:: T O G E A N I S L A N D S ::
- a remote archipelago in Central Sulawesi -
Kadidiri Island, Togian Islands, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia – July, 2006
Have you ever travelled for several days to reach a far-flung, unknown place? Have you ever been stuck for one week in an amazing archipelago far away from almost everything?
If you ever go to Sulawesi, e.g. to experience a funeral ceremony in Tana Toraja or to dive the walls of Bunaken Islands – as most visitors to Sulawesi tend to do – allow yourself to visit the Togean Islands. You will not regret it!
The Togean Islands, or just the Togeans, is an archipelago of 56 pristine coral and volcanic islands and islets located in the Gulf of Tomini in Central Sulawesi. The surrounding coral reef supports a rich, diverse marine life and life over the surface, the people, consists of around seven ethnic groups.
Anders went there for one week in July 2006, primarily to do some diving and island hopping. Actually, the Togeans are the only place in Indonesia where you can find all major reef types in the same place; atoll, barrier and fringing reefs.
Getting there part 1: The trip from Manado to Gorantalo
The islands are pretty difficult and exhausting to reach but really worth the effort.
First, I had to go from Manado to Gorontalo. This might seem pretty straight-forward, indeed, at least I didn’t expect any difficulty or discomfort. But, my presumption turned out being false as good old Lonely Planet was way out-of-date, i.e. 2 years. So as I arrived at the bus station in Manado at 9 a.m. I was truly disappointed as I realised that the next bus was to leave in “some” days - whatever “some” means around here. So, in addition to my linguistic interpretation problem I had to find some alternative transport as I had to be in Gorontalo the next day. Luckily enough, I found a vehicle where I could stay in the truck bed, that is to say the platform at the rear, during the 8 hour ride. Sure, why not? The next day my ass had another opinion!
Getting there part 2: From Gorantalo to Wakai in the Togian Islands
In Gorontalo, which, by the way, has some very nice local warungs (food stalls), I engaged the ferry, The Puspita, the next evening at 10 p.m.
A small river cutting Gorontalo into two, Gorontalo, Northern Sulawesi
Near the harbour in Gorantalo
Exploring Gorantalo – most people live in tree huts
The M/S Puspita was my “home” for 15 hours on my way fromGorontalo to Wakai in the Togeans
I found my spot in the lower deck and around midnight we started the 15 hour ferry ride towards Wakai in Batu Daka Island in the Togeans. It was really windy that night, especially for the first 6 hours in which I didn’t get any sleep as we were packed like sardines in a tin and saltwater was momentarily squirted in my face through the small porthole – without any closing device. Later in the morning I finally managed to get some sleep, partly because most of the crew went upstairs on the deck to cook.
Lacking space? No, just packed like sardines in a tin!Lower deck at M/S Puspita
Finally, as I arrived in Wakai in Batu Daka Island two boats were waiting for accidental tourist. They were from the Pondok Lestari and Black Marlin Cottages, respectively. Apparently, the only two places to stay in Kadidiri Island. I chose the latter one. Kadidiri island is only a short boat trip away from Wakai.
Kadidiri Island – glassy waters and paradise beaches
If you want to dive you have to stay in Kadidiri Island. Hence, I couldn’t avoid it, but Kadidiri would have been my choice anyway. The island has a perfect beach, reasonable priced cottages and superb snorkelling just off the coast.
Don’t expect the wild culinary food experience or hot water. Pancakes are typically served for breakfast, fish for lunch and, surprise, fish for dinner. And if you are really lucky they occasionally serve fish for breakfast, e.g. if you are diving! “Fish-o-file” people will really love this place.
Electricity run from around 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., so be sure to bring a headlamp if you want to read before you go to sleep.
Glassy waters in Kadidiri Island
Just in front of my bungalow, Kadidiri Island
Another beach on Kadidiri Island – You have to cross through the jungle for around 2 hours to get here
In front of Pondok Lestari, Kadidiri Island
Boat bridge, Kadidiri Island
Snorkel Bay, Kadidiri Island
Batu Daka Island – departure center for transport from and to the Togean Islands
This island is the larges in the Togeans and a departure centre for transport from and to the Togeans. In Wakai I did some basic shopping, e.g. noodles, cookies, water etc.
Ferry from Waikai to Ampana, Batu Daka Island
Arriving in Wakai on Batu Daka Island
Taipi Island – perfect snorkeling
This little almost circle shaped island is exceptional for snorkelling. You can snorkel around the entire island in approximately 45 minutes/1 hour. I saw a lot of Bump Heads and a few turtles.
On land there are around 8 bungalows and a small restaurant. But, everything is abandoned, probably due to economical and political turmoil and, sadly, overblown news reports. Especially in wake of the Bali bombings (2002, 2004, 2005) tourist numbers have plummeted. So try to imagine remote archipelagos which, as it is, only get visits from truly, independent travellers.
Sailing to Taipi Island
View towards Kadidiri island (south) from Taipi Island
Taipi Island offers superb snorkelling
Una Una Island – remote volcanic beaches and superb deep-diving
This island is hard to reach. It’s around 30 km/18 miles away from the nearest island in the archipelago. No public transport leaves for the island and there is nowhere to stay. However, if you get a lift from a local fisherman don’t hesitate to say yes – he will probably provide a place to stay and some basic food.
I had to visit the island the expensive way, namely by speedboat from Kadidiri Island. The purpose was to do two dives off the coast of Una Una which both were great. Besides paying for the dives I had to pay 600 Rupiah for extra fuel expenses, which is quite expensive in these parts.
Una Una Island, remote site in the Togean Islands
Black volcanic sand Una Una Island
Lunch in between two dives in Una Una Island
Boliangga Island – pretty beaches and ghost resort
Boliangga is a very small island. You can’t walk around it as it is surrounded by sharp coral and pretty shallow waters. However, the view from the little hill on the island is magnificent. Just like Taipi this island has closed its little resort but the local owner still lives here with his family. I had some very nice lunch here – fish, of course.
Arrival on the beach in Boliangga Island
Beautiful low-hanging skies, Boliangga Island
View towards the Togian Archipelago from Boliangga Island
Our outrigger in Boliangga Island
Tomken Island – good trekking
This island is a bit larger than Boliangga and it’s placed just next to Katupat Village on Togean Island. Yet another ghost resort is placed here. It has a view point offering great views of the Togean Archipelago. You can trek to this point in approximately one hour. Furthermore, the snorkelling here was excellent as well.
Kayaking in Tomken Island
Boat bridge in Tomken Island
View towards Boliangga Island from Tomken Island
Togean Island – Katupat village and magical beaches
This island is the second largest in The Togean Archipelago. I visited the main settlement, Katupat Village, which has a small market and a couple of shops. Around the large island are magical beaches, e.g. Carina beach which, perhaps, was the best beach I saw in The Togeans – and in all of Sulawesi.
Katupa Village on Togean Island
Katupat Village, Togean Island
Vast and hilly Togean Island
Walea Kodi Island – sleepy stilt villages
I visited the fishing village of Dolong. Apparently the diving should be good here as well, but I didn’t do any. It was raining all the time, so it spent some time reading and exploring the stilt village.
Dolong stilt village in Walea Kodi Island
Dolong village, Walea Kodi Island
Stilt village, Walea Kodi Island
Malenge Island – The tarsier
Malenge is remote and secluded, and not many people go here.Initially, I wanted to spend some days here but, apparently, the big attraction on the island, and hence the reason to visit, was the tarsier – the world smallest primate. I also saw the tarsier in Bohol in The Philippines in 2005.
Village on Malenge Island
Diving in the Togeans
Diving in the Togeans is, simply stated, amazing. I did 8 dives in five different locations during my stay there.
I did 4 dives in Taipi Wall approximately 300-400 meters off the coast of Taipi Island. The coral was quite good and in terms of fauna, there was a lot of bump heads and dolphins. The most amazing, though, was the 100 meter/300 feet visibility; something I have never experienced before in South East Asia.
Furthermore, I did two dives off the coast of remote Una Una Island. I should mention that my effort to go there was due to rumours of local people spotting hammerhead sharks some weeks before my arrival. So, obviously I hoped to come across the magnificent, big fish. Lamentably, I didn’t encounter any. However, the fist drift dive at Apollo Reef was great. The undercurrent was kind’ a crazy. When I jumped in and went down 5 meters/15 feet I was suddenly being pulled down to 30 meters/90 feet along an inclining sandy slope. At 45 meters/135 feet there were a lot of octopuses. The strong undertow made it hard and exhausting to reach the surface in the end of the dive. We had to keep on swimming alongside the sandy slope to find a gap in the downward-going current.
The second dive off the coast of Una Una Island was at The Pinnacle, one of the top sites and an island drop-off. The upper section of the pinnacle was mainly red and the lower section was mostly purple. The most amazing thing, though, was the huge school of dolphins comprising around 20-30 friendly and curious dolphins.
A school of dolphins near Taipi Island
Three things in the Togeans, which I really loved…
Firstly, the stilt villages
In the first place, I fell in love with the small stilt villages and fishing huts you could se everywhere in small bays scattered around the Togeans. The locals living in these primitive huts were either fishermen or pearl divers. One day we paid a visit to a small stilt village across Kadidiri island and bought 4 kilos of freshly trapped red lobsters – we only had to pay 250 Rupiah! The cook at our place boiled them for us before dinner. Delicious.
Stilt village on southern Batu Daka Island
Stilt village in Kadidiri Island
Stilt Village in Batu Daka Island
Stilt village in Batu Daka Island
Family in a stilt house in Kadidiri Island
Secondly, the sunsets and the atmosphere around nightfall
Secondly, I miss the laid-back, guitar playing, Indonesian love-song-singing islanders. On Fridays the young dive boys make a bonfire at the beach, go to Wakai for arac (the local booze) and start playing guitar and singing around sunset. And you are more than welcome to participate. Headache the following day is guaranteed.
Fantastic rainbow vision, Togean Island
Sailing home from visiting a stilt village, Kadidiri Island
Thirdly, the coconut crab
Thirdly, I was keen on the coconut crab, the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod. Once it lived on islands throughout the western Pacific Ocean, but now it’s unique to the Togeans. Most references give a weigh of 4 kg/9 lb, and a body length of 1 meter/3 feet. The front-most large claws are used to open coconuts, and the claws can lift objects up to 29 kg/64 lb in weight. One night a local fisher paid us a visit as he had captured a pretty large one in the jungle. Yes, they live exclusively on land in the jungle alone in underground burrows – they cannot swim and will drown in water. It was a kind of odd sight but very cool.
Facts from the road
How to get there (July, 2006)
From Gorontalo the boat only leaves Wednesday evening 10 p.m.
From Ampana it leaves Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
I.e. from Wakai you can go to Gorontalo only on Thursdays and to Ampana on Tuesdays, Wedensdays, Fridays and Mondays (that is the following day in reference to the above-mentioned).
An alternative option, albeit very expensive and if loaded with Rupiahs, is to sail by speedboat from Marisa in North Sulawesi.
Price to go there (July 2006)
I had to pay 300 Rupiah to go from Gorontalo to Wakai, and around 150 to go from Wakai to Ampana. I didn’t have any cabin from Gorontalo, but slept one the lower deck among the locals.
Expect around 15 hours from Gorontalo to Wakai – depending on the boat boys ability to unload different cargo along the way and, of course, local weather.
Prices for diving
Expect to pay 25 UD$/dive. Generally, Indonesians prefer Euros. Furthermore, expect to pay extra if you want to dive around Pulau Una Una. I had to pay 600 Rupaih on top of the ordinary costs due to extra gasoline for the speed boat they use on rare occasions.
Lunchtime in Boliangga Island; Rice, bananas, potato soup and red snapper
Local woman on the boat from Wakai to Ampana – Leaving the Togean Islands