There are 3 relatively close diving spots in north Sulawesi :
- The island of Bunaken is right in front of Manado. Highly praised by the Lonely Planet. It’s the most popular in the region. Good for diving and snorkeling.
- Lembeh is an island right in front of Bitung. Fantastic site for muck diving. Not much to do otherwise, including for snorkelers.
- Bangka island : off Likupang. Some very good reviews but all options are pricey.
I dived Bunaken in 2015, Lembeh in 2022 and researched Bangga.
Lembeh is the best Indonesian site for muck diving (together with Ambon). I can definitely return again in the future. There is so much to see underwater.
I visited once in October 2022. We had several frogfishes :
Lembeh is also a good place to spot octopus, including the blue-ringed octopus :
I had my fair share of nudibranches :
As well as other critters :
Lembeh is not a very fishy place, but you are almost guaranteed to see Banggai cardinal fishes, endemic to Indonesia and one of my favorite tropical fish :
Dive resorts are built on isolated beaches and you cannot really go anywhere from here. As I had good experience in the past with 2Fish in Bunaken, I dived again with them in Lembeh (and I was again satisfied).
In October 2022 (including the returning guest discount) I paid :
- 1’923’000Rp for 3 nights of food & accomodation (about 43€ per day).
- 4’419’000Rp for 7 dives.
- 630’000Rp for 3 days of gear rental.
- 400’000Rp for the transfer from and to Bitung.
So overall about 500€ for 3 days.
I dived there in 2015 taking advantage of a 3 days weekend while I was living in Jakarta.
I dived with 2Fish Divers that were very professionals. Back then they had a budget room that was charged around 300’000Rp per day with 3 meals which was good to keep a reasonable budget.
Here is what I saw during 3 days based on my notes back then. Actually I realize that it looks pretty good :
- Lots of wall diving
- Some good macro life including nudibranchs, crabs and shrimps + ornate ghostpipe fish and pygmy seahorses.
- The usual tropical reef fishes
- An eagle ray, some white tips reef sharks, turtles.
Bangka is a more upscale diving destination that has good reputation but only expensive resorts offer diving there. Last time I was in north Sulawesi I checked :
- Bastianos (they also have a resort in Bunaken and Lembeh) : 110€/day for accommodation. 47€ per dives + 20€ per day for gear.
- Murex : 110€/day for accommodation, diving more expensive than Coral Eyes.
- Coral Eyes : 110€/day for accommodation, 35€/dive + 20€/day for gear rental.
- Blue Bay Divers : also 110€/day for accommodation.
It’s possible to get better deals by contacting directly the resort out of high season but it remains expensive.