Bunaken Island – An Exotic Far East Diving DestinationBy
Living in the UK and not being into the cold water diving thing, I normally end up diving in Egypt. When the opportunity came to visit a new diving destination, I couldn’t resist. That and getting the opportunity to fly on the Airbus A380.
Bunaken Island is a few miles off the coast of Manado in the north east corner of North Sulawesi in Indonesia. I’ve done relatively little diving in the Far East and Bunaken Island has a reputation as a great place to dive so it was an easy decision. There is a direct flight from Singapore to Manado which takes around 3.5 hours but it doesn’t operate every day. However, there are other options via Jakarta. Luckily, the connections from London with Sinagapore Air are pretty good and I ended up with just a single stop in Singapore.
I had a good look at the various dive resorts in both Bunaken Island and Lembeh and I eventually decided to stay at Froggies. Apart from the superb rates, free wifi and laundry swung the decision for me. After connecting through the superb Singapore Airport, I was picked up at Manado airport and taken to the harbour for the 40 minute boat transfer to Bunaken Island.
Froggies is an intemate little resort. My bungalow overlooked the sea and at night you could hear the sound of the waves gently breaking. There isn’t really much in the way of infrastructure on the island but Froggies provided everything I needed. All meals were included in the rate. The dive boats left from right in front of the resort, usually departing at 9am and returning by 11.30am in the morning. The afternoon dives would depart around 1.30pm and by 4pm. This gave plenty of time to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Underwater, the diversity of marine life was superb. My first dive was at a site called Negeri and I don’t ever remember seeing so many different varieties of nudibranchs on a single dive. Everywhere I pointed my camera, I could see something new and exciting to take a picture of. Anyone with an interest in underwater photography can’t help but to be impressed.
Bunaken Island isn’t really a destination for the family but if you want to chill out and relax in a serene setting or spend the days scuba diving, it is well worth the effort of getting here. Non-divers were also welcome on the boats and a number of the dive sites were also ideal for snorkelling using your best full face snorkel mask. There were never more than 6 guests on a boat while I was here and every dive I made, it was always just me and my dive guide, Fendy. The relatively small number of divers mean that in most places, the coral is in pretty good condition. In turn, this attracts more fish, nudibranchs, lobsters, turtles and many other species.
Fendy was excellent and pointed out no end of marine life that I would almost certainly have missed if it wasn’t for his expertise. On two seperate dives, Fendy showed me an Ornate Ghost Pipefish which is a beautiful little creature. They are incredibly hard to find and I was even more pleased that the photos I took came out reasonably well.
We also found a small Blacktip Reef Shark under a piece of coral. Unfortunately, sharks are becoming harder and harder to find. That evening I was chatting with an instructor and looking back, we both estimated that we’d only ever seen sharks on about 5% of our dives.
The night diving was equally enjoyable. I completed two night dives and we set out just before it got dark in search of the elusive Mandarin fish. It is a wonderfully coloured little fish that is also very shy. However, Fendy knew exactly where to look to find them and we soon saw them. It was difficult to use our torches as the bright beam would scare the Mandarin and as the light was fading, it was almost impossible to distinguish the colours. On our second night dive, I managed to get a couple of photos and we could see what all the fuss was about. Sometimes, the little fish can be as impressive as the larger sharks, rays and turtles.
By the end of my trip, I had managed 11 dives and taken well over 500 pictures of the amazing reefs and their inhabitants. If you are looking for a diving holiday in the Far East, Bunaken Island should definitely be on your list of places to consider.
I booked my flights via Expedia from London to Manado on Singapore Airlines and Silk Air (http://holidaydestinations.at/bbmexplorer).
The accommodation and diving was booked direct with Froggies (http://www.divefroggies.com)
My full portfolio of photos from Bunaken Island can be found on my Flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbmexplorer/sets/72157627971197222/
I would also like to thank Maria Munn from Ocean Visions for helping me with my camera settings. It meant that more of my underwater pictures turned out how I wanted them to and I didn’t have to spend hours editing and tweaking them, trying to correct the colours and lighting on my computer. Maria runs underwater photography courses for compact cameras and has also just published an excellent guide book.
All my underwater images were taken using an Olympus C5060W with a fish-eye lens and Inon D2000 strobe. The shutter speed was set to 1/500 with the apenture f8.0.