One of the most extraordinary islands in the SEA region with top exotic and cultural encounters
> 5 weeks on the road and across the ocean of vast Sulawesi in Indonesia from north to south <
Oh, Sulawesi… what a wonderful exotic name for an island that is truly one of the most remote regions of South East Asia. Sulawesi is quite likely also the world’s most strangely shaped island: a clash between old continental plates has lifted Sulawesi from the sea floor to form four large, odd-shaped peninsulas that makes the island look like a giant 1200 km long octopus.
1200 km in length makes Sulawesi a vast island. Grab an atlas and study its size. It’s the 11th largest island on the planet – larger than Cambodia and 2/3 the size of the Philippines. No wonder it took us more than five weeks to cross the entire island from northeast to southwest. Sulawesi’s four peninsulas reach towards Borneo, the Philippines, Maluku and the islands of Flores and Sumbawa in the south. In the middle, the peninsulas collide to form a central mountain range and spectacular landscapes with wild highlands and smoking volcanoes, tropical jungle, deep green lakes, and leveled rice fields surrounded by several smaller coral island archipelagos.
Our journey started in the top of the archipelago nearest the Philippines, in Mindanao, near the Tomohon highlands where locals eat dog and rat for lunch, and near the fabled Bunakan reefs, one of the best diving spots on the planet. We continued by jeepney, 4x4 and ferryboat to the Togian Islands and from there towards the central mountain chains at firstly Poso Lake and secondly the Tana Toraja highlands. Our journey ended in Makassar at the bottom of the peninsula pointing at Flores.
Sulawesi is spectacularly exotic. Volcanoes fume above its rain forests and we did several splendid ascents. Tradition hasn't lost its grip and indigenous tribal customs such as necro-centric Toraja funerals occur throughout July and August. Attending one of these funeral celebrations is a macabre privilege that we really enjoyed. Vanilla and pepper plants scented the air of highland villages while we were exploring limestone cliff dolls of the deceased, the so-called tau-tau statues. And we found some of the world's greatest marine diversity accessible just offshore in the volcanic archipelagos in the Celebes Sea as well as the in the Gulf of Tomini. We saw many of the canyons, cliffs, and deep coral shelves, prized by divers the world over.
If you love Indonesia see also our island pages on the Togian Islands inside the Sulawesi archipelago, Bali & Lombok or our page on hunting volcanoes across the archipelago. Also, the island of Mindanao in the the deep south of the Philippines is rather close to Sulawesi.