Bunaken Marine Park offers a tremendous variety of diving – from the steep walls, blue waters & pelagic encounters it is famous for, through to some excellent critter locations that would challenge a few of the sites over on the Lembeh Strait side of North Sulawesi.
The reason for it’s excellent diversity are easy to see when you look at the sea charts and have a basic understanding of the the phenomena that is the Indonesian Throughflow.
The deep basins to the north & west of Bunaken and to the south in Manado Bay are the source of the blue water and as the nutrient rich Throughflow surges past the five islands in the marine park, it creates numerous counter currents around them.
The underwater topography and lunar cycles are just some of the variables at work, but the end-results are biodiversity hot spots that produce some wonderful dive sites!
The sites around the crescent shaped Bunaken Island best illustrate these mechanisms, because the island, lying as it does in the middle of the park, faces into the predominant northeast current.
The current is at it’s strongest on the eastern & western sides of the islands and the sites there, such as Timur 1 & 2 are rich in hard & soft corals, sponges and schooling fish, nourished by the nutrients from the deep water basins to the north.
But the underwater topography between the islands, and the 1500m deep Manado Bay to the south, creates the swirling counter currents that feed the multiple dive sites on the southern side of Bunaken – such as Lekuan 1, 2 & 3 on the southwest side and the really excellent Fukui on the southwest side.
Diving these sites is a heady experience… particularly on the vertical walls which drop down into the abyss and create a feeling akin to vertigo on a clear day if you look down!
Bunaken Island Current Map
Diving Indonesia: North Sulawesi - Bunaken Marine Park Dive Sites
Bunaken Timur 1 & 2
Both these sites are classic Bunaken wall dives…
Because of their location, roughly half-way up the east coast of the island, are best dived around mid morning when the sun is nicely positioned to illuminate the wall and the profusion of hard & soft corals.
But late afternoon, when the fish start to feed, can also be very good.
Both sites feature a sloping area from the shoreline to where the actual wall starts and this is a very pleasant place to be when the sun is shining because it is so rich in hard corals and reef fish.
The wall itself varies from steep slopes to the sheer vertical, with places where there are large undercutting overhangs, and is diveable down to 40m.
Overall there is a great variety of things to see, both on and around the wall itself, and out in the blue because of the potential to see passing pelagics.
Before I dived it for myself I had read that many people consider Timur 1 & 2 as amongst the very best sites there are in Bunaken Marine Park – quite a claim…
So I was obviously very keen to see for myself what the sites were like and I would have to say that they were indeed superb – particularly mid morning on a nice day when they are bathed in beautiful light.
Another site that left a very strong impression was Fukui Point on the southwest side of Bunaken Island.
This site is a sloping reef, rather than a wall dive, but it is endowed with tremendous biodiversity due to the swirling counter currents from the Indonesian Throughflow.
Large patches of healthy hard corals, vibrant red barrel sponges, giant clams and schooling trevally, surgeonfish, snappers and sweetlips are just some of the sights to take in…
Bunaken Image Gallery
The Manado Wreck at Molas Beach
This wreck of a German (or Dutch depending on who you talk to..) merchant ship is said to have sank in February 1942, but quite why is not clear and the harbormasters office has no record of it.
As it is basically unidentified, it is universally referred to as either the Manado Wreck or the Molas Wreck.
It was first discovered again by Loky Herlambang, the founder of Nusantara Diving Center, back in 1980 and apparently still had a machine gun mounted on the foredeck which was loaded with belts of live ammunition. At the time the local fishermen did not know about it, so the wreck had become an artificial reef and a magnet for schools of fish.
Unfortunately those days have long gone, as has the the machine gun and live ammunition, but the wreck it still a very good dive and well worth doing as its largely intact and continues to attract a lot of passing marine life.
At 60m in length, it’s quite big and sits upright with the bow at 23m and the stern in 40m. The wreck’s location close to Molas Beach and Manado itself means that the visibility can be limited to the 10 to 15m range.
The ship is split near the midships back to the stern, which exposes the wheelhouse and cargo holds, and makes for some interesting but safe exploration.
The usual dive plan is to start at the bow in 23m and circumnavigate the wreck to end up back at the bow again, then follow the slope up to the nearby shallow reef for your safety stop.
Manado Wreck – a.k.a. The Molas Wreck – Image Gallery
There are at least another 10 sites around Bunaken Island in addition to Timur 1 & 2 and Fukui, but the ones to the north such as Mike’s Point on the northwest tip and Sachiko’s Point on the northeast tip being less frequented because of the strong currents.
Similarly the four sites around the volcano island, Manado Tua, are also swept by strong current and tend to be the preserve of experienced divers and often have to be specifically requested.
There are also 5-6 dive sites further north around Montehage and Nain Islands, but again these are not regular dive sites and may need to be specifically requested.
Next Page: Bunaken Critters
Back To: Overview of Diving in North Sulawesi