The Scuba Place spent January 2023 exploring four different resorts in Indonesia hosting a group of divers. This is Part Three of their four part Trip Report on Murex Manado. Read Part One on Lembeh Resort here and Part Two on Murex Bangka here.
All good things come in three’s right?
Well, with the Passport to Paradise itinerary, and the extremely well-thought-out and excellently executed travel programme, we have to agree!
Moving on from Murex Bangka to Murex Manado was the same format as from Lembeh to Bangka… bags outside the room before breakfast, a yummy breakfast, board the dive boat, and off we go – 2 dives on the way with surface interval snacks and drinks in between, and then, as if by magic (gratuitous Mr Ben segue) we arrived at Murex Manado.
We arrived by dive boat at the new marina and jumped into the vans for a quick 15-minute transfer to the resort. When we arrived, our bags had already been delivered to our rooms and our selected welcome drink was delivered. A much-needed shower was followed by welcome cocktails and snacks in the restaurant, an open-sided building right in the centre of the resort. More cocktails followed, and then more, and then dinner, and then sleep.
Murex Manado is the most developed of the three resorts on the itinerary – perhaps because it is on the mainland, but it is still a very intimate and relaxed place to stay. Set in beautiful tropical water gardens right on the seafront, with stunning views across the bay to Bunaken and the marine park, there are only 11 rooms, each sleeping two adults comfortably in big double or twin beds. Each room is air-conditioned, with an open-air bathroom and a patio with day bed seating. Nine of the rooms overlook the beautiful gardens, and two are set right by the pool.
On our first morning, after a pre-ordered cooked breakfast which some people didn’t remember ordering the night before, off we set for our morning of diving in the Bunaken Marine Park. We had amazing muck diving in Lembeh, followed by reefs and muck in Bangka so we were craving some ‘big stuff’, and Boy Oh Boy – did Bunaken deliver!
Established in 1991 by the Indonesian Government, the marine park is an incredible success, and it is not only turtles that gather – dolphins are seen almost every day from the dive boats, dugongs frequent the shallow and sheltered areas for the sea grasses that grow so well here, and whales pass through the straits on a regular basis.
Giant clams are found here – and not just your average giant clam – but 7 of the 8 species in the world are found in these waters, together with over 30 species of butterfly fish, and amazingly, 70% of all the fish species that are in the Indo-Western Pacific can be found here in Bunaken.
It really is a phenomenal place to dive – big drifts or a gentle bimble are easy to find, and there is so much to see – huge sponges, walls just smothered with corals and colours, green turtles EVERYWHERE – and for the fan of all things small and crittery (made up word but I really like it), the sponges and corals are full of crabs, shrimps and little beasties, making these walls dives great for macro photographers too.
Lunch back at the resort after a morning of diving, as it was time for a well-earned meal. Salads, fruits, Indonesian curries and other specialities, together with burgers, pizza, fish of the day and the like are all on offer, and always a dessert too!
So, that is the first half of the day taken care of………what to do in the afternoons?
Well – a snooze is always a favourite for me, but there is the option to go back and dive Bunaken even more, or stroll into the waters of Manado Bay from the beach – you will find a dark sandy sea bed and plenty of tiny things – this is critter diving right on your doorstep! Or the dive boats will take you to local reefs or even go out looking for dolphins or dugong.
The pool is also lovely – right on the water’s edge, with sunbeds and bar service – if you need to off-gas a little then this is the perfect place – and the wifi works well here too, so catching up on the real world can be done if you possess masochistic tendencies.
Then dinner. Then sleep. Then repeat – it really is that simple.
So, in a nutshell, this is a top-notch dive destination with insanely good diving! A super relaxed and small resort, with great food (and cocktails) and seriously impressive dive guides too. What more could anyone want?
We will be back – and probably far more than once. This ‘Passport to Paradise’ itinerary is genius and gives a brilliant blend of diving across the three unique destinations. Lembeh is undoubtedly the very best for critters and all things that live in the muck. Bangka gives a lovely blend of pretty reefs and critters on the sandy seabed. And Manado gives us Bunaken – phenomenal reef and wall diving – some of the very best we have done – and then the chance to see whales, dolphins and much more.
So, which was our favourite?
We are always asked ‘Where is the best place to go?’ or derivatives of such, and the answer is always incredibly hard. A single dive can make a whole trip in some instances, but pound for pound, Indonesia is now my personal favourite place to go.
I loved Lembeh – it is more upmarket, offers gourmet food, and has mind-blowing macro diving. As a newbie to a macro lens, I had a blast here. Bangka was awesome – a wonderfully chilled and relaxing destination – powder-soft sand, beachfront rooms, lovely people and really nice diving.
But for me, all things considered, Murex Manado took the title of ‘Best of the Three’ for this trip. The diving offered everything – from macro to mega-fauna, and all in a super-bright colourful and healthy marine environment – it is very much a destination in itself, and I would go back here time and time again, and maybe add on a little extension to Lembeh at the same time! Indonesia itself is stunning – beautiful scenery, and beautiful people, and we personally love the food too.
The Government have got some things very right – the marine park for example, but we have to tip our hats to and shout out about Murex – they are totally committed to the environment, both above and below the waves. They clean their beaches, clean their reefs, educate the locals through structured programmes, recycle everything they can and waste as little as possible, use solar power, and you won’t find a plastic straw or bottle in any of their resorts.
If you are thinking of where to go next, then the ‘Passport to Paradise’ itinerary gives you a brilliant insight into diving in Indonesia and what it has to offer – but take heed of our warning – you will want to go back as soon as you get home.
Our sincere thanks go out to all the staff at Murex Manado, Murex Bankga and Lembeh Resort for making this trip happen – you really did make a huge impact on us and our group, and we promise we will be coming back!
Key Facts :
- Getting there : Flights with Emirates Airlines to Manado depart from any major UK airport via Dubai and Jakarta or Singapore Airlines via Singapore and Jakarta. On Emirates from London Heathrow it was a 7-hour flight with a quick two-hour layover in Dubai followed by an 8-hour flight to Jakarta. We had a longer layover in Jakarta so we booked a room at FM7 Hotel, a quick 20 minutes from the airport for a much-needed shower and a kip. The comfortable double room was £36 and offers a free shuttle to and from the airport. Our final flight on domestic carrier Garuda to Manado was 3 ½ hours. 30 to 35kg baggage allowance is typical.
- Air temperature : Tropical – average daily temperature throughout the year is 28-30°C, with the humidity at 85-90%. The rainy season is considered to be November to May with peak rainfall in January.
- Water temperature : 26-29°C. A 1-3mm full suit or shorty will suit most.
- Visa requirement : Tourist visa is purchased on arrival for £30 or IDR 500,000.
- Health protocols : When we travelled, visitors were mandated to download an app “Pedulilindungi”. This required us to upload our proof of COVID vaccination and booster and approval was received within 24 hours. Upon arrival, we provided a QR code generated by the app, had our temperature taken and then we were off.
- Currency : Indonesian rupiah, US dollars or Euros on resort. We often find the exchange rate is better at the destination country. ATMs and exchange desks are available at the airport. The resort also accepted credit cards to settle our bill quoted in rupiah.
- Electricity : 230V with European style (round pin) two-prong plugs. Our adaptor worked without issue, and the camera room had extension leads with UK plugs.
- Internet and Wi-Fi : Wi-fi is available at no charge at the resort. The best signal around the resort was at the restaurant.
Price Guide: Expect from £1999 per person based on two sharing a beachfront room for a 7-night itinerary with full board and 10 dives. Return flights and transfers are included.
Our Advice: With a long travel time consider the Passport to Paradise itinerary to take in Lembeh, Bangka and Bunaken. We travelled to Lembeh Resort, Murex Bangka and Murex Manado Resort. Check out our trip report on Lembeh and Murex Bangka!! With numerous routes from the UK to choose from, any duration can easily be arranged.
- Tourist Visa : £30 purchased on arrival.
- Food & Drink : Speciality drinks, adult beverages, sodas and snacks at Manado Resort. Fancy coffees, milkshakes, sodas, beers, wine, and cocktails were always available and affordable.
- Diving Extras : Three boat dives are offered daily along with the option to sign up for additional dives. We purchased a 2 dives/day package for our trip. NITROX was an extra charge and was paid for at the end of the trip.
- Tips : We would suggest a minimum of £15 per day to cover the dive centre and resort staff. Individual tips for special service are up to you!
Things to Pack :
- Dry bag : A small dry bag for daily boat dives is always handy to keep your personal items together and protected.
- Bug spray : When the sun went down, the mozzies came out!
- Medicated or drying ear drops : On a long trip with lots of diving, our ears tend to get a little sensitive so we try to be prepared.
Rechargeable personal fan : Found on Amazon these have become a traveller favourite! Handy on the plane.
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Call us at 020 3515 9955 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Diver Discovering Whale Skeletons Beneath Ice Judged World’s Best Underwater Photograph
An emotive photograph showing a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling sees
Alex Dawson from Sweden named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024. Dawson’s
photograph ‘Whale Bones’ triumphed over 6500 underwater pictures entered by underwater
photographers from around the world.
“Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions,” explains chair of judging
panel Alex Mustard, “as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear
witness to the carcasses. The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great
creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today,
just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way
needs to change to find a balance with nature.”
Whales dominated the winning pictures this year with Spanish photographer Rafael
Fernandez Caballero winning two categories with his revealing photos of these ocean giants:
a close up of a grey whale’s eye and an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing an entire bait
ball, both taken in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico. Fernandez Caballero took ‘Grey
Whale Connection’ while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water
to photograph the curious whale. ‘The End Of A Baitball’ required Fernandez Caballero to dive
down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the whale lunged. “The photo shows
the high speed attack,” he said, “with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines
in one bite — simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”
Lisa Stengel from the United States was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi-mahi catching a sardine, in Mexico. Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment. “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean,” she explained. “The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”
“It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras,”
commented judge Alex Mustard. “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi mahi,
now Lisa has photographed one hunting, action that plays out in the blink of an eye.”
The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Jenny Stock,
was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image “Star
Attraction”, which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked.
Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained “in the dark green depths my torch
picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a
different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I
got really excited.”
In the same contest, Portuguese photographer, Nuno Sá, was named ‘Save Our Seas
Foundation’ Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024, with his photo ‘Saving
Goliath’, taken in Portugal. Sá’s photo shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm
whale. The picture gives us hope that people do care and want to help the oceans, but also
warns us that bigger changes are needed. “The whale had been struck by a ship and its fate
was sealed,” explains Sá. “An estimated 20,000 whales are killed every year, and many more
injured, after being struck by ships-and few people even realise that it happens.”
More winning images can be found at www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com.
About Underwater Photographer of the Year
Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools, and attracts entries from all around the world. The contest has 13 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. The winners were announced in an award ceremony in Mayfair, London, hosted by The Crown Estate. This year’s UPY judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Dr Alexander Mustard MBE.
Header image: Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 winner Alex Dawson
New 2024 PADI AmbassaDivers Announced to Inspire More Superheroes for the Ocean
PADI announces the newest AmbassaDivers™ on the 2024 team, selected for their passion and dedication to protecting our shared blue planet.
“In each of their own unique ways, our new AmbassaDivers stand out and lead by example, inspiring others to step up, pursue their passion and be superheroes for the ocean,” says Julie Andersen, Senior Director of Brand for PADI Worldwide. “They are shining examples of how to protect what you love – and inspire others to do the same.
Initially launched in 2015, PADI’s AmbassaDiver programme aims to amplify the personal stories of exemplary divers who inspire others to love and care for our ocean planet. PADI AmbassaDivers are part of a global team committed to bringing awareness to social and environmental issues facing our planet and encouraging more people to experience, explore, and protect the underwater world.
Earlier this year, the exceptional duo of award-winning Indian actress Sonakshi Sinha and her dive buddy Indian actor and businessman Zaheer Iqbal were announced as some of this year’s newest PADI AmbassaDivers™inductees. Now over twenty other passionate scuba divers join the ranks.
“This year’s esteemed group highlights the diversity and commitment that it will take to safeguard the world’s largest and most important ecosystem. From adaptive divers proving the healing powers of the ocean to young children showing you are never too young to make real change in your communities, they are all true advocates for our blue planet and will help us create one billion PADI Torchbearers™,” continues Andersen.
PADI welcomes the following individuals to the 2024 AmbassaDiver roster:
Mariyam Firusha (Island Vaikaradhoo Maldives)
Born and raised in the Maldives, Mariyam is the first and only female scuba diving instructor from her island so far. After participating in a Discover Scuba Diving experience in 2021, she found her passion (and her husband!) in the ocean. Only six months after her Open Water Diver certification, she became a PADI Instructor and left her job in a call centre to work as a PADI Pro.
India Black (Poole, Dorset)
A content creator, broadcaster, and wildlife and marine conservation advocate, having taken part in marine and turtle conservation efforts worldwide. She’s also a part-time well-being mentor and physical therapist who works with young people with eating disorders and learning differences.
Radhika Sharma (Delhi, India)
A content creator and a full-time traveller who shared her compelling journey of traveling worldwide as a featured Ted-X speaker. She’s a certified scuba diver, paraglider and skier and aims to inspire people to go outdoors and not be afraid to follow their hearts.
Leng Yein (Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia)
A PADI Divemaster and Mermaid Instructor with 17 years of dive experience, Leng wants to inspire people to know that, “it is never too late to be the person you wish to be. Live, Love, and Act, with a purpose.” She’s also a Malaysia Government-Licensed Tour Guide, the face of several charity organisations, and has held the title of Asia’s #1 Female DJ for more than a decade.
Giosue Reale (Siracusa, Italy)
Giosue started scuba diving at 11 years old and is now a watersport instructor. His mission is to spread awareness about the amazing wildlife found around the British coast that is so often overlooked. He’s also passionate about showcasing diverse shark species from around the world and helping change people’s views on these beautiful animals through his underwater videography.
Mariana Saad Vargas (Ponta Grossa, Paraná, Brasil)
A 10-year-old student who loves animals and nature, travelling, and outdoor activities, especially scuba diving. She also loves reading, painting, drawing, and art crafting. This Harry Potter fan is a PADI Junior Open Water Diver and wants to inspire young people to discover the underwater world.
Kritika Goel (Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India)
A content creator who turned her passion for travel and photography into a way of life. She wants to let her audience explore vicariously through her lens, and her mission is to inspire people to step outside their comfort zones and experience the beauty of this world.
Sarah Miller (California, United States)
Sarah became a diver in 2012 and followed her dream to become a scuba instructor, starting Azul Unlimited as a dive business in Mexico and then Indonesia. Now Azul Unlimited is an online brand where she shares scuba lessons and van life adventures on YouTube, with a mission of building a supportive and fun community of safe divers and ocean protectors.
Laura Quesada (Madrid, Spain)
Laura has always known she wanted to be a diving instructor and was certified as a Junior Open Water Diver at ten years old. She’s travelled the world as a PADI Instructor and has been sponsored by Cressi since 2019. Her mission is to show the world how to save the ocean and the animals that live in it and to educate her students in caring for the ocean. Her passion is macro life, and her favorite marine animal is the nudibranch.
Kayleigh Slowey (Teignmouth, Devon, UK)
Kayleigh has spent most of her life by the ocean, cultivating a love for marine life and a passion for conservation early on. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine and Natural History Photography and a Master’s Degree in Marine Ecology, which have taken her on many adventures across the globe, using digital creation in her ocean conservation work.
Karol Yela (Pasto, Nariño, Colombia)
Karol is a PADI Divemaster, who aims to promote environmental awareness and the importance of sustainable practices in the diving community. As a specialist in sports training, she works to improve people’s lifestyles through sports, helping them build better daily habits that encourage them to find their happiness.
Sara Gojer (Bangalore, India)
As an international DJ, Sara travels the world and spreads her enthusiasm for scuba diving everywhere she goes. She’s a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) and PADI AWARE Shark Conservation Instructor whose aim is to “protect sharks all over the world and introduce people to scuba diving with these magnificent creatures!”
Katt Andryskova (Geneva, Switzerland)
Katt is a science educator, scuba diving instructor, freediver, and marine photographer living and diving the Great Barrier Reef. From her first breath underwater at age 12 to her 11 years working in Cambodia, Comoros, and Australia as a PADI Instructor, her mission has been to protect the future of our blue planet. She created Ocean Pancake to empower ocean lovers and activists to create positive change through individual choices, which she does through her podcast and YouTube channel.
Jessica Pita (Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa)
Jessica is a student majoring in Psychology and Anthropology and a passionate advocate for disabilities. Through social media, she shares inspiring, humorous, and everyday moments in the life of a blind girl, often highlighting the challenges and lack of inclusivity faced by individuals with disabilities. Defying expectations, Jessica uses her heightened senses of hearing and muscle memory to excel in various sports, like show jumping, scuba diving, and playing multiple musical instruments.
Jillian Taylor (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Jillian is a wildlife scientist and ocean enthusiast currently completing a Master of Science on the Atlantic puffin, a bird that shares her love of the frigid North Atlantic Ocean. She enjoys showcasing the rich biodiversity of the colder parts of our ocean and believes that “conservation starts with the details: it is hard to protect a species unless you know the name of it.”
Tyrell Crosby (Henderson, Nevada, United States)
Tyrell is relatively new to scuba, but he’s already hooked on its magic. His professional career as an NFL Offensive Lineman for the Detroit Lions was cut short by a severe spinal injury. After recovering from surgery, he discovered scuba diving as an alternative to football to provide both a physical challenge and mental clarity and found a new passion.
Aakash Malhotra (Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, India)
Also known as “Sky,” Aakash is an adventurer and travel content creator listed in Forbes India’s “Top 100 Content Creators 2023.” He has a passion for extreme sports, including skydiving, scuba diving, and snowboarding, and his mission is “encouraging Indian adventurers through immersive storytelling and professional education, fostering a culture of fearless exploration, and celebrating diverse landscapes to embrace thrilling adventures.”
Luciana Maldonado (Neuquén, Patagonia, Argentina)
Luciana first discovered scuba diving eight years ago in Indonesia when she was looking for ways to heal herself, and her life changed completely. She decided to leave her career at a sports TV network and move to Mexico to start her diving career, from Open Water Diver to Instructor. Today, she continues to teach diving and collaborates with marine biologists and conservationists to create educational programmes.
Mariam Al Saif (Kuwait)
Mariam inherited a deep-rooted connection to the sea from her pearl-diving ancestors while growing up on the shores of Kuwait. She found scuba diving in her twenties, and her passion for the ocean and conservation grew. This and her love of solo travel led her to found MER, a community uniting divers through meaningful travels and shared underwater adventures.
Prachi and Harsh (Mumbai, India)
Prachi and Harsh are an adventurous couple of world travellers and explorers. Their mission is “to redefine exploration, infusing it with conscious purpose. Through sharing our adventures, we aim to inspire fellow Indians to discover the ocean for themselves and fall in love with it.” Through their social media account, “Two Tickets to Freedom,” they document their travels, scuba diving experiences, and conservation efforts. They’re also GoPro India Ambassadors and TEDx speakers, spreading their message in a talk titled “Make It Happen, Today.”
Expedition Rove (Houston, Texas, and Yorkshire, England)
Mary Hannah and Andy are a husband and wife duo navigating the globe together in their Land Rover. Over the past five years, they’ve explored more than 45 countries in North, Central, and South America, across Europe to Turkey and Africa. They got Open Water Diver certified in Cape Town in 2023, and it’s quickly become one of their favourite on-the-road activities to do on their travels.
Manami Azuma (Nara, Japan)
Manami fell in love with the ocean after scuba diving in Okinawa and quickly became interested in environmental issues. She started by joining beach cleanups but soon realised the beauty of underwater cleanups as an activity that brings joy and purpose. She decided to open a dive shop, “Dr Blue,” to raise awareness further, raising funds through crowdfunding. Through her activities as a diving instructor, activist, writer, and speaker and her upcycling efforts, she wishes to prove that underwater cleanup is fun and that one step from a hundred people is more effective than a hundred steps from one person.
Yumi Shirai (Kanagawa, Japan)
Yumi first went scuba diving as a high school student in Sydney and as a diver, she learned about the close relationship between garbage, environmental issues, and the ocean. This led her to found a non-profit environmental organisation called “MORE Planning.” The name stands for “Mountain Ocean River Earth.” Their activities include collecting trash illegally dumped in the mountains, cleaning up rivers, land, and shorelines, and even cleaning up underwater.
Viridiana Alvarez Chavez (Aguascalientes, Mexico)
Viridiana is the first woman on the American continent to climb the five highest mountains in the world (Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu). She also has the Guinness World Record for the fastest ascent of the world’s three highest mountains using supplemental oxygen. After conquering all the major summits, Viridiana has turned her attention to the ocean, her next project in life.
Hiroshi “KUMA” Sato (Sanriku, Japan)
When the 2011 tsunami hit the coast of his hometown, and Hiroshi saw the devastation it caused to the sea where he worked as a scuba instructor, he decided he had to act. He founded Sanriku Volunteer Divers to collect the marine debris left behind by the tsunami and help clean up the seabed. Today, they’re still doing cleanups but have expanded their activities to include seabed restoration and seaweed farming. Hiroshi was named a 2023 Sea Hero by Scuba Diving magazine for his efforts in marine conservation.
Captain Jason Chambers (Canberra, Australia):
Jason gained fame as a superyacht captain on Below Deck and knows how to decompress from a high-pressure job. “When you’re underwater, it’s the ultimate escape,” he says. As a father, captain, TV actor, professional athlete, and PADI Rescue Diver, Jason covers a lot of ground. Nearest to his heart is Classroom of Hope, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to rebuilding 100 schools damaged in the 2018 Indonesian earthquake with materials made from recycled plastic.
Kundai Murapa (Harare, Zimbabwe)
As a child, Kundai dreamed of becoming a Power Ranger. He channelled his love for superheroes into becoming a professional stunt performer, and his fascination with The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo piqued his interest in life underwater. As an adventure athlete, Kundai engages in parkour, calisthenics, rock climbing, and scuba diving. His passion for adventure and human movement inspired his career as a certified fitness expert, TraceFit Method training system creator, and film stuntman.
Learn more about the PADI AmbassaDiver team here. Follow PADI on Facebook, Instagram, and X to keep up to date on their ongoing projects, dive adventures, and conservation efforts throughout the year.
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