Updated: Jul 12
We spent January 2023 exploring four different resorts in Indonesia. This is Part Two of our Trip Report on Murex Bangka. Read Part One on Lembeh Resort here.
Ready for the second leg of our Passport to Paradise itinerary, we boarded our dive boat at Lembeh Resort after a fab breakfast, but this time, all our luggage was on board with us! So off we set into the bay, doing a dive, surfacing to snacks, teas and coffees, and then a second dive, before surfacing again to find ourselves navigating the Molucca Sea, approaching our second resort of the trip, Murex Resort on Bangka Island.
Bangka Island sits just off the northern tip of North Sulawesi. The small and remote island is nestled into the trees and right on the beach. This is a real ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience – the transfer/dive boats come up to the shore, and we jumped in up to our knees to wade up the beach – palm trees overhanging the super soft white sand and a jungle vista sloping up to the sky behind the resort. What a place!
As we walked up the beach, we were immediately greeted by the Resort Manager, and shown to our beachfront rooms, a short stroll along the beach, meaning our bags were delivered within minutes too! We passed the central building that is home to the office, restaurant and bar, and came to our rooms – timber chalets with a nice deck to the front, elevated above the sand, but only 5-10 metres from the beach – and with a totally uninterrupted view of the ocean! Heaven really!
The rooms are big – lots of space to dump and store bags, plenty of power points, a desk for camera, phone and laptop stuff, and an outdoor bathroom that even has a door to the side, meaning you can come in wearing your wetsuit and get straight under the shower!
Soaps and shampoos are provided, and there are plenty of towels too. And drying racks – we can’t do without those! All the rooms also have a freshwater dispenser. Behind the beachfront cottages, are six far newer and pretty luxurious Hillside Cottages – they still have great ocean views through the trees.
Murex Bangka is totally committed to sustainability. The resort installed solar panels in 2018 and uses them to fuel aircon and hot water 24 hours a day. On the same note, no plastic bottles or straws will be found here, with a focus on recycling, effective waste management and beach/reef cleaning happening every day.
The final touches on the brand new dive centre were happening during our visit, which is very similar to that found at Lembeh Resort. A fully fitted dive facility with dedicated space for kit, benches, rinse tanks, and everything you would expect from a valet-diving style centre. There is also a dedicated air-conditioned camera room complete with ample charging points and air guns for cleaning and drying your housing.
So, beautiful location, great rooms with views, a great dive centre – it only leaves food and diving to be talked about. First the food – a blend of buffet and a la carte dining for lunch and dinner – you order the next meal before you leave the last one if a la carte is scheduled, or there is a generous buffet offering authentic Indonesian fare. Breakfast is a selection of juices, meats, cheeses, pastries, and a cooked-to-order option – good old bacon and eggs for example, but also local favourites such as nasi goreng. Afternoon snacks are laid out, so we certainly didn’t go hungry. Quantity was good, and quality too, more rustic than Lembeh but delicious, nonetheless.
So, a great place to stay, with beautiful views and sounds of the surf and jungle – good food, an on-site spa, and live music once a week………we just need great diving, and this becomes a bucket list destination.
With three large dive boats, space is great, and wading out to climb up onto the stern platform made for a simple boarding. A giant stride off the stern or backward roll takes you into the water, and big sturdy ladders are positioned for easy exit – kit and cameras can be passed up to the crew. This was very civilised diving, and with numerous sites all within a 20-minute boat ride, there is plenty to see without having to travel far.
We crammed in as many dives here as we could – dropping in onto the top of the reef, we found that the typical dive was a shallow reef top and a sloping reef down to depth where there would be a sandy bottom. The hard and soft corals were plentiful, healthy, and full of marine life. We found the usual reef inhabitants in big numbers – schooling jacks, batfish, snapper, and wrasse of all types, and some pretty impressive moray eels too. A pair of huge black frogfish entertained us for one whole dive as they hopped from coral to coral, paying us absolutely no attention at all! We encountered a few turtles, some immense puffer fish, lobsters and even the odd passing tuna made up the larger marine life. Numerous nudibranchs and critters drew us down to the sand……finding the tiniest of porcelain crabs gathering on a sea pen was one of the highlights of all my diving to date – almost invisible to the naked eye!
In a nutshell, fab diving! The genuine blend of muck with reefs and walls here is great for everyone, and with such small groups of divers, catering for individual preferences isn’t an issue. There were even a couple of dives where we jumped into a great current, making a proper drift dive, thus delivering some adrenaline too.
And, as with Part 1 of this series of trip reports, the dive staff are incredible. How they see these things, we do not know, but they find them, and every time! Gentle, and relaxed, with no dictated dive times, and the sound of rattles underwater being incredibly rare, this is genuinely beautiful, relaxed diving at its best.
The only question left to ask, and the answer is: Would we go back? Begins with Y and ends in ES!! And then again.
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. Transport from Manado to Bangka is by car and then speedboat to the island.
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 and Bunaken. We travelled to Lembeh Resort, Murex Bangka and Murex Manado Resort. Check out our trip report on Lembeh and stay tuned for more on Murex Manado!! 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 Bangka 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 plan