Manado Tua — or Old Manado — island, together with the islands of Bunaken, Siladen, Mantehage and Nain form the Bunaken-Manado Tua Marine National Park. The Park lies just off shore from the city of Manado, capital of the province of North Sulawesi, site of the first World Ocean Conference 2009 which held in May. Covering a total of 89,065 hectares, the Bunaken-Manado Tua park is among the most spectacular dive sites in the world.
The islands are separated from the mainland by a submarine trench that reaches a depth of 1,200 meters, and keeps these waters relatively free from city garbage and silt. The reserve is protected by law from spearfishing and coral or fish-collecting, as well as from dynamite fishing.
Only one hour by motor boat from Manado town, the island of Manado Tua is distinguished by the majestic perfect cone of the extinct volcano that formed the island, which is capped with a rainforest on its summit. Around the island are underwater plateaus sloping from 5 meters to 30 meters, fringed by vertical coral walls plunging 25 to 50 meters down, and large caves with hanging coral reefs: a truly amazing sea garden. Next to Manado Tua is the more well-known island of Bunaken.
On land and underwater, Manado Tua is photogenic. Here, you can find the bigger fish such as the napoleon wrasse, giant trevally, eaglerays, snappers, groupers, and–occasionally–a hammerhead shark. But as currents here can be strong, only advanced divers should venture in these waters and best be accompanied by a diver experienced to these surroundings.
On the east coast of Manado Tua, at Tanjung Kopi, or Coffee Point on the reef underwater plateau there are blacktail barracuda and large schools of fish. Tanjung Kopi is also where hundreds of turtles lay their eggs at full moon.
For those who do not dive, one can go snorkeling or watch the underwater sea life from glass-bottom boats. There are also jogging tracks and facilities for mountain biking and camping.
The island has some 3,200 inhabitants forming a tight-knit community of farmers and fishermen from the Sangir region. This community has been actively restoring damaged reefs with the assistance of Seacology. Here EcoReef–snowflake-shaped ceramic modules–have been placed as shelter for fish and to build new reef. The Ministry of the Environment informs that credit for the preservation of the Bunaken-Manado Tua reserve is due to the Nusantara Diving Club which in 1985 urged the government to protect these amazing waters from pollution and damage from shipping, and to move Manado’s harbor to Bitung, on the east side of the peninsula.
Diving in the Park can be done year round, yet currents and waves can be rough between January through March. During the peak season in the months of July and August dive operators are busy, therefore it is best to book way in advance. Best dives are in August and September when one has a better chance to watch whales and dolphins glide by.
The Sam Ratulangi International Airport of Manado receives Silk Air flights 4 times weekly from Singapore.
Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Citilink and a number of other domestic airlines operate daily domestic flights from Jakarta and Makassar to Manado, and also from Surabaya and Bali.
From Manado there are cabin cruises available to the Park or motorboats for hire.
To enter the Park contact the Bunaken National Park Office at:
Jalan Raya Molas, Manado, North Sulawesi