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Your Guide to Diving in Manado

Bunaken Island National Marine Park

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...Highlights: turtles, great macro life/ marine diversity...
...Diving environment: healthy reefs, wall dives, drift diving, beginner and advanced divers...

Manado is among the highlights of diving in Indonesia and has earned plaudits throughout the world. When you're scuba diving in Bunaken National Marine Park you'll witness some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, with outstanding fish variety and world-class walls. The clear, warm waters contain astonishingly high numbers of species, whether corals, sponges or fish.

The park is located just out of Manado Bay in the Sulawesi Sea, off the northern tip of Sulawesi, and features some 2 dozen diving sites spread across the 5 islands of Bunaken, Siladen, Manado Tua, Montehage and Nain, and an area of 75,000 hectares.

Diving in Manado: Nudibranch, Sulawesi - photo courtesy of Silent Symphony
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Explore the deep waters of Bunaken from your choice of dive resort and you can see 7 times more genera of coral than Hawaii, 33 species of butterflyfish and over 70% of all fish species known to the Indo-western Pacific.

Oceanic currents sweep past Bunaken Island bringing a steady supply of nutrients. It's a sure certainty that where there is plenty of food in the sea, there will be an abundance of marine life, and you can be here to witness this rich harvest too. From the smallest commensal shrimp to black tip reef sharks and eagle rays, there is something for everyone in this very special dive destination.

Manado is very popular with fun divers and marine biologists both of whom can take great pleasure from the diversity of coral and fish found here. You will surely encounter marine life here that you have not come across elsewhere.

The most notable recent find within the park was in 1997, when the coelacanth was discovered living in the lava tubes of Manado Tua. This 'living fossil' fish brought international media attention to Bunaken Island. Unusual mammals that can be seen by scuba divers include dugongs, which feed on the sea grass beds in the south of the park, and sperm whales, which travel through the area on their way to calve in the Sangihe Archipelago.

Dive Site Descriptions

Black Rock

Dropping in over the slope of Batu Hitam near Manado, divers can be forgiven for thinking that not much lies in store. But you would be so wrong as this excellent site, also know as DJ Point, promises plenty of entertainment. If you or your dive guide have keen eyes you will encounter one critter after another. Commensal shrimps, emperor shrimps, decorator crabs and candy crabs can all reveal themselves after a little investigation.

You will spend most of the time in and around a series of rocky patches where you are also likely to see cuttlefish, ribbon eels, cockatoo leaf fish and various pipefish. It is true that the Lembeh Strait has exceptional muck diving but if you want to see critters, this is surely one of the best places to find the small-but-perfectly-formed.
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How to Dive Bunaken

There are a lot of dive resorts around the area of a variety of standards, and not all are very good value for money. We recommend only those professional, well managed resorts that have high quality boats and dive staff, both on the Manado mainland and Bunaken Island itself. We also offer day trips to Bunaken from Manado.

There are also Manado liveaboards that visit both Bunaken National Park and the Lembeh Strait. If you have time it really is worth seeing more of the North Sulawesi region. Consider adding a few days stay in the Lembeh Strait where you can enjoy the best macro diving and critters in the world. Lembeh is really a must for anyone visiting the area.

For more information on your options, and all the other travel information you might need to visit Indonesia, review our North Sulawesi dive resort section.

The Diving Season

You can enjoy Bunaken Island diving all year round but overall the best season for dive conditions are from April to October. November to late-February sometimes sees winds and rains so surface conditions can be occasionally rough with 1 or 2 metre swells at that time. Litter washed up from the mainland can also be a problem in rainy season too.

Water temperature (27-30°C) and visibility (20-35m) are pretty constant all year round. The rainy season of November to March is less pronounced than at some other places in the region although showers are not unusual during this time. Visibility is reduced when it rains, more so around the Manado Bay diving sites than those at Bunaken. Visit the Weather AtlasOpens in a new window for more information on the climate and sea temperature at Manado.

Many creatures here are year round, such as the amazing array of giant clams and nudibranchs. Resident dugongs as well as barracuda and tuna appear throughout the year. June is a good months for sharks, July for dolphins and whales. Sperm whales migrate through the region to calf in the Sangihe region in March and July/August. This period also happens to be the time when homosapiens are present in the area in large numbers.

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Where is Manado and How Do I Get There?

Review our maps below of Sulawesi, showing the location of the region and its host country Indonesia. Here, you will find information on how to get to Manado and Bunaken Island.

Map of Sulawesi (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of Indonesia (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 20 - 35m
Currents: Normally gentle but can be strong
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 27 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~50
Distance: 18 km north of Manado Bay (40 mins)
Recommended length of stay: 7 - 10 days

Useful References

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