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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 (Eastern Bunaken) 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.

Snorkeling Bunaken Island reef drop-off, Indonesia
A snorkeler above Bunaken reef.

How to get to Bunaken Island for snorkeling?

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 on 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.

Bunaken Island snorkeling map, Indonesia

Entering the water in Bunaken

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.

Bunaken Island snorkeling exploration

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

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 porcupine-fish, 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’s clownfish and pink skunk clownfish. However, you will spot fewer of these than you might around Siladen Island.

Razorfish at Bunaken, Indonesia
A school of razorfish, known for swimming almost vertically, with the head pointed downwards.

The most colorful of all is the angelfish: the regal angelfish is most often seen around the reef flat, which makes it quite photogenic, while the majestic angelfish dwell in deeper waters (↕10-12ft/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 skindive you can try to get closer to them, but they are fearful creatures and they might escape to the deep blue in a heartbeat.

Snorkeling with hawksbill sea turtle in Bunaken, Indonesia
A hawksbill sea turtle photographed at Bunaken reef flat.

Restaurants and accommodation in Bunaken

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.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaBunaken National Marine Park
  • Maximum depth6ft on reef flat, 60ft behind drop-off
  • Water entranceEasy
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsFree (or tour price)
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.