Bunaken and Siladen

As one of the first marine parks in Indonesia, Bunaken certainly holds its place among many incredible dive sites scattered among the Indonesian archipelago. Bunaken is one of the islands aside from Siladen, Manado Tua, Nain Island, and Mantehage, forming Bunaken Marine National Park.

Known for its crystal-clear water and catering to different types of diving, from reef to muck, Bunaken and Siladen have been the go-to diving destinations for decades. With thousands of fish species and hundreds of varieties of coral reefs, Bunaken and Siladen are hard to pass, especially when north of Sulawesi has been established as a world-class diving and underwater destination.

Top highlights of Bunaken and Siladen

  • Explore the shipwreck of the Dutch vessels from the Second World War known as Molas Wreck
  • Lekuan is well-known to be the dive site where the 33 species of butterfly fish are identified
  • Dive alongside two of the endangered species of Hawksbill and green turtle in Bunaken and Siladen
  • Discover and experience the twists and turns, overhangs, and small caves in Bualo

About Bunaken and Siladen

Lies in the north of Sulawesi and the western part of Manado, Bunaken is one of the five islands forming the Bunaken Marine National Park. Covering an area of 890.65 kilometers, only 3% of those are terrestrial, which is represented by the five islands. The region was declared a national park in 1991, and in 2005, the government submitted the application for Bunaken to be included in the World Heritage List.

Over 22 villages within the park have over 35,000 residents, primarily as fishermen. Despite its status as a national park, preserving the region is a challenge. Human activities like coral mining, blast fishing, and cyanide fishing have become so severe that the local government, alongside the conservationists, formed enforcement and patrol to reduce these activities.

Diving in Bunaken and Siladen

With 97% of the area of the Bunakan mini archipelago being water, it is not surprising that the marine life here is as diverse as any part of The Coral Triangle can be. Lembeh Strait has been lauded as one of the best muck diving destinations in the world. However, Bunaken and Siladen, in the western part of North Sulawesi, offer different experiences.

Comprising five islands, many dive sites centered around Bunaken Island, with others scattered in Manado Tua, Siladen, Nain Island, and Mantehage. It is home to seven out of eight giant clam species worldwide, and 70% of all fish species in the Indo-Western Pacific Ocean can be discovered here in Bunaken and Siladen.

The gently sloping reef, walls, small caves, and overhangs are the home of incredible soft corals, sponges, gorgonians, black corals, and hard corals in various colors. Green and Hawksbill turtles are the turtle species commonly seen in many dive sites. Juvenile reef sharks and moray eels can sometimes be easily spotted between the cracks and holes in the walls.

Bumphead parrotfish, Napoleon wrasse, barracudas, tunas, jacks, fusiliers, anemonefish, trevallies, red-toothed triggerfish, butterflyfish and bannerfish are a few of the fish species that inhabit the waters in the marine park. Big fish like reef sharks and eagle rays often lurk in the deeper part of the ocean. Critters such as pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, angelfish, frogfish, and octopus are there to entertain any macro enthusiasts.

Cetaceans are also part of the biodiversity in Bunaken and Siladen. Spinner dolphins, sperm whales, pilot whales, dugongs, and orcas sometimes appear, especially during the migratory period, as the ocean's depth carries the strong currents that attract these giant mammals.

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Bunaken and Siladen

Bunaken, The True Definition of Turtle Heaven

It is not an exaggeration to say that Bunaken and Siladen are heavens for turtles, as the numbers found here are astonishing. The crevices and holes in the walls graze most of the dive sites in Bunaken and Siladen, providing the ideal shelter for these turtles resting on the coral reef. The endless stream of food in the rich nutrient waters is also another reason the green sea turtles and Hawksbill turtles are predominant here. Green turtles are herbivores and often feed on sea grass and algae, while Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous.

Green and Hawksbill turtles are included in the IUCN’s Red List, with green turtles considered endangered while the Hawksbill is in the critically endangered list.

Many unspoiled beaches around the islands (especially in Bunaken, Siladen, and Manado Tua) have created the ideal environment for these turtles to lay their eggs. The safety of these turtles is guaranteed as turtles are protected by law and the local communities.

The green sea turtles in Bunaken are considered to be among the largest ones in Indonesia, making it more special to dive alongside them in many of the dive sites in Bunaken and Siladen.

Diving Environments in Bunaken and Siladen

Bunaken and Siladen are unlike Lembeh Strait, where muck diving takes most of the dive. Though muck diving is available for macro lovers, most of the topography in this marine park is reef and wreck diving, with slopes and walls. The depth around the islands goes beyond 1,500 meters in some places, meaning strong ocean currents can flow past. Always check with the diver operators about the current condition before diving.

The water temperature ranges from 27 to 30 degrees Celsius, with a yearly average of 28 degrees Celsius. Wearing a 3mm full-body wetsuit is adequate for diving with the constant water temperature in the area.
The visibility in Bunaken and Siladen is excellent. On a clear day, it can easily reach beyond 40 meters, with 30 meters being the average. This doesn’t mean the visibility is always stellar. It can sometimes fall below 20 meters, though the condition rarely lasts long.

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Bunaken and Siladen

How to get to Bunaken and Siladen

Unlike many remote destinations in Indonesia, getting to Bunaken and Siladen does not require thorough planning.

The entry point is Manado, which is North Sulawesi province’s capital. Direct flights to Sam Ratulangi International Airport are available from Jakarta (Garuda, Batik Air, Citilink), Singapore (Scoot), or Surabaya (Lion Air).

Direct flights from Bali to Manado are not available, as most services have layovers in Surabaya, Makassar, or Jakarta.

From Manado city center, the trip to Bunaken can be reached by boat for approximately 45 minutes from the Manado harbor.

Diving Seasons & Weather in Bunaken and Siladen

Bunaken and Siladen follow a similar pattern to the rest of Indonesia when it comes to weather. The dry season runs from May to October, while the rainy season lasts from November to April.

July and August are peak seasons as it coincides with the school holiday, and the temperature can reach 35 degrees Celsius. The best diving season is from May to October, as the visibility can go up to 50 meters. Diving during the rainy season is still possible when the weather is less hot, but the visibility is also less stellar due to the heavy rainfall.

Dive Sites in Bunaken and Siladen

Bualo

Bunaken and Siladen

North Siladen And East Siladen

Bunaken and Siladen

Siladen Jetty

Bunaken and Siladen

Molas Wreck

Bunaken and Siladen

Lekuan

Bunaken and Siladen

Sachiko’s Point

Bunaken and Siladen

Marine Life in Bunaken and Siladen

Liveaboards in Bunaken and Siladen

Bugis Liveaboard

Price on Request

Mahodaya

Price on Request
Charter Trips from $9500
Per Night

Amalia Liveaboard

Price on Request

Tambora Liveaboard

Shared trips from $3850pp

Shared trips from $3850pp

Charter Trips from $7900
Per Night

Elbark Cruise

Price on Request
Charter Trips from $4200
Per Night

Gandiva

Shared trips from $418pp

Shared trips from $418pp

Charter Trips from $3604
Per Day