The banana-shaped island of Bunaken, which is part of Bunaken National Marine Park, attracts a lot of tourists. Its waters being a cornucopia of fantastic marine life, it is the perfect holiday destination for snorkelers and divers.
Location of Bunaken
The island of Bunaken is in Indonesia and is a part of the island Sulawesi, which is one of the larger islands of the country. Bunaken is part of Manado, the capital of the province North Sulawesi.
Bunaken National Marine Park, of which Bunaken is a part, extends over an area of 890 km2, 97% of which is the sea. The major islands that make up the park are Siladen, Manado Tua, Nain, Nain Kecil, and Mantehage. The park is so biodiverse that divers and snorkelers can never have enough of it.
What to do in Bunaken
You can dive in Bunaken to your heart’s content, and see a huge range of colourful fishes and rare marine creatures. However, scuba diving is not the only possible activity in Bunaken. There is a lot more there for visitors to indulge in.
- If you are a nature lover, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of Bunaken. There are the glistening sand, cooling breeze, beautiful sunsets, and wonderful fauna for you to view and scrutinise.
- Bunaken is a good place for snorkelling because there is rich and diverse marine life at the top layers of the water itself.
- Hikers too can have their fill because there are secluded caves suitable for hiking. However, you should ideally take guidance from local people when you go hiking because the hiking trails are often unclear.
- You can watch dolphins and whales either from your dive boat or by taking a boat trip exclusively for the purpose.
Best time to visit Bunaken
Bunaken is a tropical country and is warm throughout the year. Because of the constant sea breeze, it gets good ventilation all the time. The place is quite hot from May through October, but visibility is good during these months. The rest of the year is rainy with occasional storms. These months are obviously cooler but rains reduce visibility. You will have to make your choice of the season depending upon what you like more – sunshine or splashes of rain.
For divers, the months from February to October are the best.
Accommodation choices in Bunaken
Resorts are aplenty in Bunaken. The eastern side resorts are set amidst small beaches and mangroves while those on the west and south are on gleaming yellow sand. Some of the better-known resorts are the following:
Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort (3 stars)
Bunaken Cha Cha Resort with its magnificent house reef and a private beach is in eastern Bunaken. From the balcony of the resort’s restaurant, you can have wonderful views of the blue sea and the orange-red sunrise. Besides the routine services, the resort offers many other facilities like provision for BBQ, baby sitting, body massage, fishing, library, bar etc. It has 10 cottages which can accommodate a total of 20 people.
Bastianos Dive Resort
Bastianos, which is a set of wooden bungalows, is ideal for backpackers. It is on the western side of the island and so located that all the good dive sites of Bunaken National Marine Park are at easily accessible distance. All your diving needs are fully taken care of at the resort.
Bunaken Sea Garden Resort
This resort is a collection of 7 cottages set in a lovely garden. It has an excellent dive centre with sturdy boats, well-trained dive crew, and a PADI training course for beginners. The famous Bunaken Timur reef, much coveted by wall diving enthusiasts, is just a stone’s throw away from the resort. It is an ideal place for snorkelling and macro photography as well.
Bunaken Beach Resort (2 stars)
It is a resort with a private beach, and quite suitable for diving as well as snorkelling. From here you will have a magnificent view of the sea with mountains as a backdrop.
Bunaken Island Resort (3 stars)
The cottages of Bunaken Island Resort, on the southern side of Bunaken, on Liang Beach, are built on eco-friendly principles and have a hammock on one side. The resort remains quite conspicuous because of its magnificent stone Buddha. It has top-class diving facilities.
Bunaken Kuskus Resort (1 star)
Situated on Pangalisang Beach, Bunaken Kuskus Resort has amenities such as bar, restaurant, library, etc., and provision for body massage, laundry service, and ironing. However, pets are not allowed here.
Bunaken Village Resort
Located on the eastern side of Bunaken, on Pangalisang Beach, Bunaken Village Resort is ideal for diving-enthusiasts. Unlike Liang Beach, which is open, Pangalisang Beach has more mangroves around but both beaches are surrounded by an abundance of coral reefs that provide plenty of opportunities for diving and snorkelling. The two beaches are connected by a trail.
Cicak Senang Resort (2 stars)
Also known as Happy Gecko, this one is within Liang Beach territory, with plenty of good dive sites at a distance of a short drive by boat. The resort bungalows have a homely ambience and there is a dive centre for training beginners.
Also on Liang Beach, Froggies Divers is a PADI resort with a multi-lingual PADI trainer who can communicate in French, English, German, and Dutch, besides knowing a smattering of Indonesian, the country’s official language. The resort consists of 12 bungalows made of local wood, all with sea-facing verandas.
Living Colours (5 stars)
Living Colours is a PADI resort consisting of ten bungalows, each with a spacious balcony and a hammock. It is built on a hill and the view from the resort is excellent because of the height at which it is situated. A flight of 60 steps leads to the beach from the resort.
This resort is on a hillock overlooking Liang Beach, and its boundaries extend into the beach. It is the earliest of the resorts in Bunaken, having been established when tourism industry was only taking its baby steps. It continues to be run by a family, just as it was in the beginning. The dive centre of Panorama Resort has very experienced dive guides.
Raja Laut Dive Resort
Situated on Pangalisang Beach, Raja Laut Dive Resort is environment-friendly with a pleasant, natural, ambience. The bungalows are built of wood in the conventional style and covered with thatched palm leaves.
Two Fish Divers
The 12 cottages of this 5 star PADI resort are set around a lovely swimming pool. The resort’s diving service is excellent, with very skilled PADI instructors. A diver may even get a dive-guide exclusively for himself. Two Fish Diver is on Pangalisang Beach.
Resorts in Siladen Island
Onong Resort (3 stars)
It is one of the two resorts run by the well-known Celebes Divers, the other being the Mapia Resort near Manado. Onong is so located that divers and snorkelers can straightaway get into the water and find their way to the coral reefs. It has a PADI dive centre that provides all the guidance and equipment that divers need. Its restaurant food is wonderful with choice Italian and Indonesian dishes.
Siladen Resort & Spa (4 stars)
Siladen Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly resort with a private beach, library, massage parlour, spa, and PADI centre that offers diving courses for novices as well as veterans. It is a collection of ten villas, five with a wonderful garden view and five with beach view. The restaurant cuisine is a combination of Italian, Asian, international, and local cuisine.
How to reach Bunaken
Manado International Airport, also called Sam Ratulangi International Airport, is the airport closest to Bunaken. It is also the gateway to the marine park of which Bunaken is a part. There are flights to it from cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Davao etc. and important Indonesian cities like Jakarta, Bali, Sorong, and Makassar.
Once you land at Manado airport, you have to find your way to the harbour of Manado. From there it is about an hour’s boat drive to Bunaken. If you have booked at any resort in Bunaken, the resort management will make all arrangements for your transfer from Manado. If not, you can take a taxi to the harbour and from there take a public boat to Bunaken.
The public boat ferries passengers from Manado to Bunaken in the afternoon, around 2 o’clock or slightly earlier. It takes passengers to Manado from Bunaken in the morning, around 8 o’clock. The boat makes only one trip each way every day and does not work on Sundays and public holidays.
Getting around in Bunaken
There are paths connecting the different settlements and resorts in Bunaken. Many of them are fair-weather paths that may become unusable when heavy rains set in. There are motorcycle taxis called ojeks that can easily traverse through these paths. Ojeks are available for hire but tourists generally either prefer or are persuaded to walk because that is the only way in which they can imbibe the beauty of the land in full.
The entrance fee to Bunaken National Marine Park for a day is Indonesian rupiah (Rp) 50,000. For a permit valid for a year, the charges are Rp 150,000 which is equivalent to about $11. Entry is free for children.
A waterproof entrance tag is given to visitors upon payment of the entrance fee and the individual must have it with him for the duration of the stay to confirm that he has paid the fee.
Scuba Diving in Bunaken?
Check out our Bunaken dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!