Ed Regeer and Shu Ming Cheung have found themselves settling by the exotic seas around Southeast Asia.
Nowadays, they can be found in Bunaken, an island located in North Sulawesi that has become their home. These General Managers (GMs) of Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa share their stories of ocean-faring adventures, managing a resort, as well as their thoughts on small island life.
Hello, Ed and Shu! We’d love to know more about you two. Please introduce yourselves.
We are Ed (E) and Shu (S), a couple from The Netherlands. After having corporate careers, we decided to quit our jobs and sell almost all of our belongings and bought ourselves a one-way ticket to Asia. Our journey started in 2010 and soon we became dive professionals.
Before Shu finished her dive instructor course (IDC) in Koh Tao, Thailand, there were already 16 Chinese dive students signed up for a course. As we worked together as an instructor-couple, we found out that we are actually a great team. After teaching diving in Thailand and the Philippines, we started to work as Cruise Directors on several liveaboards (scuba diving yachts) in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Palau. We have dived more than 4,000 dives in the most pristine places like Southern Visayas and Tubbataha (the Philippines), Komodo and Raja Ampat (Indonesia), and Palau.
Finding a new job on land instead of being at sea for four years was a welcome change at Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa. We started in March 2020, just before the world closed down due to COVID-19. We have been very busy maintaining the resort and keeping it ready for international travel, which started in early April this year.
Describe expat life in North Sulawesi.
We mainly stay on the island of Bunaken where we sometimes meet up with other foreign staff and owners from the resorts. During COVID-19, there was more time to meet up and share ideas on how to cope with the difficulties. Luckily, tourists are coming back to Indonesia now and most resorts on the island are getting busier, so we have less time to meet up with other expats.
Briefly tell us about Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa.
This resort opened officially in October 2016 and is owned by a British couple. The resort is built basically in the middle of Bunaken on a hill. After landing on our jetty, you’ll enter our lobby, which is inspired by traditional Indonesian longhouses. At the same level, you will find our dive centre, boutique, and offices. The 12 spacious cottages are spread over a hill up to 27 metres above sea level. Our pride and centrepiece is our beautiful infinity pool with a waterfall. From our restaurant, you will have a stunning view all the way to Manado.
Why was Bunaken the chosen destination for business?
The owners wanted to build a luxury resort on an island where there wasn’t one yet and they fell in love with the people on Bunaken and the gorgeous reefs around Bunaken, being part of the National Marine Park.
Shu, you have an extended history of working in scuba diving and the leisure, travel, and tourism industry. How have these influenced your role as the resort’s GM?
S: Having worked on high-end liveaboards for four years and meeting so many different divers from all over the world, I understand well what a high-end guest wants and what passion for diving means for divers. Therefore, I can make sure that our managers and staff understand how to deliver an excellent and unforgettable guest experience. Needless to say, a lot of experience working in the diving industry makes me feel confident to make difficult and crucial decisions as the resort’s GM.
Ed, as the GM as well, do you think the diving hospitality is any different?
E: Not really. A third of our guests are non-divers, so they’re looking for a luxury resort holiday just like they’d enjoy in the Maldives, for example. For divers, we aim to provide a diving experience which matches that of the resort in general.
What can holiday seekers do at the resort? Share an unforgettable to-do list.
Obviously, holiday seekers can make amazing dives enjoying the beautiful and healthy reefs, full of reef fish and uncountable sea turtles around Bunaken. We also organise dive trips to our neighbouring islands. For the ones who don’t want to get wet and don’t mind getting up early, we organise dolphin-watching tours. Snorkellers can come along and get their own guide.
At the resort, we have a spa, where guests can relax and get one of our finest massages. We can also take guests for different tours like our organic garden, staff village, watermaker room, genset room. Also, there are tours to visit the local people and experience their life available. For those interested, we can also organise cooking classes and cocktail classes.
How do you both spend your time living on a small island? Would you recommend it for expats?
It is obvious that we are ocean lovers and our passion is to share all our knowledge of sea life. Unfortunately, there were no guests for two years to share our passion with and for a long time during COVID-19, the National Marine Park didn’t allow us to dive. We started to explore the island by walking so we started to be amazed by the beautiful flowers, trees, and insects Bunaken has. Nowadays, we either walk or run from the resort to the other end of Bunaken and back. Shu particularly loves gardening in our little private garden around our bungalow at the staff village.
Do you both often cross over to Manado? What’s it like there? Have you tried exotic and uncommon dishes?
We normally go to Manado once a week to do our personal shopping and groceries. It’s a typical Indonesian city with a wet market, a traditional market, a couple of big shopping malls, restaurants, shops, and a lot of traffic. Compared to Bunaken, having one car only and just one paved road from one end to the other end of the island, it’s pretty different! When we are in Manado, we enjoy Starbucks coffee and western food. We have never tried uncommon dishes. For traditional food, we get spoiled by our own amazing chefs at the resort.
How can our readers get in touch with Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa?
Readers can get in touch with us via our website www.bunakenoasis.com.
Thank you, Ed and Shu! Stay healthy and happy.