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Bunaken is a small island in the Bunaken National Marine Park. Bunaken diving is often quoted in the top 10 of best dive destinations worldwide with top notch wall dives. The biodiversity at Bunaken is stunning. With 30+ dive sites around the island, year round diving and amazing visibility Bunaken is the perfect dive destination. There are dive sites for all certification levels, although the spectacular wall dives are mostly suited for advanced divers.
It takes about 45-60 minutes to reach Bunaken Island from Manado, the largest big city on the mainland of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. We visited Bunaken as part of our 10-month long trip around South East Asia with our toddler son. It was a fun experience for all three of us. Amazing diving for us adults and a lovely relaxing stay for our 2-year old. Bunaken is definitely suitable for a diving holiday with kids.
Bunaken National Park
Bunaken Marine Park consists of five islands: Siladen, Mantehage, Nain, Bunaken itself and majestic 600m high extinct volcano Manado Tua. Although Bunaken is just one of the islands, this whole area is often referred to as Bunaken. This national park was one of the first marine parks or marine protected area (MPA) established in Indonesia in 1991. It covers an area of 890.65 km² with 97% of it being water. Bunaken has a extremely rich marine ecosystem with fantastic biodiversity. It’s home to about 390 species of coral and 2000 species of fish.
Diving season Bunaken
The visibility around Bunaken Island (or Pulau Bunaken as it’s called in Indonesian) is pretty good year round, between 20 and 35m. The water temperature is quite constant at 27-30C. While dive conditions are good for all year diving, the best dive season at Bunaken is during the dry season from March to October. The rainy season from November to March is a bit less severe compared to other parts of Indonesia, but there will be showers. June to September is the warmest period.
Bunaken dive resorts
Like most short-term vistors to Bunaken we chose a dive resort with a full board package. There are some budget homestays available, but we managed to find a dive resort that fit our (very modest) budget. A lot of the dive resorts are full board, which is great as it leaves you free to dive, dive, dive 🙂 We opted to stay at Happy Gecko Dive Resort (or Cicak Senang Resort as it’s called in Indonesian). A small and friendly operation with only 6 bungalows and an on-site dive center, run by a Dutch lady called Willeke and her local husband Jerry. Read our full review of Happy Gecko Dive Resort Bunaken.
Pangalisang Beach or Liang Beach
Our dive resort was located at Liang Beach, on the south side of Bunaken Island. The other beach, Pangalisang is located on the east side. To be honest we were too busy diving or caring for our 2-year old to really discover the island properly. Although we did walk up to the nearest village. Liang Beach and Pangalisang Beach are connected by a concrete pathway that also connects the three villages on the island. Since there are no cars on Bunaken, you can only get around on foot or by motorbike. What we loved about Liang Beach was the unobstructed view of the ocean from our hillside bungalow and the magnificent sunsets. The long shallow stretch of sand at Liang Beach allows for great swimming for kids at high tide and easy access (although a bit of a walk) to the best snorkel places at low tide.
Amazing diving at Bunaken
Like many other tropical destinations, diving at Bunaken is like diving into an aquarium. The abundance of marine life is absolutely stunning and biodiversity is amazing. Most local guides are geniuses at finding the small stuff. Those world famous wall dives are famous for a reason! They are a treasure trove of weird and wonderful critters in all shapes and sizes and beautiful and healthy hard and soft corals. Miniature critters such as pygmy seahorses and tiny little shrimps and crabs make this a macro photographers heaven. And diving with turtles never gets boring. We saw at least three of these amazingly elegant creatures on every dive.
Dive as long as your air lasts
Diving in Bunaken is generally done in small groups (at our resort it was max. 4 divers per guide) and max 75 minutes or until your air runs out. Which is great. We’ve seen different at other dive destinations where we often had a lot of air left because they’d limit dive time to 45 or 60 minutes. If you’re diving that fantastic underwater aquarium you want to make it last, right? The local guides are amazing at spotting the smallest critters, tiny shrimps, miniature seahorses and mini crabs. Fantastic! Most dives are drift dives, with the boat picking you up where you surface. Nice and relaxed, just the way we like it 🙂
Best dive sites Bunaken Indonesia
Bunaken has 30+ dive sites of which we’ve only seen a few. We traveled here with our toddler son, and had to take turns diving. Even though we stayed here a full week, we would have loved to stay longer. It’s just that kind of place. It’s definitely a place that remains on our scuba diving bucket list. So which dive sites did we like best?
Lekuan I, II & III
Classic wall dives on Bunaken’s south side. Easy conditions so suitable for all levels. Lots of turtles. Steep walls with amazing healthy corals and marine life.
Sachiko I & II
Another site for Bunaken’s famous wall drift dives. Walls with colorful corals dropping down to at least 130ft (40m). Large schools of fish and larger pelagics due to the stronger current. We spotted lots of morays and nudi’s in the reef top coral garden.
A completely different type of dive site, slope instead of wall. Covered with amazing hard corals, and sandy patches. Many giant barrel sponges and giant clams. Often you can spot large schools of fusiliers or other reef fish.
Scuba diving Indonesia
Indonesia has many world-class dive sites of which we’ve only seen a few. Bunaken Island and the USAT Liberty wreck at Tulamben, Bali have definitely earned their spot on the list of world’s best dive sites, as far as we’re concerned. But there are so many more fantastic dive spots to discover in this part of the world. Komodo and Raja Ampat are still very firmly on our diving bucket list!
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