Capital of Sulawesi Utara, MANADO is mainly seen as a stopping-off point for spectacular diving and snorkelling at the Bunaken Marine reserve. You can either base yourself in Manado and do day-trips to the reefs, base yourself just outside Manado at one of the dive resorts that offer all-inclusive packages, or, the cheapest but least reliable option, base yourself on Pulau Bunaken itself.
The town itself is enjoying a bit of a boom – huge new malls, shops and office complexes stretch a good couple of kilometres along the entire seafront south of the harbour – and makes an agreeable enough place to spend a couple of days. The centre of town consists of the blocks of markets, alleys, shops and fish stalls that surround the tiny harbour and Pasar 45, a busy square constantly jammed with hundreds of light-blue microlets that seem to converge on it all at once.
Manado was flattened in 1844 by a devastating earthquake, and tremors measuring up to 5.0 on the Richter scale continue to rattle the town for a few seconds every three months or so.