We stayed at Happy Gecko Dive Resort, also known as Happy Gecko Resort or Cicak Senang Resort, for a week and enjoyed every second of it. We were very sad to leave. The bungalows are basic but the views, hospitality, food and diving are absolutely fantastic.
Happy Gecko Dive Resort is a small dive resort on Bunaken Island, only about 1,5 hours away from Manado Airport. It’s owned by Jerry, born and raised on Bunaken, and his Dutch wife Willeke. They live on the premises with their two kids. The resort has only five bungalows, so each guest gets a lot of personal attention from the owners and staff… if they want to.
It’s very easy to reach the resort. From the airport get a taxi to Manado harbour and for an added fee Willeke can arrange a transfer directly to the resort. You can get there by public ferry too, but you get dropped off at the village and have to make your way to the resort yourself by motorbike taxi. There are no cars on Bunaken.
The bungalows are quite basic, with only a ceiling fan and no air conditioning. But they are spacious and comfortable, and each bungalow has a balcony with an unobstructed, breathtaking view of the ocean. We had a bungalow with a double and a single bed, so perfect for the three of us. The bathrooms are large too, with running water, a western toilet and a shower. The only downside is that there is only cold water.
Electricity and WiFi
All electricity on Bunaken island is generated by solar panels during the day and diesel generators at night and electricity cuts happen often. When we were there they never lasted very long though. And of course the resort has a back up generator in case of longer power cuts. Happy Gecko Dive Resort has a very decent internet connection with free wifi in the restaurant area. We stayed in the first bungalow and also had wifi on our balcony (which we were very happy about, because our son was still napping after lunch and one of us stayed at the bungalow when he was sleeping).
Food and drinks
Included in the price at Happy Gecko Dive Resort are three meals a day and unlimited drinking water, tea and coffee. Soft drinks and beers are available at very reasonable prices. Breakfast is ‘western’, with bread and eggs and both lunch and dinner are hot meals. The food is really nice, different Indonesian dishes every day with chicken, fish, veggies, fresh fruit and of course rice. The meals are served in the restaurant area at set times in the afternoon and evening. Every bungalow has their own table, but because you’re all eating at the same time this is a great opportunity to meet the other guests.
World class diving
Bunaken National Marine Park is among the top diving destinations in the world, one of the reasons we really wanted to go there. It offers amazing biodiversity that rivals Komodo and Similan (West Thailand). A big plus is that it’s possible to dive all year round with sea temperatures of 29 – 30 degrees Celsius and great visibility (20 – 30 meters). The dry season is May til October. Most dive sites are wall dives and we saw the most amazing critters there. Happy Gecko offers an on-site dive center, located on the ground floor. So it’s extremely easy to organise some great divg. Jimmy, the local guide at Happy Gecko was a genius at finding lots of exciting macro stuff. Check out some of our underwater pictures of Bunaken.
There are two major beach areas on Bunaken, Pangalisang Beach and Liang Beach. Happy Gecko Dive Resort is located at Liang Beach. It’s situated on a pretty steep hill, so each bungalow has an unobstructed view of the ocean. It’s a bit of a climb to get to the bungalows, but there are well maintained concrete steps everywhere in the small resort. Liang Beach isn’t a sandy beach suited for sunbathing. When the tide is high the water comes all the way to the front of the resort and there’s a long shallow stretch which is perfect for kids to swim. At low tide you have to walk a fair bit to reach the water, but it’s much easier to get to the snorkel sites. The travel guides mention that Liang Beach has a rubbish problem, but sadly that’s the case with all of Bunaken. Rubbish from the mainland washes to shore on either of the beaches when the winds and the currents are unfavourable.
How family friendly is Happy Gecko Dive Resort?
Of course, our most important requirement was that the resort was suitable for our two-year-old. On beforehand we talked via e-mail with Willeke, the owner, and she assured us it was safe for him. The steep steps obviously aren’t safe for a toddler to wander around on his own, but the restaurant area was big enough to keep him occupied. He also loved swimming with us in the shallow water right in front of the resort. If your kids are a bit older and know how to swim they can easily entertain themselves there at hight tide. The water only comes to mid thigh and you have to walk quite far for it to get deeper.
It was really hot when we were there end of August, so without aircon it was a bit of a challenge to make our son’s naps comfortable. We opted to let him sleep in his diaper on a mattress on the floor with the ceiling fan on full speed. It was still very hot and sweaty for him, but he actually slept very well. With the heat, the lack of a water heater in the bathroom wasn’t a problem for us, but our 2-year-old really did not enjoy cold water showers. He still talked about it weeks later…
Our child is not a fussy eater and he loved the food at Happy Gecko. We did bring some crackers to tie him over, as he was still used to eating five times a day instead of three. The kitchen staff were really sweet and gave him some fruit when he was hungry too. I think most if not all resorts are all inclusive on Bunaken and there aren’t too many stores to buy stuff. All supplies come from the mainland. So if your child requires anything special (diapers, formula, any kind of special food) I would bring it with you. There’s a large supermarket close to the harbour in Manado.
The owners have a four-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, both are really sweet and polite. They enjoyed playing with Jace. Jace was at ease at Happy Gecko from the moment we arrived and Willeke even offered to babysit him two mornings so that we could go diving together. We wouldn’t normally leave him with a stranger, but we immediately liked Willeke and Jace did too. He was happy to stay with her and we were very happy we got the chance to dive together for the first time in over three years. It was incredibly thoughtful of her to offer this of her own accord, we didn’t even think to inquire if babysitting was an option.
Our judgement of Happy Gecko Dive Resort
Everything you need is at the resort, so you can spend your days relaxing, swimming, diving or snorkelling and enjoying the stunning views. If you’re not into diving, the resort also offers dolphin watching tours and trips to Siladen Island. Compared to many of the other options on Bunaken Island Happy Gecko is very affordable. We paid €24 per person (August 2015) for two adults and we didn’t have to pay for Jace (who was just over 2 years old at the time), even though we had three beds and the food was plenty for the three of us. The resort is small, not because they can’t afford to expand, but because they don’t necessarily want to. Willeke and Jerry are lovely people, who go to great lengths to make sure their guests have a fantastic stay. All in all we would really recommend a stay at Happy Gecko, for families as well as couples or groups of friends.