BUNAKEN NATIONAL MARINE PARK
North Sulawesi is known as “The Land of Smiling People” and lies in the very epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The Bunaken National Marine Park was formally established in 1991 and was among the first of Indonesia’s growing system of marine parks. The park is just under 80,000 hectares of land (3%) and sea (97%), located at Manado Bay on Sulawesi sea in the province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It comprises the 5 main islands like Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Mantehage and Nain. It is part of the Indo-Pacific region which supports the highest marine biodiversity on earth.
Bunaken National Marine Park Which was voted the global winner of British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award in 2003. The amazing walls of the park with thousands of different fish species, with spectacular of clear waters, and more than 30 dives sites surround, number of fascinating critters.
The area offers :
More than 100 different dive sites
- Tropical marine life
- Diving all year round.
- Direct flights from Singapore 3-4 times a week, depending on the season.
- Reachable from any other parts of Indonesia by Domestic flights.
There are three dive areas to choose from :
- Bunaken National Marine Park – which was voted the global winner of British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award in 2003. The amazing walls of the park with thousands of different fish species, with spectacular of clear waters, and more than 30 dives sites surround, number of fascinating critters.
- Lembeh Strait – known as the world’s best muck-diving. These waters are full of extraordinary marine critters, many of which are the masters of camouflage.
- Bangka Island – amazing soft corals and even more critters. In the Northern coast of the mainland between Bunaken and Lembeh you can find a group of tropical islands with white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs.
Mike’s Point – It is named after a well-known underwater photographer, Mike Severns. Big pelagics, soft coral, large gorgonians, hump head parrotfish and Napoleon Wrasse are likely to be seen. Current can be pretty strong, depending on tides
Paser Panjang – Coral sloping wall between 5 and 25m – normally with a mild current and good visibility. This site boasts a large field of garden eels, many different types of shrimp, and anthias. Also, turtles can be spotted here, with many shoals of fusiliers buzzing around.
Sachiko Point – Named after a Japanese tour operator who decided this spot was her favourite. Common sightings are reef shark, large tuna and jacks, turtles and rays. Coral growth is rich and soft coral is particularly good. Exciting encounters with curious but harmless sea snakes (highly venomous though) are not rare. Visibility varies from 20 to 35 metres, depending on the tides.
Bunaken Timur – Simply means “East Bunaken”. This site is the whole reef section between “Muka Kampung” and “Sachiko Point”. Current is occasionally a bit strong. Shark, barracuda, grouper, eagle ray, very rich coral growth and a lot of small stuff, it’s all here.
Pangalisang – Nice long drift dive on endless macro wall, same reef structure as “Bunaken Timur”. Dugongs occasionally spotted here in the very shallows on top of the reef. Blue spotted stingrays and scorpion fish as well as many lionfish. Lots of interesting colourful invertebrate life here, such as nudibranchs, feather stars, sea urchins, sponges, tunicates (sea squirts) and anemones. Visibility in the range of 15 to 25 meters. Sea snakes and many small creatures and fish in the shallows on the reef top.
Tanjung Paser – This is a deep wall dropping from the surface to 30m, where visibility is normally around 20m and one can see huge fans and lots of dark green hard coral covered in shoals of anthias. Many grouper move around this area – particularly striking are the red ones living in the dark green coral, which makes for a colourful photo. Eagle rays and turtles can occasionally be seen here and the chromis-covered acropora comes nearly to the surface.
Muka Kampung – Located opposite the village of Bunaken. A steep drop-off with a sandy sloping path on the tip of the reef corner on which we often observe eagle ray, stingray and thousands of butterfly fish. Classic Bunaken drift dive with several different species of large sea turtles. Visibility varies from 15 to 30 metres.
Lekuan 1 – The ‘Lekuans’ are considered by some to be amongst the top dive sites of Manado. Lekuan 1 has a sandy slope at 30-40m which is often used as a hang-out for reef sharks, then leading onto a steep wall. There are outcrops of coral covered with anthias and many schooling fish including snapper, fusiliers and pyramid butterfly fish. You can regularly spot turtle here. This site gives you a chance to dive with dense populations of bigger reef fish (with numerous macro species in the shallows too).
Lekuan 2 – An undulating reef wall with many truly dramatic vertical drops, cuts, holes and overhangs make Lekuan 2 a favourite. Excellent numbers and variety of almost all kinds of reef fish as well as outstanding invertebrate life. Generally good visibility and lots of big sponges gives you great wide-angle photo opportunities. Larger species like reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse and turtles make regular appearances.
Lekuan 3 – A sandy bottom at first with pinnacles and outcroppings make Lekuan 3 a fascinating and different underwater landscape. At 40m a sandy chute brings you to a rock that, for some reason, often attracts sharks to come and sleep. The landscape then changes into a vertical wall dropping to 200+ m, with large overhangs. These are the dwellings of numerous nudibranchs. Sightings of snapper, turtle and sea snake are commonplace here.
Celah Celah – This a deep wall with large cuts gouged out of the reef, cracks and crevasses everywhere and normally excellent visibility. It’s great to look out from these and have the sunlight bursting in, lighting up the blue, which makes this a popular site with photographers. Hippocampus Pontohi can be found here (a newly-discovered species of pygmy seahorse!) and black tip or white tip sharks cruise just below you. The many sea squirts and algae on the wall here are great places in which to discover small, strange creatures hiding.
Alung Banua – Alung Banua is a wall with lot of value for macro photographers. Although turtles are quite common and eagle rays are no rare sighting, you really should try to concentrate on the “masters of camouflage”. Crocodile flathead, leaf fish, ghost pipefish and frogfish are often observed here. If the current (if there is any) brings you East you will probably see, at a depth of between 18 and 25 metres, a beautiful collection of shallow caves. In this case its better to have your wide-angle lens with you as well, as the sighting of it shows you a beautiful panorama. By the way, sleeping white tip sharks can be seen, so have an eye out for them too! Currents are usually mild and visibility is average 25-30 metres.
Fukui – Named after a Japanese diver who dived this spot 20 years ago. He was the first person to publish a description of the place and henceforth its name; Fukui. It is comparable with the rest of Bunaken’s dive sites, however it is one of the few spots without a significant wall. Fukui is more sloping and has a few short, steep drops. Fukui is a “cleaning station” and all kinds of big fish have themselves cleaned while they take a good rest. It’s a perfect place to observe Napoleon wrasse, barracuda, Jack and big Snapper. A sandy area at Fukui is home to a colony of garden eels. At a depth of 17 metres there are 5 good-sized “Tridacna” giant clams lying in a row. Fukui normally has a very mild current that can, occasionally, be a bit stronger. Average visibility is 20-25 meters.
Ron’s Point – This is a sandy area, with pelagic inhabitants such as tuna, sharks, jacks and occasionally a large barracuda or two. There is much coral rubble here, where you can find morays, ghost pipe fish, leaf fish, different species of anemone – and of course their cute “Nemo” anemone fish tenants!
Mandolin – The reason why it’s named after a music instrument is because of “harmony” of this dive site. Some say its better at the top, some say its better in the middle, and others say it’s best at 30-35 metres. All these different opinions have one thing in common; no matter where you dive at Mandolin, it’s spectacular! Turtles, shark, eagle ray, large schools of fusilier, Napoleon wrasse, anemones, moray eels and huge Acropora “Table” coral, you name it! All have been seen here. Current is usually mild and visibility varies from 15 to 35 meters. Mandolin is a spot to view many impressive and beautiful seafans.
Raymond’s Point – This is where you probably end up if a strong current brings you south from Mike’s Point. No need to be disappointed though, as Raymond is a beautiful wall with good hard and soft coral. The current-loving whiptail coral are well represented and coral fish life is rich, including big pelagic species. At one point there is a large sloping sand patch where several stingrays feel at home.
Jalan Masuk – Jalan Masuk means “Way In” – almost the only way for boats to enter the small mountain island of Nain, the furthest away of the 5 islands in the Bunaken national marine park, through its huge fringing reef that surrounds the entire island – but is perhaps 4 times the size of the island itself! This reef (the largest reef in the park) offers and endless trip flying over the enormous “fields” of many different species of hard coral, even as shallow as safety stop depth! Myriads of smaller colorful reef fish live and hide in this reef, saluted by the occasional pelagic ray, barracuda, shark or sometimes turtle. The more usual neighbours includes a rich fauna of invertebrate life like sponges, feather stars, star fish, octopus, sea cucumbers and many nudibranchs. Generally good visibility of up to 30-35 m makes this a colourful panoramic wide-angle adventure, with the usually gentle current taking you for a free and relaxing underwater ride down “hard coral lane”.
Barracuda Point – Yes- the name says it all – barracuda, and if they’re there, a lot of them (sometimes 100+)! Not only barracuda but big tuna and jacks too. However they’re not always around and this reef isn’t the most spectacular. The wall/slope has not much to offer but dead coral and sand. It’s definitely not a spot for beginners as there can be strong currents, both upwards and downward! That’s why Barracuda’s like it so much here! We think this site is worth the risk of one dive during your stay, on the hope of seeing a big school.
Gorango – This means “shark” in Manadonese dialect, but apart from that, there are not more sharks to be expected here than on any other dive site. The wall is long and steep and overgrown with hard and soft coral. We’ve had incredibly good visibility here (35+ metres) but also with a lot less, 10-15 metres. Gorango’s reef is long and you can make more than one dive at this site.
Bango – This is the name of the village and a slope (rather than a wall) on the south side of Montehage Island. It has outstanding soft coral! During low tide a lot of the wide fringing reef is exposed. Visibility varies from 20 to 30 metres and current is usually mild with occasional strong ones.
Tangkasi – This dive is a sandy slope moving to a wall, which is inter-dispersed with sandy patches. There is a lot of soft coral at this site but also great hard coral formations, especially near the surface. The many sea fans and barrels sponges make is a real nursery habitat for the juvenile fish community. Tangkasi is covered in “cleaning stations” as well as invertebrate life, with many kinds of nudibranch to be found.
Beni’s Point – Sand slope area with step features to the surface. There is some broken coral here, but lots of interesting fish species. Lots of Acropora and table coral adorn these steps. Here we see turtles nestled in the coral and shoals of butterfly fish and fusiliers passing by. Anthias cover the coral blocks and pulse with the current, which can be quite strong at this site.
Pangulingan – No explanation of the given name. Between Negeri and Pangulingan is a strange shaped reef. There are quite a few spectacular spots on it, but also with some spectacular currents and that’s why we don’t like to dive this site with beginners. The dive starts on a fascinating deep wall just adjacent to a stadium sized gently sloping coral plateau. After the wall, and perhaps a shark or two, you hit onto the densely populated slope at around 20 m depth and continue slowly up to the shallows along the sloping reef. Near the edge of the slope you often find larger fish like barracudas, jacks, trevallies and big pelagic tunas. In the shallows often schools batfish or hundreds of smaller reef fish. Wonderful reef top with lots of little stuff and both hard and soft coral plentiful enough to provide you with a rainbow colour setting for your safety stop at the end of your dive here. Challenge yourself with this dive – the “reward” is usually worth it!
Muka Gereja – “Muka” means front and “Gereja” means church. Once you arrive at this spot it’s obvious why it got such a name. Muka Gereja is a splendid wall dive with very little current and calm water. What can you expect at Muka Gereja? It’s a steep wall with lots of caverns and overhanging cliffs. There are huge barrel sponges, some with a diameter of over 1 metre and rich coral growth. One of the best observations was an immense school of striped catfish, so big and so “dense” that most watching divers thought it was a huge Whale! Visibility is good to excellent and, as said earlier, current is most of the time mild. The magnificent views of Manado Tua’s 800 meters high volcano gives this site an extra dimension.
Negeri – Negeri follows Muka Gereja eastwards. Currents sometimes exists but it depends strongly on the wind direction. Whether we go to Muka Gereja or Negeri is simply a matter of where the leeward side is. Again, this is a real quality site, with fantastic coral growth. For some unknown reason we hardly ever see a shark here but other fish are as abundant as everywhere. At one particular point there is a carpet of anemones at a very shallow depth. Visibility average is 20-25 metres and the current is usually gentle.
Siladen Point – This is a steep wall on the south of Siladen Island, near the village. Divers will find a fine drop-off with enormous amounts of colourful soft coral, which really show their colours when the light hits them at around 15 m and above. Table corals, huge schools of pyramid butterfly fish and fusiliers, a vast amount of invertebrate life, nudibranches, crabs and anemones abound. Currents can be a sensation! Here you can see 20 kg. jacks chasing their prey. All in all, Siladen is a dive you shouldn’t miss when visiting Eco Divers.
MANADO DIVE SITE (NON) NATIONAL PARK
Molas Shipwreeck – Sunk February 22, 1942 in front of Molas area. As there are no existing records of it nobody is sure but speculation is that this ship was a Dutch merchandiser. Nobody knows for sure anymore but the fact is that she is still 60 metres long and is now an excellent dive site! The wreck lies rather deep on a sandy slope, the bow starting at approximately 26 metres and the twin (1 intact) propellers at 38 metres. In between there is a lot to see although the visibility is often relatively low at 10 to 15 metres. Nudibranches, soft coral, feather stars, giant puffers, white tips and even passing Napoleons are just a small selection of what you can see here. The wreck hardly ever disappoints but because of its depth is only for advanced divers.
Black Rock – This is a sandy slope with huge barrel sponges and sea fans. Along with the shoaling fish we often see the odd eagle ray or large Napoleon wrasse. Other sightings here can include: cuttlefish, jawfish nesting, gobies of all shape and size, ribbon eels, nudibranchs and stone fish.
Meras – Sandy slope with heads of acropora. This is a significant nursery for all the juvenile species in the Bunaken area. Get the fish books out because you will see small fish that you’ve never seen before. This site is also home to many different types of ghost pipe fish and small stuff species. In other words, it’s just perfect for macro photography!
Tanjung Pisok – Begins with a gentle slope and ends after that, in direction left (north, reef on the right hand side), in a wall. Tanjung Pisok means “Cape Swallow” and in the late afternoon you can see them flying over the sea trying to catch insects that come from the mangroves close by. Being on a “corner”, currents of many varieties are likely, but it’s also responsible for many unexpected encounters. Here you are likely to observe blue ribbon eel, lionfish, fusilier and lots of butterfly fish. Very nice in the shallows, with lots of soft corals and big hard coral blocks making it a very colourful reef.
Batu Meja – Coral slope with sand, where the lucky diver can have many sightings of eagle rays and shark. It also has huge fields of table coral and acropora, with many “cleaning stations” and schools of sweetlips queuing up to be cleaned by the tiny cleaner-wrasse. Look closely inside some of the coral and you may be lucky to spot a moray eel also being cleaned, but by shrimp instead of wrasse. Large schools of red-tooth trigger fish hang just off the wall, whilst a closer inspection of the slopes can reveal banana nudibranchs.
Gabet – Sandy slop with coral heads. It is possible to see large cuttlefish inside the large acropora formations, as well as many small morays and leaf fish. The wall is adorned with large table coral and tube sponges, often covered in anthias and cromis. The top of the reef is home to many small clams.
We guarantee you leave North Sulawesi, rich with memorable experiences :
- Admire the steep coral walls of Bunaken National Marine Park.
- Explore the reefs in Bangka area.
- Dive in the enchanting world of nature’s little wonders in Lembeh Strait