Manado and surroundings

There is no use in staying in Manado and go diving from there, Unless you have loads of money staying at the Ritzy hotel going out to the diving sites in fast modern boats every morning. It's much cheaper to stay at Bunaken Island, When staying at Siladen Island you can also go diving. Tante Marthas homestay will call one of the diving operators at Bunakento pick you up in the morning. The easiest access to diving you get on Bunaken Island though.  You get to Manado either from Singapore or other places in Indonesia.

When arriving Manado you will get all your information at the friendly Smiling hostel. All back packers go there and they all are eager to inform you on where to go and where to stay.

View from the hut at Papa Boas

View from the hut at Papa Boa's Bunaken

Harbour in Manado

View towards the harbour from the Restaurant at Smiling hostel. To the right are the tombs in Airmididi, here showing the sitting position we arrive and leave earth in.

What to do: There is a public boat going out to Bunaken, there is none going out to Siladen. There are boats in the harbour willing to take you to Siladen if you want to. We took a boat called Tersyang, but a boat called Putrinain with the boat man Maliki will bring you there for less money. There are fisher men going from Siladen to Manado every day around 01:00 PM to sell their fish , that will cost you 30 000 for two persons. The harbour is just behind Smiling hostel. Are you diving with Froggies they will pick you up with their boat around 01:00 PM at Smiling or from the airport. Smiling will call Froggies at Bunaken for you and they will arrange the stay for you if you are going to the Minahasa high lands as well like visiting the surroundings of the town Tomohon 25km from Manado town. You can walk up the sulphur steaming Mt. Lokon and it only takes 1.5 hrs to walk up. We had a dog called Nero following a group of 6 going up, it had some problems climbing a couple of the areas the lava had run down and the black stones on top of the vulcano were a bit too hot for it.


Here on our way from the main street to the "Happy Flower home stay" and Mnt Lokon in the back ground. Do you see the hen walking freely by the fence? It's really nice to see the chickens walking freely too.

Here "Nero" doggie has to rest it's warm paws after climbing up to Mnt. Lokon. One of the tourists from Middle Sulawesi is taking care of it.

The diving: The diving around the Bunaken and Siladen Islands is really really good. With Froggies we never went deeper than 22m and stayed in the water for over an hour. Are you an experienced diver you will stay down there for over 100 minutes cruising at 12 and 6m the last half an hour being amazed by the life and colors. A 2.5mm suit seems to be a must, even in 30 degrees C temperature the water will become cold. I was not the only one getting cold, the dive masters as well were freezing. Most of the dives were drift dives and it depends on the day how strong they were. Usually it seems that you swim against the current along the wall at around 20m and then you head with the current at 16m then to 12m. At 20m you usually see a turtle and a white or a black tip reef shark, the dive masters also know where all the small things are situated so at 16m you usually see Nudi branches, Anemone shrimps, Flat worms (they are more pretty than their name) at 12m you see Garden eal, Banded Sea snake and lost of nice soft corrals and Beautiful colored fishes. Further down you of course see Box fish, Scorpion fishes, Lion fishes, Parrot fish, Napoleon fish and so on.

The living: The big discussions among the travellers are price and safety of the diving clubs. It might look like that Froggies and Indo pacific divers are the most expencive and the safest. Froggies are the leading on price at Bunaken. They operate with only 4-5 divers pr boat and 2 dive masters onboard. There is one dive in the morning and one in the after noon. The lunch lasts for about two hrs and we relaxed and had a really nice lunch. The most divers stay at "home stays". Staying at Papa Boa was really good regarding the food, but the huts are situated on the worst part of the beach. But who needs a beach when you are diving anyway? We had dinner at 07:00 PM and we all sat talking to 10:00 PM when we all went to bed, some screaming when seeing a cocroach in their bath room. When living in the jungle, you will see those types of animals. I had a huge spider situated in the bath room, huge fat legs. I didn't want to kill it since I don't like the sound of huge animals splatting around. I didn't like it that much when the spider disappeared from the bath room one day. Sleeping with the mosquito net is a must, not only for the mosquitos.... I found the spider again when I was making room for hanging up some more clothes on the hangers on the wall. Uuuugh. I checked all my clothes after that before putting them on. The sun disappears around 06:15 PM so it's nescessary to have a tourch, the light bulbs are not strong enough to lighten up the areas around the light switches for instance. There was a really ugly thing on the switch one night. It must be one of them the film makers are studying before they make a monster alien attacking the humans in the future. I managed not to kill any animals of a larger size than a mosquito. It is possible to live with these animals. Do not bring any food inside your hut, the ants will be all over it. This is maybe why you can't buy any sweets on the islands OR because it's quite expencive compared to everything else. A stay at the "home stays" will cost you from 35 000 Rupiah to a 65 000 Rupiah (8 US dollars) with all meals included. The diving with Froggies on the other hand will cost you 60 US for two dives. Other diving operators can offer you two dives for 40 US or some also down to 20 US. It's all up to you. If you check around you will find dive operators with 2000 dives and good compressors, but you might also find the opposite.

The people: There are diving boats out there with10 + people onboard (Froggies have 4-5 divers), it looks really funny when there is a group of exited Italiens talking really loud on a diving site and we could see them way deep down looking for some thing when we were at 20m. There were a couple of Italiens that had to go to the decompression chamber in Manado during the time we were there. The Italiens seem to have an interest in this area because the Italiens have paid for the chamber in Manado so they might as well have to use it? I met some really nice and safe and interesting Italiens, but since there are a lot of Italiens operationg in a large group out there it's easy to address certain behaviour to them. A group of Scandinavians or British would probably result in the same behaviour patern. At Froggies there were a mix of people from France, Italy, UK, Belgium and Holland. Our group popping in to each other as we travelled the highland and Manado consisted of 2 from Belgium, 2 fromHolland, 3 from UK, 2 from Italy, 2 from Norway and 2 from Singapore (only 3.5 hrs direct flight from Singapore) a well mix of people and it was a good mix.

Other diving sites: There seems to be loads of places to dive in Sulawesi. There are more islands north of Manado, but you need a boat and the Liveaboards are not any more (the crises). Togian Islands are also told (a lot of people told us this) to be really really super! Especially a group of Islands that doesn't have any dive operators. There has been some fishing with dynamite, but it's said it's not longer allowed. It takes you three days to get to Togians from Manado, so plan for it if you are going (I will). The beaches are also really good they say, it's paradise. The water is also still, no swell at all. There is supposed to be a wreck laying there from the second world war, but the life in the sea is also worth seeing. Sulawesi does not really know what tourism is, so you have to prepare your self for busses not made for Europeans and no English spoken outside the cities. This is also why the inhabitans of Noth Sulawesi are so nice and helpfull and smiling. Your luggage will not be stolen, you are not expected to pay tip and the prices are low except for some few items. The fish is extreemly good. If you are going to the Minahasa mainland and renting a Bimo for a day with others (200 000 Rupiah) then it will be nice for you if you eat at Pongkor in Airmididi. All info you get from the Smiling hostel in Manado town. At Tomohon the Happy Flower is the cheapest and the "Vulcano home stay" is the nicest (and a little bit more expencive).

Another info place on Manado: North Sulawesi Info

bulletIt can rain quite heavily in Sulawesi, then you can have a shower in the rain if the water bucket in the bath room is empty. There is no fresh water supply at Bunaken. The water is supplied from the Island Manado Tua north of Bunaken.
bullet Indonesia Photos and maps:

The fish is NICE (Barracuda the best) and the social life is high (on hot tea and coffie only)