Manado, North Sulawesi is situated right in the middle of what is called the Coral Triangle. This area, where the Indian and Pacific Ocean come together, is rated as the most biodiverse region of marine life in the world. With so many great dive sites close together there are several options to go about diving in the Manado area. There are plenty of good dive resorts on the mainland around Manado itself, that organize dives around the entire North Sulawesi area. Bunaken National Park, the Bangka Archipelago and Lembeh Strait are the three most important areas for diving from Manado. Underwater photographers will have a hard time knowing where to shoot in this densely inhabited part of the ocean.
Bunaken National Park, established in 1991, was one of the first national parks in Indonesia. 97% percent of the national park consists of ocean and the area is litteraly teeming with marine life, including healthy coral growth, trevallies, snapper, angelfis, turtles and the occasional shark. Staying at Bunaken island, in one of the dive resorts, puts divers within a few minute boat ride of many of the best Bunaken National Park dive sites.
Being the macro and muck diving capital of the world, Lembeh Strait diving offers an opportunity to see some of the world’s most interesting looking creatures. Nudibranchs, seahorses and frogfish belong to the large variety of critters inhabiting the Lembeh Strait. Even though these dive sites can be reached from Manado, there are several more exclusive options to stay and dive here, like the Kungkungan Bay Resort, with Lembeh Strait’s diving at the doorstep.
North Sulawesi liveaboards are another option to explore Bunaken, the Bangka Archipelago and Lembeh Strait dive sites. For the more serious diver, liveaboards offer up to five dives a day and everything on board is taken care of. There are liveaboard trips to suit different budgets and interests, like a trip that focuses on underwater photography by ReefWreck & Critter.
Water temperatures for diving in North Sulawesi are very comfortable, with temperatures between 27 and 29 degrees Celsius. Water gets coldest September to October, when temperatures in Bunaken can go down to 26. Depending on the conditions, visibility in most Manado dive sites is generally good. Lembeh Strait never had great visibility, but being a muck diving destination this is not important.
Diving Bunaken national park is well known for its excellent wall dives, but the area has a lot more to offer. The shores of the mainland, close to manado, supply some great opportunities for muck diving. The island of Bunaken is surrounded by fringing reef, before it drops off, offering good opportunities for beginner divers and night dives. Lekuan 1,2 and 3, all part of the same reef, are popular wall dives. Overgrown with hard and soft colors, this wall dive can have mild currents and attracts larger fish like the Giant Grouper. Bunaken dive site Alung Banua is a beginner-friendly site that teems with marine life. The wall and caves here are home to an array of camouflaged fish like frogfish and leaf fish, but also attracts schools of fish and an occasional white tip reef shark.
Lembeh Strait is the macro and muck diving capital of the world. Searching the sandy bottom and patches of reef growth, divers may encounter the tiny Pigmy Seahorse, leafy scorpionfish, pipfish, frogfish, nudibranchs, sanddivers and the rare mimic octopus. Dive site ‘Hairball’ was named after the algae here that resembles a cat’s hairball. This sandy slope with small areas of reef is extremely rich in marine life. Angel’s Window is another very popular dive site in lembeh Strait. This pinnacle offers a chance to see schooling fish and lots of macro life. At the deep end of the pinnacle is a swimthrough for the adventurous diver. These names are but a few of the many dive sites in Lembeh Strait. The macro diving here is world-class and an exceptional destination for underwater photographers.
Manado in North Sulawesi is in easy reach of world-class diving and some of the best Indonesia has to offer. North Sulawesi is reached by flying to Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado from Singarpore or from Denpasar, Bali. There are several good dive centers in Manado that offer diving in the whole area of North Sulawesi. Each area, like Bunaken and Lembeh Strait also has dive resorts that focus on diving in that area in specific. Liveaboards that combine all dive areas in North Sulawesi allow the diver to do up to 5 dive a day and really get up close and personal with the best of North Sulawesi diving.
Bunaken national park was established in 1991 and covers over 89.000 hectares, of which 97% marine territory. Dive sites in Bunaken national park can be explored with dive centers in Manado, or divers can choose to stay on Bunaken island itself. Both options are within short reach of all the mayor dive sites in and around the park. The Thalassa dive center is located in the mainland at the Santika Seaside resort, only 15 km north of Manado. This 5 star dive center takes divers to the best sites in Bunaken national park, but also arranges dives to the Bangka Archipelago and Lembeh Strait. On Bunaken island, only 60 minutes by boat from Manado, several good dive resorts offer accommodation and dive packages. Bastianos and Living Colours are two comfortable and well reviewed places to dive with.
Lembeh Strait boasts some intimate experiences to get to know the best of Lembeh diving. Upscale dive resort Kungkungan Bay is right at the doorstep of all Lembeh Strait dive sites and, situated in a private bay, even had an exclusive private house reef. A more budget friendly option to dive Lembeh Strait is with Nomad Adventure Divers, which is well equipped for underwater photographers.
Liveaboards that combine the best of North Sulawesi diving include the Wallacea fleet, a professional operator of two boats. For underwater photography enthusiasts, ReefWreck & Critter, organizes a liveaboard dive trip focused on underwater photography.
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Two kodiak boats great driving but one boat had smaller engine and hard to maneouever currents and slow at times Food and cook were consistent and excellent. At times the drop location could have been better
Diving excellent with the added excitment of current. Really good service with an attention to details. Dive guides who did their best to meet your requirement. Flexible itinery for conditions. Amazing food. Nice purpose built boat with lots of wood.
Water temperatures for diving in North Sulawesi are very comfortable, with temperatures between 27 and 29 degrees Celsius. Water gets coldest September to October, when temperatures in Bunaken can go ...
Manado in North Sulawesi is in easy reach of world-class diving and some of the best Indonesia has to offer. North Sulawesi is reached by flying to Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado from S...
Everyone has their first time did something special and keep that moment for life. So does a scuba diver. During my diving trip, I have encountered several first time moments that made me smile every time remember those days. From the first time diving with tens sharks, to a long dive with mantas. And in Lembeh strait is the place where for the first time I encountered the aliens look-alike marine species, from hairy frogfish to just “normal” looking cardinalfish. The diving in Lembeh strait was addictive, and I wish someday I will return again, to dive with these “aliens”.
Raja Ampat in Indonesia, has always held a lot of fascination for me. Customers on their way there, or just back, were awestruck by the area. “Best in the diving in the world!” they’d say, but having dove for many years, I’ve heard that before…
What to expect when boarding for a trip to Raja Ampat, 'The realm of the Four Kings'. Nowhere in the world will you find the biodiversity found here underwater, but sometimes the plankton-rich areas are challenging dives. A bit of preparation before you leave can help you make this a dream destination!