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“Fantastic place that we want to return to many times” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort

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Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort
Certificate of Excellence
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level Contributor
38 reviews
28 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“Fantastic place that we want to return to many times”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 November 2010

This was our second visit in 2 years, and we hope to come again every year. This is a great place - incredible location, great food, well run, and spectacular, safe diving. It is a comfortable, nice, small resort on a small island, very welcoming, and everyone we've met there is very happy. As you can read with other reviews, if you want a 5-star Asia fancy resort, this is probably not the place, but if you want a fantastic, beautiful dive experience with excellent staff, setting, food, and facilities, this is the place. We went this time with our teenage son, and his grandmother, and we all loved it.

  • Stayed October 2010, travelled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank dhoopstick
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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169 reviews from our community

Traveller rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (36)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Russian first
  • Any
English first
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 October 2010

Our third stay within a year ! It felt like coming home and it has become our second home. Hosts Reiko & Raf are wonderful personalities making you feel welcome throughout the stay. Meals are always delicious and different from day to day. Rooms are spacious, beds most comfortable and house keeping is doing a perfect job. Diving is at its best, Bunaken reef is world famous, deserves this status! Bunaken Cha Cha dive team does an excellent job in showing all treasures of the reef. From small critters to big fish - you see it all and the guides take pleasure in pointing them out to you. The Cha Cha team is most flexible even if you come up with any special requests like getting married on the beach (!) - they go out of their way to make your stay a memorable one. We will be back for sure very soon. Can't wait ! And for those who can't to it without intgernet....no worry, Cha Cha has Wifi access in each room for a nominal charge.
Amy & Markus Schmid, Swiss International Air Lines, Area Manager Asia Pacific, Singapore

  • Stayed September 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank markusschmid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Michigan
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 23 September 2010

I read some of these reviews and it makes me believe Cha Cha is simply like any boutique sized island resort. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a very unique place that will be loved by some and hated by others. As a result, it is important to list only the facts and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.

The rooms are laid out well, however, they are not constructed as solid as one may expect from a resort. The front wall of our room had vertical blinds that were literally open to the outside on either side of the door (this results in lizards and a rather large, 5 ft long, snake in our room). I'm sure you can see these blinds from the pics on the website. Regardless, this is the love it or leave it nature of Bunaken. It is an adventure.

The Manado harbor is a pit. The boats are nothing at all to desire an dmany westerners find the transfer process from Manado to Bunaken a bit sad, a bit scary and a lot stinky. Once you get to the resort, it is nice (I would say 2 to 3 star) and actually incredible in consideration of what resources there are on Bunaken Island to work with. That said, this is basic comfort in an incredible location. If you are looking for the Ritz, stay away. If you can handle being immersed in true nature to the point of lizards on the walls (I don't see how any resort in the area can avoid this) and possible snakes or other animals sneaking in, then you will appreciate Cha Cha. The resort is run by Raf and his lovely wife Reyko (sp.). They are very kind and honest people that will do anything to make you comfortable. They are part of what makes this resort unique.

So, the resort is very unique and truly is a nature resort. Maintenance, while not completely lacking, was also not completely up to snuff. A lot of white painted areas had been dirtied etc... Really though, a very nice resort.

My wife and I are avid divers so that is next:

The area is unreal in terms of hard coral gardens and reef walls. Little to no water current issues for the less experienced. Although the number of pelagics you see is limited somewhat, the sheer numbers of reef fish are amazing. Very rich in beauty and life (we have dove Palau, Hawaii and all over the Caribbean and only Palau tops this).

Unfortunately, an extreme issue I had at Cha Cha involved the diving. I believe that the compressors did not have proper filters attached to the air intakes and likely were sucking exhaust from the generators into the scuba tanks while being filled. I routinely got headaches after dives and they were not of the slight variety. I am not the type to get headaches and this cleared up immediately upon going to the next resort in Lembeh. Also, the dives were beautiful, however, I do not feel that we were guided well in terms of seeing all that Bunaken had to offer. My wife and I spotted macro life and took it upon ourselves to discover the area. Good dive leaders know the sites and know exactly where many of the marine animals like to hang out. There was little to none of that from Bunaken's dive leaders. As a result, the diving can be incredible and Cha Cha would be better served to put the time in and discover some of the amazing underwater life so that it can be pointed out the their guests.

This is a great little resort with a truly unique feel. It has two to three star physical accomodations with a staff and ownership group that truly care and want to serve you with the best of intentions (which is more than most 5 stars can truly say). That said, this is a very basic resort with very basic capabilities. I can see it being a disappointment to many and amazing to others.

If you are looking for a nice place to stay on Bunaken (to avoid the ridiculous boat trips necessary to dive the area from the mainland) and you simply want to get an overview of the area from a divers perspective, this is the place for you. Just don't be oversold that this place is some sort of 4 star boutique nature resort. Its a bit more hardcore than that.

  • Stayed April 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
12 Thank Sandykid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level Contributor
38 reviews
33 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 143 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 June 2010

My wife and I stayed at Cha Cha for 8 nights and overall had a fabulous, energetic and relaxing time. Raf, the owner, was extremely helpful from the moment we contacted him with booking inquiries and it was thanks to him that we chose to fly (from London) via Singapore Air as opposed to Air Asia which subsequently cancelled all flights to Manado. (Air Asia also took three months to refund me for another flight they cancelled, without warning or apology— in short, Air Asia blows). Raf also replied quickly and enthusiastically to all my left-field queries regarding ocean temperature (86F), malaria (not so much on Bunaken but definitely on the mainland, mossies prevalent throughout) and my wife’s aversion to tofu (can’t be helped). All told, full marks for pre-trip advice, ease of booking and customer service in general.

Upon arrival in Manado we spotted a card with our name and were quickly ushered to a waiting taxi, a waiting boat and found ourselves sipping cold coconuts and wiping our brows with scented cloths within an hour and a half. Be forewarned, the immigration desk in Manado seems to operate on a strict “one official/one plane” entrance policy so you might want to try for a seat near the front of the aircraft to spare yourself the slow-moving queue. Also, Cha Cha gave us booties for the “wet landing” so no need to scramble for your own-- unless you’re kicking size 15’s.

The resort itself is all kinds of lovely: lush but carefully tended foliage, plenty of welcome shade, on a remote corner of the island, with a breezy open-air eating area/bar/sundeck. What beach there is appears only at low tide and doesn’t last for long but the tidepooling is excellent. We stayed in a deluxe room which had a very smart Balinese-style open-air shower, stone floors, Western toilet, ample hot and running water, clean sheets, quality mosquito netting, good lighting, comfortable bedding, a spacious deck with both chairs AND loungers and, frankly, better facilities than one should come to expect in such a remote destination even at this price. The air-con was a bit weak upon arrival but this was quickly rectified by conscientious staff before we even summoned the energy to complain. The attention to detail at Cha-Cha is impressive—though this comes at the small and probably unavoidable price of occasional jumpy staff afraid of putting a foot wrong. We were also given three large bottles of water per day, free mossie coils and some frankly bizarre and colorful Indonesian snacky-cakes every afternoon at five.

The food is fabulous, varied, and a welcome mix of both Asian and Western cuisine. My wife, as a vegetarian, had plenty of choice. In addition to salad, rice and inventive veg she was regularly offered an additional plate of pasta, fried tempeh, omlettes, mashed potatoes and the like-- beyond the call of duty for sure. They serve up a LOT of food here and practically all of it is delicious. I particularly enjoyed the marlin kebabs (satay!), the “prawn volcano”, the fried noodles and the many, many platters of beautiful tropical fruit (if only I could get that quality of papaya here in London, sigh). And, though the house coffee is unforgivably weak, formidable expresso drinks are available at extra cost. Beer and soft drinks are also reasonably priced though wine, as in all of Indonesia, is highly inflated. There was, however, a bit too much fried food—for my gut as opposed to my taste—and, predictably, I gained about a pound per day. Raf is an engaging host and we were very much amused by his tales of everyday life in Sulawesi, Indonesian bureaucracy, wildlife spottings, crazy guest requests, etc. He is very well informed about the area and its protection and is always willing to answer, or research, any question or concern. Meanwhile, Reiko, his pensive and kindly wife, provides a welcome foil for his impassioned and often humorous rantings.

Bunaken itself is an amazing place to snorkel (though no longer a diver, as a former marine science instructor I am somewhat adventurous/maniacal in the snorkeling department and am often out for several hours at a go. Luckily, the wife is similarly keen). Blessedly, the dive center is more than happy to accommodate the tankless on their twice-daily boats (which makes a welcome change from many resorts who treat mere snorkelers as second class citizens). A couple of times we were even taken out on our own at no extra cost and, like the divers, we were always given the VIP treatment. Our gear was hauled both on and off the boat, we were served tea and biscuits after every snorkel and Emiko proved an excellent guide, even going so far as to point out some stonefish and nudibranchs we would have otherwise missed. The divers were equally well taken care of and if I were still diving I would have no qualms about going with Cha Cha. Marine biology wise: the corals around Bunaken are among the healthiest and most diverse I’ve ever seen and that includes the Red Sea much of the Indian Ocean, Carribean and South Pacific. In fact, I’ve never seen so many different species of butterfly, angel and clownfish in one location. Also, in addition to sharks, blue-spot rays, batfish, frogfish and sea snakes, my wife and I had the remarkable good fortune to encounter two dugong, mother and nearly full-grown calf, on only our second day in the water. The ten or so minutes we spent swimming alongside these critically endangered creatures was the highlight of our trip to the region-- though we later learned that such an encounter is exceedingly rare and not to be expected. Still, they are occasionally spotted so, you know, good luck!

Snorkeling directly from shore at Bunaken can be rewarding but the current often limits the distance you can travel, changing direction and speed as often as it does. As everywhere, visibility is variable but ranged between 10 and 40 meters during our visit. At low tide there is only really one good entry point in front of the resort (without damaging the coral) and this area is not as spectacular as most of those visited by boat (at a very reasonable thirty dollars a trip pp). Still, the mangroves nearby are rewarding to explore at high tide and there are many beautiful patches of reef just a short kick from Cha Cha’s front door.

On the downside, as has been reported both on Tripadvisor and in guidebooks, when the wind blows and the rivers flow, enormous rafts of unsightly plastic trash (mixed with organic jungle debris) drift from Manado along ALL sides of Bunaken on their way to join the embarrassing, human-caused, oceanic super-wart that is the giant Pacific trash gyre. If you haven’t heard of this phenomenon, well, google it if you dare. Usually, currents swirl this garbage around the more populated side of the island but we had the misfortune of having it drift our direction for several days due to prevailing currents. And, while we collected as much as we could in bags during our snorkels, such efforts were the proverbial drop in the ocean. If Indonesia is serious about protecting these amazing coral gardens as a marine park they have to pay more than lip service to safe-guarding this precarious environment. Raf agrees and man, can he tell you stories. Also, because Bunaken has fishing exclusion “zones”-- as opposed to being entirely protected—and because the big pelagics have no innate zoning concept per se, the few large sharks, rays and turtles we encountered generally fled on sight. The fishing pressure here, while limited and local (common to see spearfishermen hovering offshore), is both palpable and, from what I could tell, slackly enforced. Still, the gorgeous reefs and the “small stuff” are impressive and warrant a trip to the region in their own right.

My only real problem with Cha Cha as a resort is something that I both knew and was concerned about before I booked our trip and that is: the dining situation. Basically, everyone eats family style around a single table (or two tables when half the guests are Japanese, etc.) And, while Raf and Reiko are amiable and wonderful hosts, your mealtime conversation/experience is dependent on other guests who happen to be there at the time. The result is that every meal is a dinner party—or a lunch party or a breakfast party—and sometimes when you’re on holiday after a difficult year and your wife works a stressful job in a highly social environment, you just want to huddle in a corner, have some eggs and coffee and mumble amongst yourselves. Lucky for us, in addition to hitting it off with the owners, we made some great new friends at Cha-Cha. However, I believe that as adults we would have organized to eat a meal (or six) together, on our own volition, without the soft-touch social engineering. As it turned out, as a matter of politeness, both my wife and I felt obliged to include other guests we didn’t quite click with in our mealtime conversations. Also, because each pair of guests received matching plates of delicious, filling food there was either a lot left over or, out of concern for the starving nations of Africa, *someone* felt obliged to hoover up the remaining portions and add another half-stone to his midsection. In my opinion, this situation could easily be rectified by, say, having the nightly dinner party, sure-- to keep the family atmosphere alive-- but how ‘bout making breakfast and lunch a more laissez--fair, sit-where-and-with-whom-you-please buffet, without set meal times? It’s been done successfully in many, many places before but this would require Raf to release a bit of, uh, shall we say, respectfully, party host control. To be fair, he could use a competent number two and his dictatorship appears both necessary and benevolent. That being said, since I knew the meal-deal coming in, I feel it would be unfair to deduct a star from this review on these grounds—as I would have if this situation had been sprung upon me without prior notice.

All in all, we had an excellent, excellent trip and would not hesitate to return the next time we find ourselves in Sulawesi, hopefully as divers. The Dive Team was top notch! Hope this helps.

  • Stayed May 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank octopusmessiah
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
blumerina
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 June 2010

We stayed at Bunaken Cha Cha for 6 nights and it was not long enough. The owners Raf and Reiko as well as their friendly staff worked hard to truly make this a home away from home. While many scuba resorts in Sulawesi are beautiful, it was the details that made Cha Cha stand out.
The food was delicious, plentiful, varied and healthy.
The other guests were a treat to spend time with
The island was stunning, we loved walking down the beach at low tied to look for little sea creatures
The dive master was knowledgeable and always willing to take us out for anight dive or extra afternoon dive.

I cannot wait to plan my next trip to this resort.

  • Stayed May 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank blumerina
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Washington, DC
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 May 2010

So, I did not know what to expect as I was meeting my husband at Cha Cha and he can sometimes have a "special" perspective on resorts and hotels. He talked it up and I truly did not expect what he said. I got off the boat, silky sand between my toes and was greeted by about 5 hotel staff and this is even before I got to the main house. Then I met about 5 more staff and of course the owners, who graciously and warmly were expecting me as my own family would. I arrived to a scheduled yoga session, overlooking the vast ocean, and despite it being about 100 degrees, I had chills due to the calmness, serenity, and grace of the moment. This is where I walked away feeling ahhh. And that feelig stayed during my time at Cha Cha, through every scrumptious meal, to talking with guests and staff, to just relaxing by the water.
My husband was right on, this was a place that everyone, once in their lifetime needs. But beware, you'll be itching to come back.

  • Stayed May 2009, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Piwo123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Washington DC, District of Columbia
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 May 2010

After immediately falling in love with it during my first stay, I have been making regular trips to Bunaken for the past 3 years. The experience at Cha Cha has delivered on all levels of service, hospitality and friendship. My last was trip number 8, and something about it always keeps me coming back for more.

  • Stayed April 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Reefbuzz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort

Property: Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort
Address: Tanjung Parigi, Bunaken Island 95000, Indonesia
Region: Indonesia > Sulawesi > North Sulawesi > Bunaken Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 15 Speciality Lodging in Bunaken Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Number of rooms: 7
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 
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Also Known As:
Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Hotel Bunaken Island

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