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Diving with… Pim van Schendel, Murex Dive Resorts, Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Asia DTA Team

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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 your name?

Pim van Schendel

What is the name of your business?

Murex Dive Resorts – Manado

What is your role within the business?

Dive Operations Manager, but I also do a lot of travel agent marketing, social media marketing, guest relations and anything that needs to be done in our line of business.

How long has the business operated for?

Murex Dive Resorts in Manado is 32 years old. It was one of the first dive resorts in this area and pioneered a lot of the dive sites and diving in general around here. Founder Dr. Hanny Batuna was inducted in the International Scuba Divers Hall of Fame (ISDHF) for all his work that he has done in the area. He dedicated his life to promoting diving, protecting the marine eco-system and discovering dive sites. Here at Murex we continue to follow in his foot-steps and our dive sites continue to flourish. At ADEX (Asian Dive Expo) 2014, Dr. Batuna was also inducted as a board member to the Historical Diving Society.

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

I have been diving since 2003 and I’m a PADI MSDT since 2006.

What is your favorite type of diving?

I love diving everywhere. I’m Dutch and used to cold water and bad visibility and still enjoy those conditions. But I have been living in Indonesia for 11 years so I’m kinda spoilt now. I love muck diving, searching for little critters in the sand, it’s always very rewarding when you find something. But the best for me is still diving over a healthy reef system, full of life and colors. Reef fish moving in and out of the corals, interacting with each other, hiding & hunting. I can never get enough of that.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Diversity, that’s what it is all about with us. We offer a package called Passport to Paradise which lets you dive three distinct dive destinations in one holiday. You’ll dive Bunaken National with it’s huge walls and drop offs, Bangka Island which is surrounded by pinnacles that are covered in soft corals and Lembeh Strait, the muck diving capital in the world. You can’t get much more diversity in one holiday. Combine the three locations, transfer by boat between the resorts and dive along the way. No time is lost on your transfer day and it feels like a normal dive day.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

It’s hard to choose a favourite dive site since amazing reefs and hundreds of sites surround us. If I have to choose, then Tanjung Kelapa (Coconut Corner) would be #1. Again it’s all about diversity there. The dive starts out as a muck dive with amazing critters to spot in the sand and sea grass, and then slowly turns into a coral reef slope, which then turns into a mini wall covered in soft corals. You can find anything here from eagle rays, bumphead parrotfish, schools of sweet lips to tiny pygmy seahorses, giant frogfish, stone fish, as well as  mimic and blue ring octopus.

Nothing can beat that variety. I have dived this site more then 500 times and each and every time it’s different and more exciting than the time before. But Batu Sahaung on Bangka Island is very close in 2nd place. This pinnacle rises from the deep and has some of the most lush and colorful soft coral growth I have ever seen. Fish life is amazing here and also the variety here is very high. But the soft corals are unmatched.

What types of diving are available in your location?

There are many kinds of diving available. Bunaken National Park is famous for the staggering walls and drop offs, covered in hard corals and turtles everywhere. Manado Bay has some amazing muck diving, white and black sand. Bangka Island has beautiful reef slopes and pinnacles covered in soft corals. Lembeh Strait is the muck diving capitol of the world. At each location there are also some wrecks to dive.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

Teaching OW courses is always very rewarding, seeing someone transforming from a non-diver to a diver is amazing and getting them hooked on the underwater realm is the best feeling there is. Another kick is meeting people on the other side of the world, telling them about the beautiful place I live and work and then 6 months, 1 year or 1.5 years later meeting them here and showing them all this beauty that we have on offer in the ocean.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

That’s again hard to choose. I love looking at a normal blenny or goby; each fish is amazing. Watching a mantis shrimp going in and out of his hole, putting little pieces of coral together and making his home out of it. I have tattoos of a shark, turtle and a hairy frogfish so these are definitely on my favourite’s list. Octopuses are some of the most intriguing animals out there. Very intelligent and sometimes they seem more interested in divers then we are in them.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

At Murex Bangka we are expanding at the moment, which is very exciting. Soon we will be starting with a coral farm and a special Ocean Gardener coral diver course. A very exciting new course in which divers can learn all about coral reefs, types of corals and also coral farming. A unique course that is being developed by a close friend of ours and we will be the only ones teaching these courses. North Sulawesi is the perfect place to learn since we are in the heart of the coral triangle.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

Plastic use is one of the biggest issues in this area, not only here, almost everywhere this is a problem. but it is sad to see that there is so much plastic being used and so much is ending up in the ocean. A few months ago we had the Celebrate the Sea festival in Manado and during that festival a lot of awareness was created by several international speakers. During the event the city of Manado pledged to ban single use plastic from the city. Until now nothing has changed but hopefully it will in the near future. Indonesia is one of the biggest plastic users in the world and things need to change.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Yes, we do regular beach and reef clean ups. We are trying to minimize the use of (single use) plastic in all of our resorts and dive centres and create awareness amongst our staff and guests. Especially amongst our staff since they are the ones living here and able to create the biggest impact locally.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

The industry is doing great overall, more and more people get into diving which is great to promote conservation and the importance of the oceans to all of us. We should put more effort into keeping people diving. Every year more and more dive certifications are being done but the overall number of divers is rising much slower. People do their OW course on holiday but don’t continue diving after that which is not what we want. It shouldn’t be a one time experience but a continuous path of diving more and learning about the underwater world and preserving it for our future generations.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

Visit North Sulawesi for the amazing biodiversity in the water. We are in the middle of the coral triangle and there are few places in the world that have this amazing biodiversity. Dive three completely different destinations in one holiday – Bunaken > Bangka > Lembeh  but don’t travel this far to only enjoy the coral reefs and its life. Also visit the land, climb active volcanoes, trek through the jungle to see the endemic tarsiers and black macaques, visit the amazing Minahasan highlands with its cultural diversity, see the local markets, bathe in hot springs and enjoy the amazing cuisine that Manado has to offer.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

You can also find us at many of the International Dive shows:

  • Germany: BOOT – Düsseldorf, Inter Dive – Friedrichshafen
  • USA: DEMA – Las Vegas/Orlando
  • Switzerland: FESPO – Zurich
  • The Netherlands: Duikvaker – Houten
  • France: Salon de la Plongee – Paris
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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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