Written by Tara Bradley
Like many great things in life, the idea behind the Bunakan Oasis Dive Resort began in a bar.
One evening, Elaine and Simon Wallace, divers visiting Wakatobi from England, listened intently as their PADI Divemaster, Maruf Tajudin, known as Acho, told them about his home, on the island of Bunaken, located at the northern tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
“He talked with great passion about the reefs and the diving and the fact that he would like to get involved with the education of the next generation, reef conservation and preservation, teaching kids to dive safely and properly and really to make a difference to the area,” Elaine says. “The discussion ‘got’ us.”
With that, the Wallaces visited Bunaken, fell in love with it, and waited until land became available. Five years later, it did, and Tajudin and the Wallaces finally had the chance to open up the resort they’d be dreaming up for so long. All of that planning came into fruition when Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort opened its doors in 2016 and became the first conservation-minded resort on the island.
Finding the Water Source
With a shortage of freshwater on the island, but plenty of well water, the group used Tajudin’s experience working on liveaboards to de-salinate the water. Then they took it to the next level. All of the pipework is now classed for potable water, well water is processed through two freshwater makers and stored in a large 150 cubic meter ceramic-lined tank before it is UV treated and distributed. The water is all tested monthly to ensure it is fully potable. Through this process, the showers, sinks and swimming pool are fresh water.
“All cottages have water dispensers, as do all public areas and the staff village, and all guests are given re-usable drinking thermos flasks,” Elaine says. “It is our aim to negate any need for single use plastics in the resort.”
When it came to the black water treatment system, the Wallaces turned to the French fosse system, the same method used in rural France. The totally self-contained system never needs emptying and exists as its own biosystem, producing just groundwater. Similarly, Oasis’s system is based on several underground BioFil 7 tanks with additional skimming traps, grease traps for the kitchens, neutralizers for the laundry, and a carbon filtration bed.
“The whole system produces nothing but ground water, again we have this regularly tested at the laboratory to make sure no contaminants are introduced into our environment,” Elaine says.
The process is so impressive that guests are granted access to all areas of the property with tours offered to give a look behind the scenes.
“It is important to us that guests can see that their holiday to this incredible diving destination is positive for the island, and that behind the curtain is as good as the guest areas,” Elaine says.
To further their efforts, the property purchased more land. Totaling 5 hectares, they’ve incorporated an organic garden with the goal of growing as many varieties of fruits and vegetables for the restaurant as possible.
The local village wasn’t left out either. With the hopes of granting access to more water and to reduce the need for plastic bottles, a 5,000-litre fresh water tank provides fresh water to everyone for drinking and cooking.
Strong Local Causes
An emphasis on the local environment and people is also evident in the furniture found in all of the cottages, each piece has been built by Bunaken carpenters on the island from wood purchased under permit from the government managed forests.
One of Oasis’s most recent projects involves a mangrove planting program, located in front of the resort, where guests can plant their own mangrove to help provide a nursery for young marine life.
“Prior to the mangrove/jetty, there was nowhere for the marine life that would naturally seek refuge in the mangroves to hide when the tide was low,” Elaine says. “Now we are seeing more and more species colonizing there.”
With the turtle population thriving in Bunaken, a turtle hatchery is also under discussion.
“Thanks to the National Marine Park management, we have been allowed to release several baby turtles as well as a young hawksbill turtle that had been rescued,” Elaine says.
The island itself faces many of the same problems, like floating plastics, found in other marine areas. While a solution for managing the source of the problem is still under discussion, the Oasis team participates in daily beach cleanups, and, with the help of a local NGO, BunakenCare, returns any recyclable material back to Manado in North Sulawesi. And while removing plastics altogether would be ideal, until then, the Oasis and BunkenCare team are doing their part to clean up as best they can.
“When necessary, we use our taxi boat to skim for surface plastic in the area of Liang beach, but one of our next projects is to build a small catamaran, solely for this purpose,” Elaine says. “We are extremely fortunate that the reefs remain almost entirely unaffected by any incoming floating plastic, but if we can stop anything from reaching the beach, it can only improve the ambience of Bunaken.”
Despite detailed investigations, the Oasis team hasn’t been able to implement solar panels for the resort. But they do have them on the boats for lighting.
“Solar is making inroads in some of the larger Indonesian cities, but at the moment we would not be able to get the support needed to rely on a solar solution,” Elaine says. “We hope to be able to progressively implement solar power in the future when the technology is more supported within the region.”
Oasis’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The resort is the first recipient in North Sulawesi to receive and operate under the Central Government Facilitator for Nature Tourism permit. In honor of being the first property to receive this permit, the property was also gifted with a visit from the Minister of the Environment, Dr. Siti Nurbaya Bakar.
For more on Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa, or tips on how to make your property eco-friendly, visit bunakenoasis.com.