A stay in Manado equals convenience as attractions in and around North Sulawesi are just nearby. One of the nearest attractions is the coral-fringed Bunaken Island, part of the Bunaken National Marine Park. The park, with its 1,566 deep waters, boasts of rich biodiversity where 70% of fish species from the Indo-Western Pacific Ocean and seven times more genus of coral than Hawaii can be found. It’s definitely a haven for divers and snorkelers. For beachcombers, there’s a stretch of white sand beach tucked behind mangroves at the southern end.
The crescent-shaped Bunaken Island has a more authentic island life feel with its modestly-developed village consisting of small eateries, souvenir shops and a few mid-range resorts. Divers and snorkelers can rent gear and hire boats to popular underwater spots like Fukui or Lekuan. There are even boats with glass-bottomed viewing sections that teases what the scene beneath holds. Once underwater, prepare for a dizzying psychedelic frenzy as a dazzling array of multi-colored fishes and corals visually bombard you especially near the drop-off wall. Just astounding!
My only concern here are the practice of some guides there who would encourage guest to “hold-on” to some corals to hold their position for picture-taking purposes. I cringe when I see people touch or damage corals underwater.
From the Manado harbor, public outrigger boats leave in the afternoon for Palau Bunaken for 50,000rp (US$6) per person. Travel time takes about an hour. A 50,000rp (US$6) entrance fee applies once you step on the island. Accommodation ranges from 100,000- 300,000rp (US$10-40).
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.