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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.

Harlequin shrimp - photo courtesy of Silent Symphony

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.


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Staying at Manado or Bunaken

Sulawesi is home to a large number of dive resorts. As you might expect there is a wide range of standards too from luxury 5 star to positively disgraceful. We only recommend well-managed and professional resorts that we feel deliver good value-for money.

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, Agoda, our affiliated hotel reservation specialist, has a range of choices:

Visit Agoda.com and review details, prices and make a reservation for Sulawesi and Indonesian hotels (opens in a new window)

Take your pick from dozens of hotels and resorts across a range of budget options. Whatever you choose, it will be backed up by Agoda'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

Bunaken is accessed via Manado which is a well-connected airport. There are direct flights to Manado from Singapore with Silk AirOpens in a new window. Within Indonesia there are direct flights from Jakarta, Bali, Ambon and other regional cities operated by these airlines: Lion Air/Wings AirOpens in a new window, GarudaOpens in a new window, Batik AirOpens in a new window and Air AsiaOpens in a new window.

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.

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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:

  • Lembeh Strait • Bangka
  • Sangihe Archipelago


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