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Tips and Hints for Travellers to Bunaken

Update last on 25-1-2007


1. General

The following advice results from my previous personal experiences in and around Bunaken.

Should you have further questions or should you be in difficulties, then address the manager of your Homestay. On the one hand most of them know the mentality of his compatriots and on the other hand they already have learned, too, to think modernly.

2. Dangers

  • In Manado: Look on your way! Pay attention to pits and holes on the pavement particularly at darkness. Danger places are not indicated particularly like in your country.
  • The roofs of stalls usually are located in a height where an average tall Indonesian cannot hurt himself but a European or American tourist awfully well .
  • If you go for a walk on Bunaken, then pay attention to falling coconuts particularly at a strong wind.
  • Alcohol is a problem in North Sulawesi particularly also on Bunaken. Before all the local "Cap Tikus " which is made from the fruits of a palm tree is so cheap that everybody on the island can easily afford it. Therefore you will often meet there drunk guys especially in the evening. Do never take a risk by verbal or even physical discussing with them. It could find a bad end for you.
  • Categorically do not go barefootedly in the evening
  • Do not have any garments hung in the bathroom ("mandi"), also no bathing clothes. Check always before you put on a garment whether it was not choosen as a hiding-place by an (poisonous) animal.

3. Health

  • If you are not already insured with your diving club, you should effect a health insurance especially for divers. And make sure, that it is valid during the whole period of your stay in Indonesia. Hand over phone number and insurance number to your homestay/divecenter and explain the procedure at an accident. As a rule, hospitals or decompression chambers in Indonesia refuse the admission if you cannot prove your ability to pay or the coverage by an insurance. By the way: There is a decompression chamber in Manado.

  • Carry always the phone number of an Indonesian friend, an acquaintance or your dive center when you are away.

  • I am often asked whether I recommend a malaria prophylaxis. I always answer that I had only a stand-by medication till now. I do not know yet what I will do on my next journey. I use to ask on the Internet (see links) and my GP in addition. It would be irresponsible to give you medical advice at this point. You must yourself ask about the current situation and take a decision together with your doctor.

  • I incurred a serious wound infection with streptococci in 2006. Despite medical treatment in Germany the cure was carried out only after 5 weeks. I advise you therefore to go to a doctor immediately if you state, that wound (if also so small) does not want to cure or that it even becomes enlarged.

4. Accommodation

  • Always ask about exact prices and performances before move into a bungalow. Always articulate special requests and ask for the extra costs before, too.

  • There are Resorts, where non-diving guests must pay a surcharge. Ask before!

  • "Mandi" means "bathing" or "having a shower" . This is a typically Asian way to wash: The "Kamar Mandi" (bathroom) contains a basin filled with water. A kind of scoop is besides it. You fill this with water from the basin and pour that over yourself. So the basin is not provided to take a seat inside. However, the scoop also fulfils another purpose (see below).

  • As a rule, the toilet ("kamar kecil") is in the same room. It may vary from only a hole in the ground up to a western style toilet with or without flush. The traditional Indonesian toilet is a hole with places on the two sides for your feet. You must only squat down and aim precisely.

  • Indonesians normally do not use a toilet paper. For cleaning themselves, they use their left hand while they let much water  flow from the scoop (right hand) centrically down the end of their back. (Therefore it is not polite if one gives an Indonesian something with his left hand.) If you cannot force yourself to this method, then agree with the management early enough that a loo roll is always available in your "kamar kecil". However, take care that you do not stop the drains up.

  • Most bungalows have mosquito nets. However, these very often already have many holes so that it would be advisable to take an own one. One can also - if necessary - closure these access openings by pasting up, clipping, or tying up. Before going to bed, check whether gnats have already lodged themselves and only wait for your fresh blood. In this case you can "clean" the area inside. For this purpose I have bought a kind of tennis racket in Jakarta with which I use to kill the mosquitos by means of high voltage. There is this chargeable equipment in Manado meanwhile, too.(e.g. in the department store Mata Hari/Manado in the electric department, ground floor). It is not expensive.

5. Diving and Snorkelling

  • As said already under item 2, alcohol is a problem on Bunaken. Unfortunately, many dive guides are also affected by it. For your own safety notice their behaviour (also in the evening before at the bar) and expresses your doubts if you think your dive guide still has considerable lots of rest alcohol in the blood.  Require another guide if necessary. You can contribute to a changed consciousness also by your behaviour and by your influence in this respect.

  • Before you go to snorkel for the first time, ask about dangerous currents (particularly in front of the village of  Bunaken).

  • Act always as a model for the local people by your environmentally compatible behaviour ashore and diving as well .


6. Behaviour

  • Do not overtax Indonesians by asking virtues, such as punctuality, precision, reliability, hygienic behaviour etc., of them. You may nevertheless practise criticism -at all appreciation of the strange culture- tactfully and friendly if you yourself are concerned. In addition, it cannot harm in contributing to more environment conscious behaviour or to the improvement in the tourist offers.

  • Most locals are kind and sociable people. Return their kindness! A certain caution nevertheless is advisable. The kindness in some cases focuses less on your person and rather on your filled purse.

  • Avoid misunderstandings when negotiating prices. Later the local may namely react extremely emotionally and dangerously if you do not comply with his demands. Close a larger deal only with witnesses and written if possible. Do not only trust the kind assurance: "You can trust me".


7. Transportation

You find detailed information about local transportation with taxis, mikrolets (mini-buses), buses, rented cars, boats, ojecs (a method of motorcycle transport) and bendi (a traditional cart pulled by a horse) on Peter's website


Hotels, Restaurants, Cafés, Pubs, Internet Cafés

You find detailed information about Hotels, Restaurants, Cafés, Pubs/Discotheques, Internet ... on Peter's website


If you want to pass a small comment on this web site or if you like to write about own experiences, then take a little time for my Guest Book. You may help other travellers by this.