Immersed in Aquatic Wonder: Unveiling North Sulawesi’s Hidden Gems at The Pulisan Resort, Lembeh, and Bangka
After a year of skippering, teaching, and diving in Perth, the time had come for Kate, Neptune, and me to embark on a well-deserved holiday. We’re always eager to explore new places, and in the back of our minds, we couldn’t help but consider the possibility of bringing a group to experience these locations next year.
North Sulawesi is a renowned name in the diving community, and while Lembeh may ring a bell for many macro photographers, they may not be able to pinpoint it on a map. I found myself in a similar position, unsure of where to begin my search. It didn’t take long for us to discover that North Sulawesi offers four main spots for scuba diving:
- Bunaken: Known for its mesmerizing wall dives and abundance of turtles.
- Lembeh Strait: Dubbed the Critter Capital of the world, it boasts black sand teeming with cryptic marine life.
- Bangka Island: A destination of exquisite coral reefs.
- North Sulawesi Cape: Offering a combination of macro dives and stunning topography.
With a decent budget and enough time, it’s relatively easy to explore all of these diving spots. You could spend three days in Bunaken, followed by another three in Lembeh, and then another three in Bangka. The region is well-developed, thanks to European tourism, so you’ll find plenty of dive resorts to choose from and convenient transportation options between the different locations. However, in our case, our budget and schedule weren’t the biggest constraints—we had a 10-month-old bundle of energy to consider. We wanted to find a place that could cater to a toddler, limit our need for extensive transportation, and allow us to see as much as possible.
Fortunately, luck was on our side, and we stumbled upon the perfect solution: The Pulisan Resort. Nestled on the North Sulawesi Cape, their dive boat offered excursions around the cape (just a 10-minute boat ride away), Bangka Island (20 minutes), and Lembeh Strait (30 minutes), all without any additional charges. While we might miss out on Bunaken this time, the resort has a partnership with another hotel there that sounds equally enticing.
Beyond Imagination: Diving Escapades in North Sulawesi’s Dreamy Underwater Playground
After a long flight from Perth, we found ourselves in the enchanting Jungle bungalow, ready to embark on our North Sulawesi adventure. As we prepared for our first dives, the question of our Bucket List arose. Kate’s immediate response was the elusive Mimic octopus, known for its mesmerizing shape-shifting abilities showcased in viral YouTube videos. Little did we know that our wish would be granted sooner than expected, thanks to the incredible diving experiences that awaited us.
Batu Puteng: A Coral Pinnacle and the Wonders of Mimic:
Our diving journey began at Batu Puteng, a captivating coral reef adorned with a myriad of vibrant nudibranchs. It was here, on our second dive, during a serene white sand exploration around the cape, that we were blessed with a sighting of the remarkable Mimic octopus. With water temperatures around 29°C and excellent visibility reaching 20 meters, our dives were both tranquil and exhilarating.
Lembeh Strait: Macro Marvels and the Secrets of Black Sand:
The following day, we ventured into the renowned Lembeh Strait, eager to encounter the world of macro diving. Teluk Kambahu 3 and Hairball became our underwater playgrounds, revealing a cornucopia of cryptic creatures. From the elusive Mimic octopus and wondrous wonderpuss to scorpion fish, tiny frogfish, and an array of vibrant shrimp species,
Bangka Island: Drifting through Underwater Delight:
Seeking a change of scenery, we set sail for Bangka Island, where thrilling drift dives awaited us at Batu Sahaung and Sepia. Accompanied by experienced American divers who relished a slower pace, we glided through the healthy and colorful reefs. Although the absence of larger marine life was notable, the clean and warm waters of Bangka left us in awe, reaffirming the allure of pristine underwater ecosystems.
Lembeh’s black sand dives provided an extraordinary opportunity to explore the extraordinary within the seemingly ordinary.
North Cape’s Charms: Lava Walls, Reef Dives, and Hidden Gems:
Curiosity led us to explore the North Cape, where Batu Mandi and Efrata beckoned with their irresistible beauty. As our boat entered the bay, we were greeted by a little slice of paradise—crystal-clear waters, shallow rocks, and pristine beaches shaded by magnificent trees. Submerging into the depths, we were captivated by the unique
blend of black sand dives reminiscent of Lembeh, vibrant reef dives akin to Bangka, and captivating lava walls. Our dives were filled with life, and the discovery of a WWII Japanese bomb added an intriguing historical element to Efrata.
An Unexpected Encore: Lembeh’s Surprising Treasures:
On our final day, we returned to Lembeh, not expecting to encounter anything drastically different from our previous dives. However, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Two species of frogfish and an array of fascinating marine life welcomed us during our dives at Rojos and Aer Bajo 1, leaving us with lasting memories of a remarkable journey beneath the waves.
As we wrap up our diving escapades in North Sulawesi, we can’t help but smile at the incredible experiences we had. While it’s important to note that our underwater exploration was limited to a few dives, we can confidently say that this slice of paradise left us craving more. From the mind-boggling mimicry skills of the Mimic octopus to the quirky microcosms of Lembeh and the vibrant reefs of Bangka, we were treated to a taste of the region’s underwater wonders. Although we’re mindful that our adventure only scratched the surface, we depart with a lighthearted appreciation for the magic that unfolded beneath the waves. North Sulawesi, you’ve captured our hearts, and we’re already dreaming of future dives to delve deeper into your underwater playground.
Dive, Relax, Repeat: Unforgettable Moments at the Pulisan Resort in North Sulawesi
Choosing the Pulisan Resort for our North Sulawesi getaway proved to be a decision well-made, thanks in large part to the warm hospitality of the owners, Anna and Lee. From the very beginning, they went above and beyond to accommodate our needs, especially with the unique challenge of traveling with a 10-month-old. They provided us with essential amenities for our little one, such as bedding and a life jacket, and even arranged for a local babysitter while we indulged in our diving adventures. We’ll share more about our experience traveling to Indonesia with a young child in an upcoming blog post.
Upon our arrival at Manado Airport, we were promptly greeted by the resort’s friendly staff and embarked on a pleasant one-hour drive to the Pulisan Resort. The road journey was a treat in itself, as it offered glimpses of the captivating Sulawesian landscapes and allowed us to immerse ourselves in the local culture. If you manage to stay awake after your flight, you’ll be captivated by the scenic views that unfold along the way.
The resort’s wooden bungalows nestled amidst the lush jungle immediately caught our attention. Not only were they aesthetically pleasing, but they also provided utmost comfort. The bed was cozy, and the spacious shower area with its toilet, shower, and sink met our needs perfectly. While the absence of hot water for the shower may concern some, the tropical air temperature of around 35°C made it a non-issue, even for our little one, Neptune. Surrounded by the beauty of the beach and the enchanting jungle, the resort felt like a serene haven. Exploring the garden was a delight as we stumbled upon fascinating flowers and fruits, all while being serenaded by the soothing melodies of birdsong. The tranquility was momentarily disrupted on our first night by music from a nearby beach village, but fortunately, it did not persist in the following nights.
At the Pulisan Resort, we savored delicious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The cuisine showcased the flavors of Indonesia, with each dish featuring a unique blend of local ingredients. Dinner was a particular highlight, as we eagerly looked forward to the enticing soup of the day. The menu alternated between mouthwatering fish and chicken dishes for dinner, while tempeh and tofu took center stage during lunch.
After our invigorating dives, we had the entire afternoon to ourselves. Often, we opted to take rejuvenating naps or swim in the crystal-clear waters of the beach. The expansive sandy shore also beckoned us for leisurely walks and breathtaking views from the lookout point.
On our non-diving day, we embarked on an adventure to the Tangkoko Nature Reserve. The resort provided us with a knowledgeable guide, leading us through the dense jungle and introducing us to its diverse inhabitants. While the monkeys and birds delighted us, truth be told, as passionate divers, we would have gladly traded the three-hour hike in long pants and shirts for an hour underwater, encountering a hundred different fish species.
The quality of the accommodations and the delectable cuisine at the Pulisan Resort exceeded our expectations, matching the warm and welcoming nature of the staff. They were not only friendly towards us but also angelic in their care for our little one. If we were to pinpoint any drawbacks, they would be the brief disturbance caused by the beach music on our first night (fortunately a one-time occurrence) and the absence of coffee before 7 am. With Neptune wide awake at 4 am, finding ways to keep our energetic little one occupied without our beloved caffeine fix proved to be quite the challenge.
Nonetheless, our time at the Pulisan Resort left an indelible mark on our hearts, creating cherished memories of relaxation, adventure, and the genuine warmth of the staff. It truly was a sanctuary where we could dive, unwind, and embrace the beauty of North Sulawesi’s natural wonders.