Formed by tectonic trifling between the Pacific and Eurasian plates, the island of Sulawesi, once known as Celebes, is often described as “orchid shaped.” Divers have nothing but praise for the reefs surrounding the small islands in Manado Bay. And rightfully so! The islands are surrounded by very steep, pristine coral walls covered with an incredible amount and variety of soft coral. The Manado National Park features some 18 dives sites. Most are concentrated off the south and west coasts of the island (center above) called Bunaken.
Bunaken; the crescent-shaped coral island surrounded by a steep fringing reef.
Diving on the reefs of Manado Tua, the well-shaped dormant volcano (left and above) reaching an elevation of over 800 meters, is also world-class.
Three other islands complete the group: tiny Siladen, a stone’s throw northeast of Bunaken; Montehage, the largest of the islands, north of Bunaken; and Nain, a tiny island north of Montehage surrounded by a large barrier reef.
The variety of marine life here is excellent: the surfaces of the walls are crowded with hard and soft corals, whip corals, sponges and clinging filter-feeders like crinoids and basket stars. Huge schools of pyramid butterfly fish, black triggerfish and clouds of anthias swarm around the reef edge and the upper part of the wall. Sharks, schools of barracuda, rays, moray eels, and sea snakes are relatively common here.
Murex Dive Center
A quiet intimate resort with the best designed boats in the area and outstanding dive guides. The resort has a a very personal feel to its excellent service and basic but comfortable rooms. Smaller and more peaceful than most of the centers in the Manado area.
It also has two liveaboards: the 12-berth Serenade and Little Serenade, which run regular cruises to the Sangihe/Talaud Islands. Murex staff picks you up from the Manado airport for the 20 minute drive to Kalasay, their idyllic location just south of the city.
They offer a range of rooms in a beautifully landscaped setting of gardens.
Getting to Sulawesi, Indonesia
By Air: Manado’s Sam Ratunlangi International Airport is easily reached with Silk Air, a 3.5 hour flight to and from Singapore, running twice a week. Silk Air is run by Singapore Airlines and offers excellent service.