It’s late on a Friday night, and the phone rings. It’s our friends at TripAdvisor and Tourism Indonesia giving us the green light on our content creation trip to a (rarely) unexplored area of the planet for us, NORTH SULAWESI! By us, I mean myself and my partner in travel crime, Tess from Hashtag Travel Society.
First thing’s first. Book flights, then find the best Resorts in the area that suit our aesthetic (read : palm trees, azure water for days, piers and dreamy abodes). After a quick google search we stumbled upon what appeared to be ….well….a castaway paradise in Lembeh Strait where we hear the diving is unbelievable. Welcome to Kungkungan Bay Resort. A gorgeous and humble Resort boasting just 17 boutique villas aptly dotted along the green lagoon of the bay, and amongst the swaying jungle at its backdrop. Just an hour and a half from Manado Airport (which is easily accessible via Bali, Singapore and Jakarta) and 87kms north of the equator. That’s right kids, we are in the Northern HEM!
We had one goal, and one goal only on this trip; SHOOT FOOTAGE and show the world what they are missing by not visiting this place. The first day in paradise we took one of the Resort boats out amongst the Strait to explore. A quick jaunt south took us to the fishing port of Bitung, where the turquoise hues of the local fishing boats were cast against the deep greens of the sea. How unbelievable that an area so quaint and so gorgeous like Kungkungan, is bordered by an industrial fishing port. A quick swing North along the neighbouring lands of Lembeh Strait and there were hundreds of nooks for us to explore. We set our map for the next 5 days. It involved sea green lagoons, volcanic black rock walls, adventures to the depths of the Strait and sunning on the boats kindly offered to us by the Resort.
The scenery of this area of North Sulawesi is one thing, both rich and indulgent in its colour palette, but the people are another. With smiles that last for days, and the friendliest demeanours this side of the equator, you would be forgiven for thinking they had known you in a past life. Within the first hour we were joking with the staff, as they put their cheekiness on display that is so prolific of Indo. If it’s service and fun, served with a smile and a giggle, Kungkungan is what you are after. Anyway, tear me away from the smiles and back to the location.
Deep green lagoons, which turn aqua in the sunlight, against a steep jungle hinged backdrop and different landscapes dotting the view. What a perfect location to sit and watch the life of Lembeh Strait and Bitung go by as you enjoy some beautiful seafood and a gin & tonic. The Resort itself is almost like a plethora of treehouses dotted along the bay. Lacquered dark timber set amongst the palm trees with beautiful views out to the lagoon and neighbouring islands. Our villa was perfectly located and everything we needed for our time in Lembeh Strait. Almost like a beautiful wood cabin, right on the water front, complete with indoor rock shower.
We explored every element of the Resort. The beautiful pool that fronts the beach, surrounded by the spa, fringed by the waterfront restaurant and gardens galore. Let’s go back to that waterfront restaurant where we dined on delectable local food whilst feeding the fish in the lagoon with bread. A thousand different species of fish and beautiful marine life popped up to say hello at every meal. We were enamoured for hours at meal time (it was the fish, not the wine, we promise) by the diversity and richness of the marine life. That’s without even talking about diving yet!
3 Dives a day is the norm. Your choice of Muck or Coral Diving, with some of the worlds best under water worlds to explore. Kungkungan’s operation is seamless. 4 boats, unlimited staff who are skilled in every facet of critter hunting, and adventure evoking. We pretty much geeked out on diving. We had some amazing dives whilst we were at the Resort, and were introduced to Muck Diving for the first time. What a spectacular part of the world the Resort is located in. Just around every corner is a new pocket waiting to be discovered. Incandescent green lagoons with castaway sun huts and black sand beaches that invoke the most stunning of mood lighting.
The real treasure of the Resort though as I have ‘ever so briefly’ touched upon, is their staff. We really did feel like family by the time we left.
An absolute MUST DO whilst you are at the Resort, is a day in the incredible spa (anti-ageing seaweed treatment come at me) and the tour up to Tangkoko Jungle to see the endangered Tarsier and Black Macaques. Who in the world doesn’t want to see mini monkeys (Tarsier) which are endemic to North Sulawesi. Just a tip, take 300L of mosquito repellent and prepare to be richly overheated as you hike through the jungle. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.
Perfect for Dive enthusiasts, family getaways and those just wanting to find stunning lagoons mixed with beautiful culture and indulgent colour palettes. If it’s white sand beaches you are after, keep tabs on my next blog post on the West Coast of North Sulawesi. The real charm of Bitung, Lembeh Strait and Kunkungan Bay lie in it’s black sand which offsets the sunlight and the denseness of the jungle.