The history of Lumbalumba Resort and how it all began
Lumbalumba Resort has a long history and founders Roel & Juud have been living in Manado, North Sulawesi for more then 25 years. It all started out with a dream of owning their own dive center. Both are originally from The Netherlands. Before coming to Indonesia they were based in the Maldives as dive instructors and started their first own dive business in Sri Lanka.
We pick up the story after being a few years in Manado and started a diving center in cooperation with another resort. They soon found out that the cooperation was not going to work out and decided to start their own operation, without any other business partners. Below is Roel & Juud’s recollection of how it all happened.
Lumbalumba founders Roel & Juud in 2002
The story of Lumbalumba Diving started in 1999 when we (Juud & Roel) were looking for a piece of land to build a house to live in. At that time we managed and operated Tasik Ria Diving Center (TRDC) already for a few years. Our home at the time was inside the diving center but lack of privacy and growing business made it necessary to look for something else. After a long search we found a suitable piece of land and we started building our house.
Some unexpected developments with TRDC caused an unbalance in the relationship with the resort it was located in. As a result we decided not to renew the contract which expired in April 2001. So there we were, a container filled with a complete dive center inventory, including 2 boats and about 12 employees but no dive center any more. But at least we had a house to live in. (We actually had 2 houses as we also build a family house for friends and family to stay if they visited).
We started looking for land to build a new dive center or resort in the vicinity of our new home. We found nothing suitable. Until one day somebody came by and said that the land next to our house was his and for sale.
Foundations of Juud & Roel’s house are being laid out
We never thought of building a dive center so near to our own house. First of all the land wasn’t big enough and second, even though it had fantastic sea view, there was no real access to the water and there was a road in between. The piece of land next to us looked like an impenetrable jungle and, being on a hill slope, also quite steep. Not ideal at all at first sight. But we picked up 2 machetes and on a beautiful Sunday morning we hacked ourselves a way through the bushes to have a better look. It was indeed steep at places, but in the middle was a large relative flat spot. After cutting and exploring for a while we took a rest on a volcanic boulder almost at the top of the land.
While we sat there puffing from the climb and saw the view, we suddenly both knew that this was the place we had to build our resort.
And the name would be Lumbalumba Diving! We made the deal, bought the land and were now the proud owners of 3.5 ha of wild, steep jungle, but with the best imaginable view you can think off. Some stories at this point can end with: ‘and the rest is history…’, but for us it only began and is still not finished.
The view it all started with
The hill after the built was started
The first thing we concentrated on was building our jetty since we had no real access to the ocean and a place to put our boats. We made a few surveys under water with Maxi and marked the spot for the best location. It was a huge project on itself. For 3 months, 10 trucks made 10 daily rides each and brought about 3 to 5 m3 heavy boulders each time. The result was a 180 meter long solid stone jetty with harbor. At the same time also a place to build the dive center and a slipway to dock and repair our boats. We quickly realized that the waters around the jetty were also excellent to dive and snorkel. It even became better with many stones for marine life to hide and life between.
The start of our jetty
Our jetty some months later
After that we started working on the infrastructure going up the hill. We had to build strong and solid roads for access. We had to clear land and lets not forget fresh water. To get all this done was another 1.5 years and about just the water drilling project we can write a few books!
But there was more trouble. There were the attacks of September 11 in 2001. That had great impact on us because a large part of our investment capital just vaporized overnight. There were the bombings in Bali which had great impact on Indonesian tourism in general.
And last but not least, there was a huge storm in December 2003 that completely destroyed the front/wave breaker side of our jetty. We just managed to save the boats but the damage done was enormous.
The jetty hit by a storm in 2003
What was left after the storm
However, we did not cried ourselves to sleep more then one night and started rebuilding straight away. Of course it had to be stronger and at the same time, also as cheap as possible. In the end, we developed a system with concrete blocks that we could put there ourselves without the help of heavy equipment.
Early morning we build a casing at low tide and filled it quickly up with concrete. By the time the tide came in again, the concrete was already stiffened enough to prevent it from washing out. Not all the blocks were the same and the latest had a weight of over 100 tons! We never received a beauty price for it but it turned out quite effective against the waves. It was also not done in a day. In fact it became a project we are still working on now and then. The last block we put it in March 2017.
Preparation of concrete blocks in 2003
Last work done in 2017 on the jetty
Back to 2003 where we also started building our first 4 standalone Chalets. They were done in about 4 months and finished in July. The only one facility still lacking was bar and restaurant. Because of all the financial headwind, we decided to turn our own house temporary into bar and restaurant and finally had our resort complete and were ready to receive our first guests! We had in fact already had some guests before. They stayed in our Family chalet which was located next to our own house but we could count them on one hand.
From 2003 until 2008 we operated with the 4 standalone and our Family chalet as accommodation. Slowly but surely we started to get more guests and our reputation as a very special resort started to grow. Since we had more time than money we had to look for relative low cost projects and the most obvious one was starting to landscape our 3.5 ha large property. To be frank, it was not so much we, but much more Juud’s input and effort that eventually turned it into the beautiful botanical gardens as they are today.
Construction of our stand alone chalets in 2003
Same view almost 20 years later
Time was on our side so it was possible to see what the different seasons were doing. For example, in the rainy period we saw where all the water was going and accumulating. Thus the perfect location for a waterfall pond was picked. Other parts were not getting enough water in the dry months so different plants were put there. In general we have often way too much water so we also build an extensive draining system.
Another important part of our gardens became the so-called Waste Water Gardens (WWG’s). They are specially closed cell gardens and directly connected to the septic tanks. Filled with gravel and selected vegetation, they clean the waste water to almost drinking quality before it gets back to the environment. And last but not least there is Juud’s vast collection of orchids. You will see them everywhere on the property and very often beautifully blooming. Our gardens are a living project that is constantly in development. You are free to roam in it and we are more than happy to show you around.
Waste water gardens
Orchids in all colors and sizes
In the mean time we still had 2 other big plans. A pool and a bar, restaurant and kitchen. Again time was on our side again and helped us finding the perfect locations for it. In 30 May 2008 it was finished and exactly that day we started filling the pool. Tiled with nature stones and at its deepest point 2.5 meter deep it you feel more you are swimming in a creek than in a swimming pool.The depth also makes it a good training pool for dive training. Another unique feature is that it is an infinity pool which creates an optical illusion, you actually swim in the ocean, 30 meters below. Further is there a waterfall and do we keep the pool water clean and healthy with copper and silver ions. The water feels therefore very soft and it is without the characteristic chlorine smell many other pools have.
Our infinity pool
Restaurant construction back in the day
In 2010 we decided to take down the Family Chalet next to our house and rebuild it near the pool. It was more than rebuilding as we added a third room and gave every room their own bathroom and terrace. That way it became multi functional because all 3 room could now also be used individual. But also connect in case a family or a group of friends wanted to stay in it.
The family chalet after relocating closer to the pool
With the new restaurant, pool and improved accommodation of the Family Chalet we had a total of 7 rooms now and business started to take off. We never had to disappoint inquiries before, because of no more availability, but now it sometimes happened. So in 2014 be took the decision to build two more rooms. We thought a long time about it as, we did not want to disturb the cozy atmosphere of the resort, by either the building activities, but also not by becoming a too big resort. But no matter how you look at it, 9 rooms is of course still very small, especially when you take in account that it is all located on 3.5 ha.
We finished the rooms in 2016 and made the rooms also multi functional, like the Family Chalet. It was 2 rooms under one roof. Very well sound isolated, but also with an option to connect. Also bigger rooms so that eventually a third bed (or bunk bed), could be added.
Construction in 2016 of the double chalet
Double Chalet in 2022
After that it was business as usual until March 2020, when the corona crisis started. From one day on the other we had zero business. First it felt a bit like holiday. Everybody expected the crisis to be over in a few months, so we did not bother too much. We did some renovation work, pruned and cut a lot of trees in the garden, we build a waterfall in the pool. All things that were difficult to do while operating with guests. But as we all know, the crisis wasn’t over in a few months. In January 2021, our financial reserves were finished and still there was no prospect of having some income soon. There was basically only one option left and that was closing the doors. In a last, desperate attempt to keep the place up and running we started a crowd funding in February 2021.
The result was unexpected and overwhelming positive and we can really say that thanks to everybody that donated, we are still here. We still cannot say enough thanks to all who contributed! Thanks to all the very generous donations, we were able to keep on paying salaries and keep the resort in the best possible shape. At the same time, we knew it was not a sustainable solution and we had to find another way to keep the Lumbalumba motor running.
This turned out a very bumpy road and until today we have not really found a balanced solution.
During 2021 it was still zero business, but we received several health health certificates testifying our high standards. In January 2022, we also obtained our license to operate as quarantine accommodation facility. Since then we had more and more guests staying and got the feeling back again we are working as a real resort! There are still plenty of uncertainties. Flights are not yet back to their old schedules and economy is still in recovery mode.
So at the moment it is still a bit fingers crossed. But we are hopefull and full of energy to keep fighting for our Lumbalumba dream.
We look very much forward to continue writing new chapters in the history of Lumbalumba Diving Resort!