How to Open a Dive Resort

How to Open a Dive Resort

I wish I had someone to tell me the answer! I have wanted to run my own dive business probably since I started diving. Working as an instructor in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the UK and Fiji and returning to the UK to study and work in between.

I have worked for a lot of people and been fortunate to have seen a lot of different styles of running a dive business. I somehow convinced my husband to embark on an adventure with me – after an engineering degree he decided to go for it and so we left the UK together in 2012 to build Nomad Divers, Bangka.

Buying the island

Sophie relaxing

Nomad Divers Bangka

After a month of motorbiking in Cambodia and diving in Thailand we flew into Manado, North Sulawesi to have a look at some land for sale on the island of Bangka. We spent a week there with the current owner and fell in love with the place.

We then spent a month thinking and negotiating – there was another partner involved who lived in Europe. The land for sale was different to the land originally listed, and there were lots of Indonesian laws and rules that we needed to research and get our heads around before making a decision.

World class diving

Pygmy seahorse

Dan Exton

The main thing I loved was that the diving was spectacular; the first day we went diving we saw a group of dolphins playing alongside the boat. I spotted a dugong on my third dive, and we also saw turtles, pygmy seahorses, mantis shrimp, nudibranchs, huge amounts of fish species – it’s just incredible.

From Bangka you can also reach Lembeh and Bunaken by boat so this would enable us to take our guests to do an even bigger variety of diving!

Bunaken offers fantastic wall diving whilst Lembeh’s world-renowned muck diving speaks for itself. We had considered looking at the diving in Cambodia and Vietnam but knew it would simply not be anywhere near as good.

Speak no English

Diving equipment positioned on a deck of a boat

Iakov Filimonov

There were a few basic buildings there already – a restaurant with a kitchen behind it, a dive shack and staff quarters. The water supply came from a well and the electricity supplied by a generator.

The negatives mainly consisted of us having no Indonesian language – although I spoke a bit of Malay and the languages are quite similar – the amount of Indonesian law we needed to learn, and the fact that we have never built anything before!

So we went for it! We just went with the attitude that anything is possible with enough work and determination, so we had to give it a try. For the first month we were back and forth between Manado and Bangka. It takes around forty minutes on the boat and an hour in the car to reach Manado, and we did this every week at least once or twice.

The first thing we did was to try to price up how much it would cost us – in terms of buying the land, what we thought we needed in terms of buildings, a boat, a compressor, equipment, furniture, everything we could think of.

We went to a million shops in Manado pricing up toilets, bed linen, tools, fridges, whilst staying in a little guest house run by a family who speak no English. With their help we started to pick up a bit more Indonesian!

Getting at it

Dive resort in the build

Nomad Divers Bangka

Everything really kicked off when we had made our payment and arranged working visas. Our accommodation we found in the highlands around an hour out of Manado.

There are loads of carpenters there who make beautiful wooden bungalows, and we visited one guy and arranged to buy four units. They arrived at the end of January along with twelve carpenters! It took them two weeks to build the first two, and the second two are now complete!

My main role so far has been the scuba marketing and sales of the business, whilst my husband has been overseeing the construction. I couldn’t believe how much Indonesian he was learning and was so impressed after a couple of weeks when he was discussing nails, cement and hammers with our builders! Of course no-one on the island speaks English so we have had to learn quickly.

I quickly started learning about website design and SEO and different advertising options. With our limited budget it’s difficult to decide which routes to go down so it’s been a lot of experimentation so far!

The final result

Nomad Divers Bangka Cottage

Nomad Divers Bangka

The construction has been a huge learning curve for us – my husband has a degree in mechanical engineering and is very practical and has been brilliant at adapting and looking at things differently.

The guys we work with from the local village have some amazing skills and are always on hand with a smile to advise us how it’s done the local way which is generally better than our original idea!

Our first customers arrive in a couple of weeks and we have quite a lot of finishing touches to complete! I will be mainly sewing curtains, painting and sorting out the dive centre whilst my husband is finishing the electrics and overseeing completion of a million other jobs!

Do you have a dream of opening your own Dive Resort? Follow the build of a dive resort! If you have any questions to Sophie send her a message or leave a comment below!

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  1. carissa Kristanti

    I am impressed with your achievement! i am an Indonesian and I’ve been to Sulawesi and I know how hard it is having no one speaking English around. Sadly, I went there before I found myself so passionate about diving. keep up the good work!!!and enjoy every bit of indonesia :)

  2. Tristan Paylado

    Like in any other business, it takes a lot of start up work. If you have problems with the local language, you can consider hiring a local dive guide, in that way it can help you communicate and at the same time learn from the language and sometimes do dive guide works.

  3. desmond

    i really would love to start a diving business too…

    • Torben Lonne

      Go for it! What’s holding you back?

  4. Camillus Vovore

    I have a dream to start a resort like you. At the moment I have already started cutting timber and preparing the land to begin. However, I need a partner to support me. Financially, I don’t have much. Please i need a partner. The site I have chosen has great beaches and plenty of ww2 relics.


    Papua New Guinea

  5. desmond


    what kind of support you need ?

  6. Camillus Vovore


    I need some more building materials like iron roof, electrical fittings and so forth. With timber, I’m okay as I have my own sawmill. Anyone interested, please contact me on phone (675) 71111244 or email…[email protected]. we can partner to build a resort at a place that can give tourist a real good taste of nature and history

  7. Camillus Vovore


    I need some more building materials like iron roof, electrical fittings and so forth. With timber, I’m okay as I have my own sawmill. Anyone interested, please contact me on phone (675) 71111244 or email…[email protected]. we can partner to build a resort at a place that can give tourists a real good taste of nature and history

  8. Lucas Rigonatto

    Congratulations to you and your husband Sophie, that’s an amazing start for you two! I’ll follow your example in some years, i’m graduating in engeneering too and then off to the search.
    From now on i’m gonna follow your website!
    A wish a lot of sucess to you!

  9. joshua

    Hi Sophie and everyone, nice to see that you could realize a dream!!
    As a lot of you, i have the idea to open a dive center, but how to star from zero, specially with all certifications and papers as PADI to become a recognized dive center.
    i have tried to know more about that but i cant find good information about it!
    if someone have and idea about please contact me!!
    best wishes to every one!

  10. André

    As I understand it, you need an Indonesian partner to buy property in Indonesia. How did you get around that? And are the Indonesian partners then the legal owners of the property? In that case, it’s a lot of trust to put in unknown people.

  11. desmond

    Hi Sophie

    It is really wonderful to know your success !!
    As a diver myself, it is a dream to own one dive resort some day.
    I am not able to start one due to the lack of support, resources and likeminded people to work together with…

  12. Collin Reg

    When it comes to vacationing, nothing equals the ability to customize a trip to your very personal ideas of fun and relaxation. For scuba enthusiasts, visiting a scuba diving resort can be the epitome of a vacation, where they can relax, enjoy themselves, and participate in as many scuba related activities as they want. For more information, please visit


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