This week, our guests Steven and Karen decided to venture a little further off the beaten track from Bunaken and headed to the northern islands of the Bunaken Marine National Park. The rewards were schooling Barracuda, eagle rays and much more.
First things first – there are plenty of beautiful dive sites to be explored around Bunaken and its closest neighbouring islands of Siladen and Manado Tua. However, if you have the time, it’s well worth venturing a little further to the north of the marine park to dive the islands of Nain and Mantehage.
Being located further away from the mainland, they are visited by fewer divers. For us, this meant having all of the day’s dive sites to ourselves. We kicked off the day with a relaxing one hour boat journey to our furthest away destination – Nain. Barracuda Point proved to be a great choice for the morning’s dive. A sloping wall covered in sponges and hard coral, it proved to be full of fish life with schools of mackerel and fusiliers surrounding us immediately. About ten minutes into the dive, dive guide trainee Vence spotted two eagle rays. And so it began – the rays were soon followed by schooling black snapper. Our guests spotted blacktip reef sharks resting on a shallower bit of the slope in the sand, and just as dive guide Fenly put his head into the reef to start looking for smaller creatures a school of 20+ great barracuda appear and stay with us for a little while in the shallows. They literally ‘sneaked up’ from behind, so had probably been following us already.
As the first dive had been full of sightings we decided to stay in the same area for our second dive. Following a surface interval, the current had slowed down considerably, reducing the number of schooling fish somewhat and giving us a chance to concentrate on smaller life. A ribbon eel, lobsters and several nudibranchs ranging from 1 cm to 10 cm in size were the reward.
Next was a delicious lunch, whilst captain Melky drove us to Mantehage, between Nain and Bunaken. On Mantehage, we dived sloping wall Bango. And as if one eagle ray hadn’t been enough for the day, we had three with us for a while chasing each other in the blue and up the wall. Quite a magical experience, really. Guests Steven and Karen took the opportunity to try twinset diving for this dive and didn’t regret it. Take a look at our tech diving blog for more information on that. What else did we – well, actually, Steven – spot? A banded sea snake, a large example of the nudibranch species flabellina bilas and we watched the mating rituals of bignose unicorn fish as we drifted past.
Normally, our day trips contain three dives, but Steven and Karen had asked for a four dive day, so we made our way back to Bunaken for one last late afternoon dive before heading back to the resort. As both guests were trying Sidemount equipment on this one, we opted for Tanjung Parigi, one of the calmer sights around the north side of Bunaken with a sandy slope to start rather than a sheer wall, making it easy to settle into the dive. What did we keep for the last dive? Turtles, turtles and more turtles, both green and hawksbill. One even accompanied us for a while, tagging along, taking over just as it pleased. And how better to finish off a fantastic day’s diving than by surfacing just as the sun set.