In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…
What is the name of your business?
What is your role within the business?
I’m the founder and managing owner.
Over the years I became a bit of a mother figure to my team, since no-one can stop calling me ibu (“mother” in Indonesian).
How long has the business operated for?
In 1997 Thalassa started as a dive center embedded within a hotel in North Sulawesi, but in 2013 I got the chance to take over an old resort near Manado. In October of last year, we opened a second resort on the island of Lembeh, which we are super proud of. So in short, Thalassa exists about 5 years in its current incarnation as a dive resort.
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
I did my first dive in 1978 which was quite unusual, because it was exclusively a boys’ club in those days. Being a PADI Course Director, I love to teach diving — especially to the less privileged local kids who want to become dive guides.
What is your favorite type of diving?
Just being in the water and teaching my class of dive guide students. Their ability to be neutrally buoyant is impressive from the get-go, and seeing them grow in their role as guides and divers pleases me no end.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
North Sulawesi is not really on the radar compared to the more famous travel destinations, so this part of Indonesia is relatively off the beaten track — ideal for travelers who want to get away from it all and experience something different. You will find the Manadonese to be incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in foreigners, to the point of being very shy but delighted to get your attention!
We invest heavily in the local population: ten years ago, we built a junior + senior high school in a nearby village, and we keep the school in operation thanks to generous donations of guests, friends and family, all through a foundation that we set up. The school offers village kids the opportunity to pursue a career in the (diving) tourism industry, and many of our staff are alumni from the school.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
I love the yellow elephant ear sponges in our Manado house reef, because it looks like such an alien landscape. Another favorite of mine is called the Secret Garden, an old reef that’s in pristine condition.
What types of diving are available in your location?
You can do wall dives with an abundance of turtles hanging out among the corals, you can do muck diving, there are sloping sands with spots of coral life, and the pinnacle dive in Bangka is also quite a favorite. We have an interesting shipwreck in front of our Manado house reef and at our Lembeh house reef you can find an old fishing net that’s overgrown with corals.
Seeing our guests having a great time, and hearing the excitement in their voices after a dive. It never gets old and is a constant reminder of why I chose to become a diver in the first place.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
I’d have to say that the humble sea cucumber is definitely a favorite of mine because they’re such bizarre creatures. Some of their feeding habits tend to be a bit unsettling, but they mean really well…
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
After the long road getting Thalassa Lembeh up and running, I got some room to think about new plans for our resort in Manado, and this resulted in a plan to overhaul our main lounge and restaurant. Next to a lick of fresh paint and a new lighting scheme, we also removed the banisters separating the lounge from the “outside”, so that guests now have a nice view over the swimming pool and the ocean beyond. It really opened up the place and means that our guests have a veritable “garden” to relax in.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
As in many other parts of the world, floating waste is definitely an issue. We encourage our guests to pitch in and pick up whatever doesn’t belong on the ocean floor, as do all our guides and students of our school — all the little bits help. The problem is that there’s just not enough education on this subject, so with our community initiatives we want to combat this issue as much as we can.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
Absolutely. I try to tackle problems by the root and educate my students about the environment, teaching them about the Atlantic/Pacific garbage patches and organize frequent beach cleanups with them. At the resort, we ask our guests to reuse their towels, we don’t use insecticides on our flora and we grow herbs in our spice garden. Upon arrival, our guests will receive a reusable water bottle which they can take home.
Over the past 40 years, the market has changed from an elitist hobby to something you do in addition to other hobbies and sports. Convenience has become a priority for people, with many guests diving only once or twice a year, instead of every weekend. Accessibility to some of the most fantastic dive areas in the world has increased significantly, which is how companies such as Thalassa are able to make their living — people come from all over the world to dive here.
If I could change anything, then I would love to see a higher luggage allowance on airlines, and more international connections.
What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
As part of the Coral Triangle, diving in North Sulawesi is quite special. The marine life here shows enormous variety and if you like turtles, the Bunaken National Marine Park is full of them!
Over on the east coast of North Sulawesi, our new resort on Lembeh island is home to some of the most cunningly camouflaged and outrageously strange creatures. Macro photographers will be delighted to be diving with us in Lembeh.
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Send us a postcard or give us a call!
Thalassa Dive Resorts Manado
Jl. Raya Molas, Kecematan Bunaken
95242 Manado, North-Sulawesi
Thalassa Dive Resorts Lembeh
Batulubang Kecematan Lembeh Selatan 95552 Bitung, North Sulawesi