Matahari was my introduction to the world of budget resorts. The old adage "you get what you pay for" holds true, but there is room for some wiggle at the edges. At Matahari, you get slightly more than what you pay for.
I purchased a 5.1 million IDR package that included rides to and from Matahari, SSI open water dive certification course including 4 ocean dives, 3 nights stay, 3 days breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a one hour Balinese massage. I purchased an additional dive for $40 ($25 for dive master, $15 for equipment rental), and people that need neither can get their tanks topped up and their gear ported for $5 or $10 - I believe it is $10, but the same price for a couple as it is for a single person. Matahari, like every service provider in Bali, offers better deals for couples than singles.
The grounds are a pleasant, well-tended jungle garden filled with hammocks and beach chairs. The dives are nice - the SS Liberty wreck lives up to the hype (but go in the morning if you can to avoid heavy dive traffic) and the drop-off hosts a stunning coral collection. There is also a coral garden starting just a few meters off shore, which is less interesting but a good easy dive to get used to the area.
Nothing at Matahari will match a top quality resort, but if you come to Tulamben you should be coming for the diving and snorkeling anyway. That said, the rooms are comfortable and clean with wifi and A/C, the staff is helpful, the food is edible, and the location is right on the shoreline. The front-desk was happy to lend me an American power adapter. And did I mention it is super cheep? There were some ants in the room and geckos on the balcony, but in Bali these are unavoidable unless you are in an ultra-hygienic modern concrete-and-steel building, which Matahari is not.
All of the staff speaks some English, and the dive and front-desk personnel are fluent. I did experience some language barriers with the wait staff which resulted in the accidental ordering of an extra drink when I was trying to pay for the last one, but I didn't mind the wasted $2.
Tulamben is fairly empty and small, so don't expect to do much outside of the beach. There are small shops that sell beverages, cigarettes, and sun screen, and that's about it. There is a bar down the street with a pool table operated by a German man, but I found the dinner room at Matahari to be busier and offer more conversation.
I was happy with the dive instructor. He had a laid-back manner and got us under the pool water right away. He was big on hands-on instruction and not so enthusiastic on the academic stuff - asking us to read the SSI manual to pass the written test on our own time in the evening. That suited me just fine - I didn't fly to Bali to sit in a classroom. Underwater, he had a wonderful calming manner and I felt safe with him which is important in a sport that is fundamentally terrifying to our subconscious mammalian brain.
After 3 nights at Matahari, I was sad to leave. I had gotten to know several of the guests and dive staff and was having a good time. I left a certified SSI open water diver and was taken care of for 4 days for less than $500. If I dive Tulamben again, I will stay here.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With direct access to the beach, Matahari Tulamben Dive Resort & SPA offers an outdoor pool and a restaurant with stunning ocean views. Free Wifi Hotspot. The Dive Center provides convenient access to the Coral Garden and only 5 minutes walk to the USAT Liberty Wreck. Enjoy relaxing massages and beauty treatments in the lovely SPA.The homely Balinese-style rooms are all with private bathroom and equipped with either air conditioning or a fan. The low cost standard rooms have only cold water.The resort offers free parking, motorbike rental and laundry service as well as a tour desk for trip planning (included climbing).Enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at beach restaurant, which serves appetising Seafood, Balinese Specialities, Indonesian and International cuisine.Transfer time from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Tulamben is 2,5 hrs and is available for a fee. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Matahari Tulamben Hotel Tulamben
- Matahari Hotel Tulamben
- Matahari Tulamben Hotel Bali
- Matahari Tulamben Resort, Dive & SPA Bali