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Information about Bunaken / Sulawesi

(Updated February 2013)

General Information about the island of Bunaken

Bunaken is one of the over 17 000 islands of Indonesia and lies in the North of Sulawesi (in former times: Celebes) You need about 45 minutes with a boat from Manado. Manado is the capital of the province North Sulawesi with approx. 230 000 inhabitants. The international airport Dr. Samratulangi is approximately 15 km northeastern.

Perhaps you are interested in country and people of North Sulawesi, its history, culture or touristly interesting places. Or you would like to inform yourself of quite practical questions such as visa formalities. Then you receive the best information here: or there: The webmaster of these pages lived many years in Manado and updates its information regularly.

Map of Indonesia

rom Europa, a s a rule, you take a flight to Manado with stopover in Singapore or you fly to Jakarta (Djakarta) and  then take another internal connecting flight to Manado with a stopover in Makassar(Udjung Pandang) or Balikpapan on Kalimantan Island.

Pictures of Life on Bunaken

Arrival of our daughter in ManadoMikrolets auf einer Hauptstraße in Manado

There are various possibilities to come to the harbour of Manado. Either you take a taxi. Or - if you are lucky - a "Mikrolet" (public minibus) stops by which you can charter for yourself and your luggage. If you arrive at the harbour too late, however, the PUBLIC BOAT could already have left to the island. In this case you will be besieged by owners of private boats which offer you their services for expensive money. The overnight stay in a hotel then could be cheaper. A day is lost for you, though. If you have already booked an accommodation on Bunaken you are normally welcomed in the harbour and brought with the boat of the Resort directly to your new home for free..


To be able to take the public boat to Bunaken, you should be at the harbour already at 1 p.m. However, it also can happen that you must wait for some time. This depends on the tides or on it, whether sufficient passengers have already got aboard. 2-3 hours can be the waiting time occasionally.

Church on Bunaken
Tag 2005

On his arrival every newcomer must purchase this badge ("Tag") as an admission (50 000 Rp/day and 150 000 Rp/year) to the Bunaken National Park. He has always to carry it and the receipt on his person)


Already in Manado the many Christian churches may have catched your eye. At the latest when you arrive on the island you will recognize that North Sulawesi is inhabited and majoritarian characterized by Christians. The first what the visitor sees, when he approaches the beach of Bunaken is the splendid Protestant church. You can also discover numerous boat builder's yards next to the fishing boats. The tourism is the main source of income of the islanders next to copra, fishing and boat-building.

  Map of Bunaken Nationalpark                              
    Preservation Zones Around the Island

With your approx. € 11,00 you then contribute to the protective measures for the National Park, before all the preservation of the reef. This panel (photo) is at the beach and shows the different safe areas of the island. Day and night patrol boats watch over the severe regulations particularly against dynamite and cyanide fishing. You find details of the measures for the preservation of the sub-water world here.

The National Park contains approx. 75 hectares of sub-water world around Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Mante Hage and Nain with approximately 20 000 people.


  Liang Beach on the west coast of BunakenCleaning the BeachRocky East Coast of Bunaken
  The long sandy beach in the South of Bunaken Island is particularly suitable for families with children. Unfortunately, garbage is regularly washed ashore with the high tide. So the employees of the Resorts are daily engaged in cleaning the beach  

At the East coast of Bunaken several new Dive Resorts with foreign owners have established within the last years. The beach is rather rocky but clean toward the north. I liked to have myself driven from the light north-south flow over the reef here


Transportation with the cartCoconut Production

This carts stretched by cattle are the main means of transportation on Bunaken. They serve primarily the transport of coconuts, building material and water. Outside the village of Bunaken there are only few fountains with freshwater on the island. When there are most tourists there in summer (dry season), the water for taking a shower gets very scarce. It then must be transported from the mainland over here by ship in large tanks. Drinking water (AQUA) can be bought in plastic bottles or in 10 Ltr. containers..

Occasionally one can meet motorcycles, rattling along on the ways of the island. Recently a couple of young men even started to use their motorcycle as taxi. As a European you are astonished, how the natives sometimes squash as a foursome on such a vehicle.


A lane (with innumerable potholes) connects the main village Bunaken to the village of Tanjung Parigi in the North. When jogging early in the morning I regularly met the children here on their way to school.

Salt-free Water in High ContainerElectric CurrentThe new photovoltaik plant on Bunaken

Some Resorts have not an own well with salt-free water. So who wants to supply his guests on Bunaken with running, salt-free water must pump this out of the water net in the harbour of Manado into his boat, transport it to the island and at last pump it into the high container. There was electric current (220 V or less) as a rule only between 6 o'clock in the evening and 6 o'clock in the morning. The generators are in the village of Bunaken. Since 2011 however there is a also a huge photovoltaik plant which is delivering more than 700 househoalds with electricity also at daytime. The electric cables go through the island from village to village and from house to house.

Bridal CoupleWedding BreakfastBirthday Party

If you stay on Bunaken for some time in a Homestay, then you will very likely have the opportunity to experience an island wedding. As a guest of your Homestay you are then taken along. You get to know the whole pallet of the local culinary art. However, you must bring sufficient staying powers and a fast reaction capacity to "get your moneys worth". The speeches namely drag on interminably. If they have finally made it, you must hurry. Because the delicacies are already after short time cleared away again. If you are namely too modest and always stand in line behind, you will leave the celebration with a growling stomach at the end.

The people of Bunaken also love to celebrate their birthdays and mostly invite their "Bules" (how they call us white people) to it . That they also are fond of playing instruments and singing in the community, one can experience at least once the week. Always someplace in the neighbourhood of your homestay one of the different Christian religious groups celebrates its service in a private home.


Band of BunakenHarvesting CoconutDelicious Coconut

The young men and women frequently meet for playing instruments and singing together in their leisure time. Most of them can quite skilfully play on their instrument, which they have not seldom made themselves. In the last years, however, one more and more can (must!) hear loud music coming from emplifying equipments.


Who has made friends with the natives may quench his thirst with fresh coconut juice from time to time. The men skilfully climb upward on the palms. Then it would be wise for you to keep distance! Because the green harvest will crash to the ground straight away. With a well-directed stroke with the machete the upper quarter gets separated from the nut and an opening stung for drinking. While you are slurping the exquisite liquid your Indonesian friend manufactures a kind of spoon from the nutshell. With this you can detach the jelly-like flesh from the open nut.


Pigs in Bunaken VillageFishing

"Papa Klaus" (every man over 40 is called "Papa") was frequently invited to the village where the pigs run around freely like dogs.

It is quite a special experience if one can go fishing at sunrise and even land such a big catch .

      In the meantime our son has made friends with the youth of the village. As a German he was quickly considered with premature praise and was asked to play with them in the football team a match against the neighbour island of Manado Tua . Philip had to see, though, very fast that he was not equal to the tropical temperatures. He was therefore truly grateful when he was replaced after 10 minutes.          
Farewell: A Painfull Scene

Before our departure from Bunaken a couple of bracelets and necklaces are bought on the beach. Of course one should not forget  bargaining. A farewell photo with the Indonesian friends. Yeah, who will cry, then? Next year we'll meet again.



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