Open since 1987, Murex has been operating liveaboard charters for 8 years. Cruise with experienced and knowledgeable guides to the pristine Sangir (Sangihe) Islands, north of Manado.
Scientists and exploration divers alike are beginning to recognise the waters surrounding Sulawesi and her islands as being amongst the richest on earth in variety and number of tropical marine species.
Giant coral gardens of every imaginable hue are home to countless species of tropical fish, bizarre shrimps, painted lobsters and huge chameleon cuttlefish – just to name a few.
Around the mystical reef architectures cruise schools of silver Barracuda, Dolphins, Pilot Whales, curious Reef Sharks and elegant giant Rays.
Come and discover the Ocean’s Richest Realm, the mystical underwater land of Sulawesi and enjoy our Minahasan hospitality on bord the Serenade, Symphony or Arlena.
The liveaboards MV Serenade, MV Symphony and MV Arlena are the creations of Dr. Hanny Batuna of Murex Manado Resort. Dr. Batuna has explored the islands and ocean mounts of North Sulawesi extensively in recent years, using the Serenade as his vessel of discovery.
Underwater Volcano Many of the dive sites which the doctor and his colleagues have found could only be described as beyond spectacular, and there are plenty of remaining miles of unchartered diving still to be explored.
The MV. Serenade comfortably accommodates 12 divers. Serviced by 9 friendly crew. 6 spacious, twin share cabins, 5 with attached bathroom. Engine powered by 400HP Caterpillar. Average cruising speed 10 knots. 1000 miles nautical range. Fresh water supply 8 tons.
The MV. Symphony comfortably accommodates 6 divers. Serviced by 5 friendly crew. 3 spacious, twin share cabins with attached bathroom. Engine powered by 250HP Caterpillar. Average cruising speed 10 knots. 1000 miles nautical range. Fresh water supply 4 tons.
The MS Arlena, Murex smallest live aboard, is no longer in service. Late 2001 she was scheduled to receive a complete renovation. Due to the negative situation stemming from September 11 and the subsequent down turn in tourism, Dr. Batuna decided to postpone the costly renovation. By early 2002 the final decision was still unclear. However, after carefully reviewing the situation and investment required to bring the Arlena back on line, the company concluded the risk was too great to proceed.
For all those who cruises with the Arlena for the past seven years we hope you have many happy memories!
Scheduled Trips & Charters
Murex has three liveaboard boats available servicing the remote Sangihe Islands north of Sulawesi. We have 4 and 6 day fixed departures leaving every Saturday. The boats can also be chartered for longer or shorter periods. We can design a custom itinerary to fit your needs.
All Murex liveaboard dive trips offer truly unlimited diving, (typically guests do 3 day dives and 1 night dive per day). Proof of dive certificate is required. Our experienced dive guides accompany all divers on the first few dives. Divers who are competent can then dive without our guide, however guides continue to monitor guest safety.
Price is all inclusive i.e. airport transfers, on board lodging, food, tanks, weights. Scuba rental equipment, soft drinks and beer extra.
Suggested liveaboard itinerary for a 6 dive days 6 nights cruise:**
Day 1: Transfer from airport to Murex Dive Resort. Cruise departs from Murex late afternoon and proceeds north passing top of Sulawesi island towards Sangihe Islands
Day 2: Arrive early morning in Siau Island. Dive Siau all day / night dive available. Continue to cruise further north
Day 3: Dive Mahengetang Island and Underwater volcano. Night dive available. In the evening cruise back south.
Day 4: Dive Para and Bawondeke Islands. At night, see the lava flow from Mount Karangetang on Siau. Night dive available. Cruise further south
Day 5: Dive Tagulandang, Ruang or Biaro Island. Night dive available. Cruise to Bangka / Talise
Day 6: Dive Talise / Bangka / Pulisan areas. Night dive available. Cruise to Bunaken National Park
Day 7: Dive outer parts of Bunaken : Naen and Montehage islands. Last dive Bunaken Island / Manado Tua. Arrive back to Murex Resort late afternoon.
Selected liveaboard Dive Sites Of the Sangihe Islands
The following provides a brief description of the area that the Murex liveaboard cruises visit. This is a selection of some of our favorite dive sites at these islands. Each liveaboard trip is unique. Your itinerary and the dive sites chosen are based on numerous factors including weather, currents, trip length, and diver experience.
Bangka Island is located just north of the tip of Sulawesi. Bangka Island is recognizable for its large expanse of grasslands along the hilltops of the central past of the island. In addition to copra, which is harvested from almost all inhabited islands in Indonesia, Bangka produces a large quantity of Cashew nuts. Fishing, of course, is a staple occupation for the villagers. One can still find deer roaming the grassland, though access to these highlands is limited. There are 4 villages around the island located along the shore. There are several fine dive sites around Bangka Island. Bangka is close enough to Murex to be accessed for day dives in addition being a favorite stop for liveaboard trips. A summary of our favorite dive follows:
Batu Gasoh consits of a series of steep pinnacles rising up from the ocean. There are two drift dives in this area, starting at opposite ends of pinnacles, around and through coral covered pinnacles with moderate slope beneath them. As you approach the site, waves can be seen crashing against the pinnacles sending the whitewater everywhere. The dive ranges from 5-35m and there can be strong current present. There is enough topography to allow divers to ‘eddy out’ of currents and watch the abundance of marine life around them. Highlights include:
- White Tip & Black Tip Sharks,
- Turtles & Groupers
- Yellow, green and red soft corals.
Sahaung also consists of a series of underwater boulders that barely break the surface of the ocean. There are also two dives in this area on separate pinnacles. These pinnacles consists of a continuously sloping bottom with several shelves as you descend. The dives range from 5 – 35 m. There can be strong currents and surge at shallower depths. Highlights include:
- Big table coral, often with sharks resting under them,
- An abundance of green and purple soft coral,
- A multitude of fish including Jack, Dog Tooth Tuna, Barracuda, midnight blue triggerfish, and manta rays.
This dive is located just opposite of Bangka Island off the northern tip of Sulawesi, off the shore of Pulisan, where Murex has a scheduled private beach chalet. This dive is also a series of underwater pinnacles rising from a sandy bottom. This is a shallower dive ranging from 5 to 25m. Besides the abundance of hard and soft corals and numerous reef fish, some of the highlights are:
- Pigmy sea horses
- Cuttle fish (mimic)
- Frog fish (if you are fortunate)
Located east of Batu Mandi, with vegetation similar to Sahaung. Consists of several large submerged rocks with one pinnacle up out of water, situated on a reef plateau- 50 feet deep. There is a drop off with canyons where you can eddy out off the current and observe many sweetlips, dogtooth tuna, jacks, and sharks.
Located between Sahaung and Batu Gosoh at approximately 30m. Fish Cave is a dive with excellent soft and hard corals with lots of fish life at the mouth of the cave and throughout.
Located on the northeast edge of the island on a relatively flat sandy bottom at approximately 27m. This dive is the remains of U.S. B-21 bomber. The wings have been covered by sand, but the propellers are visible as well as much of the fuselage.
Biaro Island is the first southern most island in the Sangihe chain. This island can be recognized by the stunning 200m cliff located on the southern side. The west side of the island is home to the prominent village for the island. On this site of the island there is also a large flooded caldera open to the sea that provides a beautiful, sheltered area to anchor for the evening. On the northeast side of the island, near Zaccharias Rock, are some well-sheltered white sandy beaches for a little walk and swim after lunch. There are several dives around the island from the cliffs at the south, around the west side past the caldera, to the northeast end of the island, including:
This is not particularly special during the day, but it provides an excellent night dive. It is shallow at 5-10m with a gently sloping bottom. Highlights including:
- A large population of Snake eels,
- Hermit crabs and Sea Anemones,
- Sleeping Sting Rays and Parrot fish that provide excellent photo opportunities.
This site is particularly well known for its amazing landscape and topography. It is approximately 15m deep and consists of a series of volcanic flows with about 2m of relief that form a labyrinth of channels between them. Often this dive has a strong currents. The highlights are:
- Moral eels,
- Large Sea whips and Sea Fans,
- Jack fish and Tuna
Sweet Lip City
This dive is a reef at the depth of about 15-20m. Aptly name, besides numerous hard and soft corals, this dive is known for the large abundance of Sweet Lips that are in the area.
Bomb Rock & Zaccharias Rock
These two dives are near each other on the north side of the island. They are both underwater pinnacles with sloping bottoms interspersed with shelves. Both of these dives are a paradise for underwater photographers. Mild surge at shallower depths. Highlights include:
- Magnificent corals, varied hard corals,
- Turtles, scorpion fish, sea cucumbers, large oysters, nudibranchs,
- Humphead parrot fish, lizard fish, map and seal pufferfish,
- Zaccharias Rock has large table corals with sharks often resting beneath them.
Sloping reef off small barrier island, just off shore of sandy beach and anchorage in bay. Lots of varied corals and smaller fish; leafy and fan corals waving in currents like they’re in a parade. Highlights include:
- Lionfish, stingrays, schooling butterfly fish and Moorish idols,
- Lobsters, large sea cucumbers, grate wide angle views
- May see dolphins and pilot whales while cruising between islands.
TAGULANDANG ISLAND AND RUANG ISLAND
These next two neighboring islands in the Sangihe chain also have great dive sites. Ruang is an obvious volcano with the striking remains of a lava flow that the jungle has failed to overtake yet.
Serenade’s Secret Point
Sloping bottom dive that then drops off to a wall; current is variable and changes with the tides. Extremely well preserved reef with varied colors, type of life and corals- almost too much to look at! Mixed currents bring together unlikely groups of fish- barracudas, dog tooth tuna, striped sweetlips, bronze and golden trumpetfish. Highlights:
- Hard & soft corals, lots of variety in great condition!
- Oysters / clams, schools of batfish, barracudas
- Excellent for wide angle photo
- Cuttle fish, abundance of crinoids
- Crocodile and lizard fish.
Quite interesting sloping bottom dive over old lava flow just off the shore of Ruang Island. Same as above but with an amazing amount of schooling reef fish. The contrast between barren black lava rock and the abundance of life underwater is striking. Our Australian guests said it was their favorite dive. Highlights:
- Manta and eagle rays,
- Schooling banner fish,
- Large Bumphead or Napoleon wrasses.
Another volcanic island further north in Sangihe island chat that is active enough that at night can be see a rosy glow from the volcano crater. This island is the main producer of nutmeg in this area. This is a good island to do a land tour on if you want a break from diving.
- Great deep dive as deep as 50 – 60m
- Big grouper at 40m 3m long
- Wall with leaf fish, frog fish
- Both wide and macro photo.
Wall dive like Bunaken along reed ending with protruding rock. This dive has a volcanic hot spring on the beach!
- Great to see white tips
- Abundance of reef fish and coral
- Great night dive.
Between Siau and Kahakitang. Great dive around rocky island with lots of hard corals. Highlights of moray eels, white tip sharks, turtles.
KAHAKITANG & MAHENGETANG ISLANDS AREA
- Schools of fish everywhere
- Magnificent corals
- See shape of volcano
- Bubbles and hot water from volcano
- Parrot, scorpion, fish, sharks, jack
- Macro and wide photo.
Flat from at 10 – 15m, large meadow of magnificent leaf coral like a cabbage patch! Many varieties of small reef fish.
LIVEBOARD DIVING ORIENTATION
What To Expect:
- There is a limited supply of fresh water on board, so we ask that you kindly conserve water during your trip. The shower heads are fitted with a shut off valve that allows soaping and shampooing without water flowing.
- Towels are changed every two days, bed linens every three.
- Depending on which liveaboard vessel you are on, there may be 1 or 2 gears areas on board. These include an area for storing and putting on your wet suits and booties and a separate area for putting on the remainder of your gear by the dive platform at stern of boat.
- Your BCD, tank, and regulator will be set up for you by the crew members (unless you state otherwise). The crew will assist you with putting on your gear as well as entering the water.
- You should check your gear and as always, perform a buddy check with your buddy.
- There will be a dive briefing by dive guides – describing the dive orientation, conditions, direction, depth and time limits, currents, types of life you’ll see, etc.
- We recommend the use of a dive computer while on the liveaboard because of the varied terrain and depth of attractions, number of dives over short period, and because your dive profile will be much more accurate with a computer. All your guides use computers and we have them available for rental.
- There is a roster system to account for all divers.
- Guides may also review emergency procedures at this time suck as signal to surface (revving of engines 3 times, repeated) and lost buddy procedures (STOP, listen, ascend a few feet, look around for bubbles, retrace previous route for one (1) minute, then surface).
- Many of the dives from the liveaboard are more open ocean or exposed. Because of this, the conditions underwater can be more difficult, especially with currents so you will need to be aware of your buddy and the guide’s instructions-sometimes the direction of the dive may need to change because a current has changed depending on depth. Many times there may a strong current at shallower depth on top of the reef but it will be dissipate as you swim through to reach the wall and descend to deeper depth. Inflatable signal tubes (sausages) can be issued to buddy pairs to assist in signaling boat after surfacing in case of larger swells or current.
- You may be requested to descend more quickly than usual because of surface or shallow currents so please discuss this with the guides if you have concerns or questions.
- Liveaboards have 1 or 2 Zodiac-type rubber boats on board to use for picking up and dropping off the divers: or for trips to shore. Most dives begin by entering from the liveaboard and end being picked up by the rubber boat. (Remember to swim away from shallow reef or shore after you surface it too close.) If you are picked up by the liveaboard-there is a large metal ladder submerged at the back off the boat, you can remove gear and hand it to crew members (weight belt first), or remove fins and climb up ladder.
Reef Conservation Guidelines
A vast majority of island beauty lies within the delicate formation beneath the water. These corals have taken thousands of years to mature and provide divers with a wonderful view of nature of its finest. With a little foresight, this beauty will be available for divers in the future to enjoy, both through the efforts already in process at Bunaken National Marine Reserve and through our own actions as divers here.
- Get the lead out! Over-weighting leads to over-exertion and increased air consumption. Try taking 1 kilo off each day during your dive vacation. Relax in the water, use your BCD sparingly, and breathe normally, and rhythmically.
- Watch your buoyancy: Be aware of where your fins are at all times. By knowing where your fins are you can minimize “lunar landings” on descent and stirring up silt. If you must land somewhere, use your fin tips on a sandy bottom area. When neutrally buoyant, divers do not need to make contact with any part of the reef.
- Please don’t touch: Leaning on corals, and other marine animals with camera extensions, underwater lights, or dive knives gives you no tactile info. And can cause great harm.
- Don’t kick up sand! Sponges and corals are filter feeders. Clouds of sand prevent these animals from filtering the water and they can starve to death.
- Don’t grab animals! Ask yourself, “If I let this animal go would it come back?” If it wouldn’t, don’t stress the animal. Look, enjoy, but don’t touch.
Good Diving Guidelines
- Pay attention to the divemaster’s briefing-this will be helpful in navigating your way to various sites offshore and to the do’s and don’ts of the area
- You may want to take a compass reading with reference to shore.
- Attention should be given to previous dives, and buddy teams should agree on maximum depth, bottom time, air supply limits, and general course direction after listening to the briefing.
- Maintain good neutral buoyancy control.
- All dives must be within the no-decompression limits using computer or tables.
- Turn around for the beach at 100 psi.
- Check reference to beach at 700-800 psi.
- Allow for 300-500 psi at the end of the dive.
- Listen carefully to the dive master’s briefing, do not hesitate to ask question.
- In these clear, calm waters where visibility often exceeds 100 ft. (30 meters), it’s easy to forget how deep you really are. Give extra attention to your depth gauge, air supply and bottom time.
- Maintain good buoyancy control throughout the dive (neutral)
- Stay within no-decompression limits using tables or computer.
- Ascend slowly and always include a safety stop at 15 feet (5 meters) for 3-5 minutes. Making safety stops at 3 depths will automatically slow your ascend rate. Take 1 minute at 20 feet (7-8 meters), and 3 minutes at 15 ft. (5 meters).
- Listen carefully to the dive master’s briefing, especially regarding the direction in which to start your dive.
- Prior to entry, streamline your equipment and secure it properly (fins, mask, and hoses).
- Upon entry, immediately descend and wait for your buddy near the depth limit agreed upon or, at the surface hold onto the boat until your buddy is also in the water, then descend together. Reserve adjustments to gear (straps and camera) for the bottom, where the currents begin to dissipate.
- Never hesitate to ask the dive masters for assistance: whether it is to take your camera down for you, clarify instructions; point out unique marine life you will encounter.
- Save some extra air to make a 3-5 minute safety stop at 20-25 ft. (8-10 meters). Currents sometimes strengthen near the surface, making a stop at 10-15 ft. (5 meters) difficult.
- Be aware of your dive masters during the dive as he may signal to change direction of dive to drift with current instead of fighting against it, or to surface and have boat bring you to another site or location to take advantage of the current.
- Dives will usually end by surfacing, establishing positive buoyancy, relaxing in the sun, and waiting for the boat to pick you up. If you are quite near the shore or shallows, it is best to swim away to deeper water for the boat to pick you up.
- Organize your equipment. Take advantage of hose attachments and octopus holders so nothing dangles.
- Agree on hand and light signals; maximum depth, air and time limits. Decide who will lead, discuss navigational procedures, and procedure for buddy separation. *
- It is usually easier to locate your buddy at night by momentarily turning off your light and looking for the glow of your buddy’s light. If, after 1 minute of searching, you are not successful, surface, inflate your B.C. and wait.
- Each buddy should have a dive light (or 2) as well as cyalume light stick attached to snorkel or first stage.
- Make a pre-dive safety check and turn on dive lights before entering the water.
During the night dive:
- Make sure you can find your way. As you explore your dive site during the day, note compass bearings between major landmarks and your exit point. Notice also what natural navigation features can guide you to this point.
- Always descend and ascend slowly.
- Cover less ground than you would during a day dive.
- Stay closer than usual to your buddy.
- Monitor air consumption, time, and depth more closely.
- Maintain good buoyancy control. Proper buoyancy is essential in remaining comfortably off the bottom, thus avoiding stirring up silt. Proper buoyancy control exercised during your descent will also allow you to avoid items such as large, sharp coral.
- When using hand signals, shine your light on your hand at chest level. To gain your buddy’s attention, wave your light from side to side in his direction. Large, rapid, up and down motions with your light indicate something is wrong, while large circular motions indicate everything is O.K.
- Avoid shining your light in your buddy’s eyes.
Ending your night dive:
- Ascend slowly; shine light up to avoid obstructions.
- Inflate B.C. at the surface, swim slowly towards the exit.
- Lanyard light to wrists to free hands while exiting.
- Secure your gear away immediately.
- At Murex house reef, red and green lights on the shore should be lined up on top of each other for guidance back to exit point.
- Water filters out colors. In 15 feet reds disappear. In 60 feet only blues and greens remain. A dive light will restore the vibrant colors of the reef day and night and let you better explore the small canyons and overhanging shelves. Lights are available for rental.
- Anyone with diving anxieties, questions, or any problems should ask their dive master about their concerns. The key to overcoming pre-dive jitters is to not to keep them to yourself. The dive masters at the resorts are there to ensure you have an enjoyable vacation. When informed, they can help you go at your own place and develop your skills and confidence – and that’s what dive vacation is all about.