A quick glance at a geographical map of North Sulawesi is enough to evoke a sense of exploration. The volcanic peninsula stretches to the east and then breaks into a myriad of small islands scattered throughout one of the world’s most diverse underwater environments, offering encounters with mountain species on the mainland and with marine life in the ocean. Start your offshore adventure in Bunaken National Marine Park, a protected area covering a playground of more than 75,000 hectares. The northern and largest part of the park, including Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Montehage and Nain is characterised by a plateau of reefs and steep drop-offs, while the southern and smaller part is mainly coastal, offering excellent muck diving and the best walls in the area. Beautiful Gangga island is located right in between this area and is the perfect base to explore it all.
Although the most touristic and unfortunately the most exposed to the rubbish problem, Bunaken and Siladen feature a nice atmosphere and diverse accommodation. Here you can explore the area’s deep waters and dive around healthy corals, gorgonians, underwater caves and shipwrecks, meeting rays, turtles, sharks, barracuda, napoleon fish as well as colourful nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses and fish cleaning stations.
Pulau Lembeh and the Lembeh Strait are a macro photographers’ heaven. Enjoy exploring the marine life around the wrecks, taking close-ups of striped frog fish and mimetic octopus among other interesting critters, while the Bangka islands are best to meet whales, dolphins, tunas and jacks. If you want to get out of the water for a while, head to Sangir and the Talaud islands where, besides diving and snorkeling, you can satisfy your appetite for trekking and culture by embarking on interesting excursions to Portuguese forts, volcanoes, spice crops, waterfalls and caves.