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Manado Diving Holidays

Travel and Tourist Information

Manado is the gateway to North Sulawesi and the island's port of entry for most visitors, particularly those diving Manado in Bunaken, Lembeh Strait and Bangka.

Boat in front of Gunung Klabat Mountain, Manado

Indonesia is a volcanic country and this area seems to sport more than its fair share. The backdrop to this small city is row upon row of rising green peaks and it sits facing the volcanic island of Manado Tua, Bunaken and Siladen islands. The nutrient-rich land that volcanoes produce is evidenced by the lush verdant hillsides and the stunning quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables in the local cuisine.

Most tourists come to Manado for the scuba diving, but for those who fancy a few days off or something a little different, there is plenty to do to experience this intriguing part of the country.

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How to Get There

Manado is in the far north east of Sulawesi, and is the main city of the north.

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Where to Stay

Our affiliated hotel reservation agents Agoda.com have a variety of diver-friendly accommodations in Manado. Browse their website choices, use their on-line chat to ask your questions, or simply use your credit card to make your booking:

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

Take your pick from the options, from beach resorts to 3-star hotels, and everything in between. There's something to suit everyone's taste and pocket. And you can be sure that whatever option you go for, it will be backed up with their 'Low Price Guarantee' to ensure you get top-dollar value for money.

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North Sulawesi enjoys an equatorial climate, which means it's sunny all year round. There are only 2 seasons - the wet season and the dry season.

The wet season usually falls between November and February and is characterised by intermittent downpours during largely sunny periods. Often the rain does not last long and dries up seemingly instantly. The usual temperature range is from 23°C to 31°C, on very hot days it may rise up to 33°C. It is cooler in the mountainous regions. The weather is more changeable from December to March but very rarely would the time of year interfere with the Manado diving schedule.

You should be aware that during the peak season months of July and August, Bunaken gets very busy. Many a Manado dive resort will not be able to accept walk-ins during high season since they are fully booked and you must try to book several months in advance. It is also worth noting that although the diving is good during peak season, at this time warm water brings more plankton and reduces visibility. We recommend September to June for the best conditions for scuba diving in Manado. Furthermore your chances of cetacean (whales and dolphins) spotting are best around August and September.

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Manado's Beaches

Snorkelling at Bunaken National Marine Park

Manado itself is not famed for its beaches. There are some pleasant quiet spots on the shore for those who wish to seek them out but as the regional capital, the shores of the city itself are not really meant for tourists. The Manado dive resorts, a short dive from the city centre, are built on the shoreline of black volcanic sand where, whether by the pool or on the beach, you will be able to relax, swim and enjoy your latest read.

Some of the islands in the Bunaken National Marine Park have gorgeous golden beaches, but are also somewhat blighted by a plague of discarded rubbish floating over from Manado City. The sea life is, however, clearly thriving despite this common worldwide problem.

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Sightseeing and Adventure

The city's Provincial Museum includes an interesting display of traditional costumes and modes of transport like the bendi (a small horse trap) which is still in use in many places. There are ceramics from China, Japan and Europe, as well as an impressive display of weaponry.

There are several inland tours available including those to volcanic peaks, local markets and natural hot springs. One interesting spot is Bukit Kasih or the "Mountain of Love". It has been likened to a miniature version of the Great Wall of China. At the top of the climb you can fall to your knees and beseech your god in any of the several places of worship you can find there: a Catholic and a Protestant church, a Mosque, a Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple.

One of the many reasons to visit the Tangkoko National Park forest is to seek out the delightful sight of a tarsier clinging to a branch in a wide-eyed glare. The 12 cm species is endemic to Sulawesi and make great photographic subjects.

If you can see past the blandness of the new retail blocks being erected on the reclaimed land on the seafront of Manado City centre, the city does harbour a few buildings of interest. There is some interesting Chinese architecture to be found with temples and traditional shops dotted in and around the markets area, most notably the 19th century Ban Hin Kiong temple. This is the oldest temple in east Indonesia and is the worship place of Buddhist believers and can be found on Jalan Panjaitan in the city centre.

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Dining Out, Shopping & Nightlife

If you have only a few days in the city, you are unlikely to find too much by way of entertainment. Your best bet is to tag along with any locals you may have met who work in the Manado scuba dive resorts and who know where to go. Otherwise you may have a great old time crooning in one of the many karaoke bars or drinking dens where the locals let down their hair.

The waterfront has seafood restaurants and stalls galore, offering intrepid visitors a taste of Minahasan cuisine. Some like it hot and, if you are one of them, check out the Ikan Tude, a traditional fish recipe which will blow you away. Hot dogs here mean just that. Barbecued pooches are not uncommon fare in the market. Bats, rats and various other stomach churners are neatly laid out for your perusal. Just help yourself!

The main stores offer plenty of well priced original brand name products such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Polo and Pierre Cardin. Interestingly, many tourists pick up a few items of eye care products in some of the many shops selling a wide range of contact lenses, lens care products, and a great range of frames, including all the major brands.

Throughout the city you can find natural wood carvings and weavings in Minahasan style including savage-looking men replete with a shock of horse hair. Traditional tribal penis gourds could make an interesting present for the folks back home. They are elongated cone shapes, sharpened to a fine point so you need to be handled carefully or you might just feel a bit of a prick.

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The historic port of Bitung, near Manado in Indonesia - gateway to most destinations in Sulawesi

Rice surpluses from the Minahasan region first made Manado an important port for traders sailing to Maluku. Spain first established a fort in 1627, but the Dutch soon forced them out with the help of their local allies.

The Dutch introduced cheap coffee cultivation into the area and despite huge subservient suffering, the Minahasans continued to support the Dutch in regional and local disputes.

Manado was occupied by the Japanese from 1942-5 in World War II and was subject to intensive Allied bombing. During the war of independence that followed there was bitter division between Indonesian unitarians and pro-Dutch federalists, and in 1958 the city was bombed again, this time by Indonesian troops.

These days the city is peaceful and prosperous which belies the economic crisis gripping the rest of Indonesia.

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The Local People

The locals are proud of their ancient Minahasan traditions. However over the centuries communities of Chinese have made North Sulawesi their home. This means that most modern Manadonese have some Chinese blood and many are part Philippino so there is little chance of any racial tension here. In fact North Sulawesi is a very ethnically stable region with a tolerant and pluralist society.

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 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.

You will be struck by the overt nature of Christian worship here. Crucifixes adorn the landscape from hilltops to roadsides, as if warding off an imminent plague of vampires. If you are sleeping within singing distance of a church you may well wake up to the sound of heartfelt "Halleluliah"s, and the proliferation of churches is astounding. Even the smallest village seems to sport 2 or 3 large ornate churches and for every 3 pristine houses of worship there is 1 standing half-complete, having run out of funding. Your taxi may have to slow down when passing a church under construction as there are men in the road holding out plastic buckets for running contributions.

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Local Transport

Mikrolets abound here and are cheap as chips but can be fumy, uncomfortable and loud. Several of them throb to tha' latest gangsta trip at several decibels above pleasant. Many tourists prefer to jump in a standard cab where you should be sure to insist on the meter running from the off, otherwise they will triple the price in their heads.

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If you're keen to discover Manado diving - whether it's Lembeh Strait, Bunaken or Bangka, then click below to check your options now for:

Be sure to book in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best diving opportunities are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!

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