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An update from Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort…

Asia DTA Team

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The team from ‘Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort’ let us know what they’ve been doing during lockdown:

On Friday March 20th 2020, we waved goodbye to the last guests to leave us before Covid-related travel restrictions were introduced the following day. We suspected that global tourism would be effectively shut down for the rest of that year, but here we are over twelve months later, with no certainty as to when we can welcome our first international clients back to Bunaken.

We have not, however, been idle.

Our primary concern was for our staff. Having over 80 staff on contract, together with no revenue, gave us a dilemma. We immediately told all our employees that no one would be losing their job. To achieve this, we put everyone except senior managers on 50% salary in return for their working 50% of their contracted days. But with no guests and 40 employees present at any one time, how would they fill their days?

Easily.

Having been voted ‘Indonesia’s Leading Dive Resort’ by the World Travel Awards for the last three years, we knew we couldn’t simply close our doors and wait for the world to return to normal. We’re a jungle-based, coastal resort, and what we know for sure is that sea air and jungle encroachment (however good it smells and pretty it looks!) are no friends of ours. For the last year there’s been constant activity: painting, deep-cleaning, polishing, trimming, pruning, overhauling, servicing – so that when we’re ready to open, every aspect of the resort is in first-class condition

In addition to maintenance and refurbishment work, and with our new General Managers Ed Regeer and Shu Ming Chueng leading the way, we embarked on a comprehensive schedule of projects to improve and upgrade the infrastructure of the resort: re-roofing cottages, rebuilding walkways and bridges, reinforcing the jetty, refurbishing our dive boats, enlarging our organic garden, and rebuilding perimeter fencing.

Ed & Shu

As well as improving the resort and keeping our staff employed, this has also provided benefits to the local economy; we regularly employ additional craftsmen on a week-by-week basis, and nearly all raw materials are bought in Bunaken or nearby Manado.

But there are other ways that the resort has continued to support the island and the local community: because we make our own fresh water (the only fresh water on Bunaken), we supply it to the local villagers, and we also provide electricity and fresh water to the nearby Balai ranger station. We have devoted labour and materials to assist the repair and ongoing maintenance of the main arterial road (albeit it’s a motorcycle path, as there aren’t any cars on Bunaken!) that links the three major villages on the island, and we have expanded our mangrove planting programme.

We also continue to provide emergency medical evacuation to the mainland for anyone who needs it, and our Emergency First Responders are occasionally called upon to administer first aid to islanders who have been involved in motorcycle accidents in the vicinity of the resort.

Finally, and like any other diving resort anywhere in the world, we are fighting a continuous battle against the garbage which so thoughtlessly ends up in the ocean, and which then sometimes washes up on our doorstep. As well as cleaning up our own beach and mangroves, we assist other resorts in cleaning up theirs, and we contribute regularly to the brilliant efforts of Trash Heroes Bunaken.

While we may not have had any guests for the last year, we’ve certainly been extremely busy, and this means that Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort will be in fantastic shape to welcome new and returning guests as soon as restrictions are lifted, and international travel begins to return to something like normal.

We’re operating an extremely flexible reservations scheme, with currently only 10%deposit. For more information, please visit www.bunakenoasis.com or contact info@bunakenoasis.com.

On behalf of the owners and managers of Bunaken Oasis, we’d like to say a huge thank you to those guests who had booked with us but have had to rearrange their holiday plans because of the pandemic. Given the ongoing uncertainty, we’re happy to reschedule your dates as needed, and we look forward to offering you the warmest Bunaken welcome just as soon as we’re able to!

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Komodo National Park found to be Manta Hotspot

Asia DTA Team

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Through a collaborative effort between citizen divers, scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), and Murdoch University, a new study reports a large number of manta rays in the waters of Komodo National Park, Indonesian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, suggesting the area may hold the key to regional recovery of the threatened species.

Reef mantas (Mobula alfredi), which grow up to 5m, tend to reside and feed in shallow, coastal habitats. They also visit ‘cleaning stations’ on coral reefs to have parasites, or dead skin picked off by small fish. Courtship ‘trains’ are also observed adjacent to cleaning stations. In Komodo National Park, manta rays are present year-round, challenging the famous Komodo dragon as the most sought-after megafauna for visitors.

Scientists teamed up with the dive operator community to source identification photographs of manta rays visiting the parks’ waters and submit them to MantaMatcher.org – a crowdsourced online database for mantas and other rays. Most of the photographs came from just four locations from over 20 commonly visited by tourism boats.

I was amazed by how receptive the local dive community was in helping collect much-needed data on these threatened animals,” said lead author Dr. Elitza Germanov. “With their support, we were able to identify over 1,000 individual manta rays from over 4,000 photographs.

People love manta rays—they are one of the most iconic animals in our oceans. The rise of the number of people engaging in SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and the advent of affordable underwater cameras meant that photos and videos taken by the public during their holidays could be used to quickly and affordably scale data collection,” said MMF co-founder and study co-author Dr. Andrea Marshall.

The photographs’ accompanying time and location data is used to construct sighting histories of individual manta rays, which can then be analyzed with statistical movement models. These models predict the likelihood that manta rays are inhabiting or traveling in between specific sites. The study’s results showed that some manta rays moved around the park and others as far as the Nusa Penida MPA (>450 km to the west), but overall, manta rays showed individual preferences for specific sites within the Park.

I found it very interesting how some manta rays appear to prefer spending their time in some sites more than others, even when sites are 5 km apart, which are short distances for manta rays,” said Dr. Elitza Germanov. “This means that manta rays which prefer sites where fishing activities continue to occur or that are more popular with tourism will endure greater impacts.”

Fishing activities have been prohibited in many coastal areas within Komodo NP since 1984, offering some protection to manta rays prior to the 2014 nationwide protection. However, due to illegal fishing activity and manta ray movements into heavily fished waters, manta rays continue to face a number of threats from fisheries. About 5% of Komodo’s manta rays have permanent injuries that are likely the result of encounters with fishing gear.

The popularity of tourism to these sites grew by 34% during the course of the study. An increase in human activity can negatively impact manta rays and their habitats. In 2019, the Komodo National Park Authority introduced limits on the number of boats and people that visit one of the most famous manta sites.

This study shows that the places where tourists commonly observe manta rays are important for the animals to feed, clean, and mate. This means that the Komodo National Park should create measures to limit the disturbance at these sites,” said Mr. Ande Kefi, an employee of the Komodo National Park involved with this study. “I hope that this study will encourage tourism operators to understand the need for the regulations already imposed and increase compliance.”

Despite Indonesia’s history with intensive manta ray fisheries, Komodo National Park still retains large manta ray aggregations that with careful ongoing management and threat reduction will benefit regional manta ray populations. The study highlights that marine protected areas that are large enough to host important manta ray habitats are a beneficial tool for manta ray conservation.

For more information about MMF visit their website here.

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Magic Resorts: ready to welcome you back to the Philippines

Asia DTA Team

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Magic Resorts are finally able to welcome you back to their two renowned dive resorts in the Visayas (Central Philippines), after the Philippines reopened its borders last February after 2 years of pandemic.

Both resorts, Magic Island Dive Resort in Moalboal, Cebu and Magic Oceans Dive Resort in Anda, Bohol, are fully operational and were able to survive the lockdown that lasted for 2 years in the Philippines. When the reopening of the Philippines was announced, both resorts underwent a big renovation and restoration to be able to offer the same quality of service as guests could previously expect.

With the same staff members still in their positions, offering the world-famous Filipino hospitality with their welcoming smiles, Magic Island and Magic Oceans are ready again to offer an unforgettable diving holiday. Dive master Manuel (also known as Mani) and Jason, didn’t lose their eye for detail and can still find the smallest critters around Moalboal and the notorious mating Mandarin Fish on Magic Island’s house reef. Of course, the tasty mocktails after your dives in Magic Oceans will be served by the lovely bar lady Esther, whilst the popular singing chef, is preparing the most delicious food to finish off a perfect holiday. Great diving, great service – that’s the ultimate Magic experience!

Magical diving

All the dive enthusiasts from America and Europe who already took advantage of the reopening of the Philippines and spent their diving holiday at one of the Magic Resorts, have been warmly welcomed, not only by the staff, but also by the marine life around Moalboal and Anda. The first passing Whale Sharks, jumping Thresher Sharks, mating Mandarin Fish and even mating Flamboyant Cuttlefish have been spotted! Everybody is excited to see happy divers again after such a long time.

Entering the Philippines

On February 11, the first day of the reopening, the first hundreds of foreign tourists entered the Philippines. Since then, 100,000 tourists have entered the country to enjoy a tropical holiday, for most of them a long-awaited trip. If you bring your valid passport, return ticket, proof of covid-vaccination, a negative test (PCR/antigen) and an insurance coverage for costs for covid-treatment, you may enter the country. A continuous smooth course of the tourist flow may lead to the lifting of some of the requirements really soon!

Get ready for your unforgettable diving holiday at Magic Resorts and book your holiday with some great opening discounts: email reservations@magicresorts.online for details!

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