Bunaken is a small island next to the much large island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is roughly in the middle of the Bunaken National Park, which covers about 890 square kilometers and where 390 species of coral and 90 species of fish. This is claimed to be more than 70% of all the known species of fish in Indo-Western Pacific.
Besides biodiversity, the current make diving at Bunaken an experience to remember. The oceanic currents often form counter-currents and gyros and they get mixed with rising and descending currents near the walls.
Diving in Bunaken
The two most popular forms of diving in Bunaken are wall diving and muck diving but there are also some wreck sites. There is a plenty of small animals to see and most of the local dive guides are experts in spotting them.
At the top of the walls, at some 5 to 2 meters most walls turn into coral reefs that are magnificent in their own right. You may, however, need to specifically ask your dive guide to take you there or, otherwise, you may catch just a glimpse of the reef during your safety stop at the end of the dive.
If you have the needed experience, do not miss the night diving in Bunaken. That is when the most interesting creatures come out such as huge sponge crabs.
At the surface
There is really just one way to get to Bunaken. You fly to Manado airport and take a boat to one of many diving resorts. Most resorts can pick you up at the airport. From there it takes about 45 minutes to get to the boat and about the same time to get to the island.
Mind you, there is a local village on the island and you you can visit there by foot but, other than that, the resorts are quite isolated places. One of the better known resorts is Living Colours but there are plenty of others to choose from.
The Cook Islands is a country comprised of 15 island in the South Pacific Ocean. The country lives of tourism, which is its main industry. There are some 100 000 tourists visiting the islands every year and quite many of them are divers.
English is one of the languages spoken by the islands’ population of less than 20 000 people. Most people live on the southern islands and only about 10% on the northern islands.
Most dive sites are within 10-20 minutes boat ride away and, yes, practically all diving around the Cook Islands is boat diving.
The water is almost invariably extremely clear and from 23 to 30 degrees Celsius (73-86 degrees Fahrenheit). You can expect to see a lot of corals, canyons, drop-offs and caves .
Rarotonga and Aitutaki are two key islands in the south. This is also where most dive centers are located.
Experienced cave divers should definitely visit the Croc Caverns. It is a cave system — a chain of relatively large caverns — with a well-hidden entrance. You just may just come across a white-tip shark or a Spanish dancer.
Another popular site is the Mataora, which is accessible to even the less experienced divers. This cargo ship was intentionally sunk to depth of 18 meters to create an artificial reef.
Whales and black pearls
To get a chance to see humpback whales, you want to time you visit to the Cook Islands between July and October.
If you would like to get a glimpse of the truly rare treasures of the Cook Islands, the black pearls, you need to go to north where they are produced on the Manihiki and Penrhyn islands.
You can take courses in scuba diving in most countries but rarely in a university. It is even more rare that a governmental university would offer such courses.
Goa University in India is a refreshing exception to the rule. Goa university became the first governmental institutes in India to offer scuba diving courses when they were added to their marine biotechnology curriculum in 2011.
The course was first organized for the faculty of marine biotechnology. Since then it has been opened students even from other departments. The participants passing the course receive Scuba Schools International (SSI) certification.
The participants also receive academic credits. There are a few other countries such as United States where scuba diving is a recognized part of academic curriculum in some universities and colleges.
Let us hope that the example set by Goa University is soon followed by others in India and elsewhere.
May 18, 2014: Updated the title of the story for improved clarity
Sharks are in trouble and need your help. The list of endangered shark species is depressingly long. Sharks are not only magnificent animals themselves but they also play a key role in the health of many marine ecosystems.
In this article Underwater Herald introduces two resources where you can go to learn and do more: The “Sharks in Peril” project by Project Aware and “Shark Week”, which is not just a TV event but has an extensive web site that you can access year around.
Discovery Channel organized its first Shark Week in 1987 and it is said to be the longest running cable television programming event in the history.
Shark Week may have started as a TV event but has grown way beyond that. The Shark Week 2014 TV event is still a few months away — in August — but the Shark Week web site is all you need to start learning about sharks and contributing to their protection. The site is full of information, videos and possibilities to contribute. You can track the travels of your favorite shark live, make a virtual shark dive or watch a shark cam. You can also find a section full of Shark Week 2013 videos and information.
To take action to help sharks go the Save Sharks section of the site.
As you could expect, Shark Week is also on Twitter and Facebook.
Mind you, there was controversy around Shark Week 2013 because some of the TV programming was overly dramatized. This takes little value away from the web site, however, and let us hope that in 2014 the Shark Week TV programming is documentary.
Sharks in Peril
Many divers have heard of Project AWARE, a divers’ movement to protect the ocean planet. The Sharks in Peril project is a part of the wider Project AWARE movement.
The Sharks in Peril web pages are a good starting point for learning more about sharks and their need for protection. You can contribute through donations or by joining Project AWARE and participating local events for shark conservation. In the Resource Zone you can find more ways to contribute and do not forget to keep an eye on the Latest Updates section.