Best of Indonesia: Bunaken National Marine Park

Bunaken National Marine Park: Stunning wall diving with one of the world’s greatest underwater biodiversities

Living and working on Bunaken Island for several years it’s hard not to have a special place in our hearts. The island is a divers’ paradise also having phenomenal snorkelling opportunities with the whole island being a sanctuary. Originally favoured as a shelter for fishermen during storms Pulau Bunaken is surrounded by amazing shallow coral reef with depths ranging from two meters to two kilometres and more.

Dive sites are mainly walls festooned with corals and crevices hiding some of the largest hawksbill and green turtles, within the reef walls.  Keep your eyes pealed if the time is right you may spot some baby white tip reef sharks too. It truly has such a rich and plentiful diversity of sea life, both macro and wide angle on the same dive. Here are just a few of my favourite sites.

Pristine wall full of fish: Timur (East)

View from surface down to Timur wall ❤ Picture: Heini Härsilä

On many occasions our boat would be heading to another dive site, as we passed over the edge of our house reef we’d be treated to a breathtaking site of the reef.  Dropping off into the blue we’d stop and drop right there, changing our plans and descending just 100 meters from the resort. A huge seagrass area leading onto a coral slope is home to octopus, hungry dugons, pipefish, turtles, and much much more including early morning pods of dolphins and pilot whales. As a house reef this is truly beautiful and you can spend hours snorkelling and diving here without being bored of things to see.

Turtle wall: Lekuan 2

I enjoyed every time we dropped into the three Lekuan dive sites situated in front of Bunaken village: they each have sloping areas and also steep dramatic walls descending into the surrounding abyss. But by far my favourite was Lekuan 2 with its “eddies” providing temporary shelter from the sometimes strong currents for divers. populated by large morays, schools of black snapper, giant travally, turtles (of course) and thousands of reef fish.

Bunaken’s wall diving is world-class. Picture Heini Härsilä.

At times we’ve had photographers spend an hour within a 15 meter area always finding many subjects for their lens. For most they enjoy the cinema show as the current pushes you along the wall towards the sharp corner of Lekuan 3 or the walls of Lekuan 1 and Muka Kampung. Nestled into a cave around 12 meters depth can be three or more juvenile white tip reef sharks that are accessible to even free diving guests.

Home of giant clams: Fukui

One of nature’s perfect sights providing snorkelers and divers a great spectacle of sea life. Starting at five meters the site resembles an underwater hillside with hardly any current, table corals provide amazing photography opportunities as reef fish shelter beneath and within their habitats.


Artificial reef structures from over 15 years ago have been successful in encouraging coral growth on storm damaged slopes, with both hard and soft corals anchoring onto them. Resident napoleons are still cruising around the boats unafraid of divers and giving snorkelers a rare peak as they pass amongst the boats.

All time favourite: Sachiko’s point

Baby reef sharks using coral wall as shelter. Picture: Heini Härsilä

Drop in and enjoy the ride on many divers’ favourite site when visiting Bunaken. This site boasts a steep sloping reef from five meters to over a 100 meters, surrounded with thousands of red tooth trigger fish, eagle rays and black tip reef sharks as you get deeper, and of course the macro critters too. The current here can be pretty strong so it’s a good idea not to venture too far into the blue thus avoiding the down currents that can strike towards the end of the dive, but as always with current come the larger marine life with even dugons being frequently spotted in the shallows.

Awesome Molas Wreck

This shipwreck of unconfirmed origin is believed to be WWII Japanese vessel sunk around February 1942 according to local information. The wreck is a deep dive that leaves you wanting more, resting upright facing a slope the stern of the boat rests at 42 meters and the front at around 20 meters, which means it’s a great dive for enriched air divers. Surrounded by black sand means that sometimes the visibility can be 10 meters of less, but as you leave the wreck and head up the slope to the shallows, you can find some amazing critters in the muck and sporadic corals that take you all the way to your safety stop. Due to its distance from Bunaken, around 40 minutes boat trip, I’d recommend this site and its neighbour “Batu Hitam” (Black Rock) for a great morning trip.

Critter hunting on Manado’s sandy slopes. Picture Heini Härsilä.

Of course these few sites are just the tip of the iceberg of dive sites around the islands of Bunaken national park and there are many diverse sites too, lots of muck dives, drift diving is normal, walls, and amazing shallow reefs on the mainland and surrounding area. We enjoyed our time there and, if it’s still on your list we would highly recommend a trip, and for a visual peek check out Living Colours Diving Resort, where we enjoyed our time.

Thanks for reading. Al





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