Divers are basically spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring this part of Indonesia. North Sulawesi has its own international airport at Manado, serviced by direct flights from Singapore with Silk Air four times a week, plus it’s easily accessed from both Jakarta and Bali, although that usually involves a short stop at Makassar (Udjung Pandang) in South Sulawesi.
At the tip of North Sulawesi are the Bangka & Gangga Islands, which receive the full force of the Indonesian Throughflow as it first touches land and there is some exceptional diving around the islands, with many of the sites first discovered by Dr. Hanny Batuna (see below) – but be prepared for strong currents…
On the east coast there is the critter mecca of the Lembeh Strait between the mainland & Lembeh Island, and some of the most unusual things you will ever see underwater, while on the west coast there is the magnificent Bunaken Marine Park with it’s steep walls and blue water diving.
The whole area of North Sulawesi is very well served by an assortment of dive resorts plus a number of resident & visiting liveaboards and is without doubt a world class destination that justifies an extended stay to make the most of the tremendous diving available.
Diving Indonesia: North Sulawesi - Bunaken Marine Park
Bunaken was one of the first marine parks in Indonesia when it was established in 1989.
It was made possible by the collective efforts of Dr. Hanny & Ineke Batuna of Murex Dive, the late Loky Herlambang of the Nusantara Diving Center and Ricky Lasut, another of the diving pioneers in North Sulawesi who now runs the Bentenan Diving Center.
All four enjoy somewhat iconic status in the Indonesian dive industry for their efforts with Bunaken.
Not just because of their work in helping to create the marine park, but also for their engagement with local communities to educate them about conservation in general.
Their efforts also helped to raise the awareness & popularity of Bunaken as a global diving destination.
Dr. Hanny & Ineke Batuna hosted Jacques Cousteau when he visited North Sulawesi and Loky Herlambang developed a program to train young local Manado youths as divers & dive guides, thus giving them a real chance to benefit from the growth in tourism in the area.
The marine park covers an area of just over 75 hectares, 97% of which is water, with the five islands in the park – Bunaken, Manado Tua, Mantehage, Siladen & Nain occupying the other 3%.
Each of the five islands has its own flavor but the dormant volcano Manado Tua (Old Manado), with its classic cone shape over 800m high, simply dominates the park.
Bunaken Island, in the shadow of Manado Tua, is the most populated island and supports a population of around 4000 people & the majority of the dive resorts that operate in the Marine Park.
Diving Indonesia: North Sulawesi - Bunaken Island
Bunaken village at the south-east tip of the crescent shaped island is the most populated area and where most of the locals live.
Nearby Pantai Pangalisang on the east coast of the island and Pantai Liang are the most developed areas for tourists and where the majority of the dive operators are based.
There are only brackish water wells on the island and fresh water has to be imported from Manado, the logistics of which basically impose a physical limit on the actual population that can be sustained.
Most tourists visiting the island are divers on some form of package with one of the resorts, and transport to the island is included in that.
Itis possible to make your own way there if you want to by catching the afternoon ferry at 15.00 from the Pasar Jengki fish market in Manado (everyday but Sunday…) to Bunaken village, which is it’s only stop on the island.
There are several homestays on the island and the Lonely Planet is probably the best source of information on them.
Bunaken Island has by far the most number of dive sites and it’s shape means that in most weather conditions there is usually somewhere to dive.
Diving Indonesia: North Sulawesi - Siladen Island
Siladen Island, with its white sand beaches and densely wooded interior, has a real desert island look & feel about it.
Unfortunately there is only one significant dive site, which is on the south-western side of the island – named with great vision & imagination as Siladen 1… but it is a very nice dive.
There is the very nice upmarket Siladen Dive Resort & Spa on the island and all the sites on Bunaken Island are quite close by.
Next Page: Bunaken Marine Park
Back To: Sulawesi Overview