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Green Turtle at Lekuan

Established in 1991 and covering 90,00 hectares, the islands in Bunaken Marine Park are probably Indonesia's most visited diving destination. Not far from North Sulawesi's capital, Manado, Bunaken and her neighbouring islands appear to be a submerged mountain range that was flooded by the sea. It used to be said that scientists believed the earth's crust formed right about here – how they know that, or how precise the theory, is hard to tell but the dramatic volcanic landscapes have created spectacular diving.

There are dive sites all around the Manado coast, even close to the city, but it's the islands in the Bunaken Marine Park that are most famous. Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Nain and Montehage make up the marine park. Bunaken is the best known island, while the steep volcanic cone of Manado Tua looms over them all.

Bunaken Marine Park dive photo gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life Turtles
Top dive site Siladen
Seasons All year
Visibility 10 – 40 metres
Water temperature 23 – 29º C
Deco chambers Manado
Flights to Manado the 30 minutes transfer by car to coastal resorts
Dive operators and accommodation plenty of accommodation at all levels plus several liveaboards now include this area.

All the islands feature spectacular coral gardens which turn into steep walls that drop from just below the surface to unattainable depths. There's a huge variety of soft and hard corals and masses of reef creatures – fusiliers, butterflies, angels, sweetlips, cardinals and damselfish, moray eels, crabs and shrimp – while turtles and sharks make occasional appearances.

Although the attraction of these dives is mostly about the colour and drama of wall dives, there are also some incredible macro animals. The most recent new discovery, was the weedy pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus Pontohi, first spotted by local dive guide, Hence Pontoh, just off Bunaken. That's one in image 6 in the gallery above.


Manado is easy to reach with direct flights from both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. When we first visited the region in the mid-90's everything felt remote and undiscovered. At the time there were just three small, simple resorts but that wasn't to last... now there are many dive centres and hotels right across the area. There are lovely, laid back places on Bunaken island, spa style resorts and an even wider range of accommodation styles on the coast. It doesn't matter if you stay on the coast or the islands as dives are scheduled everywhere, so choose based on if your preference for island style or mainland access.

Visibility is usually very good but there can be some ripping currents. If you have never been caught in a typical Indonesian washing machine current, you will be here. These never last too long and dives are mostly scheduled to avoid tide changes.
Although Bunaken gets a lot of divers, somehow it never feels really crowded. There will be other dive boats in close proximity to yours, but they are never on top of each other like they are in the Red Sea, for example. We have returned here time and again and stayed in many resorts – they are all so good! So much choice, so little time.
Complete reports on this area are in
Diving Southeast Asia.

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