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Sulawesi, Indonesia

Manado Dives

Just outside the bustling city of Manado lies a wealth of dive sites that is any underwater photographer's dream. Bunaken National Park falls in the center of the Coral Triangle, making it one of the most bio-diverse and colourful dive sites in the world. Its superb wall reefs and numerous turtle sightings attract divers around the world. Just around the corner from Bunaken is Lembeh Straits, a muck diver's wonderland. Burrowed in its black volcanic sands are extraordinarily unique creatures that make Lembeh world-renowned for muck diving.  There's even a third secret spot in between - Bangka Island, with glorious coral and even the odd dolphin and dugong sighting!


The closest airport is Manado, which can be reached by direct flight from many Indonesian cities and regional hubs such as Singapore, Shanghai or Shenzhen. From the airport, it's a 1 to 2 hour transfer via car and/or boat. Your guide will pick you up from the airport.

Diving around Manado generally requires a dive master or dive guide who will ensure your safety and show you the best diving around the area. If you prefer not to go with a guide though, some of our partners provide house reefs where you can dive with only with a buddy.

The diving here is suitable for divers of all levels. If you are not yet a certified diver and would like to do your certification course in Manado, please contact us and we'll be happy to arrange that for you too.

The best time to go depends on which option and dive area you pick.

Bunaken National Park and Bangka Island: Here, it’s possible to dive year round, but the best visibility is during dry season from March to October. You will have a good chance to see sharks in June, dolphins and whales in July and sperm whale migration in July and August. Turtles abound year round as do barracuda, dugong and tuna. Water temperature is around 28-29 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Similar conditions apply for Bangka Island area.

Lembeh Straits: Here, the best visibility is during October to December. If you are keen on muck diving, July to August is your best chance to see the most critters as it is also when the temperatures are lowest (25-26 degrees Celsius).

In general, January and February are the worst months for diving as the seas can be quite rough making some of the sites inaccessible.

There are two, three and four day diving options, so a trip can take three to five days, depending on which option you pick. For safety reasons, please do ensure that there is a period of at least 24 hours between your last dive and your flight.

The options differ by the dive site, number of days and type of accommodation (though all the providers listed here have nice accommodation).

If you're choosing between the different dive sites:
Bunaken National Park: Bunaken is often described as one of the top dive sites in the world with incredible bio-diversity. Bunaken is best for wall diving and drift diving, but also has several beautiful coral slopes. Often seen around Bunaken are numerous turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, passing eagle rays, sting rays, abundant critters and macro life. There have been occasional sightings of dolphins, pilot whales and dugongs here.

Bangka Island: Less famous than Bunaken National Park but no less exciting, Bangka Island is best for world-class corals reefs. Here you'll find a mix of sloping reefs in exploding colours, rock pinnacles, sea mounts and drop offs. It is also home to a large number of critters and schools of mackerel, fusiliers, jacks and rainbow runners. There have been occasional sightings of dolphins, pilot whales and dugongs here.

Lembeh Straits: Lembeh offers a wonderland of rare and unusual critters. It promises to be a extraordinary dive for those who love muck diving, or those who are curious enough to give it a shot. Move slowly through volcanic sand fields strewn with litter (yes, litter!) to discover the endless parade of fascinating critters which are any underwater photographer's dream.

Swimwear
Towel
Ankle socks (as fins can rub on the back of your ankles)
Personal toiletries
Sunblock
Flip flops
Your dive equipment (if you have it)
Rash guard
                           
If you're diving for more than a day, you may like to bring two sets of swimwear, towels and ankle socks so that you will have a dry set at any time

Manado is a mecca for food! A couple of our favourite places are: Raja State BBQ for great grilled seafood and pork, and Esspecto Coffee for good quality specialty coffee.

If you're looking to explore further, there are also some great day trips to Minahasa Highlands where you can visit local markets and villages to experience the local communities. We also liked Mahawu Volcano, which is nearby and great for a trek around the rim. Many dive resorts have guides on staff that can take you or your non-diving partner on a great day trip!