Bunaken is a national park, protected since 1991 for its fantastic reefs and mangroves and outstanding biodiversity. As with any park, conservation costs money. In order to obtain conservation financing for the park, the Bunaken Management Advisory Board has adopted a tool used throughout the world for national parks – entrance fees. Note that the entrance fee system is formalized in North Sulawesi Provincial Laws No. 14/2000 and No. 7/2002; violation of these laws is considered a criminal offense.
Eighty-percent of the funds collected from the entrance fee system are used specifically for conservation programs in the park, including enforcement, conservation education, trash management, and environmentally-friendly village development. The remaining 20% is split between local, provincial, and national government.
The entrance fee system was only begun on 15 March 2001. It will take time to accumulate the funds needed to properly manage the park. Please be patient – we are 100% committed to saving Bunaken National Park and making it even better for the next time you visit.
Top priorities include strengthening and expanding a joint ranger/villager patrol system to eliminate destructive fishing practices such as blast and cyanide fishing and enforce the park zonation rules (eg, no fishing in designated tourism zones), as well as funding reef-friendly village development programs designed to increase villager support for the park. Other priorities include management of the plastic trash problem, conservation education in the villages, and reef and mangrove rehabilitation.
While plastic trash above and below water is unsightly and a primary complaint of visitors to the park, stopping fishing practices that destroy the reef is a more urgent matter. The trash problem is a complex one that has multiple sources, but for the time being, the focus will be on beach cleanups and island waste management while the bigger problem of Manado city trash is negotiated with the government and international development agencies. Stopping the flow of Manado trash into the park is considered a long-term priority.
Over 30,000 people in 22 villages live within the park’s boundaries and have been there for at least a century before the park was created. While many of these people are farmers and blue water fishermen, some of them do depend upon the reefs for their survival. The zones of Bunaken National Park include areas reserved specifically for conservation, for tourism, and for village use. These divisions allow all three of these interests to peacefully coexist.
As an honored guest to Bunaken, please respect the rules and especially the reefs of the park. Avoid damaging corals and other marine life by controlling your buoyancy and not standing on the reef. Report any violations you see immediately to your host operation or the park patrols – anchoring on the reef is a primary violation! While on the islands, consider patronizing local food, drink and handicraft vendors – one more person benefiting from tourism is one less person pressuring the reefs.
Secondly, consider donating to the park through the dive operators of the North Sulawesi Watersports Association (NSWA) or the BNPMAB. The NSWA has several donation programs, including a scholarship program for local youths in the park. The BNPMAB has overall responsibility for conservation programs in the park and can put any donations to good use.
Thank you for visiting Bunaken National Park. We hope you enjoy your stay, and aim to ensure it is even better the next time you visit.