22 April 2009

Bunaken Island

We'd had a great time in Singapore and were a little sad to be leaving when we did. It's a really great city with a fantastic mix of cultures that gives the place a really vibrant atmosphere. There's loads to see and do, the only advantage of leaving is that it's actually quite expensive. The back packer budget had taken a fair old hammering whilst we were there.

On Thursday (16th) we started out on the long 2 day journey to our next destination, Bunaken Island, a few kilometers off the Northern coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The first days travel was a fairly straight forward flight from Singapore to the Malaysian capital of Kualar Lumpur. We wanted to stay at or close to the airport in KL as we had an early start the following morning. We ended up getting a bit of a bargain with our accommodation. We stayed with Tune Hotels who have just opened a new hotel at the airport. Thanks to a special promotion our room for the night only cost us £10.

The advertising slogan for Tune Hotels says "5-star sleeping experience at a 1-star price" and they are not far from the mark. Although the room was tiny, barely much bigger than the incredibly comfy bed, it was actually lovely, with as smart a bathroom we've had anywhere. It was a slightly surreal evening though, hanging around the airport complex; loitering with a beer outside the 7 Eleven before dinner at KFC. It's a bit of a step down from Singapore Slings in the Long Bar and high tea in the Tiffin Room at Raffles!

After an early night we were up at 5 to catch our 4 hour flight to Manado on Sulawesi. Then it was an hours drive by pick-up from the airport to the harbour before a 30 minute speedboat ride to Bunaken Island.

We went to Bunaken as it is lauded as Indonesia's, some say the worlds, best dive and snorkelling site. Plus Liz saw some really nice postcards of the underwater critters from Bunaken last time she went to Bali! So did it live up to the hype?

Well it's undoubtably the best underwater action we've had so far on this trip. About 30m off shore is a breathtaking Timur reef which features a huge vertical drop off that goes from a depth of 2m down to 40m. The variety and condition of the coral is probably the best we've seen anywhere, there are supposedly more than 300 different types there. It's also the clearest water we've been in, the underwater visibility was easilly in excess of 20m. There's also a stunning variety of fish and other undersea beasties. Among some of the more unusual stuff we saw blue sea stars, christmas tree worms, yellow painted flute mouth, red fire fish, threadfin butterfly fish, long finned and hump head banner fish, horned/chocolate chip star fish, cuttle fish, moorish idol oriental sweetlips, palette sturgeon fish, golden sea squirt and (our favourite) the spotted box fish (apologies that this is just a list of fish, we don't have an underwater camera and Liz got bored trying to upload some pictures from the web because the connection was really slow!).

The snorkelling was really good and for us it comes only second to the Maldives.

The down side about going to Bunaken Island is the isolation. The island is tiny, it probably only covers a couple of square miles and has a dozen or so places to stay. Also there are no independent bars or restaurants so all of your meals and drinks have to be taken at your hotel, it's all just a little clostraphobic.

We stayed at a place called Bunaken Village which was actually really nice. The resort consisted of 8 small wooden huts in a garden right on the beach front. Our hut is in there somewhere . . .

It was run by Jochem, who quit the Netherlands 4 years ago and built the resort from scratch, and his wife Angelina from Java. The food was great and the staff were really friendly but the isolation got to us a bit, 5 days was a bit too long. It seemed that even Angelina was slowly going stir crazy and pining for the bright lights and excitement of Java.

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