Liveaboard Diving in Bunaken

What to Expect On a Bunaken Liveaboard

Liveaboards to Bunaken will dive into an outstanding 890 km2 Marine National Park. Located just off the northern tip of Manado Bay, in the Sulawesi Sea in Indonesia, is the island of Bunaken. This is perhaps one of the most species-diverse sites on the planet and is not an exaggeration. Taking a dive trip here on a liveaboard, you can see a truly unbelievable 70% of all fish species found in the Indo-Western Pacific Ocean. This astonishing statistic is hard to comprehend, but suffice it to say that you will likely see something you have never seen before.

The best time to visit on a liveaboard cruise would be during the dry season from May until October. Temperatures hover around a toasty 95 Fahrenheit (35C) for most of the year, meaning you'll likely be quite eager to dive in the cooler water.

Bunaken Underwater

The Marine National Park at Bunaken has been so successfully implemented that it has become the basis by which many worldwide marine parks model their operations. The list of what can be seen here is staggering, to say the least. An impressive 5 of the 7 sea turtle species, including the most endangered green sea turtle, can be seen here. 33 species of butterflyfish have been recorded, dugong sightings are not uncommon, and between July and August, you may even glimpse some sperm whales.

The Marine National Park includes the islands of Nain and Nain Kecil, Mantehage, Manado Tua, and Siladen, offering no shortage of potential sites for dive cruises. Many of Bunaken's dive sites visited by Indonesian liveaboards are wall dives. Where pockets of shelter can be found, you are likely to spot resting oceanic whitetip and blacktip reef sharks.

Dive Sites Of Bunaken

Celah Celah is often a favorite dive site for photographers. Located south of Bunaken, the site gets its name from the large cracks in the wall that provide a modicum of shelter from what otherwise is a strong current running parallel to the wall. These cracks have allowed all sorts of soft corals, like crinoids, to grow in protection, attracting many species of invertebrates and fish. Exotically colored nudibranchs can nest in plain sight, while pygmy seahorses use the coral branches for camouflage. Other species found here include the dogtooth tuna, banded sea snake, and ghost pipefish.

Located to the southeast of Bunaken is Depan Kampung. Primarily a drift dive along a small wall and perfect for liveaboard diving, you will see large shoals of reef fish, particularly the pyramid butterflyfish. Black damsels and fusiliers also make an appearance in prolific numbers. The reef is broken up by small ridges of rock, where you often see oceanic whitetips resting on the sand. These areas provide the shark with some shelter. As you follow the wall, it will transform into a fairly steep slope, densely populated by many species of beautifully colored corals.

Sachiko's Point is found northeast of the island and is also a wall dive. It has a maximum depth of 130 feet (40 m), and the reef here is in particularly good health with fantastic visibility. At this site alone, 301 fish species have been recorded, a true testament to the successes of the marine park. Trevallies, glassfish, barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, green sea turtles, and parrotfish are just a handful of what there is to see here.

Top Tips For Divers

Entrance fees to the park are 50,000 IDR per person per day (approximately 4 USD). Those under 10 are not charged, and a yearly cap on charges of 150,000 IDR exists. You will receive a small, waterproof plastic tag as proof of payment. It is important to hold on to this as authorities patrol the area where liveaboards visit and make frequent stops to ensure the marine park rules are adequately followed.

Currents around the sites of Bunaken are, for the most part, gentle. However, a few sites are relatively exposed to strong currents and prone to switch direction without warning. As such, some sites are suited for a more experienced diver. It is recommended to bring along an SMB just in case you make an ascent in an unplanned location.

Getting To Bunaken

Most Bunaken liveaboards will leave directly from the port at Manado, which is convenient as Manado International Airport is very close. International flights land daily at Manado, although the most common route would be to catch a connecting flight in Singapore.

If your Indonesian liveaboard cruise departs directly from the island, reaching Bunaken is still relatively straightforward. You can catch a ferry or charter a boat from Manado port. It takes roughly 30 to 60 minutes to reach Bunaken, depending on your chosen service.

Bunaken Diving Reviews

  • 9.6 Exceptional
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  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Elaine M
  • Switzerland Switzerland

This was not part of the Mermaid trip, but was good. We were surprised by the amount of green turtles. Great!

Diving Bunaken in February on the Mermaid I