North Sulawesi, 2017






Trip dates:

25-25 September 2017

Boat / resort:

Gangga Island Resort and Spa

Dive centre:

Gangga Divers


Very. The resort is dive and UW photography dedicated. Great camera room and good facilities on board the dive boats. Nitrox is offered free of charge to Nitrox-certified divers.

Number of dives:

17 dives over 8 full days of diving

Diving conditions:

We had mostly overcast skies with frequent sunny spells. Early afternoon rain spells on several days, one decent storm that staterd during the night and lasted all morning the following day, which led to cancel the dives in the morning, but we were able to make one dive that afternoon. 29-28°C water temperature. Strong currents in many sites limited the choice of dive sites, as wer were either photographers or relatively novice divers in the groups. But this did not detract to the quality of diving. The currents were surely linked to high tidal range on these days, and also to windy conditions, especially after the storm. Visibility was around 10m, although we did have better viz in some dives.


This was my second stay at Gangga Island Resort, my first trip was in 2006 (see my trip report on this same site). That time I travelled alone, and I wanted Paul to see the reefs around Bangka Island, which I think are really beautiful. If there is something that surprised me in this trip is that, in 11 years, not much has changed. The resort looks and feels exactly the same as back then, and I think that is a very good thing. The only one big change is that there is now WiFi all over the hotel, including the rooms, and it is fast! Actually, faster than at home, and we have fibre! The facilities are very well maintained, and that is why the years do not seem to age the place. Every day, gardeners are at work keeping the grounds neat and pretty. The day we had the storm – a really hard downpour with really choppy seas and strong winds overnight till midday the next day – by early afternoon the beach was clean, and it is a pretty big beach!

When I was there in 2006, the resort was run by Hanne and Gaspare, two experienced hospitality and diving managers. They are now running another hotel of the same chain in Cebu. Gangga is now run on site by Indonesian managers, and they do a very good job of it. Seeing a resort in this part of the world not managed by westerners is a nice surprise. Without wanting to demean the many westerners that still operate in the region, it sort of breaks a pattern that I like seeing broken.

After a flight to Manado, via Singapore, we were picked up at the airport by a driver. There were three couples going to Gangga in our flight, but each got its own car. They drove us all to Serei Pier in about 90 minutes, and there we boarded one of the dive boats for the short 30 minute crossing to the Island.

When you arrive, they will welcome you with a flower garland and music. The guys like to play guitar and sing love ballads all the time. The hotel still offers “a la carte” dining both at lunchtime and dinner, with a buffet breakfast in the morning, and tea and cakes by the pool in the afternoon. The food was very tasty and the service im-pec-ca-ble. They will take your order for lunch at breakfast and for dinner at lunch, and when you turn up at your reserved table, your cutlery is ready for the specific choices you made. There will be a spoon if you ordered soup. None if you didn’t. And the food comes minutes after you seat down. The drinks were pricey, as expected. This is where you spend your money here, apart from the odd visit to the spa. As repeater guests, we were offered two nice t-shirts on arrival, and a complimentary massage each, I guess that was because this was our honeymoon! Paul let me have both massages for myself, and they did a lot of good to me. The girls are very good therapists.

Our room was nice and close to the restaurant and pool area. They have now flat screen tvs in the room, which remains otherwise just as I remembered mine from last time. We did not use the TV that much. After diving, you mostly want to sleep. The aircon worked very well and each bungalow has a solar-powered hot water tank in the back. Nice! We had fresh frangipani flower arrangements in our room. I loved them. The garden is full of those trees and other fantastic flowers as well, along with many tall coco palms.

The diving was as I remembered it, and that also is good. There is a lot of fishing going on, but whether this has affected the health of the reefs is hard to say. I have seen degrading in other places that I have dived in repeatedly over the years, but here, my impression is that the sites are just as good as I remembered them. The dive manager, Johan, would make the rounds of the guest tables at dinner and ask what your desired dive plan for the day after would be. Their offering is 2-tank dives in the morning, 1-tank dive in the afternoon every day. Mandarin dives and night dives on request. Day trips, 3-dives to Lembeh or Bunaken also on request and at extra charge (plus the Bunaken park fee), but at least 6 divers required for the boats to go out there. We opted for staying local this trip, because we have extensively dived those areas already.

The boats are the same, nicely designed to make your life easy when kitting up, jumping in, and climbing up back from the dive. The guides we had were good, and briefed us rather well before each dive. Groups were small, max 4 divers per guide. You will be given a fresh coconut between dives (loved it), and hot tea after your diving is done for the morning or afternoon. There is also fruit and cookies on board. On your first day, the staff will collect your kit from your room. Then, every diving day, you will find it ready to use on-board, and the staff will rinse it and store it for you till next day after you are done. They will rinse everything thoroughly at the end of your stay and dry it, then take it to your room for you to pack.

Most of the subjects that I got to photograph were species I had already seen, save for one tiny, tiny green shrimp which was a first. I was not after new finds, but wanted to focus on composition and technique. I did only macro shoots and not bothered with Wide Angle this time. Paul was taking video and I think his footage will cover that rather well.

The only low note on this report is our outbound trip from Barcelona Airport. What a mess. We had to queue for ages to go through security. Thousands and thousands of people screened at the same time. And then, those of us who had a flight out of the EU had to queue AGAIN for ages for passport control. It was an eternity! I asked the policeman if that kind of crowd was normal or just something you see on weekends. He told me it had been like that every day since … April! I hate to say this, but I felt very unsafe in those queues, and I thought to myself how easy some evil people would have it to wreak havoc, with us being herded through interminable zigzagging lanes, packed tightly with nowhere to run, for such a long time. I did not want to raise this with Paul. But he did so himself, afterwards. We were thinking exactly the same. This is not so much about the discomfort of the queuing, which is bad enough already. It is about safety and crowd control. In a city that had recently suffered such a tragedy as the attacks in the Ramblas, and seen what can happen in an Airport as we saw happen in Brussels before that, I would have expected better security there. And that starts by making an effective management of the flow of people you need to see through your facilities. I don’t think this airport is doing a good job in that respect at all. We have decided that we will try our best to avoid flying out of Barcelona in the future.

In sum, despite some negatives at the beginning, we enjoyed our stay in Gangga so very much and loved the hotel, the diving, but most of all, the kindness and smiling professionalism of the people that took such good care of us over there. Thanks to all of them and our best wishes!


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