We spent 10 excellent days at Bunaken Cha Cha dive resort in May 2008 and wholeheartedly recommend Cha Cha to anyone who has great expectations of Bunaken diving at a comfortable, well run dive resort with local flavour and reasonable prices.
Yes, it is true - Bunaken Marine Reserve is a “must dive” destination. We have been lucky to be able to travel and dive in Malaysia, Seychelles, Thailand, Mozambique and Madagascar and Bunaken certainly is one of the best we have been to!
For us however, whether we go skiing or diving, the choice of accommodation is important and we spend many hours researching the various options prior to making our choice. Our criteria: a small intimate resort with local flavour, rustic, must be conveniently close to diving sites, preferably family run, must have a balcony or patio with sea views and comfortable garden furniture, an ensuite bathroom, good food with local flavour, dive masters must be Padi or similar trained, must be in mid range pricing and basics must be included, while good reviews on independent websites also help. Air conditioning, a pool and massage service is on the wish list but not essential
Of the above, Bunaken Cha Cha met all our criteria (including aircon and masseuse) except there is no pool. (Visit the extensive home website website www.bunakenchacha.com)
Our enquiry direct to the resort (email@example.com) was answered by the owner, Raf, within hours (you can also Skype him) and every subsequent email was answered with the same promptness and clarity. Raf (Irish /Italian) and his wife Reiko (Japanese) started this resort 9 years ago, they speak the local language, plus many others, fluently and have connections everywhere. He can tell you where to get your visa on arrival, what it will cost, where to get the best deals for flights to Manado, who to book with for your ongoing journey etc.
We were not disappointed – Bunanken Cha Cha is our type of place. A rustic paradise without frills, spacious, 10 lovely chalets, each comprising two ”rooms” overlooking the sea, built on a terrace to ensure sea views for all, modern yet simple, innovative bathroom and lovely shower with each room, a small but lovely beach with comfortable deck chairs and beach towels, large dining/ sundeck area where guests can mingle or just sit, read and relax or stare over the sea to Siladen Island and the Manado mainland while sipping a drink.
The rooms where well equipped with bottled water daily, bath soap etc in the lovely bathroom, a battery operated light in case of electricity failure, lovely mosquito net draped over the huge double bed, and a multi-plug to fit plugs of all nationalities. We had an aircon unit which worked well. Mosquito coils were lit by the room attendant every night and on the guest deck coils were lit through out the day as well. Mosquitoes are a bit of a nuisance after sunset, but if you burn the coil and cover yourself in repellent like “Peaceful Sleep” or similar, you will be fine. Other interesting creatures are the lovely geckos; they sing a song at night, and the rhinoceros beetles, quite a treat.
The balconies are spacious, overlooking the sea and furnished with chairs and a hammock. Privacy could be a problem as the balconies are situated both sides of central steps leading to 2 separate living quarters (rooms) and you can see your “neighbours” if they are also on the balcony but it is wide apart and did not bother us at all.
Water is scarce and shipped in daily, so you are requested to hand in all laundry but as you are mostly in your costume, you don’t have much to wash! This is charged per item at reasonable rate.
Dress is very casual, shorts, t-shirts and perhaps a sarong will do. Beach sandals and booties for snorkelling are essential. Also bring a travelling kettle and hairdryer if you need those.
Hospitality at Bunaken Cha Cha knows no bounds. Raf and Reiko, together with their team of smiling, friendly local staff make sure that your holiday is a happy, relaxing time with no worries at all. In fact you end feeling so at home that you might forget you are a paying guest….
The food is an interesting blend of local, Japanese and Western and it is with keen anticipation that you approach the dinner table each night. Guests are seated at a long table and Reiko and Raf, as well as the dive master or top managerial staff join you for the meal. More like a dinner party than a hotel meal where you meet and chat with everybody and Raf usually has a tale to tell about the island politics of the day. The main course is beautifully plated and the accompanying dishes or courses are placed in 2 man portions in the middle of the table, while the lovely table attendants talk you thru each dish and its accompanying sauce. Behind this delicious food is a local young man, Rinto, trained and transformed by Reiko’s to the innovative and creative chef he has now become.
The beach is small and private and deck chairs (enough for all), drinks tables and a fresh beach towel on each chair await you daily. There is ample shade from overhanging trees. Views to die for during early sunrise!
The house reef is immediately in front of the resort but you have to walk out a short distance to reach the drop off. Fantastic snorkelling waits all: children, beginners and experienced divers. The beauty of this house reef is that it provides easy snorkelling for families with small kids, as well as the opportunity for more experienced snorkellers to see the bigger sea creatures at the drop off. In fact if you walk 10 minutes upstream to the sandbank and drop in there, you can “drift” down along the reef till you get back to the resort to exit. On the way you will see millions of pyramid butterfly fish, huge schools of red tooth trigger fish, anemone fish, all the usual reef fish like parrot and angelfish in great numbers, more than likely a turtle, maybe a white tip reef shark, Napoleon, or batfish, definitely Titan triggerfish, and if you are very lucky a dugong with calf (seen by guests snorkelling while we where there)
In May we had very good visibility and excellent weather. Currents were at times strong and they often changed direction, sometimes even taking you up and…down! I was quite taken aback to see my buddies bubbles going down, instead of up! But nothing that the average, aware diver cannot handle.
The dive centre is small and if you have own gear, best to take that along. Dives were handled by our very able and beautiful Japanese dive master, Mari, and we were often joined by owners Raf and Reiko on the dives. All dive gear was loaded onto the boat and prepared for you prior to each dive. The boat is nothing spectacular, all the boats around look alike, but is in good working order and well equipped and maintained. Each ‘dive couple” receive their own numbered dive towels for the day. Morning dives are back to back, with an hour coffee break in between leaving at about 8.15 and returning for lunch, anytime from 12am to 1.15, dependant also on the tides. Times to dive site varied from 5 to 40 minutes. There were also afternoon dives for those who wanted, in fact all requests were accommodated (sunset Mandarin dive and night dives). Groups were small and well organised and the dive team knew their stuff and sites.
There are many, many sites to dive so I will not elaborate here. But will mention that I would definitely recommend staying on Bunaken Island, not on the mainland, to avoid longer boat times to reach the Reserve.
The diving was great. Spectacular coral, abundance of sea life and you see all the usual and some unusual. We saw a sunfish close up on our first dive! Abundance of reef fish everywhere and plenty of jaw fish, many garden eels, ribbon eels, huge turtles, big schools of batfish, large Napoleons in singles and giant trevally, scorpion fish, leaf fish, lizardfish, groupers, fusiliers, sweetlips, boxfish and puffer fish, blue spotted ray, dolphins, ringed sea snakes, unusual nudibrach and sea cucumbers, giant clams, lobster, numerous well camouflaged shrimp and crab, flounders, white tipped reef sharks (smallish), eagle rays, But the trademark of diving here has to be the schools of thousands of red tooth trigger fish and the pyramid butterfly fish everywhere. We went on a special dive for the pygmy sea horse (take magnifying glass!) and a sunset dive for the mandarin fish (we each had our own “patch” and could watch and photograph to hearts content)
We arranged a diving package of 10 nights including 16 dives for 2 divers each, all meals, superior cottage with aircon, and transport to and from the airport. This pre-paid package cost us US$ 2650 in the low season, May 2008. The only extras we had to pay at the end of our stay was for washing, drinks (reasonably priced but bring own wine if you are a connoisseur) coffee after lunch or dinner (breakfast coffee is included) and sunset dive. At the end of each day you sign for your extras, so we knew from day one that the coffee was extra. You will also pay extra for snorkelling if you go with the boat but you will experience excellent snorkelling at various sites. Payment was done by bank transfer as Manado banks will not allow any credit card facilities at these resorts run by “foreigners”. If you want to pay by credit card, book your stay at Cha Cha through a big dive operator like Divetheworld (www.dive-the-world.com click on Indonesia, then Sulawesi, then Bunaken Cha Cha Resort) who are familiar with and recommends Cha Cha. They will be happy to get you a quote and organise all for you, but this may be slightly more expensive than booking direct with Raf.
Raf and Reiko are keen underwater photographers and Internet and Skype are their lifeline so the resort offers access to internet and downloading of photos but bring necessary cables etc along. You can also buy a WIFI package of either 5 or 10 days.Mobile phones were constantly in use by guests so I guess no problem (did not use mine)
As in most dive resorts, evenings are peaceful and after some socialising on the deck, guests disperse back to bed and books with the lovely music and song (staff) lingering in the background
We met interesting people from over the world during our stay, some staying just a few nights others splitting time between Bunaken and the Lembah straits. We were happy in our decision to stay the full 10 days at Bunaken Cha Cha, we chatted at the airport with other divers who split time and every single one mentioned Bunaken diving as the definite highlight of their trip…
Bunaken Cha Cha is especially suited to honeymooners, groups or families with a mixture of snorkelers and scuba divers. Guests with physical disabilities and toddlers should consult with Raf, prior to booking, as the resort is built on a slope and there are steps and open balconies.
We will always carry fond memories of Bunaken Cha-Cha with us and feel confident to recommend this lovely retreat to anyone, in sure knowledge that they will love the diving, and if intimate and rustic is their scene, also the beautiful resort and the generous staff.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel/Resort situated on the clean and tranquil side of Bunaken Island comprising 3 Villas, 2 Superior Cottages and 3 Standard Cottages tastefully decorated, all with hot fresh water showers & A/C, exceptional views over the surrounding islands and mountains of the mainland. Cha Cha boasts its own quaint private beach, house reef and in-house Padi Diving Center. The Sea Top restaurant offers a variety of Indonesian, Japanese and fusion dishes with emphasis on healthy eating. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Booking.com, Priceline and Agoda so you can book your Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Hotel Bunaken Island