Sunday, August 24, 2008

Other Tourist Attractions in Minahasa Beside Bunaken

By Charles Roring
Bunaken National Marine Park is a world class diving site in Minahasa, the Province of North Sulawesi. Nine thousand scuba divers from every corner of the world flock in Bunaken every year. Most of their activities during their stay in Manado, North Sulawesi is devoted to diving. They are served by around 40 dive operators. Besides Bunaken, Manado Tua and Siladen islets, other nearby diving sites in the region are Bentenan (which is currently served by one dive operator, i.e. Bentenan Beach Resort), Montehage, Molas, Bangka islets and Lembeh strait. A report in 1999 said that the contribution of diving to the local was more than four million US dollars. With continues rising in the number of tourists who visit North Sulawesi every year, the amount of money they spent will be higher.
As mentioned above, most of the scuba divers are served by only small number of dive operators. Will the money the tourists pay influences the economy of the people in Minahasa? The intention of the development of eco-tourism is to support to the preservation of the environment, and to help the economy of people in the region. According to my observation, there are improvements in the villagers’ life especially among those who work directly in diving industry. But more improvements can be achieved if more tour packages aiming at empowering the local people are introduced. These packages include Minahasa highland tour where tourists can visit handicraft shops, bird watching, palm sugar industry, flower market in Tincep and white water rafting in Timubr, local snack kiosks, traditional restaurants and furniture and wooden house industries. Folk dances and music performance can be combined with gourmet tourism in the Minahasan highland.
If more options are available, tourists who haven’t experienced these packages may choose them after finishing their dive in Bunaken. Local government of Minahasa and North Sulawesi should support the program by providing tax incentive or building the necessary infrastructure for that purpose. It is hoped that with more people oriented tour package, the economy of the local people can significantly be improved in the near future.
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