The Bunaken National Marine Park is located off the northernmost tip of Sulawesi, and encompasses the five islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Mantehage, Nain and Siladen, all of which combined only make up 3% of the parks total area of 890 km², while the other 97% is all marine habitat. The islands were all formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and thus the diving mainly consist of steeply sided coral covered walls with superb visibility. The depths between the islands ranges from 200 to more than 1,500 meters, ensuring that nutrient rich clear waters are brought to the shallows and help create plenty of food for the corals and fish that inhabit this area.
Constant oceanic currents which sweep past the islands bring a fresh and abundant amount of larvae to the area, while counter currents around the islands help to trap these larvae and keep the amount of fish and coral numbers very high in the park. One can plane to see many different species of angelfish, butterfly fish, and wrasses and gobies in the park. With highlights being reef sharks, napoleon wrasses, turtles, eagle and stingrays, and the occasional pod of dolphins, and mostly very easy diving conditions, it’s no wonder Bunaken is high on the list as best dive locations worldwide.
Bunaken National Park is most accessible from the city of Manado, which overlooks the island of Bunaken. Just a short drive from here is the world’s muck diving capital, known as the Lembeh Straits. Very different diving from what one can expect to see in Bunaken. The dive sites here are mainly black sand and mud (muck) dives in small protected bays located on either side of the strait which runs between Sulawesi mainland and the long but narrow island of Lembeh. Here all wonders of critters and creatures can be found. From hairy-frogfish, mimic octopus, and many numbers of different nudibranches to more than 4 different species of pygmy seahorses and rare endemic pipefishes. A trip to northern Sulawesi should include both the famed and coral rich area of Bunaken National Park, and the once in a lifetime critter diving of the Lembeh Straits.