Fresh off the plane from a research trip in Northern Sulawesi (tough gig), diving expert Lizzie Barry shares the top dive sites that scatter the region. Think: the world's best muck diving, a TV-famous creepy critter and a whole heap of 'bigger stuff' with some incredible topside adventures to boot - all without another flip-flop footed tourist in sight.
Mandolin Reef - Bunaken
Sandwiched between two other famous dive sites, Ron's Point and Raymond's Point, on the south-west side of Bunaken Island, Mandolin Reef is a wall dive accessible from the shore. The current can be quite strong so it's best suited to more experienced divers, but you'll be rewarded with all the big-ticket marine life, with reef sharks, eagle rays and some of the largest turtles I saw while I was there. We were also lucky enough to see hunting tuna at the end of our dive.
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Depth: 3 - 30 metres
Schiko’s Point – Bunaken
Suitable for snorkellers and divers alike, this site is located on the North East side of Bunaken. There is a beautiful sloping wall with lots of small caves where you can find some wonderful macro life. This site is particularly fishy and you will be surrounded in a flurry of life, as well as the odd reef shark or eagle ray. The coral here extends up to the shallows so is perfect for snorkellers keen to get their fins wet.
Level: Snorkellers, all level divers
Depth: 3-40+ metres
Lekuan 1 & 2 – Bunaken
This magnificent dive site is a mixture of beautiful coral walls and slopes, and is perfect for snorkellers and all level of divers. There is a lovely mix of both hard and soft corals and you can see anything and everything; ranging from all different types of nudibranchs, porcelain crabs and shrimps as well as large turtles! Keep your eye out for pygmy seahorses and orangutan crabs as well!
Level: Snorkellers, all level divers
Depth: 40+ metres
Nudi Falls – Lembeh
Nudi Falls is rumoured to have its name from divers' bubbles causing some of the nudibranchs to fall! The famous site can be explored over and over again, and you will keep finding different weird and wonderful critters. The current here can sometimes get up a bit, so stick close to the wall among the large soft corals.
Depth: 3 - 20 metres
TK - Lembeh
Another world class dive site in the Lembeh Strait, TK which is the place to go, particularly on a night dive to find the infamous Bobbit Worm. These weird (and slightly creepy) creatures have been made famous by the incredible footage captured by the BBC Blue Planet II Team. While on a night dive all weird and wonderful creatures come out, including cuttlefish which at night look like something futuristic, feeding catfish, squid and various types of nudibranchs and frogfish.
Level: Beginner - Advanced
Depth: 5 - 22 metres
Hairball - Lembeh
This is one of the most famous dive sites in the Lembeh Strait - it has the typical black sand of a muck dive, along with various coral sponges. Because of its location, the current makes this area of the strait particularly nutrient rich and therefore searching through the sand here you can come across both yellow and brown seahorses, cardinal fish and a variety of frogfish - the dive site is even named after the famous hairy frogfish!
Depth: 5 - 18 metres
Other highlights of North Sulawesi
As well as exploring the beautiful variety of aquatic life beneath the water, North Sulawesi also offers unique opportunities on land as well...
Tangkoko National Park
You should take the chance to explore the wonderful wildlife in Tangkoko National Park, either at dusk or dawn, where you can find the smallest primates in the world, the Tasier, as well as black crested macques and the sloth-like Sunda slow loris. Another spectacle is the Northern Sulawesi hornbill, which you can hear before you see it from the sound of their wings.
The Minahasa Highlands
After exploring the wildlife, you should head to The Minahasa Highlands, which - when compared to Bali - has strikingly fewer number of tourists. Similar to Mount Batur in Bali, you can climb a volcano crater for sunrise, but instead of being surrounded by hordes of tourists, we boiled some water and had a very civilised cup of coffee with several other locals while looking over Tomohon and the beautiful highlands. It was quite something to remember and a wonderful way to start the day!
Interested in a diving and adventure trip to Northern Sulawesi? We don't blame you! Get in touch with one of our specialists today to plan your Northern Sulawesi diving holiday.