Located in the heart of the coral triangle, Bunaken National Park is a marine park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, near the city of Manado. It’s almost 900 square kilometres in size including five small islands, and its fine coral reef is a major local and international tourist attraction. After five days of diving and shooting macro in Lembeh, my buddy and I added on a couple of days’ diving near Manado, which included a day trip with two dives to this marine park, and I switched my camera set-up over to wide angle.
The highlight of the marine park is indeed the coral, which is stunning in its richness. Hard corals of all shapes and sizes, alongside healthy, colourful sea fans and sponges smother the reef, which consists of dramatic vertical cliffs as well as undulating slopes with gullies and crevices. There were reef fish and turtles aplenty, though we spotted just one lone whitetip snoozing in a cave. Here’s a selection of photos.
We visited two dive sites on the island of Bunaken itself, and found the visibility to be very good and the dives easy with only very light currents. The sites we dived had a fair number of other dive boats and we certainly weren’t alone in the water — the weekend was a local holiday, which probably explains the numbers of tourists. Given that the national park covers such a wide area, I’m sure that it has much more to offer, and more days of diving there would be needed to do it justice.
The dive shop
A brief word about the service — Like in Lembeh, we were diving with Eco Divers. Unlike in Lembeh however, this operation does not have its own accommodation but is based out of a separate upscale resort called Minahasa Lagoon. After the very attentive attitude of the staff at Lembeh, we felt that the Manado crew were a little more happy-go-lucky, and a few small details, such as a crowded boat, and no DIN tanks available for Nitrox made our diving experience less than perfect. These are just minor quibbles and the dives themselves more than made up for it. The two days made a fantastic add-on to our stay in Lembeh and Bunaken National Park is definitely worth a detour.
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