Manado and Bunaken

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Manado and Bunaken in a Nutshell

 

Manado is the largest city (and airport) in North Sulawesi. The diving is spread between several dive regions, including mainland Manado, Bunaken National Park and Bangka Island. Each has distinctly different diving, keeping divers dreaming of getting back in the water no matter how long their trip. The islands around Bunaken offer some of the best coral reef diving in Southeast asia, with large numbers of schooling fish racing by on most dives. Some of the best critter diving in the world is nearby in Lembeh Strait.

 

 

Dive Conditions

 

Bunaken is primarily wall diving. Some walls have a visible bottom below recreational dive limits while others have no visible bottom. There are almost always currents, creating anything from a very mild drift dive to undiveable and dangerous conditions. Because of this, there are dives to suit divers of all skill levels. Manado also offers some great diving, although visibility is less than out at Bunaken and photographers will tend towards macro. Bangka Island is close and offers incredible pinnacle dives full of soft coral. Again, these dives are very depended on currents.

For diving, we recommend visiting more than one area on your trip. If you’re diving Manado and Bunaken, save a few days to dive the famous Lembeh Strait. And on the way, provided you have time, stop at Bangka or Gangga Island to round out the underwater offering of the area. Many people say the combination of these areas is unparalleled and return frequently.

 

Marine Life

 

Manado - A focus on reefs and macro for shrimps, crabs, cephalopods, nudibranchs and other abundant critters in the reefs and sand.

Bunaken - Lots of butterflyfish, triggerfish and the most fun, turtles. The shallows are filled with small fish rising in and out of the coral that will make you want more than a 3-minute safety stop.  Bangka is also very fishy and every reef can be dived wide-angle or macro depending on your interests.

 

 

 

Topside Activities

 

Manado and North Sulawesi are filled with topside activities for the adventurous diver looking for some culture. The Minahasa and local island people are genuinely friendly, making interactions with locals an opportunity to learn, share and enjoy new experiences. Touring the Minahasa highlands and beautiful countryside is a nice daytrip. The area has a history of clove and flower growing with beautiful villages and scenery. Farmers create terraces up the sides of Mahawu Volcano, which offers breathtaking views of Manado, the Bunaken National Park and a volcanic crater that is still steaming. Make sure to tour the Tomohon Market, but we forewarned that there is food of all sorts on display. Lunch at Gardenia restaurant (also a mountain resort) offers a sampling of many local Minahasan dishes. Other activities include touring Tangkoko National Park, White Water Rafting and more.

If you have the time, stop by the Tangkoko Nature Reserve - a conservation area for endangered species (about 70 kilometers from Manado). Bring your binoculars and watch tarsiers, black macaque monkeys, maleo birds, and cuscus in their natural habitat.

 

 

 

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Manado is a great diving place to dive. The area has healthy reefs of both hard and soft corals and a great diversity of marine life. It is typical on most dives to see reef fish such as clownfish, lionfish, parrtofish, wrasses, butterflyfish, angelfish, etc. and schools of snapper, grunts, barracuda, jacks, etc. It is also quite common to see some of the stranger critters such as candy crabs, squat lobster, frogfish, ghost pipefish, whip coral gobies and shrimps, octopi and cuttlefish, etc. Life is very abundant and you'll be constantly moving from attraction to attraction. Large animal and pelagic sightings are possible but rare. For some of the best muck diving in the world, head over to the nearby Lembeh Strait. Do both Manado and Lembeh on the same trip if you have the time and want to experience two great but very different types of diving.

Most dives follow similar profiles: start deep (usually 20-30m) and gradually head shallower, ending the dive on top of the reef in 5-6m of water. This usually means that dives can be quite long, limited only by your gas reserves. Conditions are generally very favorable with sunny skies, calm waters, and little current or surge. Diving in Manado is nice and easy.

There are both wide angle and macro photo ops in Manado, so you can't go wrong either way.

You will be spoiled for choice with respect to accommodations as there are numerous resorts catering to all price points, ranging from luxury to budget. In general, the level of service in Manado is high, with guides being well trained and staff carrying your gear and changing your tanks for you.

Visited on 12/2008 - Submitted on 08/27/2014
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With more than 30 dive sites, Manado and Bunaken attracts thousands of divers year round. A 4-hour direct flight from Singapore, lots of accommodation choices with many reliable dive operators, makes Manado and Bunaken a real divers' haven.

Dive sites around Manado are mainly reef and muck diving. Most reefs are covered with various species of corals, sponges and crinoids. At these reefs, you will find your usual tropical reef fishes, octopus, shrimps and crabs.
In the shallow muck sites, frogfish, mimic octopus, seahorses, gobies, dragonets, flounders are some of the usual suspects you will find. My favorite dive sites are Underwater parking area and Buluh.

A short boat ride away, you have the islands of Bunaken, Siladen, Manado Tua, Montehage and Nain. The wall dives here are breathtaking. Walls are covered with various species of corals, large sponges, gorgonian fans and teeming with fishes. Many of the walls are more than 100m deep and visibility here are generally 15 – 30 m. Some of the marine life you could see here are turtles, giant Napoleon wrasse, large humphead parrotfish, occasional sharks, triggerfishes, butterfly fishes, coral groupers, nudibranchs, longfin banner fishes, coral groupers, crinoid shrimps, sweetlips, orang utan crabs, wire coral gobies and shrimps, boxer crabs if you know where to look, giant clams, pygmy seahorses and I have been lucky enough to see eagle rays as well. Some of the more popular sites are Muka Kampung, Sachiko, Lekuan and Fukui.

The possibilities in Manado and Bunaken are endless. I have had dolphin encounters traveling between Manado and Bunaken, dive with dugongs in Manado and have during sunset and night dives seen many weird planktons, mating mandarin fishes, cuttlefish, squids, all sorts of shells, stargazers and a variety of marine life that I can't even begin to ID.

This is where you want to dive if you trying out underwater photography. There are many subjects to choose from and many of the dive guides here are great with photographers. Bunaken is great for snokeling too.

Manadonese food are generally very spicy. Some of my favorites here are seafood, satay, mee bakso, roast pork, BBQ fish with sambal and nasi kuning.

Water temp: 28 - 30C
Recommended for: All divers including young divers
Dive conditions: None to mild currents

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 02/17/2014