Up Close and Personnel with Olivier Nelis
Murex Bangka – Life on a Tropical Island
This week we take a closer look at Olivier Nelis, Murex Bangka’s Dive Manager. Read on to find out what Olivier loves about Bangka, what new discoveries he has personally experienced at the dive sites around the resort, how he manages his love of motorcycles while living on a sandy island and what he has planned for the resort in the future!
Q: “Hi Olivier, why not start with you telling us a little bit about yourself?”
Olivier: “Okay, well I am from Belgium and I have been living in Indonesia for around three and a half years – one year in the Gili Islands, two years in Bali and now around 7 months in the resort here at Bangka. I started on in October 2015 along with my wife Miyah, who is from East Java”.
Q: “So you have a lot of experience in Indonesia already. What was your diving history prior to settling in Indonesia?”
Olivier: “Well, now I have over 3,000 dives and 10 years of experience in the diving industry. My first 5 years were in Thailand, then the Maldives and now, of course, Indonesia. I am a PADI Instructor and I can also teach 13 different specialties – over the years I have experienced a lot of different diving environments.”
Q: “That’s a pretty impressive resume. After so many dives and with experience in so many places what made you settle on Bangka Island?”
Olivier: “Bangka is great – there are no cars, no hustle and bustle and the only people you encounter are likeminded people who love to dive. Add to that the beautiful scenery, the beach and diving … (pause – Olivier laughs and looks at Miyah, his wife, who is sitting next to him) … “and of course I am here with my wife!”
(Olivier is definitely not just a diver but also a diplomat!)
Q: “Okay, moving on, what does your average day on Bangka entail?”
Olivier: “Well it always varies a bit from day to day but generally I wake up early and check on the schedule and staff, then I have breakfast with the guests so I can make sure everyone is clear on the program and ready for the day. I try to check the emails as early as possible to see if anything new has come in that might affect our logistics, I also check the dive boats – and that’s all before 8.00am! I often join the guests on the two morning dives so I can spend time with them and assist with people who speak different languages, and if I do that I get back at around 12 noon to 1pm depending on the sites. Our third dive goes out at 2.30pm after lunch. The afternoons are a great time for me to catch up on emails, conduct staff training, prepare for new guests arriving and plan dive sites and groups for the following day. 7pm is dinner time here in resort so Miyah and I always eat in the restaurant with the guests – it’s a great way to end the day.”
Q: “You mentioned that you can also help with languages?”
Olivier: “Yes – our Dive Guides here at Bangka can speak English but we are a very international in terms of our guests and sometimes it is more comfortable for them to speak in their mother tongue. I can speak French, German, English, Italian, Dutch and little Bahasa Indonesian. It also means I get to spend more time with the guests too!”
Q: “That’s an amazing array of languages! Any plans to learn more?”
Olivier: “No, I think that’s enough for now…. Maybe later!” (laughing).
Q: “Why do you think the diving around Bangka resort is special?”
Olivier: “For me the best thing about the diving here is the variety of dive sites and the variety of marine life. We have muck dives, wall dives and sloping reefs with drifts and some really great dives around rock pinnacles. All of the sites are close to the resort too which means we don’t have to make long boat trips. The reef dives are incredible with really vibrant soft corals and the colors are breath taking. The muck diving sites are packed with weird and wonderful critters so there is something for everyone.”
Q: “So if you had to choose, which dive site would be your favourite and why?”
Olivier: “Pantai Kecil for sure – again because of the variety. You can dive it in many different ways so it can be a muck dive, a wall dive or a reef dive.
Q: With all of your experience, is it possible that you have seen anything at Bangka that you haven’t seen before?
Olivier: “Actually, Yes! I have seen many different kinds of nudibranch species that are new to me, I have also seen tiger shrimps for the first time and have also seen my first Dugongs. Before I came to Bangka I had never seen the Pontohi pygmy seahorse before but now I see it a lot!
Q: “What has been your most enjoyable or memorable day to date in Bangka?”
Olivier: “The nicest moments for me are the guest BBQs. It’s a great night because the staff are all here and playing music and everyone is having a nice time on the beach. It’s heart-warming to see the staff and the guests all together in really good spirits. I think this is something quite unique to Bangka and something that the guests really enjoy. Sometimes we also make a bonfire on the beach and we even had some staff and guests trying limbo dancing. These carefree moments are what makes Bangka so special.”
Q: “What do you think the guests like most about being in Bangka?”
Olivier: “Hmmm (Olivier is thinking this over)… There are a few things to choose from and I think it is a mix of them all that makes this place special for guests. First off, everyone loves the white sand beach because it is picture postcard beautiful and it is everything you would imagine when thinking about a Robinson Crusoe style, tropical island. Also, the diving here is very easy because we take care of everything for the guests so they can just enjoy the dives. We set up the guests equipment so it is ready for them on the boat, we change tanks for them, they have unlimited house reef diving which they can access just by walking off the beach. The resort itself also provides people with a complete getaway from everything, they can kick back and relax and enjoy the beauty of the resort, the nature and the island.”
Q: “Do you think that Bangka is suitable for families and children?”
Olivier: “Actually, it is a great place to come with kids. The children can snorkel and play on the beach, they enjoy shell collecting and we have had kids making homes for hermit crabs, exploring the rock pools, trying the stand-up paddle boards that we have – it’s a lot of fun. It’s also great for the parents too as they don’t need to worry about roads and cars and the other issues that would normally concern them if the kids were playing outside in a city. Our resort staff also love children and enjoy having them around. I also think it’s great for the kids to have a break from TV and video games and connect with nature. Bangka can be a real family experience which brings everyone together.”
Q: “That all sounds amazing. Is living on a remote island everything you thought it would be? Are there any difficulties?”
Olivier: “Internet and communications can be tricky. I personally don’t usually mind being out of contact but it can be challenging in resort as we rely on it so much nowadays. Here at Bangka we have to coordinate a lot of logistics to make sure the resort has everything it needs – everything from food and water to mechanical parts have to be ordered and shipped over from the mainland. It’s quite an operation!”
Q: “So, it sounds like you are pretty busy! What do you do in your spare time to relax”
Olivier: “My passion is riding motorcycles! This doesn’t work very well on Bangka Island where there are no roads so I have a Suzuki Thunder that is in on the mainland. On days off we (Olivier and Miyah) like to go back to the mainland and go exploring North Sulawesi!!”
Q: “And looking to the future, what are your plans?”
Olivier: “Well, Miyah and I would like to focus on developing some aspects of the resort. We would love to try some new things in the restaurant. Also, Miyah has a background in Spa work so it would be nice to look at doing something along those lines too – massages for divers would be great.”
Q: “So it sounds like you will be pretty busy?”
Olivier: “Yes, always. But when you live on a tropical island and get to dive everyday with great people – it’s not so tough (laughing).”
Q: “I think we can all agree with that – thanks Olivier and enjoy your next dive!”
If you’d like to meet Olivier and Miyah and dive some of Sulawesi’s best dive sites contact us at [email protected]
For more Up Close and Personnel parts, click here to read about Murex Manado Manager Pim, here for Murex Dive Guide Basrah and here for Murex Tour Guide Rico.