North Sulawesi is most well know for the fantastic critter and macro diving found throughout the Lembeh Straits, and for the deep coral walls and drop-offs surrounding the Volcanic island of Bunaken.
Bunaken Island is situated just north of Manado, and is within the protected marine park of Bunaken National Park. The park was established in 1991, and is Indonesias first marine park. Because of it's location directly in the middle of the coral triangle, the reefs around the island boast a very high level of bio-diversity. It's very common to see turtles and Napolean wrasse in the same diving day as mandarin fish and smaller pygmy seahorses.
Lembeh is located off the eastern edge of northern Sulawesi, and is accessed through the small harbour town of Bitung, just an hours drive outside of Manado city proper. This strait is dotted with numerous bays, all with sandy, silty, mucky bottoms which are full of the strangest and wildest marine critters found anywhere in the world. Depending on the season, divers can see plenty of frogfish, including the hairy variety, all different species of Rhinopias, a huge diversity of nudibranches, and even the rare endemic Lembeh Seadragon.
Above water the entire area is covered by lush tropical forests with a backdrop of steep volcanic mountains. Wildlife is numerous and a part of everyday life. Bird watchers will be in paradise here, and in the evenings on Lembeh, it's even possible to see the tiny cup sized primates called Tarsiers (Tarsius tarsier) in procession off to their night-time hunting grounds.
Both Bunaken and Lembeh can easily be dived by either liveaboard or land based resorts. If divers are interested in the critters of Lembeh, than at least a week to dive in both is recommend, with 12 ñ 14 days even better. Both locations are accessed by flying into Manado, which has domestic connections to Jakarta and Makassar, and International links to Singapore.