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
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.