we had to do it ourselves, then there would not have been the space around the dive kit location.

We met by the boats for the first two dives of the day around 8am and the dive sites where not too far away. The afternoon dives started around 3pm and the night dives about 7:30pm.

The dives started with a briefing on the boat showing a diagram of the dive site. Then group by group, we kitted up and back-rolled into the water. During the dive, the guides had a magnetic slate on which they wrote the names of the species they were showing us which I really found useful. At the end of each dive we took our fins off, handed them up and then had the option of taking our kit off in the water or walking up the short ladder fully kitted. The guides then wrote a list of what we had seen, for us to photograph. Between the dives there was water, tea/coffee, biscuits and fruit available.

On the way to our first dive, we saw a pod of pilot whales and dolphins very close to the boat, but unfortunately we didn’t see any while we were diving. Most of the dives from the Manado Resort were wall dives, but the variety of life and colours were fantastic. As for what we saw, it was mind-boggling. The guides were very knowledgeable and found both large and small animals from pygmy seahorses, emperor shrimps, orangutan crabs right up to mackerel and tuna. A couple of dives were on sites where the bottom was mainly flat but a few outcrops which supported a wide variety of life, including bearded scorpion fish, various nudibranchs, blue-spotted rays etc.

At the second centre, the diving was mainly on a flat bottom with either small outcrops of rock/reefs or muck diving where you have to look closely at small outcrops or dips with debris in it to find small or disguised life, e.g. seagrass ghost pipefish, devil scorpion fish, leaf fish etc.

We done a single dive on the house reef at Bangka. The reef was beautiful and supported a wide variety of life. Compared with other house reef I have seen, this was a large, colourful reef and not ‘over-dived’.

The water temperature was 27/28° C and as a group we dived in thin full length wetsuits with a shortie over the top, just a full length wet suit, a shortie, a full length rash guard or just rash vest and shorts.

In the end, we done 22 boat dives, and 1 night boat dive (which had a supplement of IDR210,000 – around £12). The extra dives cost IDR595,000 (£36) each. The trip to Lembeh consisted of 3 and had a supplement of IDR566,000 (£34). They also run a ‘Black Water’ night dive, where they set up a line with lots of bright lights beforehand to attract the fish, but unfortunately we were there when the moon was full which does not produce good results as the fish follow the moon, not the lights.

What did we see? As well as those listed above, a whole variety of life. Turtles, ornate ghost pipefish, green and black frog fish, hairy frog fish, common seahorses, snowflake morays, white mouthed moray, peppered moray, fimbriated moray, black spotted moray, giant moray, ribbon eel (yellow, blue and black), banded snake eel, striped eel catfish, eels, various lizardfish, squirrelfish, shrimp fish, trumpet fish, branch pipefish, thorny seahorse, huge variety of lionfish, crocodile fish, groupers, wrasses, various sweetlips, various snappers, breams, fusiliers, bat fishes including pirate bat fish, goatfishes, a very friendly remora, angelfishes, butterfly fishes, hawk fishes, a large variety of anemone fishes including the familiar nemo variety, sand perches, blennies, gobies (with and without their shrimps), cowfish, red fire dart gobies, banner fish, flounder, triggerfishes, filefishes, box fishes, puffer fish, porcupine fishes, solar powered nudibranch, banded shrimps, manta shrimps, dancing shrimps, whiplash coral shrimp, bubble coral shrimp, porcelain crabs, cuttlefish, oysters … And these are just the ones I can remember!

Summary

Was the long journey worth it? Absolutely YES. Would I go again? YES. Would I go back to the same resorts? Definitely YES. The resorts were friendly, relaxed and comfortable, the diving was easy, brilliant and well organised.

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