The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
The warm, clear waters and dramatic walls of the Bunaken National Marine Park have attracted divers for decades, all drawn by the park’s consistent conditions, rich diversity of marine life and beautiful reefs. The park and its well-developed tourism industry are seen as a perfect example of how conservation programmes and tourism can work together to protect an area and today, divers continue to flock to Bunaken intent on exploring the amazing reefs, or dive the muck sites of the mainland with their amazing critters. Bunaken Marine Park and the surrounding area offers that rare combination of beautiful scenery, fantastic conditions, amazing reef diving and interesting muck sites - the perfect combination for any discerning diver.
The diving around the Bunaken Marine Park is characterised by dramatic, plunging reefs and walls, incredibly diverse marine life and warm, clear waters. Divers can drift along sheer walls with plenty of cracks, crevices, caves and overhangs to investigate, or relax in the sunlit shallows and explore the gardens of hard and soft corals - all the while enjoying the prolific fish life that can be found at most sites. The deep water and currents that surrounds the islands means that the visibility is normally good throughout the year, and can even exceed 30m+ - creating stunning conditions and some fabulous diving. And with over 50 dive sites around the islands and along the mainland coast, divers are spoilt for choice.
Many of the dive sites around the islands feature vertical coral walls and shallow reef flats, rich in both hard and soft corals. The walls are festooned with beautiful sea fans, whips, soft corals and black coral bushes that flourish in the currents whilst along the top of the walls, gardens of hard corals can still be found growing in the sunlit shallows. Bigger animals such as whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, barracuda, jackfish, turtles and small tuna are common, along with the occasional bigger dogtooth tuna, wahoo, giant travally, eagle ray or Napolean wrasse. Sea snakes are also common as well as big schools of snapper, triggerfish, sweetlips and other reef fish. Although guests have a great chance of spotting some bigger animals, the islands are more well known for their huge diversity or reef fish and other marine life. A recent survey found over 200 species of fish on many of the survey sites - with 2 sites recording over 300 species, making them amongst the richest in the world.
This diversity is reflected in the interesting macro life that can be found on the reefs of the islands, as well as the mainland dive sites. Pygmy seahorses, ghostpipefish, leaf scorpionfish and nudibranchs are common, whilst sites on the mainland are well known for their ‘muck’ critters such as different frogfish species, seahorses, snake eels and even Rhinopias, mimic octopus and wonderpus and the elusive hairy octopus. Sites here feature everything from healthy coral reefs, white and black sand slopes, patch reefs and eel grass beds - in fact the entire coastline around Manado - from Wori in the north to Poopoh in the south - can be considered one big muck-site with a diversity of habitats and species to rival those found in the Lembeh Stait.
The Bunaken Marine Park was established in 1991 as one of the first of Indonesia’s growing system of marine parks. The park covers roughly 890km2 and includes the islands of Bunaken, Siladen, Mantehage, Nain and the impressive inactive volcano of Manado Tua, as well as stretches of the mainland coast both north and south of Manado. The range of habitats within the park - including shallow reef tops and sheer walls dropping to well over 1000m, fringing reefs, sea grass meadows, mangroves and sandy slopes - combined with the steady currents that sweep through the park bringing with them a rich supply of nutrients, help to support an extraordinary diversity of marine life - including dolphins and whales, over 300 species of coral and more than 70% of all fish species found within the Indo-Pacific region.
Today the park is home to 30,000 inhabitants in 22 villages, all of which were established in the park before it was gazetted for protection. The villagers are from the the Sangir-Talaud Islands to the north or the Minahasa district of the mainland and work as fishermen or farmers raising crops such as coconut, sweet potato and banana, or cultivate seaweed for export. With the development of the tourism industry, some of the villagers now work as boat drivers and dive guides, or in the resorts themselves - an important alternative source of employment for the people of the Bunaken Marine Park.
The closest airport for both international and domestic flights is at Manado with frequent flights from Singapore - a good connection for most Asian and European destinations - as well as regular domestic flights from Jakarta and Bali via Makassar, on Garuda and Lion Air (Wings).
Once in Manado, boat transfers to Bunaken resorts are normally arranged with your packages and depart from either the Jenke or Calaca piers. If staying on the mainland, the resorts will arrange transport from the airport.
The dive tourism industry is very well developed around the Bunaken Marine Park and Manado, and since the park was established in 1991, the number of resorts, home stays and dive centres has increased dramatically. In the park itself, guests can stay on the islands of Bunaken or Siladen, both of which have a wide variety of options to suit all budgets. On the mainland, there are resorts north and south of Manado city, again with a range of budgets to suit everyone. The resorts to the south of Manado have a slightly longer boat drive to get to the islands, but have the advantage of being a lot closer to some great muck diving sites on the mainland. Those to the north of Manado have the shortest travel time out to the islands. But given that all the resorts can access the same sites, guests should base their decision about where to stay on their personal preferences for style of resort and price.
Because of its sheltered position to the west of the mainland, the Bunaken Marine Park can be dived year round. The dry season from April / May - October has the best conditions with hot, sunny days, clear skies and great visibility - 30m+ is not uncommon although the average is 20 - 25m. The rainy season runs from November to April, but the monsoon is much less pronounced here than in other parts of Southeast Asia, and whilst it will rain - a lot - you will also get plenty of sun. The visibility will drop during the rains and the average is between 15 - 20m around the islands, but runoff from rivers and streams can cause the visibility at sites along the coast to drop dramatically after storms. The seas can also be rough in January and February when the west wind is blowing. Water temperatures average between 27 - 28C, but can drop to 26C in July and August.
The best times to dive Bunaken is May through July and September and October, with the busiest times being August, Easter and Christmas.
4 nights and 10 dives - the perfect short break, with 3 dives a day and 1 extra sunset or night dive spent exploring the incredible dive sites of the Bunaken Marine Park. The package includes accommodation in a Garden View Villa, all meals and transfers from Manado airport. Upgrades to Beach View Villas, Luxury Villas and the Nusa Indah Villa for families are available. High season and single supplements are applicable. Guests can prebook any desired number of dives in advance and the use of Nitrox if suitably qualified.
Murex Resorts in partnership with Lembeh Resort offer guests the ultimate way to explore Sulawesi - the ‘Passport to Paradise’. Dive from 3 different resorts in Manado, Bangka and Lembeh and explore all that this extraordinary area has to offer. This package includes 13 nights accommodation, 30 dives and all transfers by boat. Upgrade to Deluxe Ocean View Cottages or Cliffside Suite at Lembeh Resort. Upgrade to nitrox fills throughout.