We were pretty tired by the time we reached Sorong and the Belagri Hotel, but we were comfortable enough there and had reasonable meals for breakfast and lunch. I was a bit disappointed that the hotel didn’t have a swimming pool, but we had a nap instead, which was probably much better for us than a swim.
The transfer to Papua Paradise was straightforward, and we were greeted by a group of people singing and dancing – a delightful way to arrive! It is one of the most remote resorts we’ve ever been to (though Tufi in PNG and Lankayan Island are close), and it is surprisingly comfortable for all that. Although we didn’t see inside the other bungalows, we were pleased to have the deluxe ones because of the greater separation between the rooms and the land, and between each one, by the spaciousness of the room itself, plus the balcony, and by the outdoor shower area. We soon discovered one of the best features: a silent gentle fan above the bed, inside the mosquito nets.
The restaurant is pleasant, and we enjoyed the buffet and the fact that we could sit anywhere we chose. The food is tasty and plentiful, with enough changes to keep it varied, although there’s not much choice for the lunches out (rice or noodles) and there’s so much left over we fed it to the fish.
The diving was good, sometimes not all that exciting in comparison with Sipadan or Fiji or some of the other places we’ve been, but some dives were amazing. I loved all the pigmy seahorses, tiny crabs and shrimp, frogfish, mandarin fish, soft and hard coral, sea fans, etc. However, we were disappointed not to see any manta rays. Some others reported seeing one or two (one even while snorkelling!) but we were told that it was just a little too early in the season, which was starting late, to see them.
We were fortunate in our master diver/guide as he was very good at both jobs. The only problem was his lack of English, which left us a bit frustrated as we couldn’t get as much feedback from the dives as we normally expect.
We were also fortunate that we could dive with Rick and Lesley, who are about the same level. We really liked the laid-back atmosphere, the fact that we could decide almost at the last minute whether we wanted to dive or not and where we would go. We were also lucky to have such good weather, with smooth seas and good visibility. The unlimited dive package here was a good choice, particularly when we were able to stay an extra night.
The transfer to Manado and Gangga Island went smoothly, and it is an attractive resort. We were pleased to have air conditioning, thanks to the high temperatures and humidity, and took advantage of the pool and spa. The room is not as spacious, and it took us a while to get the right ambience for sleeping as the air conditioning is not as quiet as the Papua Paradise Eco Resort fan. It’s attractive and comfortable, and the overall campus is pleasant.
The dining room was a bit more formal, with a buffet only available for breakfast. We were asked to choose at lunch what we wanted for dinner, and at breakfast what we wanted for lunch, which was a bit odd. The food was a little more varied, but generally about the same level as PP. The meals were plated and served to our fixed table for the week. We had thought that soft drinks and local beer were included (perhaps we saw this on one of the websites or something you had said?) but all drinks were additional.
The diving from Gangga Island was similar to Papua Paradise with beautiful coral, sloping down to a moderately deep sandy bottom. We had to ask to go to Lembeh and Bunaken in order to get the muck diving and wall diving respectively, but we had to pay extra for these as they took about 60 minutes to reach. However, the three-dive destinations at Papua Paradise (an hour or so away) didn’t cost extra, so this was puzzling.
Again, our guide was excellent, and he spoke good English. We were paired with beginners at first and, after a couple of wobbly dives, I made a request to change, and we subsequently dived on our own with the guide.
Another English couple, Paula and Peter, arrived at PP with us, and by chance they also went to Gangga Island Resort, after visiting Tangokko park. After hearing of their experiences there, we decided not to go, because the best viewing is early in the morning and early evening, and it made more sense for us to relax at Gangga before our long journey home.
I did 29 dives and Brian did 26 (so much for him not diving much!) and we were delighted by the trip overall. My preference is for PP, because it felt more personal and more a part of the tropics. Despite the lack of extra amenities (though a spa is on the way), I loved hearing the birdsong during the day (at Gangga it was a cockerel) and the frogs at night. There is a background englne-type noise at Gangga – the generator, I suppose – which rather spoils the atmosphere. Gangga does benefit from the varied diving, so it’s not an easy choice. Being able to experience both was probably the best way to do it.
Do let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to know, but I hope this gives you some helpful feedback.