Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Charms of Bunaken

Bunaken is a tiny mangrove island off the northern coast of Sulawesi.   A cool breeze in the evening and year round sun shape this into nothing short of an idyllic paradise, and beneath the surface, life teems with energy. 

Bunaken is one of the world's top dive destinations.  While it is not an easy place to get to, people venture from all over the world to catch long glimpses of its unique underwater world.  Anything is possible.  We saw turtles, swam with sharks (yes sharks, thankfully a stigma is removed when peeing your pants underwater), and enjoyed the exhilarating display of technicolor corals.  We stayed on the island for 3 days, diving in the morning, and relaxing for the remainder of the days.  Our resort, Living Colours, was an interesting Finnish operation.  The guests were almost exclusively from Finland and other parts of Scandinavia.  They were very gracious and welcoming to us Americans.  The house band, Cobra Band, employs a talented group of island musicians, headed by lead singer Freddy.  Apparently, due to the Finnish association, they are somewhat of a sensation back in Finland, even twice flying to Finland to perform.  Their island equipment is very rustic which makes their performances all the more impressive.  Freddy sings into a wooden microphone, and the drums are fashioned out of second hand leavings.  They sound great and love to play "Because I got high," by Afroman, while chuckling through the verses.

We were sad to say goodbye to Bunaken and Sulawesi in general.  It is a very difficult and wild place, but rewards you handsomely for making the journey.  Unlike Bali, tourism is at a much slower trickle, so it maintains a local flavor that is decidedly its own.  I would come back in a heartbeat, though I will cherish the hot showers until I return.

A Volcano and Bunaken 

Ryan and Meagan enjoy the boat ride to a new dive site.

The water is so clear that you do not even need to get in the water to see a bunch of cool stuff.

This was when Kristin first started feeling ill.  She spent a bit too much time laying out on the roof of the boat.

Just fantastic 

Every dive site that we dove was just perfect 

At left, our dive guide Ading 

The end of the mangrove forest that surrounds Living Colours 

Kristin walking home 

At high tide this is all underwater.  You do not want to step on those spikes 

a fishing boat, the owner is a fan of Brazil.  Everyone represents their favorite team with flags.

This is the main jetty on Bunaken at low tide 

This lost calf was very nice to me, though Ryan alleges that it chased him later in the day 
 Our balcony

 Our bungalow

Sea Cucumber 

Lots of life

The diversity of corals is so great here

Juvenile Lionfish 

A strange spotted guy


Ryan and Meagan 

The 4 of us 

You never know what is going to come from around the corner

Our dive guide signals us - Sharks!!!

They just swam right by.  If you asked me if it would scare me, then I would probably have said yes.  However, when we saw these two, we were all so in awe that fear was not so prevalent.

Too much to look at 

We saw 4 sharks total during 1 dive

White Scorpionfish 

These guys bite 

Fish everywhere 

Just to illustrate how many fish surrounded us 


a turtle swam right by my face 

It was pretty cool


A cleaner shrimp 

Here I am - my second day of diving I went by myself and met a cool guy from the U.S. named Morgan.  He lives in Houston and was traveling with a friend from Dallas.  Crazy coincidence.

Our dive guide checking out a wall

This thing was huge 

If you open your mouth for these cleaner shrimp, they will clean it.

Very colorful scorpionfish 

Little fella 

Massive fish, Napoleon Wrasse.  It looked to be 6 feet long.

We took a boat ride from Bunaken back to the mainland on Saturday morning.  When we arrived back at the harbor, a festival of sorts was underway.  It was Police appreciation day, and everyone was wearing "I love Police" t shirts.  It had nothing to do with Sting.  This was a surreal way to return to Manado.  At the airport, Kristin and I ate Chicken Strips at KFC and man, they were disgusting.  I rarely eat fast food, but I am positive that Indonesian KFC is wholly inferior to the KFC chicken we have in the states.  Ryan theorized that they send all the dark gamey meat to the developing nation KFCs, and we get the white stuff.  It was weird stuff.  I ate it all. I washed it down with my new favorite drink, Pocari Sweat.  (In an earlier blog, I called Pocari Sweat an Indonesian drink.  It turn out it is Japanese.)

At the airport, I was wearing my shorts that I have dubbed "The Smugglers" because they have these strange side/back pockets that fit water perfectly.  On alot of flights over here, the security is at the actual gate, so it is impossible to bring in any airport bought water, let alone stuff from the outside.  When I realized this last year, it was a huge blow to my world view and general happiness level.  I love water.  Anyways, I have these shorts and just smuggle it on now anyways.  I am maybe 14 for 14, eventually I will get yelled at.  

We flew from Manado to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur for a 2 night breather.  Of course, since it is Sunday, one of us is sick again.  We went to an interesting clinic today, the only open one, and Kristin got some meds.  She is starting to feel better already.  On the way back to our hotel, we had lunch at a fancy Pizza Hut with servers and a menu and a control pad to communicate with your server.  It was so nice to have a hot pie.

 Getting off in Manado Harbor, steep climb 


 The luxurious Singapore airport

 A slide at Singapore Airport 

 Pizza Hut Menu 

 Server control 


Just Cheese please 


  1. Fantastic underwater pictures, Justin!! It is almost like being there with you in the water. Great to talk with you yesterday. Hope no one else gets sick. Our love to all of you. Look forward to the next blog.

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