Diving at Bunaken and Lembeh
The Bunaken National Marine Park dive sites are all accessible in about 45 minutes from mainland Sulawesi, and in just 5-15 minutes from Bunaken Island.
If you come to this part of the world to dive, dive, dive, you are probably better of staying on Bunaken Island. There are a large number of resorts, however, most of them are in the budget category.
If your main aim for coming to Northern Sulawesi is not the diving, or you enjoy more upmarket accommodation, I would suggest that you stay on the mainland in one of the very comfortable, but more expensive resorts.
There are approximately 30 dive sites at Bunaken, with most of the diving being drift diving along amazing walls. The currents can be quite strong, and there is the odd down current. Having said that, the diving is interesting and varied, with beautiful soft coral, napoleon wrass, white and black tip reef sharks. Occasionally whaleshark and dugong, and some large pods of dolphin make an appearance as well. At Ron’s Point it is possible to spot some critters, amongst them pygmy sea horses, juvenile dragonets, and orang utan crabs. Soft coral shrimp and squat lobsters can also be seen.
Barracuda Point is a little further away from the island than the other dive sites, which means an early morning departure from the resort, with lunch on the boat. All in all it’s easy to spend a week or two diving the Bunaken Marine Park dive sites.
The muck-diving in Lembeh Straits draws an ever increasing number of divers. Most dive sites are reached within 5-15 minutes from either the mainland resorts, most being luxury resort, or from Lembeh Island. There are quite a number of dive resorts on the island, with a good mix from budget to luxury.
Trying to stay objective and not using superlatives about diving at Lembeh is pretty much impossible for me, as I absolutely love diving here. The number of dive sites, around 30, and the variety is simply outstanding. Divers who have never dived here before need not worry that they might get bored, as there is also some interesting wall diving at Nudi Falls; Angel’s Window is a lovely bommie with a swim through at about 25m, and the Mawali wreck adds some more variety.
However, diving at Lembeh is first and foremost about critter diving, and critters you’ll see. I tend to refer to muck-diving as “treasure hunt”, and it is impossible to predict what treasure you will find next.
Mimic octopus and wonderpus, blue ringed octopus, rinophia and a whole host of other scorpionfish. The list goes on and on. Oh, did I mention the Lembeh Dragon? It’s tiny, with the front looking a little like a pygmy sea horse, and the tailend looking like a pipefish.
To top it all off, it’s not that unusual to see a pod of dolphins making it’s way through Lembeh Strait.
Diving in Southeast Sulawesi
A small, new (ish) dive operation is Labengki Dive www.labengkidive.com . The area is best known for giant clams (tridacna) and it is a conservation area where tridacna research is being done. If this is something which interests you, get in touch with Dana who runs the place and can answer all your questions. Her email address and phone number can be found on the website.
Travel Insurance & DAN Membership
Don’t leave home without it Please remember to take out travel insurance, and please check that your DAN membership is current for the duration of your trip. To buy your travel insurance now, go to our World Nomads website and get covered, even if you start traveling today!