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What to Expect On a Bunaken Liveaboard
Liveaboards to Bunaken will be diving in 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 absolutely not an exaggeration. Taking a dive trip here on a liveaboard, you have the chance to see a truly unbelievable 70% of all fish species that can be found in the Indo-Western Pacific Ocean. This astonishing statistic is hard to comprehend, but suffice to say that you are likely to see something you have never seen before.
The best time to visit on a liveaboard cruise would be during the dry season that lasts from May until October. Temperatures hover around a toasty 95 Fahrenheit (35C) for most of the year, meaning you'll very likely be quite eager to go diving in the cooler water.
The Marine National Park at Bunaken has been so successfully implemented that it has become the basis by which many marine parks all over the world now model their operations. The list of what can be seen here is staggering to say the least. An impressive 5 out of the 7 sea turtle species can be seen here, including the most endangered, green sea turtle. 33 species of butterflyfish have been recorded, dugong sightings are not uncommon, and between the months of July and August you may even catch a glimpse of some sperm whales.
Included in the Marine National Park are 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, and where pockets of shelter can be found, you are quite likely to spot resting oceanic whitetip and blacktip reef sharks.
Dive Sites Of Bunaken
Celah Celah is often a favourite dive site for photographers. Located to the 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 coloured nudibranchs can be found nesting in plain sight, while pygmy seahorses use the coral branches for camouflage. Other species found here include the dogtooth tuna, banded sea snake and even 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 will often see oceanic whitetips resting on the sand. These areas provide the shark some shelter. As you follow the wall, it will transform into a fairly steep slope, densely populated by many species of beautifully coloured corals.
Sachikoís Point is found to the 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 species of fish 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 the age of 10 are not charged, and there is a yearly cap on charges of 150 000 IDR. As proof of payment, you will receive a small, waterproof plastic tag. It is important to hold on to this as authorities do 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, there are a few sites which are relatively exposed to strong currents that are 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 situated very close by. International flights do 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, it is still relatively straightforward to reach Bunaken. From Manado port, you can either catch a ferry or charter a boat. It takes roughly 30 to 60 minutes to reach Bunaken depending on which service you choose.