The waters around the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, home to the greatest biodiversity of marine life. Divers can find almost everything tropical they dream of. The most famous dive sites are located close to Manado in Northern Sulawesi, but also in the south of the founders of the Wakatobi Dive Resort and the Selayar found beautiful dive sites.
In general, the reefs of Sulawesi are covered almost continuously with soft and hard corals, sea fans and sponges. Encounters with snakes, turtles, bump head parrot fish, Napoleon fish, stingrays and sharks are only some of the highlights.
Diving is possible all year round. The best time is between April and November. The water temperatures are between 27° and 30°C (80°-86° F). As a rule of thumb, at 3 or 5 mm wetsuit is ideal. There is a decompression chamber in Manado. Manado is the gateway to North Sulawesi's world-class dive areas, each is different, and each is unique:
Bunaken National Park
Bunaken National Park consists of seven islands and is located in the Bay of Manado. The diving area is famous for its beautiful overgrown steep coral walls and the great richness of species living here. The drop-offs start in the shallows of 1-2 meters (3-6 ft) and then fall into the Abyss. Especially beautiful is the shallow waters where one can finish the safety stop in an array of colorful fish. That makes those reefs also an ideal area for snorkelers. Bunaken has apart from the green turtles, plenty of the less often seen leatherback and loggerhead turtles in big sizes! There is also a beautiful wreck situated in the Bay of Manado, here divers often are accompanied by dolphins or pilot whales.
Just an hour's drive away from Manado, close to the port town of Bitung is Lembeh Island. Here is the world's arguably best dive area for 'muckdiving'. This is a paradise for divers who are looking for the smallest and rarest fish and critters. You very likely are going to see the Ambon scorpion fish, ghost pipefish, seahorses, crabs and angler fish in all colors, just to name a few. These sites, including the two wrecks, are a highlight for underwater photographers and lovers of muckdiving. Don't expect beautiful coral reefs in good visibility, you will dive in sandy spots with not so good visibility, as that is where the critters live. There are partial rather cool currents in the Lembeh Straight, the water temperature can get as low as 22°C (71°F), a warmer 5mm wetsuit is recommended.
The island of Bangka lies upstream at the most northern tip of Sulawesi and it is only an hour drive away from Manado. Here too there is a wide variety of species beneath the surface. The reefs are beautiful but not as steep, rather more gently sloping and covered with beautiful soft corals. Divers will find countless nudibranchs of all colors and kinds, leafy scorpion fish, blue ribbon eels, angler fish, and a nice macro range, whether or scraps angler fish, mantis shrimps, and more in abundance. But there are also dives sites with large fish like Napoleons, sharks, barracudas and trevally.
North of Sulawesi are the Sangihe Islands, which can only be reached by liveaboard vessels. Fantastic visibility and superbly preserved hard coral reefs are awaiting the diver. Fish life is good too, but not so abundand as in Bunaken National Park, where they are protected. Big fish is rather the specialty of this area. With some you may have encounters with humpback whales, orcas, schools of hammerhead sharks, or even a dugong.
A very special diving site is an active underwater volcano. Divers find no lava at shallow depths, but it bubbles in many places and if you put the hand into the bubbles or in the sand you realize how hot it is. Admire the volcanoes of the islands, and at night Siau Island there is a good chance to see the glowing lava flow out of the volcano in the comfort of the deck chair on your liveaboard boat. Some cold lava and hot springs can be seen as well.
The island is upstream of a kilometer (half mile) long ragged reef. Caves and overhangs mark this area, the reef is beautifully covered with soft corals, sponges and sea fans, and enjoys a wealth of fish. The approximately 15 other dive sites are mostly steep reef walls with beautifully overgrown with coral. White tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, eagle rays, large groupers, barracuda, moray eels and more can often be observed on Selayar?s reefs.
Outstanding are the great diversity of species and the pristine reefs of the Tukang Besi Islands. The reefs consist mainly of steep walls, but there are also underwater mountains, a small wreck and caves which can be visited. The reefs particularly impressed by the fantastic growth and richness of various species of marine inhabitants. Wakatobi is not a big fish area, but its special attraction is the beautiful house reef with 6 different dive sites. This probably the most beautiful house reef in Indonesia and guests can dive here round the clock non-limit, provided the currents allow it. Macro and wide angle photographers alike come will indulge in this underwater paradise.
Bangai & Togian Islands
These islands are visited by some livaboard ships. This remote dive area offers everything Indonesia has to offer, from beautiful reefs to abundant fish life and richness of various species.