The site of my first ever underwater adventure was at Bunaken in Indonesia, and what a great place to finally get my flippers wet!
Bunaken Island (otherwise known locally as Pulau Bunaken) is a vast wilderness in the north eastern corner of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It contains a site known as the Bunaken National Marine Park and this is known as one of the top dive sites in Asia. People from all over the world come to these waters to snorkel and dive, and to see the resplendent aquamarine creatures under the waves. There is an entrance fee of 150,000 Rupiah per person for entrance to the park. There are no cars or roads on Bunaken Island, so it really is a wilderness, but it is still extremely popular with backpackers and especially watersports enthusiasts pretty much the whole year round. Bunaken is reached usually as a day trip or overnight stop from Manado, which is the largest city in northern Sulawesi and where the only international airport is located.
In places, the waters of the Bunaken National Marine Park are over 1,500m deep and the temperature while swimming or scuba diving can get close to 30 degrees Celsius. Bunaken has many claims to fame, including the following:
It contains 7 times more coral species than Hawaii
It contains 70% of all fish species in the Western Pacific Ocean
It contains 7 out the 8 species of Giant Clam in the world (not sure if that’s a claim to fame, actually!)
Originally, with my dive guides, Dive Froggies, I had planned to dive around Muka Kampung, but this was changed at the last minute, and we instead headed a little further out to sea to a place known as “Ron’s Point” and then later in the day further around the island to “Raymond’s Point”. I had no idea why these places were named in this way. I jokingly hoped to myself that they were not named in honour of drowned explorers!
You can expect to pay around 3,000,000 Rupiah (£160) for 8 dives in the low season like I did (scuba diving equipment costs extra). However, at least with the impressive Dive Froggies, you can add many more dives to your itinerary ad hoc as and when you please. In the high season, you can expect to much more for your dives, but I think that’s pretty much common sense. From the morning’s sun onward, I was eager to see what kind of wildlife I would encounter on my underwater adventure, and after the mandatory safety precautions and explanations, I was finally able to jump overboard.
Most of these underwater photos were credit to my friend, as my camera is not really waterproof. That said, you can still see the kind of wildlife and sea creatures we observed here at Bunaken. Despite being famous for it, though, we did not see any Giant Clams, which was a shame. Turtles were omnipresent, however. It is really cool to see these turtles in the wild, and even though they are endangered somewhat, they seem really at ease around the divers – I guess they are used to us now Bunaken is a major tourist site in Sulawesi!
As expected, the vast sea beds of coral were also very impressive. At Bunaken, and I don’t know how this compares to other dive sites, you can get very good light even quite deep below the surface of the water. Everything seems so crystal clear sound here; seems it’s not just Thailand that has such beautiful seas! The coral with the sunlight reflecting off it was a joy to see. It was also good to see Nemo the clownfish come out to play!
I would always recommend trying to do some simple scuba diving when in Manado. The transfer from the airport over to Bunaken Island is pretty simple, and even as a daytrip from the city (which is what I did), it still ranks as a fantastic experience to get a few hours under the sea! For more information on Bunaken, please check out this amazing piece from Indah Susanti!