Do you happen to be in North Sulawesi, Indonesia at the moment? Surely there are some tourist destinations like Lake Tondano, which is a famous destination in the province, and Tomohon, known for its annual flower festival. However, most of you will agree with me that most tourists go to this part of Indonesia to snorkel or dive at Bunaken National Park.
Popular diving spot in Indonesia
Bunaken National Park is the first marine national park in Indonesia that covers 900 km2 (347 mi2) of the sea around the islands of Bunaken, Siladen, Mantehage, and Manado Tua dan Naen. This marine park is one of the most popular diving spots in Indonesia, located right in the middle of the ‘coral triangle’, the part of the world where waters reach from different areas, such as Southeast Asia, Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Even though there is less marine research done in this area, its sea biodiversity is still the richest in the world. It’s the first marine national park in Indonesia, and the name Bunaken is a very popular diving spot among both local and international divers. No wonder people are willing to travel half a world away to this island to see the marine beauty.
The most diverse marine life
Although there is nothing much to do on the islands as there are no white sandy beaches here and it’s still an underdeveloped area with minimum facilities, however, under its water you will be astounded by the richness of its biodiversity. In fact, it is one of the most diverse in the world.
There are more than 20 diving spots in the marine national park, most of which are located around Bunaken Island, and each spot has its own name (e.g. Lekua, Bunaken Timur, etc.).
Get on a catamaran boat
To get to a diving spot on Bunaken Island, you need to ride a motorboat from Manado (North Sulawesi’s capital city) that will take you there in less than 45 minutes. Depending on the type of boat, it costs you between 500,000 IDR to 800,000 IDR (36.56 - 58.52 USD) for a 1-day exploration. I would suggest that you rent a type of boat, locally called a ‘Catamaran’, as it has a glass-bottom window where you can see the corals and fish from the boat. During the trip, if you are lucky, you can find a school of swimming dolphins too.
Rare sea creatures
In the water you will be able to see myriads of beautiful sea fish, turtles, invertebrates, and other forms of marine life that swim between healthy and colorful corals. In fact, these corals move, which is a sign of them being healthy. It’s nearly impossible to mention all the types of marine life here. Not only are their names unique, such as ‘boxer shrimp’ (these spotty shrimp always move their claws forward and backward when moving, as if they were punching) and 'common lionfish’, which is referred to as this due to their mane-like fins.
There are also many others, as different diving spots have different varieties of marine life, where a particular type of sea animal can only found in a certain area. However, the majority of marine creatures here can not be found in other parts of the world. Additionally, you will also get to see a very rare type of sea slug named ‘Funeral Jorunna’. Despite its ghostly name, they are quite fascinating. Many of them are a pure white color with dark spots all over their body, and to me they sort of resemble a bunny, as they have a pair of fins on their head that looks like the pointed ears on the cute mammals. Amazingly, you don’t have to dive too deep into the water as most of them live in the depth of less than 5 meters (16 ft)!
Inside Bunaken Island
You may want to know what to do inside Bunaken Islands. Among the 5 islands, Bunaken is closest to Sulawesi mainland, where it is inhabited by around 200 families in each of its 3 villages. Most of them are fishermen, and the women make ornaments out of seashells, such as necklaces and wristbands, to be sold to tourists. The closest village from Manado is ‘Bunaken’ village, where there are several souvenir shops selling these ornaments as well as T-shirts, bags, and other souvenirs with the word 'Bunaken’ printed on them. There are also some 'warungs’,small and modest restaurants, selling mostly seafood cooked in a local way. Go to one of the warungs (there is one named 'Rumah Makan Marinah’, which can literally be translated as Marinah restaurant, to try the crispy fish with sweet curry gravy called 'woku’, and the unique fried banana named 'pisang goreng sambal’ (breaded, fried banana dipped in chili sauce). These foods are the local delights, which create a perfect combination when being accompanied by iced coconut!
Must-visit when in Sulawesi
There are travel agencies at Manado’s port (named ‘Manado Marina Bay’) that rent out snorkeling equipment for 150,000 IDR (11 USD). Do keep in mind it costs more than that for deep diving equipment, as you will need an oxygen mask and tube. you also need to hire a guide, who is familiar with the area and has a diving certificate, to show you best snorkeling/diving places, and to help you with the documentation guide. It’s 350,000 IDR (25.59 USD) for the guide and a waterproof camera. For deep diving, you need to show your diving certificate before renting the equipment. There is also a diving school in the port for those of you who would like to learn how to dive. So, it’s not expensive at all to see the underwater world of Bunaken National Park, is it? Be sure you don’t miss this wonderful spot when you are on the island of Sulawesi.
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