Bunaken Timur

Bunaken Island National Marine Park includes 5 small islands located north of the bigger Sulawesi Island (formerly Celebes Island), close to the city of Manado. Bunaken Island itself is the most accessible and the most visited place in the archipelago. Actually it is one of the first diving destinations in Indonesia. Bunaken Timur (Bunaken-East) refers to the reef fringing the island’s eastern shore. With its gorgeous coral formations alive with hundreds of fish species and a lot of sea turtles, it is the best snorkeling spot in the island.

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How to get there?

Bunaken Island is located only a few kilometers from Sulawesi Island’s north shore. It can only be accessed by boat. Manado is the main starting point to get here. A one-way trip from Manado airport to any hotel in the island (car + a 30 minutes boat ride) usually costs from 40 to 50 euros. Some hotels also offer free shuttles for their clients (scheduled pick-up times).

The spot extends over the south-eastern coast, between Lorenso’s cottage (northern limit) and the main pontoon (southern limit). Once on the island, if you’re not staying on the eastern shore you will have to get there by walking along the shore or through the island (a track crosses it, see further down for more details).

You can also make a short stop on the island: several snorkeling tours departing from Manado, Siladen or Bunaken have a stopover here.

Water entrance

If you want to enjoy your time on Bunaken Timur, you need to pay attention to sea currents. A shifting current usually shakes the place; it can randomly run northwards or southwards. Swimming against it can be exhausting: consider drifting along it during your exploration. All you have to do is entering and exiting the water from different points.

When tide is high, you can enter and exit the water each time a small beach or a channel appears amidst the mangrove swamp. However at low tide there are only two recommended entrance points: the pontoon in the south part and Lorenso’s Cottages channel in the central part (follow the small “snorkeling” sign set on the beach). Don’t hesitate to ask locals for tide times and current conditions.

If you take part in a snorkeling tour, your boat will take you directly to the reef.

Aerial view


The exploration area covers the 2 kilometers long reef fringing the island’s south-eastern shore. Corals are very qualitative over the whole area, except for a few dozens of meters north of the pontoon where some of them are degraded.

Angelfish Bunaken Island Snorkeling
Royal angelfish at Bunaken Timur reef, Bunaken Island

Put on your diving mask and enter a magical place where thousands of fish peacefully swim over a multicolored coral forest. Following the drop-off, you will spot different species of butterflyfish going by in couples, trumpetfish, huge porcupinefish, parrotfish or even boxfish. Above tabular corals, schools made of hundreds of chromis hide away with every sudden movement. You can spot several clownfish species here, the most common being Clark clownfish and pink skunk clownfish. However, you will spot fewer of these than you might around Siladen Island. The most colorful and majestic of all is the angelfish: queen angelfish is most often seen around the reef flat, which makes it quite photogenic, while majestic angelfish dwells in deeper waters (3-4 meters) along the drop-off.

Keep an eye on the drop-off and you might repeatedly spot the silhouettes of sea turtles (green sea turtle or hawksbill sea turtle can both be seen here). They like to swim along the reef but seldom enter the reef flat area. If you practice apnea you can try to get closer to them, but they are fearful creatures and they might escape to the deep blue in a heartbeat.

Restaurants & accommodation

There are many accommodation options on Bunaken east coast, fitting all budgets. Lorenso’s Cottage and Living Colours are the closest to the reef’s main access at low tide. There are only full board hotels here: if you want to have lunch, you’d better book in advance in one of their restaurants.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
  • Maximum depth
    6ft on reef flat, 60ft behind drop-off
  • Water entrance
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
    Free (or tour price)
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling Bunaken Timur

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
Majestic angelfish
Pomacanthus navarchus
Spinecheek anemonefish
Premnas biaculeatus
Clark anemonefish
Amphiprion clarkii
Pink skunk clownfish
Amphiprion perideraion
Orange skunk clownfish
Amphiprion sandaracinos
Fire clownfish
Amphiprion melanopus
Double-saddle butterflyfish
Chaetodon ulietensis
Green sea turtle
Chelonia mydas
Hawksbill sea turtle
Eretmochelys imbricata
Moorish idol
Zanclus cornutus
Yellow longnose butterflyfish
Forcipiger flavissimus
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You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?