Bunaken is one of Indonesia's most famous dive/snorkeling areas, and it draws scuba divers & snorkelers from all over the world. In addition to Bunaken itself, a rather featureless banana-shaped island, the National Park includes the neighboring islands of Manado Tua, a distinctive cone-shaped extinct volcano, Siladen, Montehagen, Nain, and Nain Kecil.
The park is famed for the clarity of its water (35m visibility is common in the summer dry season), the abundance of coral and fish, and for the precipitous "walls" at some sites. Bunaken Timur, right off the east coast of the island and featuring all of the above, is according to some the best dive site in all Indonesia.
Flora and fauna
Except for the very largest pelagics, nearly everything can be found at Bunaken. Reef inhabitants include white and black tip reef sharks, giant sea turtles, napoleon fish, and dugongs.
You may frequently run into dolphins, and occasionally schools of whales.
Bunaken is barely a degree above the equator and thus tropical. The "Rainy Season" from November to mid April, brings frequent rains, sometimes in storms lasting for several days, which make the air nice and cool but also reduce visibility. The "Dry Season" from May to October, when temperatures climb to 35° and visibility reaches a maximum. Bunaken receives far less rain than the mainland and is well ventilated with sea breezes.
Bunaken is about 45-60 minutes by boat from Manado. Most resorts will arrange transfers from the airport for their guests. Alternatively, a public boat leaves daily except Sunday at 2-3PM from the canal on the north side of the market. The cost is 25,000Rp for tourists (7,000Rp for locals). It returns to Manado from the jetty in Bunaken village around 8-8:30AM every morning except Sunday. You can also charter a boat both ways at anytime.
As of September 2008, entry to the park costs either Rp 50,000/day or Rp 150,000/Calendar year. Even though the fee does not seem to be automatically levied upon entrance to the island, it is the responsibility of all visitors to the Park to have one, and most reputable dive shops will supply them. As proof of payment, you will receive a plastic tag that must be carried at all times — it's waterproof and can be attached to your diving gear.
Muddy paths connect the various settlements around the Bunaken. Many are effectively impassable after rain. Watch out if walking along the coastline, as the beach may disappear when the high tide rolls in.
Tourism on Bunaken has been very much geared towards divers over the years, but the trend seems to be changing and more and more snorkelers are visiting the area as too are those who wish to just relax immersed in nature...away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Possible activities for landlubbers include:
- Beach-combing, especially at low tide when the reef top is accessible
- Hiking to some of the secluded coves on the Eastern and Northern part of the island, but trails are poorly marked
- Fishing, but only outside of the park boundaries: hire a boat or join one of the local fishing boats.
- Dolphin & Whale watching, either while on diving or snorkeling boat trips or by hiring a boat.
The thing to do in Bunaken is dive, dive and dive! However, the steep walls and occasionally strong, rapidly changing currents mean that many sites cater more to the intermediate/advanced diver, although there are beginner-friendly sites too and all dive shops can arrange intro dives and Open Water Diver courses. The North Sulawesi Watersports Association offers oodles of detail on diving in the park. The park also offers outstanding snorkeling!
All dive shops in the park are affiliated with resorts, so see Sleep below for listings.
The snorkeling is fantastic just in front of many of the resorts that surround the island, with an incredible amount of marine life living in the shallows and also on the outer walls. Remember not to snorkel without fins as the currents can sometimes be strong, and change quickly even when they are not. Pick a reference point on the island and do not stray too far unless you are a confident swimmer.
At the "Visitors Center" on Liang beach locals sell handicrafts, T Shirts and general souvenirs
Fish, fish and fish -- usually at your dive resort.
Natural drinking water is Not available on Bunaken. Insist on bottled mineral water at all times, ensure that coffees or teas are made using bottled water also. Local spirits Cap Tikus literally "rat brand" made from distilled palm wine (a type of moonshine), actually quite nice "on the rocks with a slice of lemon".
Most people choose to sleep at their dive resorts, almost all of which offer full board and attractive package offers. Those on the south and west sides of Bunaken have a strip of beach (coarse yellow sand), while the east side has a mixture of mangroves and small beaches with better reefs.
- Bastianos Dive Resorts, . Will pick up from Manado hotels.
- Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort, tel. +62 813 56930370 (Skype: bunakenchacha), . On the eastern side of Bunaken; 10 cottages all with en-suite bathrooms (hot water showers), large balconies, all Superior Cottages are equipped with A/C. Private white sand beach, "House Reef" with floating pontoon for snorkelers, Massage treatments available. Restaurant above the beach, Wifi in bar/restaurant, PADI Dive Center. Packages start from US$60 per person/per night ; Accommodation & Dive Packages from US$145 per person/per night.
- Bunaken Village Resort, . Located along the Pangalisang beach on the east coast of Bunaken. 8 cottages, restaurant, dive shop, beach bar, and swimming pool around a nicely landscaped small garden. Rooms 20-25€, 2 boat dives 40€. Next door just south of Two Fish Divers.
- Froggies Divers, [www.divefroggies.com]. A high quality dive operator with comfortable bungalows and excellent food.
- Living Colours, tel. +62-812-4306063, . Diver-oriented resort run by the shop of the same name, the bungalows are spacious and clean. Rooms 35€/person, including three excellent meals. Lately chosen as " Best resort all around Bunaken" by Lonely Planet Indonesia.
- Lorenso's Bungalows, . 5 min down the coast from Living Colours, offering cheaper but more basic bungalows at 125,000- 250,000 Rp. per person, per night
- M.C. Dive Bunaken, . Located near the Bunaken Village Has a very nice beach just next to the village and offers relaxed diving. Also offering Padi Dive Courses and Specialty's, Basic cottages 14€, more "luxurious" bungalows: 20€, including all meals, coffee, tea and water. 2 dives 40€, third dive 15€
- Siladen Resort & Spa, tel. +62-431-856820, . Small exclusive international resort on Siladen Island across from Bunaken. Multilingual PADI dive center, gourmet restaurant, lounge bar, Spa, large salt water pool. Located on the secluded western side of Siladen on a 300 meter stretch of white coral beach facing Manadotua Vulcano. Only 15 villas. PADI courses and full packages available.
- Two Fish Divers, tel. +62-811-432805, . Small and friendly PADI Gold Palm IDC Resort based on Bunaken Island. Cottages are basic but comfortable, and are right in front of the mangroves. The food is reliable, if monotonous. Vegetarians are usually offered fresh grilled fish in place of meat dishes. Offers fun dives for experienced and inexperienced divers, with small groups of 2-4 divers per dive guide. Also offers a full range of PADI dive courses from Open Water Course through to Instructor. Rooms start at 12 Euros per person to 25 Euros per person.
There are no unusual health risks in the park, aside from the standard set of easily avoided venomous marine critters. Sharks and crocodiles are both absent, and jellyfish are found only occasionally, primarily during the change of the seasons in spring/fall.
This page was last edited at 11:25, on 19 March 2009 by Wikitravel user Texugo. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, sarah, Ryan Holliday, Ted O'Neill, David and Mor Bastiaan, Wikitravel user(s) The Yeti, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.