Building a resort: Thalassa Dive Resort Lembeh

Building Thalassa Lembeh

In today’s article we go back in time to look at the construction of our sister resort on Lembeh. In this photo series, read how a muddy hillside was transformed into a full-fledged boutique resort in less than 7 months time…

Whenever the chance for a day trip to Lembeh-in-progress came up in 2017, I was quick to join and document the project. The result is the “photo essay” below.

March 2017 – humble beginnings

After obtaining all the necessary permits, we started clearing the land by the end of 2016. Rumors of a new resort soon started in the village of Batu Riri. Obviously, people were happy with a new chance of finding work.

Surya jumping off the boat

The 2nd of March 2017 marks a special day, and everyone in the neighborhood is invited. This is because today will be the official start of construction. Our team visits from Thalassa Manado with a few supplies and a ton of food for the workers and invited guests.

Jakob our construction supervisor

Jakob (l) is one of our senior staff and Lembeh’s construction supervisor. He calls the island his temporary home while overseeing construction during the next few months.

Priest holding a sermon

From the village next door (Batu Riri), the local priest arrives with a small entourage of village heads and notables. He holds a sermon to bless the land and the building process. During his speech he thanks Simone for creating opportunities for work.

The priest's shoes in the mud

Wet mud doesn’t stop anyone from wearing their Sunday best.

Laying the first stone

Pictured here is the laying of the first stone. Village heads, the priest, Thalassa staffers and other notables all take turns laying a stone. Naturally, people are too polite to fail so everyone is basically saying “you first”.

April 2017 – the foundations

Pool under construction

Where only a month ago there was nothing but mud, now there are basic shapes forming the start of buildings. This is the formwork for the swimming pool’s concrete structure.

Overview of the terraced land

With a digger, the slope was dug to be terraced. Natural stone walls form the now-familiar base of the resort’s layout.

Passing buckets of concrete

Almost everything is done by hand. Guests & friends help out by passing buckets of concrete to be poured into anything that requires it.

The supply boat does non-stop runs, picking up and dropping off building supplies, food, tools, personnel and so on. Because we can’t use our dive boat for this, we hire the boat on a contract basis, making its owner quite happy.

The kitchen team

Hard work makes workers hungry, and traditionally, the task of cooking falls on the women. There’s nothing like a plate of spicy nasi goreng for lunch after some construction action.

June 2017 – it’s all coming together

Kids from our school in Tongkaina join us on today’s trip. A large shipment of garden plants is brought from Manado, destined for Thalassa Lembeh’s lovely central garden.

The kitchen under construction

A few months of solid building results in everything truly taking shape. Here we are standing in our kitchen. The two door openings will provide access to kitchen storage later.

The pizza bar under construction

This will be the Sabar, our pizza bar. To the right is the aforementioned kithen.

View of the pool

The pool is nearing completion. This will be the place where our guests will look out into the Lembeh Strait, Bintang in hand.

Main restaurant
We’re looking out from the Santai, our main restaurant building. The two buildings in the back are a temporary kitchen and supply storage.

August 2017 – adding the details

The pool area under construction

Pressing fast-forward again, we now approach the final stages of construction. The main pool and sunbathing area is virtually done.

Laying tiles

Laying tiles.

A bungalow in progress

The bungalows are nearly done, and it’s easy to see how attractive they will become once finished.

Dive center is almost done

The dive center is still missing windows, but it’s looking very promising already.

Kees & Anika

Dutch couple Kees and Anika join our team as resort managers, looking forward to their new home for the next two years. But before construction is done, they work & live with us at Manado to get settled in.

October 1st 2017 – we’re open!

Kids dance during opening ceremony

We are officially open! Our first guests have already booked their stay to join the opening ceremony. Students from our school perform a traditional dance routine…

Thalassa staff singing

…and Thalassa Manado staff sing to give the new resort all their blessings. After the ceremony it’s time for (what else) food!

So there you have it. In broad brush strokes, this is how our small but great sister resort on beautiful Lembeh was built.

A special place

Thalassa Lembeh offered Simone and the team a chance to do something new and different.

Obviously, we’re biased, but we think it turned out to be a wonderfully cosy place.

Finished bungalows

After the pandemic has settled down enough to allow travel, we can’t wait to welcome you again.


We hope to see you all soon!

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Picture of Arjen Bokhoven

Arjen Bokhoven

I'm a PADI Advanced Open Water diver, I do guest relations and resort management at Thalassa Dive Resorts Indonesia. Whether I'm diving the walls of Bunaken to spot schools of fish & turtles, or explore the sandy flats of Lembeh with its fascinating underwater creatures- I love all of it.

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