The first time I have heard about Manado, it was when I started my first diving course in the Philippines. Since that time, this name came very often and especially the Bunaken National Park that is located in North-Sulawesi near Manado. To prepare this trip, I have started by some research on the web, forum, reviews... From my own experience, I think it is always better to be close to the dive sites than using a speedboat for daily trip to dive the same site, so Manado was excluded. In this context and with a budget idea in mind, we choose Two Fish Divers, which is located on the Bunaken Island in the middle of the Bunaken National Park.
Two Fish Divers is not only in Bunaken but also in Lembeh. That was probably the second reason we choose that resort. The third reason was the possibility to use Nitrox in both Bunaken and Lembeh and the possibility to do some technical dives that doesn’t seem to be standard in this area. After all those reasons and a few exchanges of email with the management of Two Fish Divers, our trip was defined with about two weeks in Bunaken and about 10 days in Lembeh with all the transfers organized by them.
To reach Two Fish Divers in Bunaken from Singapore it is very simple. There is a daily flight operated by Silk Air (Singapore Airline), which is very diver friendly as they offer an extra 5kg for all divers. Then after a flight of 3h30 a guy was waiting for us at the arrival to bring us to a small pier where a small boat was waiting to carry us straight to the Bunaken resort. About 30 minutes later and beautiful landscape around us, we where on the Two Fish Resort’s beach in the middle of a wonderful mangrove in Bunaken Island.
To welcome us, we met Reynaldo, one of the managers, and John, THE dive guide manager. During this introduction we learned about how the resort is working, how the dives are organized, the different options we could have during our stay, use of Nitrox, afternoon dive, mandarin dive or night dive, vegetarian menu and so on. In short, the breakfast is served from 7am, the lunch from 1pm and the diner from 7pm. Those are served like a buffet with all guests, very nice to meet people and talk about everything and mainly diving. Everyday, there is 2 morning dives starting at 8am and back around 1pm with about 1h of surface interval. Then there is a possibility for an afternoon dive that start at 2:30pm and finally a mandarin dive or a night dive starting around 6pm. We finish this introduction by filling some PADI and Government forms and by paying the Bunaken National Park entrance fee.
After this introduction, we discovered our superior cottage at the end of the resort. A lovely wooden cottage located at about 10m from the mangrove and the sea. Inside we found a double bed plus an extra one in a large room. A very lovely cottage that impresses us about the price we’ve paid. They were no AC but that was not needed with the weather in Bunaken. The humidity level was not so high and the temperature was about 30° at night. The fan was largely enough to sleep well with the sound of the waves on the background.
During our stay I did 30 dives in the Bunaken National Park. The dive sites are mainly vertical Walls with some nice drift but it is possible to practice muck diving in few sites. Those walls are just awesome and plenty of life, like butterfly fishes, banner fishes, damselfishes, snappers, trevally, scorpion fish... The coral is beautiful with a variety of differently shaped hard corals, black corals, gorgonians, ascidians and feather stars. In Fukui, you can even find giant barrel sponges and giant clams. It is quite common to see big Napoleon wrasse or green turtles along the wall. Less frequently you can see whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, spanish mackerel, eagle rays. My best dive site is definitely "Sashiko".
As a global conclusion about our stay in Bunaken, that was awesome with very friendly peoples. I think I never prepare a trip so easily. I just had to book a flight ticket from Singapore, exchange of few emails and a very short and efficient journey from Singapore. I hope we will be back soon...
After our stay in Bunaken, the second part of our trip was in Lembeh island. Lembeh Island and Lembeh Strait are in the northern coast of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The main city near lembeh is called Bitung that is the main deep-water port in North-Sulawesi. This is a well-known place for its marine life and especially its muck diving. For the divers that comes to the Sulawesi, I think it is impossible to don’t come here.
Our journey was fully organized by Two Fish Divers. We started our day by two morning dives in Bunaken then after the lunch and the check-out, we took a small boat from Bunaken to Manado, then 2h by taxi from Manado to Bitung and finally 15 minutes by boat to Lembeh Island.
On arrival in the city of Bitung, the landscape is quite impressive. This city, which seems in the middle of nowhere, is very crowded with a lot of big dirty cargos and ferries in the bay. Near those big boats there are a lot of small typical wooden boats, which carry peoples, goods, divers and so on... Two Fish Divers in Lembeh is located almost in the middle of the Lembeh strait, so far enough from Bitung.
When our boat arrived on the beach in Two Fish Divers, Dani was waiting for us in order to start by an introduction about the resort and the dive sites like with Reynaldo in Bunaken. During this introduction we learned about how the resort is working, how the dives are organized, the different options we could have during our stay, use of Nitrox, afternoon dive, mandarin dive or night dive exactly like in Bunaken. There is two differences here. 1) The morning dives start at 7:45am instead of 8am, because the dive sites in Lembeh are limited to 15 divers at the same time, the first boat has more guarantee. 2) The resort is smaller than in Bunaken. To conclude this introduction, Dani shows us a small video with the aim of explaining what is muck diving and how to dive here while protecting the area and the marine life. A very good initiative.
Our room was a standard room that is cheaper than the cottage but also very different, less charming I would say. So we decided to stay a few nights in this room, then to move to the superior cottage like in Bunaken. The standard room is pretty much like the cottage but without the balcony and without the view on the Lembeh Strait. The cottage in comparison is very close to the one from Bunaken, no real change apart that they are on the edge of a small mountain.
Two Fish Divers in Lembeh looks like attached to a big Mountain. So from the resort there is nothing to do apart from looking for a nice sunset on the Lembeh Strait after a long day of diving. We were not very lucky for that. To relax after those day of diving, to fill our log or just discuss with other divers, there is a relaxing area like in Bunaken. This is a very nice place plenty of books to remind what we have seen during the dive. It is also the place to watch the wonderful DVD made for Lembeh.
During our stay in Lembeh, I did 25 dives. The dive sites were all on the Lembeh Strait. It is mainly muck diving. Muck diving gets its name from the sediment that lies beneath most dives: A normally muddy or "mucky" environment. During each dive we were able to find Ambon Scorpion fish, Leaf Scorpion fish, Devil Scorpion fish, Lionfish, Nudibranchs, Mimic Octopus, Coconut Octopus, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Frogfish of every type and pygmy sea horse...
With all those sandy dive sites, there are also some reef dives and mixed with sandy bottom and reef with small walls. My favorite sites, thanks to Fenley our dive guide, are probably Nudi Falls, a wonderful reef and Tanjung Tebal.
As a global conclusion about our stay in Lembeh, that was awesome with very friendly peoples, a really fascinating marine life and a reasonable budget. I hope we will be back soon...