Diving in Manado and the Bunaken National Marine Park

Manado is part of the ``Coral Triangle`` the world's breeding grounds for marine biodiversity

Diving in Manado is an underwater photographers dream

Manado is the gateway to the Island of North Sulawesi in Indonesia located on the island’s west coast and home of the local airport. When you visit, North Sulawesi, you will have four areas that offer different types of diving.


Manado itself has some outstanding dive sites. A few hours away you will find Lembeh Strait on the east coast. Many divers consider Lembeh Strait to be the best “critter” / muck diving destination in the world.

The north shores of North Sulawesi and the offshore islands centered around Bangka, provide a variety of sites that go from shallow coral gardens to pinnacles to “washing machine” currents with large pelagics.


The Bunaken National Marine Park is the area that draws the most divers. The park was formally established in 1991 and was one of Indonesia’s first marine parks.

The Bunaken National Marine Park centers around five islands:

  • Bunaken (which is the park headquarters and largest island)
  • Manado Tua
  • Mantehage
  • Nain
  • Siladen


Fringing reefs surround these islands and there are some barrier reefs. The Bunaken National Marine Park covers a total surface area of 89,065 hectares. However, the variety of conditions would suggest a much larger area.


There is no continental shelf in the area around the park. Instead, it develops directly to a continental slope. Similar to a barrier reef located at a continental break, it becomes very deep in a short distance, as much as 1,800 meters deep between the islands.


This means the shallower waters are always being refreshed with nutrient-rich water from the deep that leads to the areas excellent visibility often up to 40 meters.


While some small areas showed the effect of a coral bleaching event a few years ago, most of the reefs are in pristine condition with excellent visibility and biomass.


When is the best time to dive in Manado and the Bunaken National Marine Park?

Many references will tell you that diving in Manado and the Bunaken National Marine Park is done year round. But keep in mind that the wet season runs from November to January, and with it often very rough conditions.


The rains do not have much effect on Bunaken Island, and the visibility is not much affected but getting there may be more difficult. Also staying on the remote islands during this time it not recommended as most of the islands are very low, and the rough sea conditions can impact the shores of the island making it even harder to get there and away.


The dive sites around mainland Manado do suffer lower visibility during the wet season as water mixes with sediment that come with the runoffs from the rain.


Sadly this also brings a great deal of trash like plastics that endangers the marine life. So our advice is to dive in Manado, and North Sulawesi during the dry season from February to October when the seas are calmer, and there is no runoff.

The marine life found in Manado and Bunaken National Marine Park is abundant

The area has not been under scientific study for very long, however, the number of different species of coral, fish, marine mammals and other marine life already cataloged is impressive.


If this trend continues, it may be found that it is one of the most biodiverse areas of the coral triangle (The area known to be the center of biodiversity in the world.)


A study done north of the park revealed a greater biodiversity in one square kilometer than the entire Caribbean sea. Diving in Manado and Bunaken Island can bring you face to face with some rare and endangered animals such as Coelacanths and Dugongs.


The West Indian Ocean coelacanth was first discovered in 1938 off the coast of Africa. Until then it was thought to have gone extinct over 66 million years ago.


The dugong is another endangered species found in these waters and is closely related to the manatee. Dugongs feed on sea grasses and therefore, the most dugong sightings are reported near coastal areas.


When Diving in Manado and Bunaken expect to see:

  • Over 70 species of hard and soft corals
  • Almost 300 different species of reef fish
  • 5 species of sea turtles
  • Black and white tip reef sharks
  • Gray reef sharks and Hammerheads
  • Barracuda, Jacks and Tuna
  • Napolean Wrasse
  • 7 species of giant clams
  • Small critters such as shrimp, nudibranchs, and seahorses and hundreds of marine animals you probably never have seen before.


How to get to Manado?

While Manado may seem very isolated, it is supported by a well-connected airport. The following international airports have connections into Manado:

  • Kuala Lumpur (KUL) by Air Asia
  • Singapore (SIN) by Silk Air
  • Denpasar in Bali by multiple airlines
  • Jakarta in Java by multiple airlines


if you are already in Indonesia, you will find that six domestic airlines serve Manado, allowing easy connection to any airport in the country.


Would you like to go diving in Manado? Feel free to contact us. We have an underwater photography dive trip scheduled in Oktober 2016 and we have multiple partners who offer dive packages + accommodation and scuba lessons too.

We are standing by to answer any questions you might have about diving in Manado. We will reply within 24 hours via e-mail.

Rutger Thole

Chief Amazement Officer

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Scheduled Underwater Photography Packages

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