Bunaken National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia
September 2008

Twelve members of Orca Divers, based in Chorlton, Manchester, enjoyed a week's scuba diving in North Sulawesi using the Thalassa Dive Centre, based at the Santika Hotel near Manado.

We dived in Bunaken National Marine Park which includes the five islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Mantehage, Nain and Siladen. Manado Tua rises to 820m above sea level but its walls plunge to over 1000m into the Celebes Sea. Each of the islands is surrounded by a dense coral reef and provides excellent wall diving, drift dives and stunning coral slopes. The visibility is generally around 25 to 30 metres and the water temperature is a very comfortable 29 to 30 degrees C! Bunaken has a great diversity of marine life, from tiny pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs to sharks, huge turtles and a manta ray (which I missed!).

Bunaken has one wreck, that of a steel-hulled German merchant ship which sank on 22nd February 1942, just 5 minutes from Molas beach. It was found in 1980.

Around two hours drive away is the Lembeh Strait, famous for the variety of rare macro life on the volcanic sand. Lembeh Island creates a calm, narrow channel and the waters are rich due to currents bringing a rich supply of plankton, accounting for the poorer visibility ( around 10 to 15 metres). Buoyancy control is vital so as not to disturb the sand. My first introduction to 'muck diving,' this area is one of the best sites in the world for rare and unusual marine animals.

An hour's journey by boat takes you to Bangka Island, off Sulawesi's northernmost tip,for more superb dive sites.

The photos are my first attempt at underwater photography. I used a Canon G9 with a waterproof case and Photoshop CS2 'tidied' the original shots. A web album on Picasa saved converting the images for the web.

Thanks to Nick and Caroline of Orca for organising such a superb trip and for their photography tips.