Bunaken Dive Sites

There are around 19 recognized dive sites around Bunaken Island, and close to 30 sites in all within the national marine park encompassing all five islands. Most dive resorts on Bunaken seem to do most of their dives around the island, which keeps the "commute time" to 20 minutes or so. However, it all depends on the weather and what is heard through the grapevine about what's been spotted around the park.

The diving around Bunaken itself is most wall dives. A wide sandy shelf surrounds the island, which transitions to a coral reef as it gets deeper, but then there's a sharp drop-off forming a sheer wall covered with coral, sponges, and a lot of critters. The "big" draws here are the sharks and turtles (the biggest I've seen) as well as the large schools of fish.

The wall extends down to 40 meters or more, making Bunaken a good place to learn Tec diving, if you're interested in that kind of thing. Currents can be swift and changeable around Bunaken, but the dive guides will generally keep you going with the flow and just drift along.

Bunaken Timur

Bunaken Timur at a Glance

Depth: 40 m
Currents: Sometimes Strong
Season: May - Oct.

Bunaken Timur translates to "east Bunaken" and so this dive site name effectively covers most of the east side of the island. It's just a very short ride out from Two Fish Divers resort. Like most of the dives around Bunaken, there's a steep wall that rises from 40 meters or so up to around five meters. However, there are several areas where the "wall" is more of a steep slope. Some of the more open spaces are good spots to hunt for nudibranchs.

Currents can be a bit strong and changeable around Bunaken Timur, but if you just "go with the flow" and drift in the prevailing direction, it's still an easy, enjoyable dive.

Sharks, rays and turtles can all be seen here. We saw one blue-spotted ray whiz by us on our dive there. There were also some wicked looking scorpionfish. As at most other Bunaken sites, the shallower portions of the reef are covered with large schools of small fish.

Cela Cela

Cela Cela at a Glance

Depth: 40 m
Currents: Generally Mild
Season: May - Oct.

Cela Cela is located in the 'crook' of Bunaken's south bay, next in line from the Lekuan dive sites. There's a good mix of soft and hard corals here. My first photo on the dive is of a beautiful bubble coral with a couple of cleaner shrimp hiding in it. We then swam through huge schools of red-toothed triggerfish as well as more pyramid butterflyfish. Looking closer at the rocks and corals, you'll find a lot of nudibranchs as well.

There are also some giant clams here and there as well as some rather spectacularly colorful anemones with the ever-popular clown fish in them.

Lekuan 1

Lekuan I at a Glance

Depth: 40 m
Currents: Generally Mild
Season: May - Oct.

The Lekuan dive sites are generally considered to be the best that Bunaken has to offer. From a sandy bottom at around 40 meters, a steep wall rises to just around five meters, punctuated by many crevices, overhangs and other features.

Sharks like hang around near the sandy bottom, while turtles can be found napping just about anywhere. Then there are the masses of fish swimming about, like huge schools of pyramid butterfly fish, which fade into big schools of red-toothed triggerfish. But, don't overlook the small stuff. I found two great examples of chromodoris annae nudibranch hanging out on a coral.

"Small stuff" also describes what you'll find in abundance on the reef top as well. Only here, it's large schools of colorful small fish and juveniles hiding in the large coral heads.

Molas Shipwreck

Molas Shipwreck at a Glance

Depth: 38 m
Currents: Generally Mild
Season: May - Oct.

The Molas is the World War II era wreck of a presumed Dutch cargo ship. The wreck sits on a sandy slope about halfway between Bunaken and the Manado harbor. The top of the wreck is at around 26 meters while the bottom is at 38 meters, so this is a deep dive.

The wreck seems to be a good site for nudibranchs as well as some large napoleons, barracuda and sharks.

While your bottom time may be limited, don't stretch it too much. Save time for exploring the coral heads above the wreck, where you might find some mantis shrimp, sea snakes, ribbon eels and assorted other critters. Some of the best stuff is at 8 to 10 meters, so you can have plenty of time to enjoy it if you don't use too much air exploring the wreck.