On the north eastern peninsula of the island of Sulawesi that forms the Province of North Sulawesi, lies the port of Bitung facing the Moluccas Strait. This is the harbour of Manadothat has lately made rapid strides in development. The name Bitung refers to the lines of vegetation decorating its coastline but another source says that the name Bitung, in fact, is derived from the word Balisung, which means : the place for magical recovery. Together they spell a picturesque, peaceful and prosperous harbor.
The administrative region of Bitung covers the foothills of Mt. Dua Sudara and a stretch of sea that includes the island of Lembeh, whose clear waters are a paradise for divers. Meanwhile, the port of Bitung is kept busy with the loading and unloading of cargo, trading and as well as education. The language most used here is the Manadonese dialect.
Bitung is a conglomeration of many ethnic groups from around the region, comprising the Minahasa, and the Sangir – Talaud ethnic groups, who are mostly Protestants, but there are also those from Java and Gorontalo who embrace Islam, while Chinese descendents mostly follow Confucianism or the Buddhist religion.
Not far beyond the town of Bitung lies an amazing array of exotic fauna and flora. Nearby, the Tangkoko Nature Reserveis habitat of the rare tiny tarsiers, cute little monkeys with big saucer eyes that are now the icon of Bitung. While at sea, the diving spots around the Lembeh Strait contain some of the most stunning tropical ocean life.
And because of the abundance of tuna fish caught here, Bitung is also known as “Kota Cakalang” the Tuna City. As a matter of fact, Bitung contributes the largest tuna catch in the whole of Indonesia. It will, therefore come as no surpirse that you will find a huge statue of a Tuna fish right in the center of town at Jalan Sam Ratulangi.
It is this cosmopolitan fusion of Bitung, its wealth in sea produce, flora and fauna on land and in the sea that have made Bitung a flourishing international port for trade and shipping, eco-friendly in tourism development and in step with the rhythms of today’s globalized world.
Pasar Tua – the Old Market – located in the center of Central Bitung is your ideal place to try mouth-watering local street food dishes. Favorite are the fresh fish dishes offered here like groupers (kerapu), or here called ikan woku belanga. Another culinary center you will find by the Tangkoko Nature Reserve in the subdistrict of Batu Putih, that also serves an array of local dishes.
Woku Belanga is sliced grouper covered in lemon juice, stir fried shallots, basil leaves, pandanus leaves, red hot chilli, candlenut, and ginger. The aroma of the pandan together with the basil leaves gives this dish a unique taste. The thick sauce that drench the fish makes it a most delectable meal.
With the abundance of tuna fish in Bitung, tuna should definitely be on your must buy list. You can buy them in tins, smoked, or fried as sambal goreng (fried sambal), a wonderful side dish to go with a plate of steaming hot rice.
And when you go to the Girian neighbourhood at Bitung, here their specialty is cakalang fufu, great to buy and take home.
This is smoked opened tuna which has been carefully cleaned before cooking then lanced through with a bamboo stick to keep both halves together.
Bitung has three star-rated hotels, these are Hotel Fatamorgana, Kungkungan Bay Resort and Hotel Nalendra.
There are also a number of smaller hotels, they include: Hotel Melati Krista, Hotel Nice Bambu or Hotel Phoenix.
The city of Bitung has eight times won the national award of Adipura for city cleanliness. For this reason, any visitor to Bitung will enjoy walking around this very pleasant and clean city.
Fronting the town is the Lembeh Strait, world famous for its stunning underwater life, a paradise for international divers. Resorts have sprouted here offering packages and complete diving equipment, guides and services.
While, nature lovers must not pass the opportunity to get real close to the exotic animals found at the nearby Tangkoko Nature Reserve and the Tandurusa Park, Explore its forests and meet tarsiers, black Sulawesi macaques, dwarf kuskus, the anoa and the Sulawesi civet. These parks have attracted many international biologists among whom the famous Alfred Russel Wallace.
The distance between Manado, capital of North Sulawesi and the port of Bitung is approximately 44 km. If you do not wish to travel by private car, there are public buses available that serve the Manado-Bitung route, starting from Terminal Paal Dua or the Karombasan Bus Terminal. Non airconditioned buses charge Rp 7,500 for the trip while the fare for airconditioned buses is Rp 8,500, for the two hours ride.
A taxi will cost you around Rp 200 thousand. To call a taxi you can contact the following companies: Blue Bird, Trust Taxi and Celebrity Taxi.
You can also rent a car in Manado with varying costs starting from Rp 300 thousand.