What People Are Saying
I have been working with Ken and Laura for years. We have put together some complicated but awesome trips together. They always get the details just right and take care of things the right way when there are the occasional hick ups along the way. They have booked dozens of trips for us and know what they are doing. Best travel agent I have ever worked with! I highly recommend them to all my friends.
– Myron Siciak
Ken and crew at Ultimate Dive Travel planned a trip of a lifetime for me and my wife for her 50th. Ken recommended Raja Ampat, and was able to get us on the Dewi Nusantara, one of the best liveaboards. We booked it in 2016, and the trip was in 2018, so plenty of time. He booked our intra-country air, arranged for the hotel & transfers in Jakarta, and was an invaluable resource for my MANY questions, emails and phone calls. Our flights changed not that long before our trip, and Ken was able to get us on an even better flight, which would have been very time consuming to do if we tried to do it ourselves. He has contacts all over Indonesia and really was a huge help, and always pleasant and patient. Ken literally has a world of knowledge. Several people on our boat knew him as well. I will definitely use Ultimate Dive Travel for future trips – planning some now! – Larry Baker
Indonesia: Papua Paradise Eco Resort and Forgotten Islands on the Damai I Scuba Diving Trip Report Fall 2018
When I read scuba diving trip reports I like some context regarding the other travel diving experiences the author has had. This allows me to determine if the places described are ones I would also enjoy. My husband (dive buddy) and I are physically fit older divers (81 and 71 respectively) who enjoy warm water diving on coral reefs with the occasional muck dive as well. We have been diving for 18 years and have just over 1400 dives each. We take a couple of scuba diving trips a year and rarely travel with groups. Ultimate Dive Travel (www.ultimatedivetravel.com) arranges our trips and we are very pleased with their service. We have been to most of the Caribbean as well as Palau, Yap, Chuuk (Truk Lagoon), Thailand (Andaman Sea), Philippines (Moalboal, Dumaguete), and Indonesia (North Sulawesi, Bunaken, Lembeh, Raja Ampat, Ambon, Banda Sea). This trip, among the best we have ever taken, was a month-long adventure to Raja Ampat and the Forgotten Islands in the southern Banda Sea.
Comment about excess baggage fees. We try to travel light but do like to take our own scuba gear and my husband’s camera gear takes up most of both of our carry-ons. So, we each had a dive bag (circa 18 kg, 40 lb. each) and one bag for clothes, toiletries, etc. (circa 15 kg, 33 lb.); no problem for international portions of the trip. Domestic airlines in Indonesia have a 20-22 kg per passenger policy BUT Garuda Airlines waives excess baggage fees for scuba divers. Only one of our domestic flights was on Lion air where we were charged 338,000 Rupiah ($22.24 USD) for our 14 kg (30.8 lb.) of excess weight.
Travel to Raja Ampat from our home in Phoenix, AZ took a few days. We flew from Phoenix to San Francisco on Friday afternoon, spent the night near the airport and took the Saturday morning Singapore Air direct flight from SFO to Singapore. We arrived in Singapore Sunday late afternoon and spent the night in the Changi Airport Ambassador Transit Hotel (very quiet, clean, and comfortable). Our flight to Manado was mid-morning on Monday – meaning we arrived too late in the day to connect with a flight to Sorong. We spent the night in Manado at the Novatel Manado Golf Resort & Convention Center quite near the airport. This hotel has beautiful grounds, nice rooms, and very good food. The staff is friendly and helpful. We took a Tuesday morning flight to Sorong where we were met by the Papua Paradise Eco Resort representative Romi. He took us to the Hotel Belagri where we had lunch (food was good, hotel looked okay) and waited until it was time to take the boat to the resort. The resort is on Birie Island about an hour or so boat ride from Sorong. Romi also met us at the end of our trip and, once again, we spent a couple of hours at the Belagri; much nicer than being dropped at the airport hours before a flight.
Papua Paradise Eco Resort (www.papuaparadise.com) was an amazing awesome, wonderful experience! All 26 bungalows, as well as the restaurant, bar, office, spa, and all common areas, except the dive shop, are built over the water. One morning we saw 17 juvenile black tip sharks, as well as juvenile stingrays and other fishes, as we walked down the boardwalk from our room. The bush (jungle) comes right up to the water’s edge and amazing jungle sounds (mostly exotic, to us, birds) were a wonderful backdrop for our entire stay (the bush is not quiet).
All meals were served buffet style in a lovely dining area over the water. Food was excellent with both western and Asian choices. I particularly liked the fish options and was very pleased with the various soups and salads. The bar was well-stocked and the bartenders (Rio and Chris) made excellent mixed drinks – I think their mojito (they grow their own mint) was my favorite. The bar was located near the restaurant in a large area with various seating arrangements, fish identification books, a library of books left by previous guests, and access to wi-fi. This was a very comfortable place to relax and chat with the other guests. The resort was full while we were there, but it never felt crowded.
The bungalows were large, clean, and comfortable. Each bungalow has a deck facing the ocean with lounges and chairs. There was eco-friendly insect repellent and mosquito netting for the bed and sitting area. We were not bothered by mosquitos (I only saw one) or other bugs but did note that the insectivore birds were active all day long – and into the night. The Willie Wagtails were often vociferous as they swooped around.
We went for the diving and were able to do 29 dives during our 11-night stay. With 8 boats and quite a few guides, they were able to keep the maximum number of divers to a guide at four, but most of the time there were just two of us with our guide, Rhevqi. He was able to customize each dive for us and our preferences. Morning dives were 2-tanks and generally about 20-30 minutes from the resort. Surface intervals were at isolated beaches or village piers and included coffee, tea, baked doughnuts, and fruit. We were welcome to wander around the villages. All-day (3-tank) dives were also available to sites that were further away. These included lunch – which was large and delicious.
Birie Island is located just off Batanta Island (one of the “four kings” of Raja Ampat). Every dive featured the various critters for which Raja Ampat is famous – woebegone sharks, manta rays, healthy soft and hard corals, and large schools of fish. Dives were about 60 minutes in length and rarely deeper than 75 feet. Almost every dive had beautiful coral in shallow (20 feet or less) water to end the dive. Our visit was in late October and we had stellar conditions – good visibility, flat seas, and warm water (82-84° F).
Our last evening, we took the hornbill cruise. This was a short boat ride around the island with binoculars and a guide for bird watching – we saw herons, an eagle, a white cockatoo, and 101 hornbills coming in from various island to roost (we didn’t count them, Julens, our guide did). Another bird watching trip to see the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise (very rare) was also available but it required missing the morning dives (I do like fish watching more than bird watching) and a walk through the jungle so we didn’t go. Guests who did go thought the trip was worth it.
Papua Paradise Eco Resort is in a fantastic location and I love their focus on caring for their environment, but what makes it special is the staff. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and service-oriented. We were sad to leave. We transitioned to Ambon for the second half of our trip – with flights from Sorong to Makassar and Makassar to Ambon. In order to do this, we had to spend the night in Makassar. We stayed at the Novatel Makassar Grand Shayla, a new and very beautiful hotel with excellent staff.
Laura and her staff will be our first call!
We have worked with Ultimate Dive Travel before as members of a dive group and they were always great for our group. This trip, Laura and her staff had to handle individual situations for the group and really did an amazing job. Besides handling all issues quickly and with great attitudes, Laura was able to adjust to a Cathay Pacific flight cancellation with a wonderful outcome by helping us stay an extra day at our resort and changing our internal Indonesia flight by one day FOR NO CHARGE. We know our local dive shop will always use Ultimate Dive Travel, but if my spouse and I ever venture out on a dive trip by ourselves, Laura and her staff will be our first call!
This was our 2nd time working with Ultimate Dive Travel and once again, our experience was very positive. All aspects of travel (flights, tours, etc.) and the organization of our dive experience in Indonesia were done well. We were pleased to have the opportunity to dive Raja Ampat — checking that one off our bucket list! Thank you Karen for all your help!
– Guy Fuller
Great dive travel, wonderful knowledge of dive destinations, and if anything happens, they are there and know what to do.
– Anne Zoeller
Karen at Ultimate Dive Travel is our go-to person for all scuba-related travel. We have worked with her numerous times. She knows destinations/resorts and provides great advice and service. Why use anyone else? She is always on the lookout for bargains for us.She knows exactly what we like – for divers and also for non-divers.
– Ellen Wolff
Karen did an excellent job in coordinating this trip for us. I worked with her on all the details and everything came off without a hitch. She was easy to work with and we got great results. I would do another trip with ultimate dive travel in a second. We went to the little caiyman beach resort. I have been there three other times but we had a few people in our group who have never been there. Everybody had a great time and the resort did a great job for us. My only disappointment is that they charge for the use of their bikes. The bikes are not in very good shape anyhow.
– Thomas Benson
They are the best. Great follow through and always have helpful travel hints. I wouldn’t book a dive trip without using them.
– Elaine Beckmann
The team at Ulitmate Dive Travel has helped me to plan many vacations.
- They’re responsive and get back with you quickly.
- If you know a date, but not a location, or if you have a location in mind, but not a date, they can provide you with availability and prices to help you decide.
- They are very knowledgeable about the different locations, including the quality of resorts, and seasonal weather.
- They send you a packet just before your trip with details. For example, I’m leaving on a trip soon that includes a small plane trip between islands. The packet reminded me of the weight limits for my carry-ons and luggage that was very valuable.
- They keep up with BOGO and discounts that resorts offer and email those periodically. This can help you find a good deal.
- They offer discounts to dive clubs, or for paying by check instead of card.
- They don’t offer planning services for diving within the U.S. and some other countries.
A little bit of follow up required to get all trip details delivered when planning but trip suited our requirements perfectly
– Cindy Vineberg
Great travel company! Had a wonderful dive vacation! We’re really glad we went with them. We normally use generic travel agencies or book ourselves, but they made planning the trip so much easier.
We have traveled with Ultimate Dive Travel multiple times and have had wonderful vacations thanks to them!!
– Daniel Buck
We have used Ultimate Dive Travel over the last 10 years for several international dive trips and have been very happy with our trips and all the assistance and recommendations they provide.
– Sal Zammitti
Ultimate Dive Travel is hands down the best dive travel company that there is! They are a company for divers, run by divers. We book yearly dive trips with our friends, we have between 16-20 divers per trip. For the last ten years we have use Karen with Ultimate Dive Travel exclusively. Their knowledge of locations, resorts and dive boats is second to none. We give them two fins and a snorkel up:)
– Sandy S 5 Stars on Yelp
I have been using Ultimate Dive Travel exclusively for almost ten years now and I’ll tell you why. Virtually any travel company can take your money and book your trip. That part is easy. What is not so easy is the support provided before, during, and even after the trip. UDT sees to every single detail to ensure your trip goes smoothly. No, they can’t guarantee the weather or unexpected airline issues, but they will do everything in their power to ensure that your trip is fun and safe. When planning the trip, they make sure that all of your special requests or needs will be met at the resort. They provide tips and suggestions for your specific destination so that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. They even include special little gifts (like luggage tags and mini flashlights) in your travel pack which you will receive prior to your departure. Once you reach your destination you will have 24-hour access to the UDT staff should anything unexpected arise during your stay. Hard to believe that you can be in Indonesia or Papua New Guinea and they can still take care of you! That feeling of security is hard to beat. After the trip, they will ask you if there was anything that could have been improved. And I know from experience that they will absolutely follow up on it. In a business where customer service is paramount, UDT stands above all others. I give them my highest recommendation.
– Albert Wang
I just wanted to say thank you for all your help and working with me. My girlfriend and I just got back from the trip to Bonaire you booked for us and had a wonderful time. I can not say thanks enough!!! We will be spreading the word!!
Thanks again for everything!
My wife and I recently returned from a great trip to the Misool Eco Resort in southern Raja Ampat. We have been on liveaboards in Raja Ampat previously, and some of our favorite dives were in the area around this resort, so we thought we would give it a try. I highly recommend it. It takes a couple of days to get to the resort. You have to time the trip so it coincides with the dates of the transfer boat from Sorong (3-4 hour ride). We went for a 12 night trip at the resort, and they arrange for a night in Sorong hotel on the way out. We got into Sorong the day before our boat transfer, which allowed us to recuperate a little bit before the ride to the resort. The resort recommends taking the red-eye flight from Jakarta to Sorong, which many of the guests did. For us, at least, I think that this is bad advice. I was glad to have overnighted in Sorong on the way to the resort.
The resort itself is wonderful. I think that they can have as many as ~45 guests. There were probably about 30 guests while we were there. The service, setting, and diving are all fantastic. My wife has MS, and needs a little extra help getting around, and while on the boat. The staff was fantastic in assisting her when required. The dive boats had only a maximum of 8 divers plus staff, and there were no more than 4 guests per guide. I thought that this was fantastic service. The dive sites were as good as I remembered, maybe better. The only downside is that the visibility is not very good in October because there is still a lot of plankton in the water. It was okay, but definitely not as good as one might find in January through March (we are going back in February, so we will test this assertion directly). On the other hand, the plankton brought in huge schools of anchovies, which were very cool in their own right, and also brought in other stuff, including schools of mobula rays. The resort offered at least 3 dives per day, and also had dusk or night dives on many of the days of our trip. I typically did 3 dives per day, while my wife would go on two per day. I did not do any of the dusk or night dives, but the guests who did love them. There was little in the way of muck diving, so we are going to add an Ambon component to our next trip to Misool in February 2018. On the other hand, the gorgeous reefs were what we wanted to see, and we were delighted at the quality of the reefs. Just for completeness, I want to reiterate that the resort facilities were excellent, as was the food.
My travel agent (Ken at Ultimate Dive Travel) made all of the travel arrangments, and I do not remember the flight information in detail. I remember that it was a Lion Air Flight that left around 9am from Jakarta (but we had to go to the Batik Air counter). It was a nonstop flight, which was great. The hotel in Sorong was the FM7. It was very good, and I would recommend it. The charge was about $60 per night (includes breakfast and wifi). Hope this helps.
. No worries, as there was bottled water for drinking and we were able to take light showers until the system replenished itself in a day or two. One other day in the middle of our stay (and in the middle of nowhere), our engine battery died and we were not able to move to a new destination in the middle of the night. All worked out as they had a new one flown in to a port, 2 hours one way by way of the small boat. A few of the crew went and picked it up, while we stayed and dove in the most beautiful bay for the second time (we could have stayed there all week, it was so incredible). Food on the boat was wonderful. The staff was accommodating and flexible. Some people, that wanted their own ethnic food, brought their own food to add to the food that was prepared for us. We ate 4 times a day and there was plenty of healthy, good food.
In addition, the staff kept us hydrated by handing us a glass of water before and after each dive. Needless to say, I am missing Indonesia and the staff of Damai 1. I hope to go back soon.
Again, this was an outstanding trip! Thanks again Ken and Ultimate Dive Travel! I’ll be back for more 🙂
I wanted to let you know how much Pete enjoyed his week on the Explorer II. He said, it was well run, and that is a high assessment from him. I think he will be looking for guidance from you again next spring.
I appreciate that your recommendations are so sound, thank you.
Our trip was absolutely awesome.Our trip was absolutely awesome, flight and connection no problem. Arrived in Cebu airport at midnight to find somebody holding a sign with my name on it. He directed me to our taxi who took us to our hotel, whom were awaiting our arrival. Got a wake up call at 7am, had breakfast and were notified that our driver was waiting for us right on time.
Our drive was 3 hrs but the driver and nice roomy air conditioned car made the drive pleasant, he even made a bathroom & water stop. The spot that we were to catch the boat was more like a rocky jetty but the driver called to boat crew who quickly came to carry all our baggage so we could use both hands to navigate the rocky jetty to the boat. Once on board we quickly shoved off and were the only passenger. The boat crew did not seem to speak english so I just enjoyed the ride. Upon nearing the island I figured we could find our hotel once we landed. The boat driver ran the boat up on the beach and to my surprise I was looking at the sign that read Exotic Beach Resort. The resort staff greeted us and took our bags and handed us drinks. Exotic is the nicest resort on the island with the best diving setup and staff, everything was clean & professional.The diving of course was exceptional, hard to imagine that 5 montha ago the island was hammered by a typhoon. Rooms were small but nice and right on the beach. Food was very good, tried some other places but ended up eating at Exotic.
Trip from Exotic to Kasai was the same all transfers were without problems and Kasai is first class. Huge rooms, pool and the food was great. 3 meals a day with 3 course lunch & dinner. Diving even better with a top notch dive shop on premises, full staff and professional facility. All in all the trip was fantastic, the people friendly and helpful, a real value for the cost, just have to deal with the long plane flight and layover.
Thanks for all your help in setting this up, talk to you soon for the next one.
We had a wonderful time! Loved the beautiful resort and the undersea life. The food was much better than I expected. Everything worked perfectly! Flights on time. Thank you profusely for your caring organization of our travel arrangements and making the reservations for us. We will sing your praises to everyone we know!
We appreciated your in-depth knowledge of the Raja Ampat and Bali regions, and your recommendations were spot on. We loved the resorts and our travel was smooth. Throughout the trip planning you were always responsive, enjoyable to talk with, and never pushy. Thanks for being responsible, in large part, for a truly wonderful dive trip.
-Karl and Cindy Pitts
Home from a great trip. Just wanted to say thanks for all your help. I have a newfound appreciation of Explorer Fleet. They exceeded my expectations, mostly because of an extremely well run boat.
My wife and I traveled to Fiji for an 11 night stay at Sau Bay, and we loved it. We have been to Fiji twice before, but have never been diving in the Somosomo Strait, which has some of the best diving in the world. So when we heard about Sau Bay from our dive travel agent (Ken Scarbrough at Ultimate Dive Travel), we decided to give it a try, as the owners came very highly recommended, as did the diving. With respect to the diving, it was all it was reputed to be. We have been diving in many places, including Indonesia, the Philippines, the Caribbean, and French Polynesia. The diving we did while staying at Sau Bay was as good as any diving we have ever done. The soft coral reefscapes were incredible. We are definitely planning on going back. We dove every day that we were there (10 days), and all of the diving was incredible. The dive guide that we had (Pio) was perfect, and this is extremely significant, as he chose dives carefully so that the current would be sufficient to keep the soft corals open, but not so ripping that it made the diving difficult. This takes knowledge and skill, and he was a wonderful dive guide. The resort was very beautiful. The landscaping was gorgeous. The food was great and varied. We enjoyed all aspects of our stay, and especially the helpful and friendly staff. We are planning to return next year.
– Erwin P – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
We chose this resort through Ultimate Dive Travel and had a wonderful trip. I can’t say enough about this resort. The resort in on the coast and surrounded by tall mango trees and is beautiful. The staff is absolutely terrific. They are very friendly, helpful, and always try to make everything easy for you. They carry all the dive gear and cameras to and from the boat. The dive guides are excellent. They are very professional, helpful and are great at finding many little animals in the water. The food is outstanding. If you want eggs, omelets are made to order in the morning and after breakfast the meals are delicious Indonesian style. The rooms are very clean and have good AC. The double rooms have 2 desk areas which we found to be wonderful. There is plenty of good fresh water- a must on a dive trip. The internet was not the best but they are in the process of getting a dish that will be a huge help. The air conditioned camera room is a delight. Each photographer has a spot on the bench. We left our cameras in this convenient room when we were not diving. I am planning a return trip!
Room Tip: All the rooms that faced the water were all the same- very good
– ajmart – Boston, Massachusetts
We had this trip planned 2 years out in advance. We kept going back and forth about which island and what resort we were going to stay at. With help from Ultimate Dive Travel, we decided on El Galleon. After experiencing the resort, I am glad we chose El Galleon..The rooms were more perfect for divers. You couldn’t have asked for better treatment from all involved. They made you feel like family and couldn’t wait to help you if you needed them. Antoine cooked us up plenty of good food and always had a smile on his face. Cheryl the massage girl took care of all our aches and pains. Pete and Jamie with Asia Divers did more than there share to show us a good time and wonderful diving. We had a group of 16 divers and they were very good at finding all the neat little critters from Ribbon eels, frog fish, to numerous types of nudibranches. It was one of our clubs best dive trips ever..Would love to return someday. Doug w/ Bluegrass Dive Club, Lexington, KY USA
– Diverboy51 – Nicholasville, KY
Of all the dive locations I have been lucky enough to visit Maluku Divers was the best dive resort to stay and dive. It was my second dive-oriented trip to Indonesia and the actual experience exceeded all my expectations.
The voyage began with Ken Scarbrough and the staff at “Ultimate Dive Travel”. They helped me first to analyze and then booked my trip. I could see that UDT has many years of experience and taking good care of theirs customers is modus operandi of UDT. For example, they advised me to stay overnight at Jakarta to ease the jet lag. If I planed on my own, I would rushed to get to Ambon and would continue the trip. But I listened, agreed and was very happy to follow such wisdom. Not only I had a safety net in case my luggage was delayed, but upon arriving to Ambon I was relaxed and ready to dive.
The Maluku Divers Resort is situated right on the shore, surrounded by lush palm and mango trees. All cabins are facing the water, but I did not have chance to enjoy the ocean view. The diving and daily sorting hundreds of pictures took all my free time.
Meals were included and cooked to perfection. (alcoholic drinks are extra) For breakfast, usually omelets with all kinds of different ingredients, was prepared each morning to the specific order of each guest. It also included the option of cereal, pancakes, or waffles. Lunches were delicious and filling. Snacks – tea, coffee, cakes, banana or coconut rice pudding, etc. – were always available. Astrid, one of the staff, made delicious salty peanuts, prepared to perfection in coconut oil. You should’ve see how fast they were refilling those jars 😉
Dinners … here I’d like to mention a thoughtful step on behalf of the resort. Anyone who planned a night dive, would get his or her dinner freshly prepared at the kitchen after the diver came back from the night adventure.
The bungalow that I shared with my dive-buddy was huge. The best part was that each had his own table, large enough to accommodate all sorts of big and small gadgets such as a laptop computer, lenses, batteries, chargers, ports, etc. The bathrooms, by the way, are half the size of the room itself. In short, it was nice, after 3-4 dives a day to return into clean, air-conditioned, spacious and comfortable room. In the dedicated camera room each had his own spot on the bench, but if you are an underwater photographer, you know exactly what I am talking about.
The diving operation at Maluku Divers runs like a Swiss clock. Upon arriving to the resort each diver received a large, semi-soft, padded bag where one would place assembled camera housing and other necessary gadgets to go on the boat. Each morning, after breakfast, dive-masters would come by and carry all our gear to the boats. We would don our wetsuits and walk (60-70 feet) to the boats. The schedule was: 2 dives in the morning, and 1 in the afternoon and, if you wish, a night excursion.
For every four divers was one dive-guide/master. Such an arrangement translated to easy, crowd free dives. Each member of the group had ample time to take plenty of pictures while the dive-guide continue to search for the next subject. The average time underwater was 75 minutes. The temp was 84 degrees F. In 8 days I was able to log 25 dives, including 4 night dives.
For the first time in Ambon I was able to photograph rhinopias. We saw 4 of them during one dive. The species list is too numerous to name all animals we saw in the rich waters of Ambon. I only can say that I came back with over 90 GB worth of images. Most of our excursions were muck dives, for which Ambon is famous. There were a few dives that I would call “flasher wrasse dives”. I would compare them to the mandarin-fish dives. The difference is for mandarin fish you wait for 20-30 minutes until they show up, so you can get a few shots. Photographing the flasher wrasse – you would spend 20-30 minutes in one spot, shooting, continuously colorful balls of lightning, hoping to get ONE decent image …phew. But still that was a lot of fun and we made 2 such dives. While diving at Ambon I saw a lot, fantastic marine life and I’m sure there is much that I have not seen yet. Therefore, another trip to Maluku Divers is already on the calendar.
And here is the best part of the whole trip – the people. There were so many great people that I had the pleasure to meet and communicate with throughout my whole trip. In the airports, at the hotel, in the taxis, at the resort, on the boats, in airplanes … I saw nothing but welcoming smiles, sincere kindness and desire to help make each minute of my trip a memorable one. They utterly succeeded and I would like to thank all for a great, unforgettable voyage to Maluku Divers. See you all soon.
Room Tip: each bungalow has a great view
– todivetoday – Hopedale, Massachusetts
Kasai Village Dive & Spa Resort, Moalboal, The Philippines, April 2013.
We are older (65/76) experienced (900+ dives each) divers with quite a bit of Tropical Pacific and Caribbean dive experience based in Scottsdale, Arizona. We find ourselves returning to Kasai Village Dive & Spa Resort (this was our fourth visit) for several reasons. First, and foremost, the diving is excellent; as is the resort – with great service, accommodations, and food. In addition, it is fairly easy and inexpensive for us (we travel on Philippine Air out of Los Angeles to Manila with a connection to Cebu). The resort is 57 miles south of Cebu City on the Tanon Strait. The trip takes about 2-1/2 hours by car on somewhat twisty road through the mountains that gives us a chance to see the Philippine countryside and several good-sized cities (e.g. Alcantara, Ronda, Dumanjug, Carcar).
We have used Ultimate Dive Travel (ultimatedivetravel.com) for our dive travel arrangements since 2005 and once again on our 12th trip with them, we are thrilled with our service.
We love the people we have gotten to know at Kasai. Naming names is dangerous as I know I will forget someone (and every one of them makes our trip wonderful); but this is a resort where staff tends to stay and we look forward to seeing familiar faces year after year. From Michael and Lydia (general managers/owners) and their darling children to groundskeepers, housekeepers and compressor room staff (thank you Allan and Lindall for your great service), we appreciate what you do to make our trip great. Of course, we interact more regularly with the dive team and the kitchen/restaurant/bar staff. Bebe, Rhanz, Lynda, Giselle, Eddie, Pablo, Hermes made our pre-dinner drinks and our meals special. They are one of the reasons we return year after year.
This was our third year of diving with Tata, Felix, and Alex. Felix has been our primary dive master for three of our four years at Kasai, what a treat to see him each year and know that he knows exactly how we like to dive and what we want to see. It was great to see Chris again for the second year and I am so happy for Allan who is making the move from compressor room to dive master. A great new addition to the dive staff is Robert (from Sweden).
The diving is a good mix of reefs, walls, and “muck” diving. Speaking of the muck diving, we have been to Lembeh and Dumaguete and have seen almost everything we saw at those locations in Moalboal also. Most of the dives are drifts – so even if the current is stronger than usual, we don’t fight it. For me, the treat at the end of each dive is the shallow reef – sunlight shimmers on the water and the fish are colorful and abundant.
We spent 9 full days at the resort and made 28 dives. Water temperature was typically 82° F and generally very calm. I love to find and identify fish and other reef creatures. My buddy loves to take pictures. This trip was good for both of us. While not new to us, I loved seeing so many ornate ghost pipe fish, pygmy seahorses, a peacock mantis, frogfish (warty and giant), and several squat lobsters. A new fish for me was the female black striped angelfish, as was the highfin coralfish. My buddy saw and photographed a female pinstriped angelfish for the first time. We were both enchanted by the small red frogfish, an unusual color. The titan triggerfish were nesting and a couple made menacing passes at us. We saw and photographed three electric fileclams together in a crevice. We saw lots of nudibranchs (thanks to Tata and Felix). I particularly liked a new one for us, the yellow-tipped phyllodesium.
Special memories of our 2013 trip:
First evening at the resort, I was sitting at a desk just inside the camera room sipping a glass of red wine and looking at the fish id books as I had already seen some “new” critters on our afternoon shore dive, when Robert came in, introduced himself and offered me a wonderful piece of Swiss dark chocolate. Heaven!
Diving with the nine young men and women from China. They spoke a little English, we do not speak Chinese, but we all managed to communicate and have a wonderful time. They were bright, fun-loving, fashionably-dressed, diving with excellent gear, and totally “hooked” to their electronic gear (phones, cameras, etc.)
The beach party with a great mix of guests including the Chinese and divers from US, Australia, Philippines (who were at the resort as a part of a Saving Philippine Reefs dive survey). We had great food, entertainment from the staff, music, and dancing.
The blessing of the newly-constructed shrine for Our Lady of Manoag on her Feast Day (April 17). We really enjoyed this special Feast Day celebration with Michael, Lydia, their children, extended family, and Moalboal priest.
We had a close connection in Manila from our flight from LAX to the flight to Cebu. We were looking at the times and worrying about whether we would make it as we left the plane. Imagine our delight when we exited the jetway and were met by a person holding up our name and telling us that she would escort us to the next flight. Great service from Philippine Air.
Unfortunately our baggage did not make it to Cebu. We are unsure if it was delayed in the transfer in LA or in Manila. Either way, the Philippine Air baggage staff in Cebu did an excellent job of taking information and explaining the process. But the real “thank yous” go to the Kasai Village staff. They took over calling the airport for information and made all the arrangements for picking up our bags when they picked up the Chinese guests on Sunday. In the meantime, they sent someone to town to pick up essentials for one of us: shorts, flip flops, and swim trunks and had a local vendor stop by with additional t-shirts, dresses, and shorts for our selection. The rental equipment was great and we didn’t miss a dive – although we were certainly excited to be able to use our own gear when it arrived.
Our second visit in October 2015 was even better than expected!Tasik Ria, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 2015
After a 2-night stay at Tasik Ria Resort (TRR) (www.tasikria.com) in 2014, my husband and I agreed to return. Our second visit in October 2015 was even better than expected!
About Us: We are older (68 & 78) experienced recreational divers with a number of trips to both the Caribbean and Tropical Pacific, including several other trips to Indonesia. We live in the Phoenix, Arizona area, about 40 hours of travel from our home to TRR. We stayed 10 nights with 9 days of diving. We generally travel on our own and use Ultimate Dive Travel (www.ultimatedivetravel.com) to arrange our trips. They always do a GREAT job for us. On this trip we were joined by a couple from Florida who we dive with as often as we can. They, too, loved TRR. The travel was worth it.
Accommodations: We stayed in the Sea View cottages. These units are free-standing and look like Indonesian homes. They are roomy and clean. Bath facilities (shower, tub, toilet) are in a walled partially covered outdoor courtyard attached to the back of each of the Sea View units. Hair dryer, bath gel, small soaps, shampoo, washcloths, hand towels, and towels are included. The pool-side units appear to be more conventional motel-room style. We loved the Sea View cottages and would definitely choose them again. I did find the courtyard concrete a big rough for my tender feet – flip flops were needed.
Food: the food was good with lots of variety. All meals were served buffet style and included fruit, salad choices, entrée choices (generally fish and chicken or beef), potatoes/noodles/rice, vegetable and desserts. There was an Indonesian flair and flavor but not too much for western tastes. Meals were served in a covered open-air restaurant on the pier just behind the Sunset Jetty Bar at the very end of the pier facing west for wonderful sunsets. The Jetty Bar is a comfortable setting to enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink – and in the early evening the perfect place to watch the sunset.
The Diving: TRR is located on the coast of North Sulawesi just southwest of the City of Manado. There is diving off-shore from the resort (more about that later), but the primary dive sites are the walls of Bunaken. TRR has several dive boats, three are quite large and very comfortable; they are used for the trip to Bunaken Marine Park. Boats leave at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning, travel to Bunaken (about an hour), 60 minute dive, 60 minute surface interval with delicious snacks, 60-minute second dive, lunch on the boat, 60-minute third dive (either at Bunaken or just offshore from the resort ). It’s a full day of diving, but the boat is so comfortable – large towels, plenty of shade, sun for the sun-lovers, nap space for all – that the day passes quickly and pleasantly. The dive guides and crew are excellent. TRR also offers a day of diving at Lembeh – world famous for muck diving. This requires a trip across the peninsula by bus. Since we had previously been diving at Lembeh we did not take the trip.
Bunaken Marine Park Wall Dives: Some of the walls are vertical and others are sloping. Dives are primarily drift dives; sometimes with quite a bit of current and at other times essentially current free – we experienced both conditions on Lekuan 2 just a few days apart. All walls had healthy coral and sponges and huge numbers of fishes (used to refer to not only lots of fish, but also multiple species) and little creatures (nudibranchs, crabs, shrimp).
Local Dives: Just off-shore from the resort are patches of coral, sea grasses, and sand. Here we found lots of fishes, including juveniles, ribbon eels, nudibranchs, crabs, many types of shrimp, lobsters, bogies blennies, coconut octopus (living in beer bottle with a small shell as a “door”), mantis shrimp, and, perhaps our favorites, cuttlefish (four at one time on one dive – they were monitoring their eggs deep in the coral).
Overall: Resort Manager, Dan Green was “out and about” greeting guests and making sure needs were being met every day from breakfast until evening (most evenings he joined guests in the bar). Other staff, including Gill McDonald, resident photography teacher, were equally helpful. The TRR hospitality was amazing. We expressed a desire (e.g. to taste the local avocados) and it was met at the next opportunity. WiFi is available in the lobby and at the Jetty Bar. We had a wonderful trip and hope to be able to spend another vacation at Tasik Ria Resort!
Tasik Ria, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
We are writing to thank you for booking our diving tour to Indonesia! It far exceeded our expectations. Our every need was met and our smallest wishes granted.
First of all our travel arrangements were spot on! You made certain that we were accommodated for our layovers in Hong Kong where we were able to have showers and much needed rest.
The real fun began when we arrived in Indonesia. A host, Jill, met us at the airport and whisked us away to the resort where we were greeted by management and welcome fruit drinks. Our luggage was taken to the appropriate places(clothing to our cottage, dive gear to the dive shop). As you know from your own experience with Tasik Ria, our bungalow was a delightful seaside jewel! The décor was beautiful and we were delighted with our courtyard bath and outdoor shower!
The general manager, Dan and his assistant Jill were always available and interested in making our excursion extra special! Jill showed us a slideshow of the local sea life and gave the guys tips on camera settings and lighting tips to ensure that their underwater photos were the best that they could be. Dan was simply extraordinary in his hosting abilities! He and the chef surprised our little foursome during cocktail hour on two evenings with specially prepared sashimi and freshly cut avocados(favorites of our group). He was there every evening and every morning engaging us in conversations about our stay and sites that we should take in. He even gifted us a hat and local coffee for souvenirs. What a guy!
The dive center was also amazing! We four friends were assigned as a dive group of four and a well experienced divemaster named Jimmy. I would say that we were treated to Valet Diving. Our equipment was well cared for and we thank you for booking nitrox for us so our dives could be as long and safe as possible. We are a seasoned dive team and were treated as such. The dive center made certain that we were the 1st in the water and last out. They even dropped us off early on the house reef one afternoon so that we could see and photograph the unique creatures before the other groups on the boat entered the water!
Overall, the trip was simply amazing. Thank you for your recommendation and guidance. The group at Tasik Ria should be highly commended and we certainly recommend them to anyone looking for a trip of a lifetime! We can’t wait to return, hopefully next year.
– Debbie & Alan