Ambon had been on my ‘to-go’ list for some time now, and when news broke in late 2016 that the holy grail of frogfish had made another appearance, this muck devotee knew he had to make a pilgrimage.
Following some online research and emails with the dive operators, I decided to go with Dive Into Ambon (DIA) based on:
- Online reputation – DIA has good online reputation and receives generally positive reviews
- Response time – Barb and Kaj were quick to respond to my emails
- Pricing – Very reasonable pricing considering you’re staying in a resort. Points for not having a ridiculous single supplement (I often travel alone)TL;DR
Ambon is a great dive destination worth at the very least a week-long trip, with or without the Psychedelic frogfish. DIA is highly recommended for quality and pricing, and Barb and Kaj are fantastic hosts who do their best to accommodate your requests.Getting there and back
From Singapore, I flew Garuda Indonesia (GA) to Jakarta, then onward to Makassar, then Ambon. Transit time at Jakarta is a very comfortable 2.5 hours and I had no problems making the transit even though my flight from Singapore was delayed by an hour. The flight from Jakarta to Makassar and Ambon were on the same plane, so I just stayed on board the plane at Makassar.
Checked luggage allowance on GA is generous at 30kg, and you can instruct the ground staff to check your luggage all the way through to your final destination, Ambon. However, I was informed when I arrived in Ambon that my luggage was still at Jakarta, and would only arrive later in the afternoon. This was quite an inconvenience as my plan was to start diving the day I arrived. Having said that, I hear GA is usually very reliable on this, with luggage usually arriving with you.
Flying back to Singapore from Ambon, I flew GA from Ambon straight to Jakarta, then onward to Singapore with a 2-hour transit time.Dive Into Ambon
Barb and Kaj are fantastic hosts, doing everything they could to accommodate guest requests.
Currently partnered with Maluku Resort and Spa (NOT to be confused with Maluku Divers Resort), DIA runs the diving side of things, with some control over the resort aspects, like food and service.
DIA’s location is strategic, allowing divers to dive both the muck-rich Ambon Bay area (10-minute bus ride to another jetty, followed by another 45+ minutes on the dive boat to the dive sites around Laha area), and the Southern dive sites, which Kaj assured me also has plenty of macro after I asked him if I could dive the Bay side every day (Sorry, Kaj! I love my muck
DIA has two boats comfortable enough for eight divers, one parked near the resort for diving at the Southern side, and another in the Bay area. Groups are split depending on where they’re diving, leaving in the mornings for three dives and coming back in the late-afternoon. Kaj may even be able to accommodate four dives, with the fourth being a night dive, if there are enough divers requesting for it.
The dive centre is run very well. For tanks, they use standard 11L aluminium tanks (15L available upon request) allowing both DIN and Yoke first stages, and are consistently filled between 200 to 210 bar. 32% Nitrox is available upon request, blended using the membrane method.
A camera room is available for your camera equipment needs, including an air gun and power points to recharge your batteries.
There is plenty of Bintang in stock at the dive centre along with some craft beers. If you want some souvenirs, tee shirts and even some dive-related jewellery is available! Unfortunately, DIA tees in my size were out of stock
After you’re done with your dives, you’ll be given an Ambon dive site map with your ‘dive log’ printed on the back, including the sites you dived and critters sighted (or missed because you wanted to squeeze in those few extra shots of another critter, you hardcore photographer, you!). This is something I’ve never seen before, and I was very pleasantly surprised!Maluku Resort and Spa
Do note that DIA and Maluku Resort and Spa are, technically, owned and run separately.
The resort itself is decent, with a pleasant garden, dining area, and pool. Rooms were comfortable with air conditioning, hot water showers, ‘western-style’ toilets and clean enough; while areas like the sink are cleaned daily and towels folded neatly, other areas such as under the bed were very dusty, and even had plastic bags lying around!
Food is prepared by the resort, and while it is good, you’re at their mercy when it comes to variety; most meals consisted of fried rice/noodles, chicken or fish, and vegetables. Once, I think it was on my second-last night there, we had beef and my mind almost exploded. Dinner is usually a little better as they will also serve an appetiser and dessert.
Staff are very friendly and always greeted me with a smile. However, the service was at times lacking, with me having to remind them of my requests. There was also a slip-up when I switched rooms (I upgraded to a bigger room to check it out); my luggage was packed before I left for the day’s dives, but was not transferred as it should have been when I returned, resulting in a wait for my room keys, followed by another wait for someone to grab the keys to my previous room so that they could retrieve my luggage and transfer it to my new room.
While these matters may not be ‘critical’ and may even be viewed as nit-picking, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a resort presenting itself as ‘Ambon’s premier boutique resort’.Diving
The guides, Alan, Jack, Jef, and Robert, work very, very hard, both above and under water, to ensure guests have a great time! Many times, they went out of their way to accommodate our requests. I could clearly see their passion for diving when I spoke with them about the many critters in Ambon.
Most of the diving I did during my trip was in the Bay area around Laha, which is next to the famed Twilight Zone (we avoided this dive site as the guides said there is too much rubbish with very few critters left). Long, shallow dives were common here. However, don’t worry; there’s lots to see, including Rhinopias, a wide assortment of shrimp, and more frogfish than I can remember, including the king himself, the Psychedelic frogfish!
Unfortunately, the weather was unseasonably wet, with choppy waters and at times raging currents. Perhaps because of this, the guides said there were less critters than usual, but it’s still very good diving!My opinion
The diving in Ambon is amazing and worth at the very least one visit. Do plan your trip based on the season and moon phase if possible to increase your chances of easier and more productive dives. It seems the best period to visit is between December to March, but be aware, DIA will very likely be fully booked, so plan ahead.
Diving with DIA was a great choice for me. When I do go back to Ambon, DIA will be my first choice as it’s one of only two resorts, with the other being much more expensive and having a bad reputation.
I will recommend that you bring some mosquito repellent as there are a lot of mosquitos at the resort. Also, bring a bit of cash just in case you need to get supplies from the nearby convenience store. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, there are a row of stalls about 15 to 20 minutes’ walk away selling rojak, a local fruit and vegetable salad served with peanut sauce and chilli.. It’s really good!
Here are a few pictures I took on this trip. I’ll be posting more on Instagram (@thenamelessbear) as I get the time to edit them, so do follow me for more!
Let me know if you have any questions!