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Dive Review of Bunaken Oasis in
Indonesia/North Sulawesi

Bunaken Oasis: "Bunaken Oasis Resort and Spa", Sep, 2017,

by GERALD WILISON, NJ, US (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 9804 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Bunaken Oasis Resort and Spa, located on Bunaken Island near Manado in North Sulawesi is, quite simply, the finest resort I've ever been to - or have even heard about. It is a small resort with quite a high staff to guest ratio. Faisal, the resort manager (who is also a diver) creates an outstanding level of service through superior talent selection and retention rather than a heavy hand. The staff seem to really like being associated with the resort; it is apparently considered the 'plum employer' on the island.

On one night, the dive and resort staff serenaded us with local songs, pop classics, and even a charming solo rendition of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'.

It seemed that the staff memorized all of our first names before our arrival, so we were always greeted by name as we migrated around the resort.

The rooms are all private cabins, beautifully appointed and maintained, and with excellent air conditioning. Vaulted ceilings, excellent wood work, beautiful views from their locations on the hill, and first class fixtures. Very large bathrooms with huge shower bays.

Oh, and free laundry! You put your laundry in the little basket, and it comes back - usually the same day - clean and folded. In fact, even though I folded my clothing in my room, they came in (presumably while I was out diving) and re-folded my clothes - but nicer. So no need to pack much at all. If you are not aiming for sartorial variation, you could make due here with 2 T-shirts, swim trunks, and a couple pair of underwear.

Very nice pool (actually quite stunning) - with a very deep section, ideal for dive training, refreshers, and the like.

If you've got a bad back, this is the place for you. Once you get out of the Manado airport, you'll never have to pick up anything heavier than a large glass of beer. But if you've got bad knees or hips, you might want to ask for a cabin at the bottom of the hill.

Diving in Bunaken and surrounding areas is superb. Plentiful healthy corals of all sorts, tons of fish, and quite a lot of interesting smaller creatures. I saw more frog fish than I've seen over the past 700+ dives. Turtles abound. And who doesn't love clown fish?

Don't miss the mangroves along the shore. Go at high tide, and if you have a camera with a wide angle lens, you might want to stay a while.

The boats will spoil you for any future diving. Large and beautifully appointed, they carry a maximum of five divers (we had four divers on each of two boats). These same boats would take 10 or more divers in most places I've dived. Again, the service is amazing - they take all your gear at the beginning of the trip (no need to pack a mesh bag), set it all up, break it down, rinse it, and have it ready for the next day of diving. The guides are friendly, sharp eyed, and attentive, with typically two guides per boat. The boats have roomy bathrooms with toilets that operate just like normal ones on land - no manual pumping and flushing. Both AL12 and AL15 liter cylinders are available, either yoke or DIN.

I was there as part of Martin Edge's underwater photography workshop, so all of us were serious photographers with vast amounts of heavy, fragile, and expensive camera gear. This is where the resort really blew my mind. Each diver had their own camera Sherpa to carry their rigs from the camera room (more on that later) to the end of the jetty and the boat. The Sherpas were waiting at the end of the jetty upon our return to carry the cameras back to the camera room. I'm used to shlepping my own gear, so I have to admit it took a little getting used to this. At first, I attempted to carry my own camera, but the look of abject disappointment on the face of the camera Sherpa led to my eventual capitulation.

The boats had plenty of room to store cameras and gear, and a nice big rinse tank. And a fresh water shower. Fresh towels were on board for every dive, along with biscuits, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, and ice cold face towels! They even have mugs with each guest's name on them on the boat.

Okay, the camera room... I've never seen anything like it. Big and roomy with individual stations for each diver - easily enough for each diver to take 2 or even 3 stations. A big common table in the middle of the room and another just outside of the camera room. Both tables are equipped with air guns - I counted 7 of them! Quite useful for getting the water off the cameras for a quick and dry switch from wide angle to macro or vice versa. Each camera station was equipped with lighting and electrical - both 110 and 220, and with universal plugs. Wow. My only suggestion is to give guests a key to the camera room so when we show up early or late, we don't have to impose on staff to unlock the door.

The food at the resort is amazing. The menu varied every day, always with a local cuisine option, which I usually selected. We ate like royalty. Artistic and tasty appetizers, soups, beautifully presented and flavored entrees, and yummy deserts. The service was friendly and attentive.

As mentioned earlier, I went to Bunaken Oasis as a participant in Martin Edge's underwater photography workshop. Martin is one of the most highly regarded underwater photographers in the world, and the author of the definitive book on the subject, The Underwater Photographer. We had the resort to ourselves for the week.

As for the second week... That was a unique experience. As it turns out, the resort held rooms available on the assumption that many of Martin's group might decide to extend their stay. By the time it became clear to them that most people did not plan on staying a second week, it was too late to make new bookings. So, I ended up being the only guest in the entire resort for the second week! I can't say this was a good thing. I like other people, and particularly enjoy diving with others, sharing stories and experiences, etc. Diving is a very social activity. Walking around a resort as the only guest, being greeted by name by every employee I passed, having people leap into action to fulfill my every need - this was all very weird. I felt like a blind guy with 20 seeing eye dogs, each one eager to attend to me with a wagging tail. I imagine it was just as odd for the staff (and it must have been a mini financial disaster for the owners). But they did their best to keep things from getting too awkward. Thankfully, the manager of the resort, Faisal, very graciously joined me for dinner each evening, often just eating informally at the bar, and I ended up making a new friend.

A few other odds and ends... There is a spa at the top of the hill that offers spa stuff like massages. Not my thing so I didn't use it, but others in the group who did raved about it. There is a dive shop with a full complement of high quality rental equipment. I visited the compressor room and was impressed - modern, clean, and well organized. There is a small boutique selling shirts and shiny gifts. Tours are available to visit the local village. Paddle boards are available for guest use. I'd suggest they get a couple kayaks as well- I believe one is already on order. And the area around North Sulawesi and Bunaken is physically stunning.

Everything I experienced at the Bunaken Oasis was first class - diving, facilities, food, and service. Truly a remarkable experience!

Websites Bunaken Oasis   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Cozumel, Cayman, Bahamas, Florida, Roatan, Jersey Shore, Maldives, Bonaire, etc.
Closest Airport Manado Getting There Most flights via Singapore or Jakarta

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, currents, no currents
Water Temp 80-87°F / 27-31°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions They said 60-70 minutes, but no problems going longer.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Amazing camera room.
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Subscriber's Comments

By Jill Rainin WA, US at Sep 15, 2017 10:51 EST  
Great trip and place. I'm curious about your 2nd week: had the rest of the group paid upfront and decided not to stay for it? Most dive resorts want full payment ahead of time, at least a month or two, and given plane reservations most people know ahead of time how long they're staying. I hear you about how odd it must have felt being the only guest, but I'd guess it was fantastic underwater, esp as a photog.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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