"Indonesian Gem" - Jana Steve (Rush Green, UK) Jul 25, 2008

Really enjoyed the 8 days we spent at the Cha Cha resort and would definitely return the next time we are in Bunaken.

Raf and Reiko are extremely pleasant hosts who ensure guests feel very welcome and have a comfortable stay. As an example, when we managed to flood our camera Raf was able to quickly procure a replacement of the same model in Manado for a very reasonable price indeed. Our hosts were also very accommodating to my girlfriend’s request to snorkel. In the morning’s she would snorkel from the diveboat with a guide, and on two of the afternoon’s we went on snorkelling-only trips to the reefs at Siladen and Timur. There are other nice touches such as when the chef visited our room to establish which foods we were not partial to. The food was very good.

As to the facilities, I would agree wholeheartedly with the positive comments of the previous two reviewers. Just to reiterate that the bar/restaurant area is very well appointed and situated, and conducive to a relaxing afternoon/evening chatting with other guests and a drink or two. We opted for a bedroom with air conditioning, which felt like a wise choice when the wind wasn’t blowing. The rooms were kept spotlessly clean.

The diving was very enjoyable with lots of wall dives, healthy reef life and a plethora of beautiful coral to look at. I enjoyed the night dives the best. Finally, special thanks to Raf and Japanese dive guide, who spent extra time with me to help me refine my underwater buoyancy prior to a subsequent trip to Lembeh Straights.

In summary - two very satisfied customers.

"Paradise Island" - noelrousseau (Milford on Sea, Hants) July 1, 2008

If you are a SCUBA Diver or Snorkeler, then this is the place to go. The most amazing unspoilt coral and all the marine life that goes with it. Everyrthing from reef sharks and turtles to the beautiful Clown (Nemo) fish. A divers paradise. It is a PADI dive centre where the usual dive courses may be taken and they cater for all levels of experience.
This is a family run simple resort in a great location on the island of Bunaken, located inside the Marine Conservation Park. It is run by a husband and wife team, the husband Raf is part Irish part Italian but speaks with an english acent. His wife Raiko is a charming Japanese lady who speaks english. The whole resort is built from local materials and blends in perfectly with the surroundings. It has a small private beach and 10 "Cottage" rooms built from local timber that are very comfortable with modern facilities and a large balcony. Everywhere is kept nice and tidy and spotlessly clean.
This is a Full Board resort and the food is excellent. Mostly local dishes or european versions of South East Asian food is served, but they do an english breakfast once a week. They kindly catered for my wife's demanding dietry requirements and were happy to modify any menu to suit personal taste. Beer and alcohol are available but if you are a hard drinking late night party type, then this is not the palce to go. Most folk are in bed by 10 pm as breakfast is at 7-15 and the dive boat goes at 0800.

A perfect place to relax and chill out. at Low tide you can walk for miles along the shore beachcoming in all the little pools on the hard coral plate which is covered at high tide. We first visited the area at Xmas 2004 when we stayed at the nearby regular hotels of Tasik Ria and Santika, neither of which has a beach. This was our second visit to Cha Cha having been there before in August 2006. We are definitely returning to Cha Cha. Incidently the name Cha Cha comes from the name of the imature asiatic Sweet Lips. A must visit location for all SCUBA divers and snorkelers.

"Charming Cha Cha" - HoutBayDiver (Cape Town,South Africa) June 16, 2008

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 (rafd@bunakenchacha.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

"Hamocks, fish and sunshine" - Spartandiver (Oxford UK) June 11, 2008

Hi All
My dive buddy and I have now visited Cha Cha 4 times which should be a good indication, twice in May and Aug 2004, again in May 2006 and most recently May 2008.
Cha Cha is a very friendly, relaxed, relatively small resort on the eastern side of the island, which is by far the best side to be. The woodern cottages all face the sea so you are woken each day by stunning sun rises.
I have always found that the owners and staff work hard to ensure that your stay is everything that you want it to be and are always happy to help.
I jokingly said at breakfast one day that a palm tree in front of my cottage was slightly blocking the view of the sea from my hamock, by the time I went back to the room to collect my dive computer for the first dive the "offending" branch had been trimmed.

Diving
I'm a very keen diver, having been lucky enough to have dived other places such as the Maldives, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
I rate diving at Bunaken better than all, as the coral condition is the best I have seen, whilst aquatic life is similar but more varied, especially with the smaller creatures. The dive groups at Cha Cha are rarely bigger than 6 guests, infact on occasions my buddy and I have had the boat to ourselves and have been asked to choose our favoured dive site. One of the two owners always acts as a dive guide on each dive. Something which was refreshing to see is a boat crew that really respect people dive kit.
The majority of dive sites are steep wall dives all within 30 minutes boat ride, some exciting drift dives on occasions too.
Visability is generally 20 to 50M most days depending on tides.
For non divers the snorkelling on the house reef is very good.

Accommodation
I have stayed in a standard cottage on all 4 occasions, they are absolutely fine, clean but basic with a walled outdoor shower,
Hot water, ceiling fan and 24hr electricity. All beds have mosquito nets although I didn't find them a problem on the island.
There are air conditioned rooms available I believe but I didnt feel the need for it.

Food
Probably the biggest single improvement that I have seen over my 4 visits. Lunch and Dinner are excellent, a mix of Indonesian and Thai type dishes. Whilst breakfast is fairly basic, toast, eggs and fruit.

Entertainment
If you are looking for manic night life, clubs and bars then this is not the location for you. This place is all about unwinding.......... All guests eat together along with the owners, this gives everyone the chance to get to know each other. I've met all types of interesting people at Cha Cha from all over the world. After dinner guests generally sit out on the balcony over looking the sea with a beer or two pondering over the days events. There is WiFi there if you really cant leave your laptop at home.

Best bits about Cha Cha :
The Underwater world around Bunaken.
The totally chilled out atmosphere there.
The friendliness of the owners and staff.

Small room for improvement :
More variation of breakfast.
A little more fresh fish on the menu.

“Home Away from Home - great diving, beautiful location” - Australia James (Australia) May 5, 2008

A relaxing resort situated on the nicest part of Bunaken Island. Scuba Diving was outstanding! The house reef makes for excellent snorkling for non-divers (my wife) and for myself an underwater videophotographer the varierty of fish & marine creature found around the island was second to none. We saw sharks, napoleon's, baracuddi, we found leaf fish & also sighted a few turtles on the Lekuan dive sites. Also the resort has an area to rinse cameras and put your equipment together which was good.
Rooms were quaint wooden cottage style with hot water, outdoor bathrooms recently renovated, large balcony with hammocks, great for relaxing and falling asleep in the afternoon's. The views from the top rooms in the resort where we stayed and the restaurant are beautiful, we had dolphins swimming past on more than one occasion! We were told dugongs occasionally come in and feed on the sea grass at the front of the resort during high tide, however we were not that lucky! maybe next time.
Food excellent! we had fresh fish (swordfish) caught that very day, breakfast, lunch & dinner were all excellent. The owners of the resort a very nice couple, made us feel really at home, it was like a home a away from home! I would recommend this resort to any couple looking for a unique diving experience!

 

"Dive and Hang Out with the Owners" - ecophile (Michigan U.S.) Feb7, 2008

We just spent 5 nights at ChaCha and had a great experience. The diving around Bunaken is exceptional, particularly because of the healthy, diverse coral reefs. There are some currents, but that brings in the fish, and the owners are very thoughtful about finding dive sites that minimize the current given the weather and tides. We are experienced dive travelers and have stayed at several dive resorts. ChaCha is particularly impressive for three reasons:

1) you often dive and always dine with the owners. This interaction is pretty rare these days, and your time in a new place is really enhanced by spending time with the people who chose the location, explored all the reefs, and have poured their heart and souls into creating a sustainable dive resort in a remote location.

2) its very removed from the rest of Bunaken, and you feel like you are in a very remote, place. It really is a nature resort. ChaCha's location is also good because it's on the eastern side of the island protecting it from the west wind and from the occasional litter that comes from Manado. I would definitely stay on Bunaken Island since the boat rides to the dive sites are so short compared to coming from the mainland.

3) the food is really good and they cater to special dietary needs. My wife is allergic to onions and doesn't eat meat. The chef made her special versions of each dish (including the top notch homemade hot sauce) at every meal. A variety of fresh fruit was served every day and the main meals were a mix of Japanese and Indonesian.

We stayed in a superior cottage and it was very nice. Huge bathroom with Balinese style outdoor shower with lots of natural stone and hot water.

This place was perfect for us (active 30 year old couple). However, getting on and off the boat would have been challenging for our parents--there is no dock and you sometimes need to wade out as small waves break. I think this is true at all the other diver operators on Bunaken Island since building docks isn't allowed in the marine reserve.

Lastly, we went during the "rainy season." It wasn't bad at all. We had full sun the first two days, and it never rained more than a couple hours before the sun came back out the rest of the time. In fact the afternoon rain was welcomed as it brought a cool breeze ideal for taking a nap.

There was quite an eclectic group of guests: Japanese, British, Singaporean, and American. We really enjoyed the company. The owners went out of their way to help us plan the next stage of our trip and we remain very grateful. We would recommend ChaCha without reservation.

"The real escape" - 2005travel(Paris, France) July 20, 2007

It's difficult to know where to start and almost didn't want to share a review to keep this place a secret. We stayed here for 5 nights, nestled in the tropical forest of Bunaken Island and had a wonderful time. It was relaxing and a laid back escape, the closest place was a 15-minute walk away. (There is a satellite internet connection if you bring your own laptop/borrow theirs plus there is cell phone reception from the mainland).

The arrival was perfectly organized with a car waiting for us at the airport followed by a boat ride to their site. We landed feet first in the 30+ degree water! The owners (Irish/Italian-Japanese couple) are very welcoming. According to them, most guests are return guests (we met some).

Setting is superb and isolated- they are located directly across from Silanden on the northeast corner of Bunaken. The closest lodging is Living Colors which is a 15 min. walk away when the tide is right; Legian Beach with Froggies and souvenir stands is a 20+ minute walk (a horrible beach there by the way).

As beaches on Bunaken are limited, Cha Cha has a little private sandy beach when the tide is high. You can walk up and down the coastline along empty beaches or snorkel on the wall and coral garden which is about 50m out in front of the hotel.

Lodging: We stayed in the Standard Cottages on the top of the hill (great view) of the resort. The room is very, very simple but there is hot water, ceiling fan, mosquito net and electricity 24h. Other rooms have air con and a hamac outside. Not the highlight of the stay, but decent enough.

Food: Everyone eats all meals together. Food is a mix of Japanese and Indonesian. Very tasty chef at the time we went - we also had fresh grilled fish. Never ate the same thing twice during our long stay. Would have been nice to eat more fresh fish...

Diving: The set-up is very well organized as both owners are avid divers. Since we are novice divers, the dive master made us comfortable and explained our dives well. Equipment appeared decent and was always prepared by competent staff. You can read about the Bunaken diving wonders elsewhere than here, but needless to say it was fantastic and we were shown loads of interesting microcritters, turtles and fish (napoleon, surgeon, batfish, eel...). The coral gardens are also amazingly well preserved given the national marine park. This beats anywhere in Indonesia we have been told. The highlight for us was that we were always the only dive boat where we went.

Organization: One dives early morning, returns to resort by 11:30, has lunch and then rest of day is free. You can dive more, but we liked lounging around in the common area, taking naps in the hamac or numerous sofas, snorkeing, reading, walking on the beach. Then you do your log book, have dinner and are tired by 9:30pm-10pm. Fantastic for relaxation!! If you need entertainment this is not the place for you!