One of the best diving spots in the world – Bunaken Island

Last Updated on August 14, 2023


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Only 4 hours away from Jakarta lies one of the best diving spots in the whole wide world: Bunaken Island.

I instantly fell in love with this place. It has been claimed to have the best diving in Indonesia so who wouldn’t want to check this place out?

Whether you’re looking for a Bunaken snorkeling tour, a bamboo reef scuba experience or you’re just here for the Manado diving season, there’s some Bunaken Island diving for everyone!

Enjoy some bunaken diving on your next vacation, people with diving equipment for hire standing in hut with snorkels handing from the roof

Bunaken Island has more species of fish than the famous Great Barrier Reef! With over 390 species of coral found here, it’s a beautiful place to grab a snorkel and mask and explore life underwater.

If you’re lucky you can even swim with the turtles! Unfortunately, we didn’t see any on this trip but they assured us they are around.

🧳 MUST-HAVE: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have travel insurance. My #1 recommendation is SafetyWing!

Our Diving Trip to Bunaken Island

When we arrived at Bunaken Island from Manado we got off to grab our snorkels, mask and flippers from a man and woman at a tiny little shop, which was just a shack.

I swear this lady had super powers from Planet Flippers World. She simply just looked at my feet, then handed me the exact right size of flipper.

She’s obviously been doing this for years and now she has become a pro at it!

After that, we hopped back on our boat where we were taken to our dive spot which was called Likuan 3. There are three famous dives within Likuan called 1, 2 and 3.

Likuan 3 is great for a beginner diver and you can see many different fish species. Barracudas, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Bamboo Sharks, and Sponge Crabs are the most common species here.

Luckily, I didn’t see any sharks through my mask otherwise I would have panicked!

Visit one of the best diving spots in the world – Bunaken Island, close up shot of person wearing snorkel and goggles floating in the sea with large volcanic island behind them under a wide blue sky

There were a few other boats on the other 2 spots, but I would not say it was crowded at all which was really nice.

It was a really beautiful backdrop with the two distinct colours of the sea and the stunning volcanic island, Manado Tua in the background.

There are over 50 dive spots in the marine park so you won’t be stuck for choice! Many are for experienced divers only, but there are still loads of options for the avid snorkeler.

There are resorts which offer snorkelling right off their front door step!

Take part in some bunaken island diving, underwater view of coral reef with many aquatic plants and creatures

Where we stopped was quite shallow so you do have to be careful and be aware of your surroundings so you don’t bump the coral. We moved a bit further so we were right on the edge of the coral.

It was amazing to see the colourful fish and unusual looking creatures lurking here and of course, I saw Nemo!!

I highly recommend taking a GoPro with you if you have one. You will get some amazing footage of the wildlife.

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Come to the bunaken islands for an amazing snorkelling experience, view of calm ocean waters with two boats moored near to the coast under a wide open blue sky with clouds

After we finished snorkelling we were taken back to the island where we had lunch.

There was a mixture of fresh fish which seems to be the most popular dish in Sulawesi, along with coconut chicken curry and fresh vegetables.

The food here tasted fresh and absolutely delicious, I would definitely recommend eating here if you come to Bunaken Island. It was called Nelson restaurant and was situated right on the beach.

Oh, and of course you can’t come to an island and not have a fresh coconut!

As we headed back to the boat is was apparent that the tide had gone out, and luckily our boat was still afloat!

If you want to stay on Bunaken Island you can. There is limited accommodation so you may have to book early, especially if you are looking to come in the peak season (July- September + January).

You can book via Agoda or Booking.com, they list most of the accommodation options available on the island.

Remember: if you’re coming here when it’s the rainy season then come snorkelling in the morning as the afternoons are when the weather usually turns. You do not want to be snorkelling in the rain!

Discover the joys of bunaken island snorkeling, view of boat sailing through calm blue waters of the ocean under a bright blue sky with white fluffy clouds

How to Get to Bunaken Island

You can get to Bunaken Island easily by catching a boat from Manado which is located in North Sulawesi. You have two options – a public boat (25,000 Rupiah) or a private boat.

The public boat leaves everyday (except Sunday) at 2pm or you can easily hire a private boat but it will cost you a lot more (around 200,000 Rupiah).

It takes around 30-40 minutes to get to Bunaken Island, which leaves plenty of time to head out for some Bunaken snorkeling and get back to the bars in Manado all in one day.

You can hire the snorkel and masks (which costs 150,000 Rupiah) from the little shacks on Bunaken Island so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own.

There is also an entrance fee to the national park which is 150,000 Rupiah.

Remember: if you’re heading out for some Bunaken national park diving, it’s your own responsibility to pay the fee.

You will find if you’re staying in a resort they will add the entrance fee on top of your stay.

📦 PACKING TIP: Don’t leave home without a solar powered battery pack so you can keep your devices connected at all times.

Become one of the many annual bunaken divers this year, close up underwater selfie shot of person wearing snorkelling gear giving a thumbs up to the camera

A Note on Responsible Diving at Bunaken Island

When diving in Bunaken Island, there are some important things to remember when it comes to conservation.

To keep these places beautiful forever please be mindful of how to treat your surroundings! When you are diving make sure you DO NOT stand on the coral.

Be aware of your equipment and your movement, because just touching the sea life can kill it and if you don’t preserve it then it won’t be there for much longer.

Also, LEAVE wildlife where it lies. Don’t touch, pick up or move any wildlife as it can cause stress on the animal. I know Starfish and other little creatures may be beautiful but just don’t do it.

Once the amazing Bunaken diving and snorkelling spots are destroyed it will ruin the Bunaken Islands for future generations to come.

It’s bad for the local economy since tourism from the Bunaken dive sites is where most of the business comes from in these kinds of places.

Final Thoughts about Bunaken Island Snorkeling

I had a great time snorkelling here as you can probably tell! I highly recommend coming in the future and spending time at a Bunaken Island resort with some felllow Bunaken divers.

Sulawesi is a part of Indonesia that is quiet, so now is the time to ditch the more crowded and popular islands and explore this quiet paradise.

If you would like to know more about Manado and Bunaken Island I recommend talking to a guy named Steven who works for Manado Tourism.

He is very helpful, he will be able to help you get from A to B and recommend the best local spots for you to discover.

You can contact him via their Facebook Page or his email is: stevenmenthol@rocketmail.com. If you need accommodation in Sulawesi then check out Agoda or Hotels.com, I highly recommend them!

💡 PACKING TIP: Make sure you bring a good snorkel, water shoes and a fast-drying towel for all of the beach-going you’re about to do!

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How do you get to Bunaken Island?

The best way to get to Bunaken Island is by boat, either a public one or a privately hired one. In either case, you will probably be leaving from Manado. The journey takes 30-40 minutes.

✅ How many people live on Bunaken Island?

Bunaken Island has an area of around 8km² and is home to 7,500 people who live full time on the island.

✅ What is the nearest airport to Bunaken Island?

Your nearest airport when visiting Bunaken Island is in Manado, and it is called the Sam Ratulangi International Airport.


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