How to Open a Dive Resort

How to Open a Dive Resort

I wish I had someone to give me the answers! I have wanted to have my own dive business since I started diving. I’ve worked as an instructor in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the UK, and Fiji, returning to the UK to study and work in between.

I have worked for a lot of people and had been fortunate to have seen a lot of different approaches to 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

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 from 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

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

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 by boat and an hour in the car to reach Manado 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: 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 spoke no English. With their help, we started to pick up a bit more Indonesian!

Getting at it

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 of the facilities. 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

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 center whilst my husband is finishing the electrics and overseeing the 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!

On this page

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

19 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
ROHIT KUMAR
ROHIT KUMAR
Reply to  Torben

I am looking to set up a Dive School in Maldives …..How much of a Capital is required for that ?? May be we can also buy out an existing set up ….Options are open …Kindly guide

Heike
Heike
Reply to  Torben

Hey Sophie, thank you for your story it really gives us hope! Me and my local boyfriend want to start a dive business as well. Do you only run the dive centre or also accommodation? And I did you take an agent for the visa and paperwork or did you do all by yourself! Oh I have so many more questions but don’t know where to start!
Would be lovely to get in touch with you!
I’m looking forward!
Kind regards Heike

Faariu
Faariu
Reply to  Torben

Hi sophie and everyone out there.
Im from Maldives. Its good to know about the story of the business. Im planning to open a small dive center in maldives. It will be awesome to know if there is any partner who would like to join up. As i need some support financial. I have covered most of it, still need more.

Have a good day

Kirra Corbett
Kirra Corbett
Reply to  Torben

Hello – looks like a good set up! Like you said, a lot of it came from just committing and going for it – congrats on it all working out!

My husband and I are currently in Indonesia (Sumatra area), and would love to speak to someone like yourself who has successfully negotiated some of the bureaucratic insanity that is business establishment in Indonesia. We have already spoken to many business consultants but would really appreciate a little info from a foreigner perspective who has ‘been there done that’.

I understand you must be busy keeping up with your own business, but if you would be keen to have a talk at any stage and offer us some insight we would be very grateful. Please could you contact us via email if able. Thanks for your time.

Luke Alaluku
Luke Alaluku
Reply to  Torben

Hi Sophie,
Well done on your achievements to open a dive shop business. What I did not read in the article is the insurance cover for that kind of business. If you can elaborate further in an email that would be appreciated.
Luke

Mike
Mike
Reply to  Torben

Hi Sophie,

Thank you very much for sharing your story and your insights in building up a dive center in Indonesia.
I am currently contemplating to follow in your footsteps and set up a dive center in Indonesia but there are still a lot of unanswered questions where I think you might give me a better idea of how my idea could be realised.

I have been living in Indonesia for several years, so I do not really have difficulties with the language but there are other question marks which i need to solve. Recently I found a spot where I sense a great opportunity to open up a dive center. My plan is still in an early stage but I am beginning to develop the idea. My first question would be about the initial investment that you provided, i. e. how much did you spent on facilities and equipment before you opened your business? And the other issue that is nagging me is the land issue. One of the previous commenters pointed out that only Indonesian nationals are permitted to own land which is correct according to my knowledge. So how did you solve this issue? I have been offered to cooperate with a local land owner but as also pointed out before, this requires a certain level of mutual trust. So I am wondering how you could either omit this requirement or what other solution you have found. Do you know about ways to protect oneself in a legal way against any potential issues with the local land owner?

I know it’s a lot to ask for you to answer these questions but I nevertheless hope you can enlighten me a bit more and provide some valuable information which will help me making my decision on following up my plans to build a dive center in Indonesia. I would very much appreciate it if you could answer my questions via my personal email address.

I wish you the best of luck and success for you dive center operation and perhaps there will even be an opportunity to see it firsthand in the future.

Thank you very much and best regards,
Mike

Collin Reg
Collin Reg
Reply to  Torben

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 latalianavillas.com.

desmond
desmond
Reply to  Torben

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…

André
André
Reply to  Torben

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.

joshua
joshua
Reply to  Torben

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!

Lucas Rigonatto
Lucas Rigonatto
Reply to  Torben

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!

Camillus Vovore
Camillus Vovore
Reply to  Torben

Desmond,

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

Camillus Vovore
Camillus Vovore
Reply to  Torben

Desmond,

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

desmond
desmond
Reply to  Torben

Camillus,

what kind of support you need ?

Camillus Vovore
Camillus Vovore
Reply to  Torben

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.

Cheers

Camillus
Papua New Guinea

Torben Lonne
Member
Torben Lonne
Reply to  Torben

Go for it! What’s holding you back?

desmond
desmond
Reply to  Torben

i really would love to start a diving business too…

Tristan Paylado
Tristan Paylado
Reply to  Torben

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.

carissa Kristanti
carissa Kristanti
Reply to  Torben

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 🙂

Go to Frontpage

close