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Bunaken is famous for its walls, blue water and pelagics while its nearby neighbor the Lembeh Strait, on the other side of the tip of North Sulawesi, is famous for its critters.
So I was not expecting to get much use from the macro lenses I took with me to Manado…
But I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of critters I encountered and was able to photograph.
As with most critter diving, it was all about the specific sites and the quality of the guide.
In my case it was Fendy Donsu, my guide from Cocotinos Dive Resort where I based my self for the trip to Bunaken.
Like many of the guides in both Manada Marine Park and over in the Lembeh Strait, Fendy had been diving the main sites for a number of years and knew them like the back of his hand.
He also knew how to help underwater photographers get their shots, such as helping me to get my long macro lens focused on tiny pygmy seahorses without scaring them to death!
Pygmy seahorses are, in my opinion, some of the most dangerous creatures in the sea for underwater photographers.
They are just so photogenic that it is almost impossible to resist their charm and end up staying too long trying to get that perfect image.
Unfortunately, the gorgonian fans they live on tend to be fairly deep – usually in excess of 20m – so its very easy to get in to decompression…
Anybody who has ever tried to get a really good image of just one of these tiny creatures actually looking at the camera will understand why I was so excited about two of them both posing for me long enough so I could actually press the shutter and record the image.
It was after that dive that I learnt a knew phrase in Bahasa Indonesia – dua pygmy, empat mata (two pygmies, four eyes)…
There are some very basic rules for photographing critters – first you obviously have to be at a site where they can be found.
Then you need the right camera & lens combination to fill the frame & finally you need to be able to spot them and this is where the dive guides come in.
There really is no substitute for a good guide and I was constantly amazed at the critters Fendi could find and direct me to.
Bunaken Critter Image Gallery
Diving Indonesia: North Sulawesi – Bunaken Critter Dive Sites
Cocotinos is located right in the fishing village of Kima Bajo in Wori Bay, north of Manado, and there are some great critter sites to the north of the bay at Aba Point & Odyssea Point and to the south at Gabet & Posi Posi.
Aba Point is a classic critter site, located in a small bay that provides protection from rough weather with a small river providing a constant source of organic nutrients and nearby deep-water for the essential cold water upwellings critters seem to thrive on.
It was there that I was able to capture the two pygmies on a small gorgonian fan at 30m…
Posi Posi to the south of Wori Bay is the place to be as the sun goes down because of its resident colony of mandarin fish and their nightly mating ritual – but make sure you get there early and get a good spot as it can get crowded with boats from other resorts.
Being so close to the world’s critter Mecca of the Lembeh Strait is obviously challenging and you won’t find the really exotic critters, such as hairy frogfish & Ambon scorpion fish in Bunaken, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of small stuff to see on the western side of North Sulawesi.
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