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Bunaken
 
Bunaken is part of the Bunaken National Marine Park, which has some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity in the world. Scuba diving attracts many visitors to the island. Bunaken is located at the north of the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.  It belongs administratively to the municipality of Manado in the Province of North Sulawesi.

The Bunaken National Marine Park  was formally established in 1991 and is among the first of Indonesia's growing system of marine parks. The park covers a total surface area of 890.65 km�, 97% of which is overlain by sparkling clear, warm tropical water. The remaining 3% of the park is terrestrial, including the five islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Mantehage, Nain and Siladen. Although each of these islands has a special character, it is the aquatic ecosystem  that attracts most naturalists.

The waters of Bunaken National Marine Park are extremely deep (1566 m in Manado Bay), clear (up to 35-40 m visibility), refreshing in temperature (27 to 29 �C) Pick any of group of interest - corals, fish, echinoderms or sponges - and the number of families, genera or species is bound to be astonishingly high. For example, 7 of the 8 species of giant clams that occur in the world occur in Bunaken. The park has around 70 genera of corals; compare this to a mere 10 in Hawaii. Although the exact number of fish species is unknown, it may be slightly higher than in the Philippines, where 2,500 species, or nearly 70% of all fish species known to the Indo-western Pacific, are found.

Oceanic currents may explain, in part, why Bunaken National Marine Park is such a treasure trove of biodiversity. Northeasterly currents generally sweep through the park but abundant counter currents and gyros related to lunar cycles are believed to be a trap for free swimming larvae. This is particularly true on the south side of the crescent-shaped Bunaken Island, lying in the heart of the park.   A snorkler or diver in the vicinity of Lekuan or Fukui may spot over 33 species of butterfly fish and numerous types of groupers, damsels, wrasses and gobies.  The gobies, smallish fish with bulging eyes and modified fins that allow them to attach to hard surfaces, are the most diverse but least known group of fish in the park.

Biologists believe that the abundance of hard corals is crucial in maintaining the high levels of diversity in the park. Hard corals are the architects of the reefs, without them, numerous marine organisms would be homeless and hungry. Many species of fish are closely associated with particular types of corals (folious, branching, massives, etc.) for shelter and egg lying. Others, like the enormous Bump head Parrotfish, Balbometopon muricatum, are "coralivores" and depend on hard corals for their sustenance. Bony mouthparts fused into an impressive "beak" allow these gregarious fish to crunch corals like roasted peanuts.

Some 20,000 people live on the natural resources of Bunaken National Marine Park. Although there are inevitable conflicts between resource protection and use by people, the Indonesian government is taking a fairly unusual and pragmatic approach to park management. The idea is to promote wise resource use while preventing overexploitation. Local communities, government officials, dive resort operators, local nature groups, tourists and scientists have played an active role in developing exclusive zones for diving, wood collection, fishing and other forms of utilization. Bunaken Marine Park has become an important example of how Sulawesi, and the rest of Indonesia, can work to protect its natural resources.

Dive Bunaken
To dive in the deep waters of the Bunaken isalnd Marine Park in Manado is to be among some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, with outstanding fish variety and world-class wall diving. The clear, warm waters contain astonishingly high numbers of species, whether corals, sponges or fish. When you're scuba diving in Bunaken you can see seven times more genera of coral than Hawaii, 33 species of butterflyfish and over 70% of all fish species known to the Indo-western Pacific.

Oceanic currents sweep into Bunaken bringing a steady supply of nutrients. It's a sure certainty that where there is plenty of food in the sea, there will be an abundance of marine life, and you can be here to witness this rich harvest too. From the smallest commensal shrimp to black tip reef sharks and eagle rays, there is something for everyone in this very special destination.

Bunaken diving is very popular with fun divers and marine biologists both of whom can take great pleasure from the diversity of coral and fish found here. You will surely encounter marine life here that you have not come across elsewhere.

The most notable recent find within the park was in 1997, when the coelacanth was discovered living in the lava tubes of Manado Tua. This 'living fossil' fish brought international attention to Bunaken. Unusual mammals that can be seen include dugongs, which feed on the sea grass beds in the south of the park, and sperm whales, which travel through the area on their way to calve in the sangihe Archipelago. 

The park is located just out of Manado Bay in the Sulawesi Sea, off the northern tip of Sulawesi, and features some two dozen diving sites spread across an area of 75,000 hectares and the five islands of Bunaken, Siladen, Manado Tua, Montehage and Nain.

Included in the measures to protect this eco-treasure, is the creation of the marine park for which all divers must buy a pass which is used to fund conservation and village development programmes. It has long been recognised that the Manado area is an area worth preserving both for the good of the environment and the local economy. Various schemes are being undertaken to encourage responsible attitudes towards the reefs, the sea life and with regards to refuse disposal in the area. In Bunaken your few dollars really do make a difference!

Best time of year to visit: May to August.

How to reach the Park: The Park can be reached from Manado harbour, the Nusantara Diving Centre (NDC), Marina in Molas sub-district, and the Blue Banter Marina.

From Manado harbour by motor boat to Siladen Island takes 20 minutes; to Bunaken Island, 30 minutes; to Montehage Island, 50 minutes; and to Nain Island, 60 minutes. From Blue Banter Marina heading to the recreation area on Bunaken takes 10 to 15 minutes by cabin cruiser. From the NDC harbour to the dive sites off Bunaken takes 20 minutes by speedboat.

Rainfall 2,500 - 3,500 mm/year (on average)
Altitude 0 - 800 m asl.
Salinity 33 - 35 0/00
Weather clearness 10 - 30 m
Low-tide 2.5 m (on average)
Rainy season November to February
Dry season March to October
Geographical location 124�39' - 124�35' E; 1�35' - 1�49' N


 
 
 
 
 

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