On the northeastern tip of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, the Bunaken National Marine Park protects 890 square kilometers of stunning corals and vibrant marine life, offering some of the best diving in the Indo-Pacific. The volcanic origins of the park's four main islands have resulted in steep drop-offs very close to shore, and these are topped by fringing and barrier reefs choc-full of life.
Famed for spectacular drift dives along vast walls, some so deep the bottom is lost, divers will discover dense corals, huge sponges, gorgonian fans, and countless other sedentary filter feeders clinging to steep vertical sides. Around 390 species of coral have been recorded in the park, and many of them can be found on a distinct coral wall that runs from depths of 25 to 50 meters. The fish life here is no less spectacular, huge shoals of trevally and schooling barracuda making light work of the consistently brisk currents. Along every stretch of wall, clouds of butterflyfish and triggerfish create a wall of color the makes the entire reef appear to surge and swell. Turtles, Napoleon wrasse, humphead parrotfish, sweetlips, grouper, and even some notable macro such as nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses can all be spotted, making Bunaken diving some of the most exciting in Southeast Asia.
Despite being a reserve area, Bunaken National Marine Park is heavily populated, its islands home to around 35,000 people working mainly as fisherman and farmers. Tourism is also an important economic contributor, the region hosting more than 40,000 visitors each year. Sadly, tourism and other factors such as blast fishing, coral mining, and anchor damage are slowly degrading the park's fragile ecosystems. As such, the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Eco-region Action Plan, along with support from the World Wide Fund for Nature, is working on conservation methods to enforce banned activities within the park's boundaries.
There is a wide range of resorts and accommodation options available within Bunaken and on the mainland of Sulawesi, as well as a good number of dive operators to choose from. The area is also serviced by many Indonesian liveaboards making Bunaken diving accessible and available to all budgets. Most visitors will fly into Manado's Sam Ratulangi International Airport (MDC).
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