Manado Diving

Visit this gateway to some of Northern Sulawesi’s best dive areas to discover unique rock formations, black sands teeming with critters and for the chance to see migrating sperm whales. Look closely to find seahorses and brightly-coloured frogfish or just admire the sea turtles and reef sharks gliding by.



Diving in Manado

Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi, is the gateway to the breathtaking underwater worlds of Bunaken Marine Park, the Bangka Islands, and the Lembeh Strait. Mainland Manado offers a few muck dive sites of its own but venturing further into northern Sulawesi waters will guarantee an unforgettable trip. For unique rock formations head to the Bangka Islands, while you can survey the black sands of Lembeh for a myriad of macro critters. Visit Bunaken to plunge into world-class wall dives with the chance of catching migrating sperm and pilot whales. North Sulawesi really seems to have it all and Manado is the entry point to these enthralling sites.
Although there are a number of dive centres and dive resorts located on mainland Manado and nearby islands, usually they will only offer day trips into its surrounding waters. To experience scuba diving around Manado to its full, a liveaboard visiting the Bangka Islands, Bunaken Marine Park and the Lembeh Strait is recommended. If you intend to take dive courses mainland Manado dive centres have plenty of options for you to explore the reefs.

Best time to dive

In northern Sulawesi, rainfall is lower than in other areas of Southeast Asia, thus, scuba diving in and around Manado is possible all year round. Around mainland Manado, the dry season runs from May to October with visibility of up to 50-metres. During the rainy season from November through to April, the rainfall can cause runoff from the mainland reducing visibility at some sites. Yet, the conditions at Bunaken and Bangka Islands are rarely affected. July through to August are the best months to observe sperm whales migrating at Bunaken and the perfect time to inspect the black sandy depths of Lembeh for its weird and wonderful creatures.

Types of diving

Scuba diving mainland Manado offers wreck diving of a 75-metre cargo ship and a search for orangutan crabs at Tanjung Pisok, a muck dive located close to the Sulawesi mainland. Take a boat ride to the nearby Bunaken Marine Park to experience Bunaken’s signature deep wall dives or head to the Bangka Islands to find yourself drifting in strong currents over bizarre rock formations. In Lembeh become accustomed to the lower visibility of muck diving and capture shots of elusive creatures on your camera. When scuba diving around Manado, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

What to see

Manado diving will showcase a range of macro life from nudibranch to octopus while heading deeper into northern Sulawesi seas will expose larger pelagics. In Bunaken’s strong currents you have the chance to spot large silvertip sharks and hammerheads while in the calmer waters to the south of Bunaken you can observe playful dugongs feeding on seagrass. Observe giant sea turtles resting on rocky ledges as eagle rays cruise past. If you are a fan of the small stuff, dive in the Lembeh Strait whose sandy bottoms reveal ghost pipefish, blue-ringed octopus and a vast array of frogfish in all different shapes and sizes.

Best places to dive

Just off the coast, in Manado Bay, lies a 75-metre long cargo shipwreck. Resting 40-metres below the surface, the wreck is covered with colourful soft corals and scorpionfish, nudibranch, as well as rare ghost pipefish, hang around its steely presence. Explore Tanjung Pisok to find orangutan crabs and tiny clown frogfish in the sandy bottom of this muck dive.
At Bangka Island head to Batu Gosoh with its steep volcanic pinnacles rising up from the ocean floor. Allow the current to take you on a ride between the pinnacles where you can take shelter in its cracks and coves. Once sheltered from the current, look out for Spanish dancers as well as moray eels and scorpionfish. Head out into the current again and spot sharks, turtles, groupers and dog-tooth tuna gliding in the blue.
Mandolin Point’s colourful walls at Bunaken offer deep divers the chance to see Maori wrasse, bumphead parrotfish and white-tip reef sharks. A hunt around the bubble corals for porcelain crabs and delightful candy crabs is sure to make this a dive site you won’t want to miss.
The gentle slopes and black sand of Lembeh’s Hairball dive site are a feast for keen-eyed divers. During your dive, you’re likely to meet a number of shy seahorses and an extensive list of frogfish species. At most dive sites around the world, you’re lucky to spot one frogfish but at Hairball you’ll encounter many, from white to yellow, hairy to a giant. There are so many wonders to discover here.