[top photo: underwater scene (corals) at Bunaken in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia]
Manado has long been famous for the nearby Bunaken Island and its marine park.
The fact the city now hosts the World Ocean Conference and the Coral Triangle Initiatives Summit strengthens that attribute.
Bunaken is one of the main attractions for summit participants as well as for tourists flocking the city. Diving and snorkeling in the marine park is on almost everybody's agenda during the event.
Colorful fish swim gracefully in groups around their magnificent coral reef homes, ignoring the people ogling them from glass-bottomed boats.
Not only will you meet the clown fish made famous in the movie Finding Nemo, but you will also meet the crescent-masked butterfly fish, the Napoleon wrasse and the tiger fish.
Tourists who can't swim or dive can still enjoy the view through a glass-bottomed boat.
"There are around 15 boats like this and we are making six more," Iwan Kaempe, an operator of a glass-bottomed boat, said Saturday.
Iwan is one of 2,000 residents in Bunaken Island earning a living from the tourism industry.
On Saturday, boats plied back and forth to Bunaken, carrying mostly domestic tourists.
"It's always crowded during public holidays," said Masna Tatauhe, a 40-year-old souvenir vendor.
But the tourism attraction has not been supported by the important yet necessary infrastructure like sufficient clean water supply, which remains a problem even for residents.
Four lavatories are available at the tourism spot, while six others are under construction, said Spener Tahulending, the Bunaken district chief.
"There is a well near here. The water it provides is saline, so we only use it to flush the toilets. We have to get water from other areas for bathing or other activities," he said.
If water becomes scarce, he added, residents had to buy clean water from Manado, transporting it by ferry in jerry cans.
The ferry, connecting the island to Manado, leaves Bunaken at 9 a.m. and heads back again at 3 p.m.
The nearest source of clean water is at Kampung Muslim and Kampung Negri, where two distillation devices provide up to 3,000 liters for the two kampungs every day.
Spener said some wells providing clean water were available. But in some kampungs, the wells dried up in the dry season.
Ulfah Raqib, a food vendor in Bunaken, said the well at Kampung Muslim never ran dry.
"Most of residents here get their water from that well. The water is clean," she said.
To transport water around the island, people use motorcycles.
"We don't need cars here, to avoid pollution," Spener said.
Established as a national park in 1991, Bunaken Island is divided into three zones, namely the diving and snorkeling zone, the utilization zone, and the nurturing zone.
"The nurturing zone is clear of any activity, except cleaning the beach," Onil Lahengking, a member of the Bunaken Marine National Park's management board.
He said fishermen, instructed not to use destructive fishing methods, could fish in the utilization zone.
Despite its popularity among divers, the entry fee to Bunaken Island is incredibly cheap - only Rp 2,500 (S$0.35).
Other dive sites such as Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi and Raja Ampat in Papua are said to surpass the beauty of Bunaken.
Indonesia - along with Malaysia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste - is expected to issue a declaration in preserving the coral reefs in the six countries' "Coral Triangle" area. They will also emphasize the importance of coral reefs in supporting food security.
The declaration is expected to come out on May 15, the closing day of the six-day event.
-The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network