Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa

Access to the world renowned Coral Triangle? Tick. Amazing food and wine? Tick. Award-winning service? Tick. 

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa is one of the best dive resorts we've stayed at and we've stayed at quite a few! First off, let's jump straight into the quality of diving. 

Bunaken Island lies about half an hour by speedboat off the coast of North Sulawesi, and forms a very small terrestrial part of Bunaken National Park. This marine reserve was founded in 1991 and is well known amongst scuba divers for its beautiful vertical walls,  which teem with countless corals, fish, molluscs and turtles. So many turtles. There are also a few sandy seagrass lagoons where tiny, interesting critters such as frogfish, pipefish and sea quills reside.

For a place so lovely, it's only a short drive and boat ride from the bustling city of Manado, capital of North Sulawesi, which at time of writing (Nov 2023) is just an easy 3 hour Scoot flight from Singapore.

A stunning candy crab

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort itself perches on stilts overlooking a lagoon. Reception and the dive shop are on the same level as the jetty, while everything else - the bar, restaurant, pool and rooms require the navigation of stone steps or wooden stairs. So wear shoes every time you leave your room - the ground can be uneven and during the day, the stones get really hot! 

At the restaurant, a basket of freshly baked assorted bread rolls greeted us daily. Meals were superb and served a la carte, with a mix of international (pizza, pasta, etc) and local dishes to choose from. What we loved was that at every meal, there was at least one Manadonese dish to try including tinutuan, a savoury breakfast porridge, and rica-rica, a hot and spicy sauce served with meat or fish.  Ditch your diet or you'll miss out!

The Dive Experience

I've come to expect the following things at the best of the best dive resorts: 

Bunaken Oasis Resort blew it out of the water by providing all the above, plus a wonderful, gentle guide, Hentje Pontoh, who had a pygmy seahorse named after him - Hippocampus pontohi, also known as Pontoh's pygmy seahorse or the weedy pygmy seahorse. 

Hippocampus pontohi

In the evening, there was a choice of going to see mandarinfish or doing a night dive - both were great experiences. 

A pile of rubble beside Bunaken Oasis Resort's own jetty is home to a family of colourful mandarinfish, while a dive at the house reef after dark revealed an abundance of rock lobster, slipper lobster, as well as these enormous nudibranchs that looked like big red or purple splotches.

Other Activities

So if you don't scuba dive, is Bunaken Oasis Resort or Bunaken itself worth the trip?  

The shallow reefs and sandy lagoons of Bunaken National Park are full of marine creatures easily spotted while snorkelling, for instance chocolate-chip starfish, octopus and turtles. The resort has stand up paddleboards and kayaks, which can be taken out to explore the many picturesque mangroves that fringe the island.

A trip into the local village provides an insight into everyday life, and you can even accompany the resort staff to church on Sunday, an important event for many of the island's residents who are devout Christians. 

We combined our dive trip here with four days in Tangkoko National Park, which I highly recommend - preferably at the start of your North Sulawesi adventure!