We have been talking with our friends John and Christina for a while about going on a diving trip together. We wanted to find somewhere for a long weekend and fancied diving with whale sharks. However after a bit of research we realise that most whale shark locations are very touristy and besides August is too late in the year for the season. Instead we opt for a return trip to Bunaken, off NE Suluwesi. We loved the diving there last year and with a direct flight from Singapore and a quite short airport transfer it also makes a great 4 day break.
Roberto's place is full so we opt for Living Colours Resort, a bit further up the coast. After a 45 min taxi ride with Freddy, their regular driver, one of the resort boats meets us in Manado harbour. From here it is another 45 minutes to the dive resort where Ally, a cheerful English dive guide checks us in. The resort is simple but comfortable with a bar and dive centre at the beach and the restaurant and rooms on the clifftop above (60 steps). The restaurant is airy with great views and the 10 simple rooms are set around the garden with verandahs and hammocks (below).
The diving at Living Colours runs very smoothly from their three boats. The resort was set up by Finns Mia and her husband about 12 or 13 years ago and they have a good dive shop and experienced dive guides. They cater for experienced divers, including many returned guests, as well as beginners and there is an interesting mix of other guests while we are there.
Bunaken Island is only a kilometer or two from Suluwesi but the water in between is extremely deep and the walls around the island drop hundreds of feet. As a result you get a lot of interesting marine life coming through the channel which is also rich in nutrients. The walls are covered in hard and soft coral and there are abundant reef fish. We also see turtles on every dive. The tops of the walls are also fantastic coral gardens which make great spots to do your safety stop at the end of the dive or just to snorkel (see below).
On our first day everyone is up for a night dive which is great as the walls come alive with all sorts of creatures that you don't see in the daytime and the coral itself is more bright and vivid by torchlight. We find crabs with all sorts of things on their backs (sponges, shells etc), shrimps, sleeping turtles, nudibranchs, although no sign of the amazing Spanish Dancers that I saw last time I was here.
More great diving on Sunday and another enjoyable dinner with our new friends on Sunday night and then we are getting ready to come home again. It is Indonesian Independance Day so we are ferried to a village rather than the main town but even that is very sleepy and we are quickly back in the airport on surprising good roads - "built by the Chinese" according to Freddie the taxi driver. The slide show below has more images from our dive trip.