Manado Diving

Bunaken National Park Dive Sites

The Manado area and Bunaken Marine Park are among the diving highlights of Indonesia and have earned plaudits throughout the world.

The facts say it all – when you’re scuba diving in Manado you can see over 70% of all fish species that exist in the Indo-Western Pacific. Marine biodiversity is the name of the game for diving in Indonesia generally and in Bunaken specifically.

The park is adored by marine biologists, photographers and recreational divers alike since the richness of its waters ensure that no 2 dives are the same and that there is always plenty to see, study, photograph and marvel at.

Included in the measures to protect this eco-treasure, is the creation of the marine park for which all divers must buy a pass which is used to fund conservation and village development programmes. It has long been recognised that the Manado area is an area worth preserving both for the good of the environment and the local economy. Various schemes are being undertaken to encourage responsible attitudes towards the reefs, the sea life and with regards to refuse disposal in the area. In Bunaken your few dollars really do make a difference!

Given the international profile of diving Manado, one might think that the locals would be well accustomed to the sight of visitors from abroad. However, most tourists proceed directly from the airport to dive centers and resorts outside the city. This means that a stroll around downtown will have you waving to children and responding to “Hello Mister” (regardless of your sex) as if you were the first off the boat. North Sulawesi is a mostly Christian region with friendly people whose ethnic mix includes influences from China and the Philippines.

The Dive Sites

Often referred to as 3 different sites (I, II and III), Lekuan is one of those sites that typify why Bunaken is such a dream for many scuba divers. Excellent by day or night, this site has some of the superb, healthy and varied coral that makes diving Manado truly memorable and against this colourful backdrop you can see turtles, Napoleon wrasse, tuna and plenty more.

Celah Celah is a favourite site for photographers diving at Bunaken, thanks to the sheer fissured wall from which sprout innumerable fans and sponges in a range of bright colours. Sunlight beams down in shafts through the deep fissures adding interesting light to the vibrant scene. Look out for pygmy seahorses and ghost pipefish plus a wide range of nudibranchs. Occasional glances over your shoulder into the blue can allow for sightings of dogtooth tuna, eagle rays and blacktip sharks.

Fukui Point on Bunaken Island’s west coast is a slope with a number of steeper sections and some flat sandy patches. The dive site teems with life, especially when the current is running, at which time red-toothed triggerfish flutter off the reef in huge numbers together with sail-fin tangs and butterflyfish.

Big fish come here to be cleaned and you can observe huge snappers as well as giant trevallies and Napolean wrasse being pecked clean. On flatter sections you can marvel at the giant tridacna clams as well as fields of swaying garden eels straining up into the current to feed.

Black Rock, also known as DJ Point, offers a break from Bunaken Island’s trademark wall dives as it is located in the Manado area. Here you need to poke around a series of rocky patches to uncover the site’s underwater marvels. With a little patience you can spot all manner of macro delights including cuttlefish, leaf fish, pipefish, commensal shrimps and candy crabs.

Mandolin Point is an unusual site in the Bunaken area and is instantly recognisable when you see the astonishing number of long whip corals protruding from the sloping wall. Some have postulated that it is this maze of ‘strings’ that give the site its name.

Larger creatures often present here include bumphead parrotfish, mappa pufferfish, and white tip reef sharks. As the dive progresses you may find yourself carried gently in the current over a colourful deck of sponges and corals, including hard soft and bubble corals that are home to many beautiful invertebrates.

Dive The World Indonesia’s Recommendations: Depan Kampung, Lekuan, Tanjung Kopi and Mandolin Point.

More detailed information available on the Bunaken diving sites on our www.dive-the-world.com website.

Staying at Manado or Bunaken

To dive at Bunaken Marine Park you can opt to stay in one of the resorts on the island of Bunaken itself or on the mainland near the town of Manado.

If you need a place to stay in Sulawesi or elsewhere in Indonesia, hotelscombined.com, our affiliated hotel reservation specialist, has a range of choices:

Take your pick from dozens of hotels and resorts across a range of budget options. Whatever you choose, it will be backed up by hotelscombined.com’s ‘Low Price Guarantee’, ensuring you get the very best value for money.

Diving Season

Optimum conditions are more or less between the months of April and November but it is possible to dive Bunaken all year round without running into conditions that are less than acceptable. The period with the greatest visibility is November until the end of January.

How to Get There

Once you arrive at Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado, you will be transferred to your resort. Those near the city centre are up to 30 minutes away; those on the island of Bunaken itself are a 45 minute boat ride from Manado.

Reef Basics

Great for: Small animals, walls, underwater photography, drifts, reef life and health, value-for-money and advanced divers
Not so great for: Wrecks and non-diving activities
Depth: 5 – >40m
Visibility: 20 – 35m
Currents: Usually gentle but can be strong
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 27 – 30°C
Experience Level: Beginner – advanced
Number of dive sites: ~25
Distance: ~18 km north of Manado Bay (40 mins)
Access: Diving resorts
Recommended length of stay: 7 – 10 days

Other nearby Manado diving sites that can be visited:

Indonesia Diving

Dive Sites of the Archipelago

Over 3,000 fish species and 600 species of coral, steep walls, deep water trenches, underwater volcanic mountains, World War II wrecks, and a seemingly endless variety of colourful macro life, scuba diving in Indonesia’s warm waters is truly excellent and inexpensive.

With over 13,500 tropical and often deserted islands straddling the equator, and with the Indian Ocean to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west, Indonesia has the longest coastline of any country in the world and is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The Indonesia Dive Destinations

The Banda Sea, Sulawesi (Celebes) Sea, Bali Sea and Flores Sea hold some of the best scuba opportunities in this expansive underwater wonderland. Land-based or liveaboard, the Indonesian dive sites offer just about everything – KomodoRaja Ampat, the Banda IslandsSulawesi and Bali are all excellent destinations for an adventure vacation.

Liveaboard cruises can take you further afield to such magical places as Komodo and the Banda Sea. Komodo is an island famed throughout the world for its legendary dragons, and all liveaboard trips include going ashore to see these incredible creatures in their natural habitat. But it’s not all about monitor lizards. Diving around Komodo means world-class reefs full of colour and life with pinnacles and walls, manta rays and maybe even dolphins and dugongs!

The Banda Islands are fast becoming known as one the world finest dive destinations since a trip here means you can expect, not only huge variety and numbers of pelagics and reef fish, but also vibrant healthy reefs with immense hard corals, sea fans and sponges. Diving in Banda also means experiencing the critter havens of Ambon, so you can have it all in this one area. Discover another of Indonesia’s best kept diving secrets.

But if you really want to get off the beaten track then you will want to check out the awesome dive sites around Raja Ampat, where the combination of topside beauty and underwater delights make it pioneer diving at its best. Scientists are falling over themselves to proclaim Indonesia’s Raja Ampat as the centre of it all, and with such vast numbers of fish and coral species being recorded and discovered all the time, it is clear to see why.

Sulawesi scuba normally means combining the unparalleled bio-diversity of Bunaken Marine Park in Manado and the breathtaking Lembeh Strait – a spot that lays a strong claim to offering the best muck diving in the world. And Bali has a great range of varied shore-based sites, the world-famous Tulamben wreck, mola mola and reef sharks as well as a wealth of topside entertainment.

 

The Indonesian Dive Season

The season for scuba diving in Indonesia runs all year round. Overall, the best conditions exist from April to December, as many provinces have a rainy season from January to March.

The liveaboard season cruises all year round.

For more detailed information on the best time to visit at each of the destinations, review our detailed dive site descriptions below.

How to Get There

The main international airports in Indonesia are Jakarta and Bali although local Asian airlines fly into other airports as well. Jakarta is a direct flight hub from flights all over Asia, Australasia, the Middle East and many cities in Europe.

Indonesia Reef Basics

Great for: Small animals, underwater photography, walls, wrecks, drift dives, reef life and health and advanced divers
Not so great for: Beginners
Depth: 5 – >40m
Visibility: 10 – 80m
Currents: Can be very strong
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 19 – 30°C
Experience Level: Intermediate – advanced
Number of dive sites: ~500
Access: Dive resorts and liveaboard charters
Recommended length of stay: 2 – 4 weeks

More detailed information on the diving sites:

Bangka Diving Sites

Manado Liveaboards

The island of Bangka, with its rolling hills of green fields and forests, and the nearby islands of Gangga and Talise offer over 25 dive sites with fringing reef slopes and pinnacles carpeted in soft corals.

The Dive Sites

Sahaung on the east coast is a very well thought of Bangka scuba diving spot and for very good reason. The row of underwater boulder pinnacles that just break the surface here form giant steps underwater. This is a drift dive that requires a negatively buoyant entry, as waves can be present at the surface at drop off and pick up points.

As you descend down the pinnacles you will marvel at the proliferation of green and golden brown soft corals, huge elephant ear sponges, dense thickets of branching green cup coral and table corals. There are carpets of frilled leather corals and pink, brown, cream and lilac soft coral trees swaying in the shallow surge.

At the same time swarming all around you are redtooth triggerfish, midnight snappers, blue-striped snappers and long-fin bannerfish. Fish soup! If you are not sufficiently enthralled by this, then the site may also throw in teira batfish, pygmy seahorses, frogfish, harlequin sweetlips, palette surgeonfish and perhaps a whitetip reef shark or two might put in a guest appearance. “Breathtaking” and “awesome” are oft-used words on the boat after this Bangka dive.

Batu Mandi is just off the Sulawesi mainland, opposite Bangka, and consists of a large rock jutting out of the surface, forming a steep slope. As you work your way along the wall here you will see no shortage of pretty macro life including ornate ghost pipefish, lots of nudibranchs and if you are lucky some gorgeous mantis shrimps.

In addition to the abundant macro life, another major feature here are the colossal sea fans at around 20 m and on top of the reef a series of sea fans in hues of pink and red. At Batu Mandi there is no great variation in depth so diving here normally takes the form of a nice and easy shallow dive.

 

Staying at Bangka

If you need a hotel in Indonesia then Agoda, our affiliated hotel reservation specialists with the ‘Lowest Price Guarantee’, have a wide range of choices:

Diving Season

You can dive here all year round but the conditions do vary. March to June is dry season and the visibility is at its best. November to December is generally wet and July to October is windy, both having reduced visibility.

Liveaboard season in the Bangka area runs year round.

How to Get There

Our liveaboard trips that visit Bangka Island depart from Manado or Lembeh. We advise you to read our ‘How to Get There’ sections for these 2 locations.

Reef Basics

Great for: Small animals, underwater photography, reef life and health, snorkelling and dive value-for-money
Not so great for: Wrecks, wall diving and non-diving activities
Depth: 5 – >40m
Visibility: 10 – 35m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface Conditions: Can be rough
Water Temperature: 27 – 30°C
Experience Level: Intermediate – advanced
Number of dive sites: >25
Distance: ~80 km north of Manado Bay (2¾ hours)
Access: Sulawesi liveaboards
Recommended length of stay: 5 – 7 days

Other Manado sites that can be visited together with Bangka:

Indonesian Diving Resorts

Dive Bali, Raja Ampat and Sulawesi

There are many resorts both in Bali and North Sulawesi to suit all budgets, and just a handful in Raja Ampat. Whether you are looking for somewhere simple and inexpensive or prefer to dive from a luxurious accommodation with all the pampering you would expect of Indonesian hospitality, we can offer something suitable for your requirements.

Select a destination for information on dive resort packages, suitable for all budgets:

• Bali dive resorts
From mighty sunfish to secretive seahorses, Bali has a rich tableau of reefs, walls, pinnacles and exposed islets, with some adrenaline-pumping currents and fantastic visibility. The island is a picturesque setting with volcanoes, mountains and rice terraces. Click here for all you need to know about Bali scuba diving.

The choice of destinations within Bali is endless, however many of the more obvious places to stay do not have high quality scuba diving nearby. We recommend you divide your time between Lembongan and Tulamben, the locations of Bali’s two premier diving regions. This will ensure you see the best of the island in comfort and without the long and tiring daily road or boat journeys that are involved in staying in the south of the island and travelling to the sites.

The island of Lembongan is home to some of the best hard coral reefs around, plus there are some great manta ray encounters on offer. In addition, it is the world’s best place to see Mola Mola in season which makes for an unforgettable vacation. There are a few different resort options in Lembongan from beachside simplicity to spacious villas with stunning views, and all close to the diving. Staying in Lembongan is like staying in Bali 20 years ago before the larger hotel chains moved in, so to stay here is to opt for island charm, far from the hordes of tourists.

Tulamben on Bali’s north east coast is home to the Liberty wreck as well as many other high quality dive sites. It has grown into a little village to cater to the demand for divers and there are now a range of accommodation options all very close to the main sites. It is here where local women will carry your scuba gear on their head, a feature that is common both to the cheaper accommodation options and the high-end, but still quite small resorts.

• Bunaken – Manado diving resorts
Sulawesi is the most popular Indonesia scuba diving destination. Reputedly home to a higher number of animal and plant species than any other seas in the world, it is clear why the deep walls of Bunaken Island are famous attractions for naturalists and photographers the world over. Find out more about diving at Bunaken Island.

To dive Bunaken means you must stay either in resorts on the mainland around Manado or on the island of Bunaken itself. Either way, you will dive the walls and reefs of the park which enjoys excellent conditions and impressive marine bio-diversity. Resorts around Manado have more land to use and therefore tend to be larger and more luxurious than those on Bunaken. From the mainland you may have longer boat journeys but normally better facilities and a professionally run place to stay from which there are a few properties to choose. Dive resorts on the island of Bunaken tend to be smaller and either more simple in the flashpacker sense, or boutique and with a family atmosphere.

• Lembeh Resort
The magical, fairytale wonderland of the Lembeh Strait macro diving and reefs, with its seemingly endless chapters of rare and crazy critters, keeps enrapt divers coming back for more. Every site promises new and exciting creatures, so no two dives are ever the same. You may not believe your eyes when you dive in Lembeh!

Lembeh resorts are split between the mainland near the town of Bitung and the island of Lembeh. However, the island is larger and more mountainous than Bunaken and some of the resorts here, particularly the more deluxe ones, do feature facilities such as swimming pools. Diving at Lembeh, you can chose from a range of prices, from small and simple to glamorous luxury.

• Raja Ampat Resorts
This region of Indonesia combines stunning topside scenery and exceptional bio-diversity, making it a fast-growing destination for scuba divers seeking only the best. Unbelievable macro encounters abound in Raja Ampat as well as huge schools of fish in varieties that mean, regardless of your experience, you will and you will almost certainly chalk up plenty of first-time sightings. Read more about the amazing diving in Raja Ampat.

Due to the remoteness of this area, all consumables and materials need to be shipped or flown in on a regular basis. This makes the prices of the resorts in Raja Ampat relatively high. You should expect to pay anything from moderate to high rates, with a choice of accommodation in the north (at Cape Kri) and the south (near Misool Island).

• Send your resort diving inquiry

Indonesian Resort Diving Specifics

Indonesia diving offers everything from professional, luxury accommodations to frighteningly haphazard cowboy operations. Our recommendations are based on extensive fact finding trips. We provide quality, value and choice so that you can select a place to stay that is right for you.

This means that you can avoid the pitfalls of the uninformed. You won’t find yourself forced to make long and awkward road journeys every day because you’ve booked into a Bali dive resort miles from the best sites, or be paying prices higher than nearby, superior Sulawesi resorts charge – common complaints from first time visitors.

Indonesia diving resort package prices:
Are based on two sharing and normally include dives, accommodation, catering, non-alcoholic drinks, transfers, weights and weight-belts, tanks, guides, and all taxes. As each resort differs, please see the individual packages for exact details of what’s included in each package. Your shortlist quote will include no ‘hidden extras’.

We recommend that all our customers take out insurance to cover scuba diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.

Getting there:
Bali International airport is located in the south of the island. To get to Lembongan you take a cab to Sanur and a boat transfer to the island which takes 30 minutes to an hour. Tulamben is a 3 hour taxi ride from the airport and may, depending on your resort choice, be included in the price.

Manado is the starting point for North Sulawesi resort stays. To dive Bunaken you will stay in accommodation around Manado (land transfer of up to 30 minutes) or on Bunaken island itself, a 45 minute boat ride from Manado. Lembeh resorts located on the mainland are around 1 hour by road from Manado. Those based on Lembeh island itself involve an extra boat transfer of between 5 and 15 minutes.

Sorong is the main hub for resort stays in Raja Ampat. You can fly here from Jakarta or Bali and the dive resorts provide transfers to their properties from Sorong too. The boat journey time from Sorong can be anything from 2-4 hours, depending on the location.

Dive The World rating system:
The customer rating displayed for each resort package is an indication of our customers’ satisfaction. 5 star is excellent4 star is very good3 star is good2 star is average, and 1 star is below average. We ask each and everyone one of our customers to rate their Indonesian resort package, and the rating earned by each is an average of the ratings received from our customers over the last season. That way, we ensure that our ratings and recommendations are truly impartial and reflect up to date performance based on the most important indicator – your satisfaction!

• Send your diving inquiry now