Bunaken & Lembeh: Which One Shall I Go?

    I and friends were in Gorontalo, to be exact, in Pulo Cinta or Love Island – the eco-resort that has become one of the favourite stops for people who go to Gorontalo. Pulo Cinta is about 2 hours car ride away from the Jalaluddin Airport in Gorontalo plus 15 minutes boat ride to transfer to the island. All transportation is arranged by the resort and is included in the package if we stayed for a minimum of two nights. Hassle-free.

    It is hard to resist the beauty of the island while enjoying a break from the city life without wi-fi, living on the water villa, far from everything but close to our friends and family. It was great I would say besides the services from the resort that could have been better. What got me most excited was my sister came along for the trip. Now she understands why I get so tanned everytime I am back from a trip. It was just so fun to snorkel or just have a dip in the water.

    Perhaps we had not had enough of our holiday yet, I and few of my friends took a short flight from Gorontalo to Manado to explore further the northern part of Sulawesi right after from Pulo Cinta. I had a little hard time to decide where to go from Manado. Shall we just go to Bunaken? Many people say Bunaken is a must go place if we are in Manado. Or maybe just go to Lembeh? Rarely heard about but I read on some forum that this place is good for its underwater, too. In the end, we or rather I decided to give both places a shot as we could extend a few more days and it was enough to cover both places.

    Bunaken and Lembeh – Which one is better?


    There are public boats going to Bunaken daily from Manado. But if we want to really enjoy our time exploring Bunaken for snorkelling or diving, chartered a boat, however, will be more costly but definitely is more recommended. We can go according to our own schedule either later or earlier. The resort where we stayed in Manado, Grand Luley, do have their own boat scheduled going to Bunaken once every few hours, every day. For those who don’t want to get into all the hassle of arranging on their own, then you can go for this option. There are many other hotels and resorts can arrange this as well.

    When we were arriving at Bunaken Island, we could see the hanging banner stating the prices for every activity in Bunaken. So, they already have a fixed price for everything. There are few dive operators on Bunaken Island and each dive costs about IDR 850,000,- if I remember correctly. That includes one full set equipment rental and guide – one to one. We only dive once in Bunaken and I can say that I was amazed by the reef wall that looks endless. If it wasn’t because I ran out of the air, I could keep on going and going.

    The only downside I would say is probably the patch of rubbishes that were seen at some water area. On the island itself, rubbishes can be spotted easily everywhere. Even though it is not in a huge amount but I could still say that that is my first time seeing so much rubbishes. I was told that all those could be coming from the city. Well, it may also be coming from anywhere and from anyone including you and me. Whenever we ignore or don’t even try putting any effort towards taking care of the environment, we are not much difference with people that littering without feeling guilty.


    Lembeh is part of Bitung, located at the opposite side of Manado, about 90 minutes away by car. The accommodation where I and my friends stayed in Lembeh is Dabirahe Resort. The location is quite deep in and remote, however, it turned out that we actually quite like the place. The view facing the Lembeh Strait, the easy access to the dive centre where we got our snorkelling and dive gears from, is definitely a big plus. Not yet to mention the spacious room that each unit has.

    I am glad that the dive guides who accompanied us are friendly and patient. We have one to one guidance likewise as when we were in Bunaken. I and my friend are still new in diving, so that time both of us were still kind of worried whether we would be enjoying the dive. Each new dive spot, we have our own worries. But I believe those worries will go away slowly as we dive more.

    The diving experience in Lembeh is different compared to Bunaken. Lembeh is popular with its muck diving where the bottom is mostly sandy. If in Bunaken I saw coral reef, sea turtles, group of fish and such, in Lembeh I didn’t see that much. But I saw small creatures such as crab, lobster and octopus and also some fish. Some divers call Lembeh as Nudibranch heaven because there are few stunning nudibranchs that only can be found in Lembeh Strait. It was fun seeing all these creatures behave in their homes. Again, can see but do not touch. If they touch you, that is a different story. Haha…

    • • •

    As a “baby” diver that has logged only about 10 dives at that time, I think, both Bunaken and Lembeh have something different to see. In Bunaken, I was amazed by the coral wall while in Lembeh I enjoyed seeing all those small creatures.

    As for snorkelling, I snorkelled once in Bunaken and it was amazing. While I didn’t snorkel in Lembeh but based on my friend’s experiences who went for both Bunaken and Lembeh, they said they would prefer Bunaken over Lembeh.

    If you only have a few days in Manado, perhaps Bunaken is a better option since it is closer. Else, spend a few more days and give both places a shot.

    Have you been to Bunaken or Lembeh? Spill your opinion in the comment box below.


    1. Hi, Tracy, nice to know your site. You have an excellent photo, videos and article documentation about Bunaken Lembeh. How lucky you are to get there. I hope one day I can go there.


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