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Diving in North Sulawesi

North Sulawesi is home to the weird and wonderful critters of the Lembeh Strait, beautiful walls in Bunaken and the live volcanoes of the Sangihe Archipelago.

Diving in North Sulawesi

Quick facts

Muck dives and all manner of strange sea creatures are the reason to head to the Lembeh Strait. Most popular with underwater photography enthusiast, the best time to dive is during the dry season of July to October when water temperature is slightly cooler at 77-79°F (25-26°C). Avoid the rainy season of December to February.

Diving is typically easy at the Lembeh Strait as waters are calm and most critters are in shallow depths. Visibility is usually poor but it adds to the mystery of muck diving at aptly named dive sites like Hairball. Good buoyancy is important here as the fine black volcanic sand is easily stirred. There are a couple of sites with white sand and some lovely coral reef but once you try the muck dives, it is hard to want anything else.

At Bunaken, find yourself cruising through some lovely drift dives and exploring healthy walls covered with hard and soft corals. Accessible from Bunaken are the islands of Bangka and Manado Tua which have great macro offerings.

Further up north lies the Sangihe Archipelago and Talaud Islands. This area is best visited from March to June, which is a dry season. These pristine and less visited islands are best accessed on a liveaboard vessel and is a highly volcanic area. You can even see an underwater volcano with bubbles of sulfur dioxide escaping from it at the Mahengetang dive site. The underwater topography is amazing here as it has been created by centuries of lava flows. It is however recommended for divers with experience due to strong currents.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

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  • Bunaken & Siladen

    Bunaken’s colossal walls, clear blue water and diverse marine life will impress the most seasoned of divers. Turtles, reef sharks and eagle rays are a highlight and the wealth of macro life is equall…

  • Lembeh

    Known as the “Critter Capital of the World”, the Lembeh Strait is home to an abundance of unique and rare marine life which thrive on its black sand muck diving slopes. Lembeh is an underwater playgr…

USD 1,871Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,230Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,265Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

What to see

If it’s weird, you are likely to find it in the Lembeh Strait. Top critters on every diver and photographers wish list include the mimic octopus, Wonderpus, Rhinopias, flamboyant cuttlefish, Ambon scorpionfish, harlequin shrimp, and the very entertaining hairy frogfish. If lucky, you might also come across the delicate Lembeh Sea Dragon. Also, be boggled by the wide array of nudibranch and during night dives, look out for stargazers in the sand and Spanish dancers passing by in the darkness.

At areas like Bunaken and the nearby Bangka, dolphins or pilot whales can sometimes be seen from the surface. Underwater, expect green sea turtles, schools of trevally and colorful reef fish along the many walls. Bangka and Manado Tua also feature a myriad of critters.

If you dive around the Sangihe Archipelago and Talaud Islands, the healthy reefs and volcanic activity yield many colorful reef fish and schools of fusilier, snapper and predators like trevally, barracuda and Dogtooth tuna. Macro life is also abundant and there are pygmy seahorses, crabs and shrimp as well as nudibranch to find at muck dive sites. Look out for pelagic animals which come to feed and clean like manta rays, sharks and even hammerhead sharks.


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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


North Sulawesi is a province located at the northern tip of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It has a population of roughly 2.4 million people and its capital city is Manado. The province lies in-between the Celebes Sea and the Molucca Sea and is part of the Minahasa Peninsula.

North Sulawesi is rich with nature and it boasts five nature parks and animal sanctuaries. These include Batuputih Nature Tourist Park, Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Tourist Park, Karakelang Island Animal Sanctuary, Manembo-nembo Animal Sanctuary, and Nantu Animal Sanctuary. These areas have many endemic species of birds and mammals like the crested black macaque, Talaud kingfisher, red-and-blue lory and others like the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier.

More importantly, North Sulawesi is known for its spectacular diving and is home to the world-famous Lembeh Strait. Other popular dive destinations to visit include Bunaken National Park, and the nearby islands of Bangka and Manado Tua. There are more exciting dive sites accessible only by liveaboard vessel further to the north at the Sangihe Archipelago and Talaud Islands.

Other attractions

Visit the nature parks to catch sight of rare and endemic animals in this region. It is also a great place for bird watching with many exotic species. At Bunaken, snorkeling is popular. Bigger resorts usually have SPAs for rest and relaxation.

Getting there

Fly in to Manado’s Sam Ratulangi Airport directly from Singapore via Silk Air or from other locations in Indonesia on local airlines.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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