Q&A: Bagus Paramarta of Cenizaro Hotels & Resorts

The Balinese general manager of The Residence Bintan tells us about the resort’s sustainability initiatives, the charms of southern Bintan, and a nature-themed project in the pipeline.

Bagus Paramarta, GM of The Residence Bintan. (Photo: The Residence Bintan)

What do you enjoy the most about your day-to-day job?

Witnessing the camaraderie between our staff members, and seeing them grow into their roles and develop their potential. We have a lot of repeat guests at The Residence Bintan, which tells you about the high standard of service our team delivers.

Where were you based before returning to Indonesia to take up this posting?

I was at a hotel in the Al-Hajar mountain range of Oman, a breathtaking place where a spectacular canyon unfolds just outside your window and you are perched 2,000 meters above sea level. The climate there is cool despite being in a hot desert country in the Middle East.

Most visitors to Bintan tend to stay only in the northern areas closest to Singapore. What is there to see and do in the south?

The south has lots of smaller untouched islands, and snorkeling and diving in these waters teeming with rich marine life is a must-do. There are beautiful sand banks that emerge at low tide, so you can discover the marine ecosystem up close without much effort. Visitors will also have the chance to explore local villages and see overwater kelongs [traditional fishing platforms] that are still being used today.

What are three must-do experiences for guests?

The first thing I recommend doing is to sample our wide-ranging culinary options. One of those is Segara restaurant, which offers an alfresco seaside dining experience and a beach barbecue every Saturday evening. The freshly grilled seafood there is just delicious. You should also book a treatment at the spa and attend a yoga class. Another way to unwind is by going on a marine walk or simply relaxing in one of our overwater hammocks.

Left to right: Inside a Deluxe Sea View villa; its private pool. (Photos: The Residence Bintan)

The resort’s specialty restaurant Rica Rica is all about showcasing regional Indonesian flavors. Could you name a few best-selling dishes on the menu?

The beef rendang is a popular choice, as is the Javanese-style ayam bakar [grilled chicken] and our tender satay selections. Not forgetting our signature sambal platter served with kerupuk and belinjo, which includes varieties from Manadonese rica-rica to cabe ijo [green chili], matah and more. Soon to be featured on the menu will be the savory fishcake delicacy pempek from South Sumatra and gong gong sea snails, a local favorite here in Bintan.

What kind of changes have you noticed since Cenizaro opened its outpost here two years ago?

Some areas on the property were actually barren dumpsites, and we converted these into highly productive agricultural fields for our Earth Basket project. In the past, there were not many birds and butterflies, but since we rehabilitated the land and created a welcoming habitat for them, the animals have started coming back.

Rica Rica’s chendol panna cotta served with coconut ice cream. (Photo: The Residence Bintan)

Can you tell us a bit more about The Residence Bintan’s sustainability efforts?

We have gone far beyond eliminating single-use plastic when it comes to drinking water and bath amenities. We’re now using our huge piece of land as a test bed for all kinds of sustainability projects that we want to implement across the group.

For instance, Earth Basket is our way to reduce food miles as many things are imported since the local soil is not suitable for agriculture. We spent a lot of time enriching the soil through adding compost from our food waste and we don’t use any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Earth Basket is an opportunity for both guests and staff to get involved in organic farming and think about the food they eat.

At the same time, we’ve been promoting sustainability education starting with our employees, so they understand the value of their work and the impact it has on the environment. We also involve the broader community so they can take ownership of projects like mangrove replanting and beach cleanups around the local villages.

Executive chef Lambok Tambunan at Earth Basket. (Photo: The Residence Bintan)

There was talk of creating a jogging track in an on-site botanical garden. Has that been realized?

It started last year and the project is progressing very quickly. We want to create more opportunities to bring people closer to nature. Guests will get to see local fruit trees and other plants, and also a medicinal herb garden, along this two-kilometer route.

Now that everyone is staying home, how are staff members keeping occupied?

We have online yoga and exercise classes to keep our staff engaged. There are also “gotong royong” projects where people from different departments help out in all areas of work. It gives them an opportunity for inter-department bonding and appreciation.

What are your plans for the resort when tourism returns to Bintan?

As people emerge from their isolation at home post-pandemic, they will crave the great outdoors. I think we are well-placed to provide uplifting retreats into nature for all ages. And I think more travelers will want to go with purpose, respecting the destinations they visit and giving back to locals. So, we’ll be highlighting our environmental and community activities for guests who want to take a more sensitive approach to the planet.

A bird’s-eye view of the resort’s Deluxe Sea View villas. (Photo: The Residence Bintan)

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