Merely a 40 minute boat ride from the Manado harbour, the Bunaken island in Northern Sulawesi located barely one degree above the equator is first and foremost known due to its rich variety of marine species which inhabit the coral reefs surrounding the island. Therefore, it is no surprise that the island, which is the home to Bunaken National Park and many diverse marine species attracts mainly divers, which was, incidentally, the reason that brought me here as well.
Among its terrestrial inhabitants are – apart from humans – various tropical plants and small tropical animal species (mainly birds, geckos and insects) as well as domestic animals. There are three villages on the island which are connected by paved and dirt roads. These are frequented by locals on their motorbikes, which are, along with diesel generators and boat engines the sole human noise generating sources penetrating the tropical rainforest soundscape with singing birds, particularly loud chirping crickets and other fascinating sonic phenomena. The crickets are especially worth listening to – they outmatched by the loudness and intensity of their clatter all the other members of their species I had ever heard before.
Houses with corrugated roofs and small husbandries are spread out sparely along the main road. So if you are patient enough and wait for the moment between the approaching and departing motorcycle, you can cherish the everyday rural sonic activities surrounding these dwellings: clucking chickens, crowing roosters, snorting pigs – all those amidst the sonic background of a tropical rainforest soundscape.
When I made it to the village, it was already dark and majority of the sonic activity moved from the streets to the porches of houses and a couple of small warungs as the locals and visitors centered around them, chatting, eating their dinners, some playing guitars and singing. Nevertheless, the church on the main street presented me with a little sonic treat: a congregation of squibbling birds on its roof resembling a Christian convention. On the way back, I grabbed a beer in a cozy bar and sat down to listen to a band playing reggae covers and endearing folk songs.
With no hydrophone included in my gear, recording underwater sounds still remains a challenge to be tackled in the future. In any case, the tropical-rural soundscape of above-water Bunaken with its stark sonic contrasts turned out to reflect quite peculiarly the rich diversity of marine species here dwelling underwater.