September ~ October 2008

Up Diving Bunaken


Next stop North Sulawesi

After the relaxing day in Bali and a good nights sleep we were up early for our flight to Manado in Northern Sulawesi.  We flew with Garuda Indonesia on a domestic flight that left at 8AM.  No time for breakfast this morning.  We would have to be satisfied with the in-flight meal.  There are few flights between Denpasar and Manado and with any luck this one would allow for diving this afternoon.  Being familiar with the domestic terminal at the Denpasar airport we had no problems.  It helps to know those little things like the long walk from the taxi drop off location and the fact that you have to leave any luggage cart outside, go through security and then you can get another luggage cart inside.  Very little english is spoken and its always a little chaotic.

We did have to pay some overage for our checked bags.  We knew we were a bit over the domestic allowance on Garuda but they offer discounts for dive gear.  The guys at the ticket counter had many discussions amongst themselves, asked me to open my bag so they could verify it was dive gear, talked animatedly some more, scribbled figures on paper and finally asked us to pay for 5 Kg overages which came to about $18 USD.  The funny part is they have already sent the luggage on down the conveyor belt and they have our passports so of course the answer is "ok".  It was less than we anticipated paying and everyone seemed happy so we had a seat with all the locals and a couple of backpackers.

We would be making a one hour stop at Macassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi and the largest city on that island.  The city was formerly named Ujung Pandang, after a pre-colonial fort in the city, and the two names are often used interchangeably.  It is located on the southwest coast of the island.  After that hour in the MOST BORING AIRPORT EVER, it was off to the city of Manado in North Sulawesi.


We arrived at Manado airport early.  This is unheard of, it is expected that flights are often late but we were actually a full thirty minutes early.  So of course no one was there to meet us.  Once we realized that we were earlier than the arrival time I had given to Roel at Lumbalumba Dive Resort, we settled back to wait.  Sure enough it wasn't long before I spotted Roels tall blond head towering above the local population across the parking lot.  Indonesians are not a tall people and Roel is well over 6 feet tall and Blond.  He was easy to spot among all the shorter and darker Indonesians.  I waved him over and he was quite surprised that we had arrived so early.  We loaded up our gear and set out for the hour long drive south of Manado to Lumbalumba Dive resort, our home for the next week.  It had been raining and there was an accident and subsequent traffic jam on the sea side road south so we would be taking a longer route inland and around the problem.  It was an enjoyable ride with beautiful and interesting views and easy conversation with Roel.  

Lumbalumba Dive Resort

Lumbalumba is located just south of Manado on sea side road, with the resort on the hillside and the dive center located just across the street on their own private jetty.  Roel has a great website full of pictures and information at www.lumbalumbadiving.com and is quick to reply to any questions you have via email.  

The resort grounds are like continuous gardens and the new pool overlooking the sea is beautiful.  We were in the family chalet which sets lower on the hill, right inside the gate.  A short walk up the hill you find the open air restaurant and lounge where we would join the other guests as well as Roel and Juud, his wife, for breakfast and dinner.  On up the hill a bit are the other four chalets.  When full the resort accommodates a maximum of 12 guests.  All of the rooms are large and comfortable with ensuite baths, balconies, and tables and chairs.  Instant coffee and tea along with a electric water pitcher for hot water, refrigerators and drinking water are provided in each chalet as well.  Lunch was on the boat each day if you were diving.  Although we considered some hiking through the Tangkoko Batuangus Reserve or to the top of a valcano we instead chose to dive and save the hikes for a future trip.  The resort itself was certainly nice enough to lounge by the pool if you wanted a break from a day of diving and the 'a la carte' style of dive pricing allows you to budget accordingly.  

The food served at the resort was always excellent and there was quite a variety even for breakfast.  For instance, breakfast consisted of banana pancakes, french toast, cereal, yogurt, fruits and cheese, eggs cooked to order and probably anything else you could request.  Lunch on the boat was usually either Indonesian rice or noodles with pork or chicken.  Or chicken or tuna salad or if you had a special request they would do their best to get it for you.  Dinner was a huge buffet spread each night with fresh salads, always a different soup, an assortment of entrees of fish, chicken, pasta and sides of potatoes, rice, noodles and a variety of vegetables.  And home made ice cream for desert.  No one was going to lose any weight here.

Also the bar was open with beer, wine and whatever mix drinks you fancy.  Though as usual the first drink signals no more diving.  It was easy to grow accustomed to a relaxing cocktail in the lounge before dinner, chatting about the days activities or sharing the days photos with the other guests.

Here we are at the resort and the album below has many more photos of the resort.


The dive shop is located right across the street out on the private Jetty.  Lumbalumba does not have Nitrox available but we didn't miss it as we stuck to an average of 3 dives daily with the aluminum 80's provided.  We brought all our own gear so I didn't pay much attention to the rental gear but it was available in the dive shop.  There is a tiled wet room adjacent to the dive shop where all your gear is stored.  Everything is rinsed and hung after your days dives and then put back on the boat for you in the morning.  If you are doing an early morning dive before the trip out to Bunaken you just gear up at the dive shop.  The dive staff works around what ever dive schedule you prefer.  Each dive guide works directly with their guests and will dive whenever you like.  During our stay the dive guide to guest ratio was 1:2 for most dives.  Occasionally a third person would join us for a dusk dive but mostly it was just the two of us with Maxi our guide.  

The daily schedule consisted of meandering down to the Jetty after breakfast, usually around 8:30.  After checking that all your gear was onboard we would depart for Bunaken.  The approximately hour long boat ride was comfortable and relaxing.  Time for breakfast to settle, camera checks, starting the days dive logs or just chatting with the staff about what lies ahead and the days plan.  There is an assortment of marine ID books available to look up any unusual creatures you spot on a dive.  And there is a toilet on board as well.  We were usually in the water by 10am.  Times were not limited to anything but your computers and we generally had dives between sixty and ninety minutes.  Lunch would be served after the first dive, the boat would maneuver to the second dive location and the second dive would start around 1pm.  After that dive we would head back to the mainland and you could do a third dive off the jetty, or they would take the boat to another dive site along the mainland shore or you could schedule for a dusk or night dive.  The staff was quite flexible and always eager to show you something new, as well as being a personable, friendly, fun group to hang out with all day.


    At the top of this page is a tab that will take you to the details of our dives while we stayed with Lumbalumba.  I have included the names of the dive sites, conditions, stats, descriptions of the site and what we saw as well as the pictures we took on each dive.  Also pictures of the boat and crew taken during surface intervals.  There are even some short videos.  

I have also put together a short album here with some of our favorite underwater photos from Bunaken.  Just click below for a preview.

 I would love to return to Lumbalumba in the future and can envision them being a great addition to any trip to Asia.  We still want to dive Malaysia, the Philippines, visit Australia and take a trip through Vietnam and Thailand and a week at Lumbalumba would be a great addition to any (or all?) of these trips.

Click the album below for photos of the resort and dive shop.