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September 2023

By Janet Czapski

In September 2023, a group of Dive Travel Services travelers were finally able to make their 2020 COVID-postponed trip to Lembeh Resort and Murex Bangka.

Some of the group spent 3 whirlwind days touring Singapore before we all flew to Manado in North Sulawesi. The resort has recently been updated and the Deluxe Cottages, overlooking Lembeh Straits, were absolutely beautiful. The grounds were as lush and lovely as always and there was a brand-new camera facility on site as well as the amazingly awesome camera set-up room. The extensive updates to the Reception Area, gift shop and upper level restaurant/bar area were beautifully completed as well. After a welcome briefing, everyone set up their gear and got a tour of the dive center set-up. Nine days of 2-3-4 or 5 dives per day commenced after a good night’s rest. Two boats & 4 dive guides catered to every diver and set out seeking all the marine critters on the divers’ “wish lists”. It was great to be back and see all the smiling familiar faces around the Resort and meet new staff as well.

Everyone’s day started with a lovely buffet breakfast with plenty of fresh tropical fruits; eggs, pancakes or French toast made to order and lots of freshly baked pastries, cold cuts & cheeses to satisfy all appetites and dietary needs. After breakfast the diving commenced! Each boat had two groups of four with two very talented and experienced critter spotting dive guides, the boat captain & a dive assistant to help divers into/out of their gear, hand off and retrieve cameras and keep everyone comfortable.  Since most dive sites are less than 15-20 minutes away, the boats return in between dives. That allows photographers time to briefly review images, change batteries and grab a mid-morning drink & snack. The second dive took place in late morning, then lunch, a third dive in early afternoon and then the option to rest or do a shore dive on the house reef before dinner. Night dives were offered every day and at least a few of the group did a whole bunch of night dives where all of the nighttime critters are featured with dive guides and divers’ torches.

Critter sightings included octopi of many species (long arm, coconut, Blue ring, Mototi & hairy), nudibranchs of all colors, sizes and species, many shrimp species, lots of colorful juvenile fish, numerous species of crabs, lobsters, schools of colorful fish, prolific hard and soft corals, lots of different colorful eels, small to medium rays and a few sharks. Lots and lots of amazing underwater photographs were taken and I finally got the hang of my newish mini TG-6 camera set-up! Dive guides and photo pros were always on hand to help divers grab an optimum angle without disturbing the critters or the environment. “Don’t touch, take pictures and leave with memories” is the conscientious underwater photographer’s philosophy. This routine was broken up by a few land tours to a local village, a local market, massages or just “down time” to enjoy the pool, lovely property and amazing sunsets.

After 9 nights with lots & lots of logged dives, everyone packed their bags to be taken by the staff by boat up to Bangka Island while the divers gathered up their gear, jumped on their boats and headed north for two dives along the way. First dive that morning was a last dive in Lembeh Straits and the second dive was just off Bangka Island, which is where Murex Bangka is located. Our dive guides remained with us for our whole stay and great rapport developed between the gregarious, skilled, keen-eyed guides and the divers.

Five more days of diving, glorious sunsets and hours of serene beach lounging filled everyones' days and nights. We ate traditional Indonesian-style meals, spent lots of Happy Hours on the Restaurant deck, walked the beach to enjoy sunset, got massages and just enjoyed the ambiance of an isolated island paradise with outstanding diving!

As the bulk of the group headed back home after Murex, six of us journeyed over to Bali to enjoy another week of diving, island tours & cultural dances from our base at the gorgeous Villa Marquesa Boutique Hotel up in Tulamben, right on a stunning black sand beach facing the Lombok Straits near the NE tip of Bali. All in all, three weeks of heavenly experiences!

We’re going back to Indonesia in 2025 aboard the MY Samambaia doing an Eastern Indonesia itinerary from Kaimana (Triton Bay) through Southern Raja Ampat (including the amazing diving in the Misool protected reefs), ending in Sorong. See details on that trip and a Damai trip scheduled for 2026 in our “upcoming trips” section. Come join us!

Dive Travel Services, 29480 Ten Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48336

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