DIVING IN NORTH SULAWESI
The Bunaken Marine park and the Bangka, Talisei and Gangga islands, are blessed with white sandy beaches, palm trees and one of the clearest most transparent seas that you are ever likely to see. Further afield, the Sangihe islands which form a natural stepping stones towards the Southern Philippines are still largely unexplored by divers.
If that was not enough, there is another spot that cannot be left out of the logbook of any respectful scuba diver visiting Bunaken Marine Park - a stretch of sea covering the west coat of Sulawesi and a tiny island a short boat ride from the coast. At first glance, the area in the strait of Lembeh, with is muddy sea floor seems of little interest, yet hiding in these waters is a creature as amazing as it is bizarre.
Diving Trip: Liveaboard or Resort
Even on dry land, there are some excellent day trips, for example to the Tangkoko Natural Park, which is home to the Tarsier (cute primates that can rotate their head around 180° and has eyes that are larger than his brain); take in Lake Tondano, or cross through rice paddies and traditional villages set against spectacular natural backdrop of Sulawesi.
For the sport loving, the Mahavu and Lokon volcanoes make excellent treks. Whilst visiting the Bunaken Park, a trip to the summit of Manado Tua Volcano is a must.
Diving Sites of Northern Sulawesi
Situated on the northern tip of Sulawesi, Bangka and the surrounding islands are exposed to the weather and open to strong currents from all directions. Large pelagic fish are frequent visitors, traveling with the currents and feeding on the nutrients.
The coral reefs around Bangka are rich in colour. Dive sites off the coast offer steep pinnacles with walls covered in highly coloured corals that offer protection from the strong currents to large shoals of fish such as snapper, fusilier fish and surgeon fish.
The Sangihe Archipelago is a chain of 40 spectacular volcanoes 136 miles (220 km) from Sulawesi, forming a natural bridge between Indonesia and the Philippines. The wonder of the Sangihe Archipelago is its natural isolation and the fact that is completely untouched and uncontaminated by the modern world. It is here, from the depths of the ocean surge towering volcanoes, including the active Siau Volcano.
These forested islands touch 1,400 metres in height. The night time here put on a spectacular show, thanks to the lava and stones coming out of the volcanoes.
A highlight of any trip to the Sangihe Archipelago is a dive at Mahangetang - an submersed but active volcano near Siau. From depths of 400 metres, the summit reaches up to just under the water surface. The surrounding area is desolate, with hundreds of bubbles bringing volcanic gases to the surface. Upon a closer inspection of the area, you are likely to find small starfish, algae, tiny worms and corals - a sign that a new coral reef is being created at Mahangetang.
Dives in the Sangihe Islands are incredibly rich and varied. The plankton blooms and upwelling of nutrients create a food chain that attracts huge schools of fish. The surrounding waters are visited regularly by large cetaceans such as sperm whales, pilot whales, melon headed whales and numerous dolphin species.
Bunaken Marine Park
Founded in 1991, the Bunaken Marine Park occupies 343 square miles (89.065 hectares) of sea, 97% of which are clear warm tropical waters. You can see almost any form of Indonesian sea life on the reefs in Bunaken, including white and black tipped reef sharks, giant marine turtles, napoleon fish and dugongs (manitee). You may even find yourself diving in a pod of dolphins or an occasional passing whale.
There are 22 official dive sites within Bunaken Marine Park. Dives are generally wall and current / drift dives. Schools of barracuda and jackfish, green turtles, reef shark, sea snakes and napoleon wrasse will often join you during your dive. The waters of Bunaken are also rich in stunning corals; reef fish of all colours, shapes and sizes; as well enormous sea fans and sponges. The Bunaken Marine Park is superb both for macro and wide angle photography.
The Lembeh Strait
Located near to the port of Bitung, the Lembeh Strait is a mix of macro life and bizarre underwater critters. In the murky waters appear the most incredible creatures, such as the pigmy seahorse, the mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, harlequin shrimp, skeleton shrimp, colourful crabs and flatworms. Amongst the regular reef fish, you can also find less common species such as the Ambon Scorpionfish, the hairy frogfish, stonefish, devilfish, sea robins, stargazers and rhinopias frondosa. You can also find beautiful pegasus seahorse, mandarin fish, ghost needlefish, and the endemic Banggai cardinal fish. The Lembah Strait is also home to a staggering array nudibranch of all shapes and colour.
Lembeh is a dive destination where it is truly possible to discover new species during every dive. A unique itinerary that allows you to fully appreciate and enjoy the underwater wonders of the tropical sea.
Useful Information to Bunaken, Lembeh Strait and Sangihe Islands
Diving season: April to November. But is possible to dive Bunaken, Lembeh and Sangihe all year round without running into conditions that are less than acceptable.
Rainy season: December to mid Marchl.
Water temperature: Warm, about 26-30 degrees. A 3mm shorty should be more than sufficient.
Visibility: Excellent, 20-30 m or more.
Depths: 5 -> 40m.
Currents: Usually gently but can be strong.
Surface conditions: Calm, but can be rough at Sangihe.
Experience level: Beginner – intermediate – advanced.
Dive sites: >105.
Length of stay: Recommended 7-10 days on liveaboard cruise.
Airport: Manado by international flights. As an alternative international flights reach Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, or Bali, and then domestic flight to Manado.
Weather: 26-32 degrees. Indonesia has two seasons: wet and dry. In most of Indonesia the wet season is from October to April and the dry from May to September. North Sulawesi wet season is from December to mid March and dry season from April to November. July and August are sunny and windy.
Time zone: Sulawesi GMT +8.
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