Sulawesi 7 – Manado and Bunaken

23.1.91 Sam Ratulangi Airport

We were relieved by our reception in Manado: a very friendly tourist information guy, metered taxis, and our names as “honoured guests” at the Hotel Kawanua Kecil.

Manado doesn’t feel that much different from other Indonesia cities. It’s walkable. with modern bank buildings and typical market areas, as well as a Chinatown with its temples.

However, to avoid the intense curiosity of “hello misters” and “isn’t he (Sam) cute” type comments, we need to avoid the port area. But that would mean staying put in our air conditioned hotel.

For all the banners and logos, this city isn’t ready for visit Indonesia Year 1991, at least as far as the budget traveller is concerned.

“Don’t Miss Bunaken Sea Garden Before You Die”
(a street banner)

We didn’t. We did miss the sun, however. Apart from the quite fabulous sunset illuminating the clouds over the island as we snorkelled offshore the first evening, we’ve managed to catch the tail end of the rainy season for the tail end of our holiday.

According to Tony Wheeler, boats constantly zip to and from the island. That’s not true outside the tourist season: departure from Manado at 2pm, and something like 8am from Bunaken. To charter a boat is exorbitant – from Rp.35,000 to Rp.60,000 are the quotes we’ve had.

Still, we’ve learned and next time we want to spend a lot longer here, perhaps after touring Ambon and the Moluccas. We would probably stay again with Rusli and Adida in their homestay in the Muslim part of Bunaken village.

They provide excellent food cooked on a fire of coconut shells, and not just rice and fish as at Suryadi’s in Wakai. And there’s lots of it for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. I’m not surprised that some people stay for two weeks or so. At Rp.10,000 per person per day, it’s affordable for a lengthy period, even including the flight from Jakarta.

“Bunaken ~ One Of The Most Sea Garden In The World”

Indeed it is! Rusli has a couple of prahus which his guests can borrow in order to reach the reef, which is definitely worth all the plaudits. A rich variety of coral supports vast shoals of brightly coloured fish. The drop off is steep, the waters are clear. Was it really a shark I glimpsed way down?. And it was definitely a denizen of the deep which we saw close up cruising atop the coral. Slow, languid movements, almost a metre long and almost the same from the tip of the dorsal fin to the lower one.

Since discovered to be a napolean wrasse. (Click for large image)

As always, I’m pleased to discover something new when snorkelling, and Bunaken will repay many visits. However, we must learn to recognise the inland paths. With the heavy rains, all of them had to be negotiated barefoot: squelch, slip and slide.
They’ve just announced another delay to our flight. Yesterday it was cancelled. We’re already concerned about possible delays or other problems with Sam’s Czech Air flight due to the Gulf War. So, will we be back in Jakarta for him to catch it? (We were.)

This is just another typical day in a provincial airport courtesy of Garuda/Merpati.

About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
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