Bunaken National Marine Park – Superlative Siladen

Byron Conroy had always longed to pay a visit to the renowned Bunaken National Marine Park, but would it live up to his expectations?

In the heart of the Coral Triangle lies the Bunaken National Marine Park. Well known for its clear turquoise water, warm tropical climate, pristine coral reefs and vast marine biodiversity, this place is nothing short of a diver’s paradise. I had wanted to experience diving in this marine park for a long time, and I was certainly not the only one to have this destination on my bucket list.

I arrived at Manado airport in North Sulawesi after quite a few hours traveling from Iceland, where I am based. Our friendly local driver Michael from Siladen Resort and Spa greeted me with a smile. During the short drive to the jetty, I found out that Michael had been with the resort for five years, and many of his colleagues for well over ten years, thanks to the great working environment.

Bunaken National Marine Park
Bunaken National Marine Park

Next I boarded one of Siladen’s comfortable, spacious wooden boats. Just30 minutes later I arrived at Palau Siladen, the smallest of the five islands situated within the Bunaken National Marine Park. This small island is built up by limestone and sits right between the impressive Manado Tua volcano and the picturesque North Sulawesi coast. This unique location offers not only world-class diving but also some staggering views from the island and the resort itself, in particular during the evenings as the sun sets over the volcano.

Luxury with a home away from home atmosphere,Siladen Resort and Spa is an exclusive yet relaxed boutique dive resort in a lush environment surrounded by numero us fantastic dive sites. It’s built on flat land with rich vegetation providing lots of shade,making it convenient and easy to move around the resort without getting overheated by direct sunshine. Guests have the option of Deluxe bungalows featuring a private outdoor bathtub and secluded beach area, Beach bungalows or Garden bungalows, all which are spacious with high comfort and are serviced twice daily.

Upon our arrival, I was greeted and shown around the grounds by resort managers Ana and Miguel, and dive managers Romina and Galen. I already got the sense that my stay here was going be a very personal and inclusive experience. It was like I was already part of the Siladen family, despite it being my first day. This welcoming and embracing atmosphere is what really makes Siladen stand out. The whole team is incredibly friendly and makes you feel at home. It goes without saying that Siladen has a high percentage of repeat guests, many who comeback several times a year. John and Tia, a lovely couple I got the pleasure to meet during our stay, travel from California to Siladen three times a year, spending a total of six month search year at the resort. That’s what you call a real‘home away from home’!

Wonderful Walls And Magical Muck

Surrounded by over 40 world-class dive sites, you would think that evolution had divers in mind when creating this area. The islands of Bunaken provides great reef walls ideal for wide-angle photography. All dive sites are easily accessible from Siladen by one of the resort’s four private boats, all locally designed and purpose built for diving. Each boat has a shaded seating area, toilet, sun deck and hot- and cold-water station.

I did the first dive with my private dive guide Erin at a site called Negri, next to the Manado Tua volcano. I was lucky, there was literally zero wind, no current, the water was blue and 84 degrees F warm, and visibility exceeded 30 metres. In other words, perfect conditions.

It is not often you can look up from 18m depth and see white fluffy clouds in the sky above you. The wall itself blew my mind with the variety of colorful sponges, gorgonian fans, soft and hard corals, anemones and tunicates. An enormous school of yellow pyramid butter fly fish were swimming below me.

Towards the end of the dive I spotted two giant yellow frogfish sitting at the top of the reef at 6m – a great place for a safety stop.

In addition to the fantastic wall dives, this area offers some excellent muck diving full of fascinating macro life. I visited Bolung and Tiwaho, two dive sites just off the North Sulawesi mainland coast. The macro life here is astonishing and all a macro lover or macro photographer can ask for. AdvertisementsAdvertisements