BUNAKEN SEA GARDEN
updated on January 2015
(If you are too short of time to read my detailed report, you can also jump directly down to a summary with recommendation)
Harrie from Holland recently reported after his stay in October and November in the Seagarden Resort:
"All the cottages are in good shape, they got new beds and maintenace is done regulary.
There is also installed fast internet/WiFi at the resort.
The diving center is ready and equipped with 12 complete divesets from Aqualung with different sizes of wetsuits, fins and masks and they have around 10 good snorkel sets available.
The biggest boat is good 12 meters with toilet and can handle 10 divers comfortably, it has been completely renovated in November, and it is like new again. "
Two years ago we had not booked and thus we had to make do with a smaller, cheap bungalow, which was just available. However, we liked it very well. But this time we had cast an eye on one of the luxury cottages (Nos. 1-3, see sketch below) and therefore we booked in time. If I look back, the extra charge of 6 Euros is more than adequate.
What we particularly liked here was the large tiled terrace (approx. 15 sqm) with table and 2 chairs.Even before you climbed the two steps you could clean your feet under running water - or if you came from diving, clean the booties. Also the living room and bedroom with its 30 sqm offered enough space to place everything comfortably. In particular, there was this half-high cupboard with a hanging rail and 3 shelves. On the top you could deposit small items, such as sunscreen, mosquito repellent or small electrical appliances. In the room was a large, lovingly made-up double bed with mosquito net waiting for us. In addition there was yet another bed, which, however, we mainly "abused" as a storage place for items of clothing.
What has changed since our last visit in 2011 (see report below)?
- My former points of criticism had been taken into account in all points, and led to the following changes:
- Cleanliness and hygiene improved significantly, for example,
- clean towels or small carpets for wiping the feet,
- always fresh Aqua (water) in the water dispenser,
- daily cleaning of the bungalows
- a door to the restaurant as a barrier for dogs
- a second toaster
- a new shady resting place for hot midday hours was established.
- Our Luxury Bungalow
- was more spacious
- was quieter (distance from the road)
- had good lighting in the bedroom
- Other innovations were
- a newly built modern kitchen
- a Wi-Fi router with free access during the times with electricity(18:00 - 9:00 clock)
- Building a dive center (see below )
Coming to Bunaken SeaGarden Resort (Report of 2011)
I know Sonya already since 2002. Already at that time she had the dream to open once her own Resort on Bunaken. Then some more than 2 years ago I found out that she had acquired a piece of land together with her Dutch friend Harrie on the eastern side of the island and had built a new Resort which she called SEA GARDEN RESORT. I was very glad about the fact that there should be a new alternative to the existing Low-Budget-Resorts now on Bunaken, because I had to observe from year to year how those lost the wishes of their guests with growing publicity more and more out of sight. Hence, in the last October (2011) I decided to learn more about tihis new Resort of Sonya. Short-term I could book a free bungalow for my wife and me by telephone.
After Check-out from the previous Resort we loaded our luggage into the diveboat KURNIA (which we had rented for longer time) and had us transported by Feki, our boatswain on the sea way (approx. 700 m) to our new place. Usually guests book already in time with Sonya via her website and then can choose how they want to get to the Resort. The most expensive, but also most comfortable variant is to let bring from the airport up to the Resort. Who wants to save money, him takes a taxi to the harbour in Manado (see map). Then there he can charter a boat which brings him directly to the Sea Garden Resort. Or he can go with the public boat (most cheap) to the island and there from the jetty by a motorbike or fishing boat to the Resort. Who is especially sporty, can also walk of course approx. 1.7 km on the concrete way. Anyhow, I advise to call Sonya betimes on her mobile phone. Then she will with pleasure pick you up in the village, as soon as you have arrived there.
Feki had waited for the most favorable time (hightide) to be able to land directly at the beach and to go ashore dry-shod. The SeaGarden Resort is, like almost all the others, to discover from the sea only hard because it lies behind a mangrove belt *, and is by the boat only accessible through an approx. 20 m wide cutting.
* The mangroves are in the Bunaken National Park under protection, because they are not only an important habitat for water birds, mussels, crabs, snails, fish, but also function as a coastal defence.
Warm welcome - moving in our bungalow
At our arrival we were warmly welcomed by Sonya. While our luggage was transported across the small hill and we approached the bungalow intended for us, we already recognised that it was differed from the other ones. It was one of two cottages standing standing close together where the bathrooms were separated by a wall. As Sonya explained us, they were her cheaper standard cottages. Because these were the only free ones, we considered ourselves satisfied, although we would have paid for another bungalow with pleasure a little bit more. However from here we had a nice view to the sea. Like the others our bungalow was also built of local wood in the traditional Minahasa style . The walls consisted of nicely varnished bamboo wickerwork, the roofs from corrugated sheet and the floor of coconut wood.
We went up the steps, cleaned our feet of the sand in a bowl with water and entered the veranda. It was not very big, but enough for a small table with two wooden chairs and a hammock. Through the lockable door (is not a matter of course in this price range) we got inside. The room had a nicely made double bed with mosquito net, a small cupboard and a small table. On it was a water dispenser, one quarter filled with Aqua, as well as 2 plastic drinking cups. At the windows curtains offered enough view protection in the evening. Above there were vents which provided fo fresh air. Also a fan was available for cooling during the night.
By a door one got directly in the brick-built and tiled bathroom. The European toilet (with loo paper!) was separated by a half-high wall from the showe and washing area. Above the washbasin there was a mirror. The shower worked perfectly. The water was a little bit salty. As I was informed recently, this should not be any more the case, because the resort receives its water now from a freshwater well nearby. The whole room was furnished with the most necessary and clean.
By the limited space we had to place skilfully everything what did not fit in the little cupboard thus on the ground that it stood not in way. Admittedly, we had a lot of luggage with us, including our diving and snorkel stuff. We left most in our suitcases and took always only what we just needed.
All in all we had won a positive impression at the first glance. Our bungalow offered everything what one could expect in this price range. Only a few little things displeased us which I would also not like to hide. Basically it is pleasant to dry the feet on a floor mat when you step from the bathroom. If one has, however, the impression that it was not cleaned after the move-out of previous guest, you rather do without or put your own clean towel before the door. Similar it was with the drinking water. Indeed, in a standard cottage of comparable Resorts there is no drinking water at all. You must fill it yourself from dispensers in the restaurant into plastic bottles. However, if this luxury is offered, one should expect that the dispensers and the drinking cups in your bungalow are cleaned and freshly filled before the arrival of new guests. This costs nothing, however, should belong to the standard performances after departure of guests. Also the checkup whether the essential things are working. At my first toilet use I had to find out, e.g. that the door cannot be locked from the inside. The parts of the locking didn.t fit any more, probably as a result of the climate influence. The fact that this is disagreeable, I must not explain in more detail. Especially at night when the bedroom is illuminated by the incidence of light from the bathroom. It was also irritating to find out that the armrest of a chair on our veranda was broken.
All these things we took to heart and it is also no question of the money. The staff is available and able to worry about these simple things. However, the manager of a Resorts must know which least standards guests expect. She should instruct her employees accordingly and control their work. Because I appreciate Sonya and her good will very much, I have reported my criticism to her during a cup of coffee very carefully and have listed the single defects, including among others the presence of the dogs and cats, in the restaurant during the meals. Moreover I gave her the tip to keep the nice seat and lounger opportunities in the shade of a big tree for the guests of the Resorts and not to let abuse this area from locals as a parking area for their motorbikes. Just during the hot afternoon hours this place would offer as an ideally cool resting spot for the guests with view over the sea . Thus it was intended quite originally, I suppose.
Although Sonya was concerned by my criticism very much and became sad, she seemd also grateful and determined to keep more an eye on the discussed matters in future more. During our conversation Carl, her current English companian was also present. A very likeable man who also revealed during our whole stay that he always tried hard to make the expectations of European guests deliberate to Sonya and to support her during her learning process. The next day, anyway, we already ascertained the positive effects of our criticism. E.G., the broken chair armrest was repaired, the motorcycles were parked outside the Resort and during the meals somebody always paid attention to the fact that no pet could enter the restaurant.
In most of the Resorts over and over again we got to know guests who all the time criticised little things, but were not able to tell their criticism in an adequate and friendly manner to the manager. Then, instead, they vent their spleen in travel forums anonymously. I hope, you do not belong to this kind of people.
In the whole price of 17 euros included 3 meals being taken in a big, also in the Minahasa-stylel established open-air restaurant. The tables were clean and set properly.
For the breakfast one could help oneself: Fresh crokcery and cutlery, hot water from thermos jugs, tea, coffee, sugar, milk and margarine, as well as different jams or chocolate-nut cream in glasses, which were regularly cleaned and were not smudgy as this is often the case in cheap Homestays. Cooled fruit juices (however, not freshly pressed) were ready in glass pots. To the toast one took cooled slices from the packaging and pushed them in a toaster. However, there was in the morning often a throng with waiting periods. Another utensil would be there certainly no costly acquisition, but very pleasant for the guests. I preferred to prepare the toast with processed cheese slices in the sandwich toaster. There were even days when fresh pancake was served. Everything was plentifull, so that all guests had enough. The banana bundles with piecesof different degree of ripeness hung on one of the wooden columns throughout the day and one could "harvest" everytime. In the restaurant stood also a fridge with beer and soft drinks.
The taken drinks were entered in a list.
While the meals were prepared in an separate building, one could watch the staff while rinsing in a corner of the restaurant. I myself had become very distrustful in the course of the years in Indonesia with regard to hygiene. In particular in the Homestays controlled by locals. Hence, it was for reassuring to watch how the crockery was cleaned in the SeaGarden Resort thoroughly with hot water.
In the big restaurant building there was still room for a bar and a hammock (which was used, however, almost only by Sonya or her team). Beside the dining tables a small table was suited, very well for surfing the Internet or for e-mail writing. For this purpose I always got from Sonya her WiFi usb adapter.
One was called to the lunch and dinner. Crockery and cutlery were layed tastefully on sets. The food was affectionately dished up in dishes or bowls to the self-service in the middle of the table. The offer was extremely varied. Beside the most different fish dishes there was also little skewers (Sate) or chicken in special sauces and freshly prepared vegetables. The dessert consisted of appetizing and bite-size prepared tropical fruits: Pineapple, papaya and mangos. There also was free of charge cooled drinking water (Aqua).
Not only we, also all the other guests were full of praise for the good cuisine of the SeaGarden Resort. Dinner was not only very tasty. There also was also plenty of it, so that nobody had to get up hungry.
Particularly after the dinner we still sat long time together with other guests, as well as Sonya and Carl with a cool drink.
Because there was no farther lighting near the bed except the light at the ceiling, we took for reading our headlamps. We switched the ventilating fan in the beginning on full speed. Then we put ourself to bed and closed the mosquito net. In spite of the metal roof the climate was tolerable inside. This is not least to be due to to the fact that the SeaGarden Resort lies in the east of the island and , hence, the postmidday sun cannot scorch with all strength on the cottages. Furthermore the rest of the building consists of natural materials which stores the heat of the day not very. In the end he ventilating fan sucked the cool night air from the outside over the vents over the windows and the warm one was taken out. Therefore we could soon fall asleep well. We also spent the rest of the night without serious problems. I had repaired the lock of the door to the bathroom, in the meantime, as a makeshift (bent into shape), so that one could also use at night the toilet without disturbing each other. At that occasion I have usually turned off the ventilating fan or have switched it to a lower speed.
Then as soon as daybroke we were grateful even for the warm woollen blankets. We could have gone on sleeping wonderfully when there had not been the motorbikes. As soon as the morning dawned, they were on the move on the concrete way directly behind our bungalow. This was also the time where from the neighbouring bungalow a snoring became audible. By the fact that the bathrooms directly adjoined each other we also had to pay attention of course to produce not too loud noises using the toilet.
However, this problem disappeared on its own when our neighbours moved after few days in a luxury bungalow which just had become available. Yes, they had been just faster than us., For the rest, it was quiet. The generator house is well soundproofed, so that from there no noises were to be heard.
Diving and Snorkelling in 2013
The SeaGarden Resort was only a residential resort two years ago. Who wanted to dive, had to turn to a nearby dive resort.
During the two weeks of my stay in November, I could see how Harrie, the Dutch business partner of Sonja started an own dive center at SeaGarden Resort.
A dive boat was already existing. Successively several packages with new diving equipment arrived. Soon the time has come that we could do our first dive trip. With a total of 8 dives I had together with other guests wonderful experiences. The experienced dive guides visited with us the many sites around Bunaken and Siladen and they proved an ever-vigilant eye for the many rare and difficult to identify reef inhabitants. On special request, they also had an increased attention to the group of divers, if less experienced divers were among them. The groups were kept small (3 divers per guide). In the selection of dive sites no risks were taken. So with recognizably strong current another place was headed.
Of course,- as usual on Bunaken everywhere - during the dive break biscuits, tea and coffee were offered on the deck of dive boat "Honesty".
For guests who want to learn to dive, the Dutch, German and English-speaking instructor Ferdinand - not far from the SeaGarden Resort is recommended. He works freelance.on Bunaken. Further details you can get from Sonja.
We appreciated most notably
- The relaxed, friendly, almost familiar atmosphere
- The endeavours of the owner Sonya and the whole staff, to fulfil our wishes
- The traditional construction of the bungalows out of mainly natural materials
- The furnishings of the bungalows are above-average according to the price range
- Free Aqua in the Bungalow
- The nice spacious area in the midst of the resort-garden with opportunity to play badminton.
- Good and very friendly service, e.g., in the restaurant, cleaning of the rooms etc.
- Cleanness and hygiene, particularly in the area of Dinner
- Kept clean and shady beach
- Very varied and tasty Indonesian cuisine
- Toaster and sandwich toaster
- Free Wi Fi for all guests
The SeaGarden Resort belongs to the very inexpensive lodgings on Bunaken with basic standards. Who would like to spend only between 17 and 25 euros inclusive 3 good and plentiful meals per day, has certainly made a good choice with this Resort. He gets for this price more than he can expect somewhere else. Who has once experienced this Resort, appreciates above all the familiar atmosphere and the warmth of the manager and her team. The SeaGarden is above all a Resort where snorklers are also welcome during the high season and find there a fantastic house reef, which meets all their wishes. Guests from now on can dive with the resort's own dive center. The equipment was purchased in 2013.
|Site plan (without guarantee!): We stayed in the standard cottage (No. 7). Tips for booking: Bungalow No. 1 (double bed); No. 2 (2 single beds); No. 3 (1 double bed + 1 single bed); No. 4 (like No. 3); No. 5 (unknown, was under construction); No. 6 and 7 (standards)
Should you have got interest in further information, you find them on the Website of the Resort
And here are some photos