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There are plenty of resorts on Bunaken's east coast at Pantai Pangalisang beach.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Indonesia > Sulawesi Utara > Bunaken

Bunaken Travel Guide

  
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Bunaken National Marine Park is off the coast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Bunaken is one of Indonesia's most famous diving and snorkeling areas and it draws visitors from all over the world. In addition to banana-shaped Bunaken Island itself, the 890 km2 of marine national park includes the neighboring islands of Manado Tua (a distinctive cone-shaped extinct volcano), Siladen, Montehagen, Nain, and Nain Kecil.

Some 20,000 local inhabitants make their living from the waters in the Bunaken National Marine Park, and this has inevitably led to some conflicts. By and large though, the co-operation between national and local government authorities, conservation groups, business owners and local communities has been very successful here. This has led many to cite Bunaken as a model example of how Indonesia should be preserving its natural marine treasures.

Pantai Liang on Bunaken's west coast.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>
 The Visitors Centre on Liang Beach sells handicrafts, t-shirts and general souvenirs.

There is no natural potable water on Bunaken. Insist on bottled water at all times and ensure that coffee and tea are is also made with bottled water.

The local spirit Cap Tikus (literally rat brand) is a distilled palm wine and is actually quite nice on the rocks with a slice of lemon. Bintang is the number 1 beer in Indonesia and is available cold at many of the resorts.

 

Diving

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. There are beginner-friendly sites too and all dive shops can arrange introduction dives and Open Water Dive courses.

Bunaken is all about diving. Don't expect great beaches here.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

The North Sulawesi Watersports Association offers oodles of detail on diving in the park.

Bunaken was formally established as a national marine park in 1991. 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 rated by many as the single best dive site in all Indonesia.

In places the water is extremely deep here - 1,500 metres plus.

All dive shops in the park are affiliated with resorts.

Snorkelling

Snorkeling is fantastic in front of many of the resorts around the island, with an incredible amount of marine life inhabiting the shallows. 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 very confident swimmer.

Other Activities

Walking through Bunaken town.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Tourism on Bunaken has been very much geared towards serious divers over the years but the trend seems to be changing. More and more casual snorkelers are visiting the area as are those who wish to just relax immersed in nature. 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. Trails are poorly marked.
  • Fishing but only outside of the park boundaries. Hire a boat or join one of the local fishermen.
  • Dolphin & Whale watching either on diveboat trips or by hiring a boat privately. If you are lucky (and quick), you can jump in the water and swim with dolphins for a few seconds.





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