Monday, October 16, 2006

The Bunaken National Marine Park

The Bunaken National Marine Park consists of five islands: Bunaken, Manado Tua, Nain, Montehage, and Siladen, as well as a part of the North Sulawesi mainland. Diving in and around Bunaken is mostly wall diving and drift diving, but also includes several beautiful coral slopes. There are 22 official dive sites within the park. The variety of both fish and soft coral is outstanding, making this area one of the top places in the world with regards to biodiversity. In addition, tucked away on the precipitous walls, you find an abundance of invertebrates and small marine life forms. With visibility around 25m and water temperature 26-30 C, this is a world-favourite destination for underwater photographers and naturalists alike.

Schools of Barracudas and Jacks, Green Sea Turtles and reef sharks, Sea snakes and Napoleon wrasses are among the resident inhabitants of these steep coral walls fringing Bunaken Island. Nain and Siladen Islands offer huge fields of hard coral in addition to their classic wall dives. Montehage yields excellent visibility and is a favorite location for sharks and big schools of barracudas, jack and bumphead parrot fish. The hard coral slopes offer some excellent drift dives where you can watch schools of coral fish in all shapes and sizes and colours, as you glide by the huge sea fans and impressive sponges. Bunaken offers superb opportunities for both macro and wide angle photography, as well as underwater videography.

Anemonefish Manado Tua, the fascinating cone-shaped volcanic island, features steep slopes on land covered with coconut palms and even steeper vertical drop-offs under water. Here you find the prettiest and most pristine coral, as well as many nudibranches and other macro life. The impressive overhanging walls are a breathtaking experience to dive, packed as they are with life, whilst the shallows provide some of the best snorkelling. In the many indents, caves and outcroppings of the walls, you often find reef sharks and other big fish, making this a preferred area for deep diving.

A 60m-long WWII shipwreck with good visibility and fish life is an available option if you fancy a change of diving scene. There are more wrecks in Lembeh (see below). Night diving on the walls is a thrilling adventure with a whole new array of creatures rarely seen during daytime and beautiful colours on the reefs when the tentacles of the coral are out at night to catch plankton - yet another world to explore!

Snorkelling around the drop-offs of Bunaken makes for a nice break in between dives, or even for a whole day snorkelling trip, second to none. The reef tops on these walls offer a huge diversity of soft coral and marine life, and an astonishing number of fish. The warm waters and the shallow depths on the reef tops make the snorkelling here very easy and relaxing. Disposable U/W cameras give good results in these clear bright waters.

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