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North Sulawesi

"The town of Manado", wrote the well-known English zoologist Alfred Russel Wallace after a visit to the area in 1859, "is one of the most beautiful places in the East. It looks like a big garden in which rows of villas are built. Wide paths in between are streets, which are usually squared. Good roads split up in several directions to the hinterlands, with some rural houses, nice little gardens and rich plantations, jungle and fruit trees. In the west and south the area is mountainous, with groups of volcanic peaks with a height between 1800 and 2100 meters, which form high and picturesque backgrounds in the landscape... I had heard a lot about the beauty of this country, but reality has surpassed my expectations by far."

Manado and Bunaken
Wealth on land and in the sea

Manado, the nice capital of North Sulawesi, stretched over the low hills with coconut trees alon a wide bay. Three vulcanoes offer a spectacular backgrouns. Because the city only has a limited number of attractions, the traveller is expected to be mainly interested as it's bas to explore the Tondano area and the beautiful sea around Bunaken.
Manado gained in importance during the early colonial period and later grew into the position of the center of Minahasa, traditionally settled around Danau Tondano. The city is mainly Christian, an heiritage of several centuries of Portuguese and Dutch rule. There are over 250 churches, and new ones are still build. The church has a key position in the community; at Sundays the streets are filled with properly dresses church goers.
Until the early 1960's the most important seaport is closed due to erosion now. Nowadays most ships continue to the harbor of Bitung, located across the northern peninsula and better protected against bad weather because the nearby Pulau Lembeh. There is still a posibility to go noth by boat to the most important islands of the Sangihe-Talaud archipelago: Siau, Sangihe (Tahuna), Salibabu (Lirung) and Karakelong (Beo), and also to Ternate, Toli-Toli and Ambon.

'Watch the dog'

Manado has a big variety of shops, hotels and restaurants. It is a service and governmental center for the entire province and because of that it has numerous of educational locations, banks and government buildings. The city has little architectural important buildings, but the center of the city, branded by the relatively high level of wealth, has lively shops which are filled to the roof with all kinds of cheap goods.
Who can get up early, should visit the fish market for sure. Before sunrise, the first fish is sold here.
Pasar Bersehati, located besides the fish market, is the biggest food market in the city and is loaded with a huge volume of fresh products, meat, fish and chicken. A part of the market is dedicated to freshly slaughtered dog, a local delicatesse: 'RW'. Who watches for signs with these two letters, can avoid this spiced dish, or just try it as well. Foreigners are rare here; they are often watched at or even followed.

Picture: Teluk Manado

The Buddhist-Confucianist temple Ban Hian Kiong, along Jl. Panjaitan in the center, was built in the early 19th century and was restaurated in 1974 after it was partially demolished by vandals. Two weeks after the Chinese new year, the fifteenth of the first moon month, the Cap Go Mei celebration is held here, for Chinese communities in entire Southeast Asia. Residents practice all kinds of fortune telling. The upper floor or the temple offers a very nice view over the inner city. Oddly enough the temple displays a series of objects from Portuguese origin. You can also see a number of VOC cannons.
The museum of North Sulawesi along Jl. W.R. Supratman displays an interesting collection of historic and cultural antiquities from the entire province. There are miniatures, odd instruments and a cruel looking game with nails. Guides are well-informed, but their English generally isn't good.
The wide Piere Tandean Boulevard runs along the coast for four kilometers, from the southern suburbs to the harbor, while little boats float on the foreground and the Manado Tua rises from the sea at a distance, you can enjoy beautiful sunsets here. Numerous food stalls and wanderers bring this area alife in the evenings.
The downtown area, overloaded with small shops and crowded traffic, concludes a relatively small area south of the harbor, close to the Jumbu supermarket and the main bemo station where all roads come together. You can take a minibus to stations outside the city here, for travelling more outside the city.

The seagardens of Bunaken

The coral reefs around the Bunaken islands have gained in popularity among lovers of seafauna and -flora. The Bunaken-Manado Tua Marine Park concists around 75,000 hectares, is located less than one hour from Manado and offers perfect snorkling and diving possilibities. Until some years ago, the quality of the diving equipment wasn't worth much, but this is all gone now. The diving gear is in good condition, boats are better and the guides speak English as well.
The clear water, with an average temperature of 27C, houses a large variety of reef fish: nice, healthy coral and many other animals which is a part of the underwater population, from spunges to squids.
There are about two dozen diving locations around the five islands which form the reserve. The safest and most visited spot for diving is the protected southern inlet of Pulau Bunaken with it's steep 'underwater walls'. A number of families offer a place to sleap and food. The reserve is protected by law against harpoon fishing, collecting of coral or fish, and against fishing with dynamite. Most travellers stay in one of the many diving centers which are located outside Manado.
This sea reserve offers several diving locations, but the vertical underwater walls are the biggest attraction. These unique walls are covered in cracks and shallow caves, in which reef fish shelter, an on which hard and soft corals, spunges and other sea life grows.
The reef at a depth of five meters is rich with all kinds of brightly colored sealife and is a good place to spend your decompression time or to make a safety stop. You can meet a seasnake here, while it is looking for something to eat in small corners. These snakes are very poisonous, but are rarely agressive - diving guides often brag with pulling them out of their hiding place. Rather don't do this yourself.
While the underwater walls form an uninterrupted play of marine life, you should also have a look at the open sea as well: here you will find bigger marine life. Diving guides know what there is to see for you, sometimes even the non-dangerous reefshark. You should not worry about the sharks, but be more beware of the blue finned fish, especially when they are alone. The fish defend their breed withe verything they have. The beak of the fish is too small to do damage, but the strong back teeth can pull off ears or make wounds which need to be stitched.
Also be very carefull for stingrays, especially the big ones. These rays are no manta's. An Italian diver made the fatal error to make a trip on a stingray, when the poisonous sting stuck in his chest. The man barely reached the surface and died because of heavy blood loss on his way to the hospital. Respect this golden diving rule: look, but don't touch!
Starting and experienced divers can dive all they want in the areas south of Bunaken. Divers with experience which strong currents and depths of 30 meters, probably would like to try some locations at the other side of Bunaken: Sachiko's Point, where you can often find tuna and water turtles, or Mike's Point, which has a big concentration of reef fish and small marine life.
Deepsea divers can also explore Batu Kapal at Pulau Nain, named after the layer of earth in the shape of a ship, at a depth of 42 meters. Here is a narrow ravine - with a depth of at least 90 meter.
At depths like these, camera's are best left ashore. Two divers tried this (with a single oxygen bottle) and saw how their lights and depth meters imploded!
The wreck close to Molas, is located at a depth of 25 and 40 meters, and gives enough pleasure. Nightdiving at Bunaken is an exciting experience, for experienced as well as beginning divers.
Besides the lunches with other divers ar Bunaken, there are several other options to spend your day. You can visit the friendly Bajau community at Pulai Montehaje. The people live in pillar dwellings which were built in the shallow estuary in the north of the island.

Volcanoes and dolphins

You can also climb the dormant Gunung Manado Tua. It isn't usefull to climb the full 882 meters to the crater, since it is completely covered in vegetation, which obscures any view from there. From the steep slopes you have a beautiful view over the island, surrounded by shallow blue waters which transforms to deep blue. In the remote distance, on the mainland, you can see Gunung Klabat.
During boat trips you can see a whale and sometimes a group of dolphins. For those who don't want to get into the water, there are also boats with a glass bottom, which sail to the reserve when there are enough passengers. It is smart to avoid the period between December and March, when heavy monsoon rains and winds make the sea rough.

Pulau Bangka

Divers, snorklers and campers which are interested in a long trip through a beautiful landscape, can make a trip to Pulau Bangka throughout the year. Diving along the coast of Bangka was made possible by dr. Hanny B atuna from the Murex diving center. This center offers a very pleasurable trip to Bangka, in which you can return overland.
The boat trip to Bangka is unforgettable. As soon as you leave from the mainland and leave behing the Lokon and Mahawu vulcanoes, Gunung Manado Tua appears, surrounded by clouds, in the north behind the low Bunaken. In the early morning and the late afternoon, small boats cross the water between Bunaken and Sulawesi.
In the direction of the Minahasa peninsula, the Gunung Klabat summit (1995 meters) dominates the mainland east of Manadfo and it will be a point of reference for the biggest part of the trip. Beyond Tanjung Tarawitan, the northernmost tip of Sulawesi, the hills of the Tangkoko-Batuangus-Dua Saudara reserve rise in the south and Pulau Talisei in the north. The big white buildings on Talisai belong to a pearl farm from the Japanese.
Pulau Bangka, branded by many bays and hills, doesn't have many white beaches since the vegetation usually grows as far as the water line. Off the coast are fishing areas where boats fish together.
The sharp rocks rise from the sea in front of the southern and southeastern part of Bangka. Dr. Hanny Batuna discovered some very extraordinary diving locations here. The rocky landscape is also continued under the sealevel and the variation of soft corals is breathtaking. This is a very good place for snorkling.
At some locations, where the rocks run down vertically, big schools of fish more look like a blizzard. You can also see huge fish around Bangka: sharks, barracudas and all kinds of other big fish. Under a table coral there are sometimes little sharks. There is often a strong current in this area; you should have some experience before diving here.
Usually you can enjoy your lunch in the shade on a white beach. Too bad this scene isn't always that idyllic: most animal lovers will probably don't like the big nets near the floating houses. This company was started in 1991 with the only purpose to catch life fish which are sold to Hong Kong. It took several years before this kind of fish reach their big size, and looking at this shameless exploitation of nature in a beautiful location as Bunaken is bitter. Before the return to Manado you have the choice between a beautiful trip through from the village of Likupang on the mainland, or the same trip by boat so you can experience the unique sunset in front of Manado Tua.

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