Bitung is the one of regencies of Manado (about one hour drive or about 47 km east of Manado), North sulawesi. The port city of Bitung with its fine natural harbor protected by the adjacent island of Lembeh is that the center for ship building and maintenance likewise as commercial fishing. Also, since the harbor at Manado silted up, large ships currently all decision into Bitung, as well as a number of the glorious passenger cruise-liners. The city itself has a quaint provincial charm and is distinguished by its 12m replica of the Eiffel Tower at one of the roundabout intersections leading into city. Apparently the weird monument was designed by a previous mayor who had studied in Paris in his earlier years, and was built as a testament of his love for the "City of Lights".
Take a boat ride across and down the Lembeh Strait and you’ll come across an equally odd and intriguing monument; the Trikora Monument. Constructed in the 70s this mammoth structure towering some 100 meters into the sky was built to celebrate the success of the Indonesian military’s campaign in Irian Jaya. With an enormous Monaslike tower flanked by two annexes which look something like robotic flowers in bloom, the inside wall which encircles the base of the monument shows scenes of recruiting soldiers and then sending them off to war.
Attached to the monument has been mounted an old DC3 aircraft that was used in the military campaign. A ladder on one side provides access inside where you can go and sit in the cockpit and live out your fantasy of being a fighter pilot – bring your own sound effects. This is a popular hangout for local kids.
You can’t mention Bitung and Lembeh without mentioning the diving in Lembeh Strait. Relatively unknown compared to Bunaken, Lembeh has fast developed a reputation as being the place for muck. That may sound disgusting but allow me to explain. The sheltered straits form a kind of bottleneck in the surrounding sea, which has led to an abundance of plankton. This silty bottomed strait therefore doesn’t have the same spectacular coral walls of Bunaken but it does mean that the conditions are just right for serious divers to see a menagery of weird and wonderful creatures up close that they rarely, if ever, get to see anywhere else. Creatures with weird descriptive names that conjure up all sorts of strange images are common here – the ornate ghost pipefish, neon colored nudibranchs (a kind of seaslug), mimic octopuses and flamboyant cuttlefish, as well as the diminutive pygmy seahorse and the aptly named frogfish can all be seen hiding among the crevices of the Lembeh Strait. Several dive resorts have been built here and offers easy, direct access to Lembeh, without the need for the long boat ride from Manado for day-trippers.
The reputation of Lembeh Strait as a mecca for divers interested in odd and rare macro fauna continues to grow. Visitors coming during different times of the year are treated to a variety of seasonal deslights. June brings a mixed blessing, being when the south-east monsoon winds begin. While these winds don't effect the generally placid waters on the Bunaken side of North Sulawesi, these winds that appear daily at mid morning on the Bitung side can bring choppy waters at unprotected dive sites in the strait until September when the monsoon abates until the next year. But on the positive side there is much to reward intrepid divers beneath the surface. One of the most sought-after macro subjects, ornate ghost pipefish, move into the shallows to breed, exhibiting a rainbow of color combinations to delight those who find them hiding amongst the arms of feather stars or alongside sea fans.
There seems to be an increase in the variety and numbers of nudibranchs on show as well. In addition to all that color, certain cephalopods, including any of the four species of mimic octopus as well as the captivating flamboyant cuttlefish can be found shortly following their spring breeding cycle, prowling the black sand bottom. These critters are just some of the parade of fascinating creatures that are commonly encountered in Lembeh, alluring divers from all over the globe who wish to accumulate "firsts" or for underwater photographers who want to fill their viewfinders with what is considered rare elsewhere.
The city of Bitung is located approximately 47 km from Manado. Its land mass covers a total area of about 30,400 ha with a population about more than 120,000 people. Bitung is a significant commercial port in Eastern Indonesia and as well a tourist gateway. The port is well equipped with a pier capable of accommodating modern cruise ships. A major asset for Bitung is the Lembeh Strait and Lembeh Island which acts as a natural shield protecting Bitung from wind and rough seas.
Bitung and Lembeh tourism travel guide and tourist attractions can be enumerated as follow :
Lembeh Strait is a 12 km long stretch of water separating Lembeh Island and the mainland. Bitung is actually the half way point along the shores of Lembeh Strait. This pristine section of water in North Sulawesi is home to many unique sea animals which include the pygmy seahorse, mimic octopus, ghost pipefish, as well as other larger species. It is a fantastic dive area for underwater photographers and the diversity of smaller creatures ensures many memorable photo opportunities. There are several undeveloped beaches on the shoreline of Lembeh Strait which are excellent for swimming and snorkeling.
Trikora Monument is situated on a bluff at Lembeh Island Beach, the DC3 monument and park offers a nice opportunity to observe ships going by as well as being a gathering place on Sundays and holidays. Reachable by motorized outrigger.
Tangkoko Nature Reserve.
Tangkoko Nature Reserve is located at the foot of Dua Saudara Mountain, the area is comprised of rolling hills and valleys with a variety of hardwood trees and unusual plant life.
The animal life is also quite varied, and one can often view Tarsius Spectrum (world's smallest primate), black tailless monkeys, Maleo Birds, wild pigs and kuskus (marsupial family). Tangkoko Batuangus Reserve offers a suitable protective environment to help prevent these animals from becoming extinct. Tangkoko is located in the northern sector of Bitung, and comprises an area of 3,196 Ha, and takes about 1.5 -2.5 hours to reach from Bitung or Manado, respectively.
Please note that the road to Tangkoko is somewhat difficult and visitors are recommended to visit with a local tour operators to ensure a safe journey and to take advantage of an experienced guide who can assist in spotting the wildlife. Losmen (simple guesthouses) are available for overnight stays.
Most travelers come here because of the great diving conditions, in particular north of the city where there are several corral reefs and old shipwrecks, popular sites for divers. There are some hotels here that will arrange transport and have diving equipment for hire.
The large of Mount Klabat volcano (about 2.022 m) is west of Bitung. The summit can be reached by foot in 5-6 hours, and on holidays this is a very popular destination. The best advice is to start walking at night when there is a full moon and then be up in time to see the sunrise.