Season: July - October
Diving, Snorkeling, Wildlife
Encompassing the islands of the Bunaken Marine Park and an ideal spot for diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking and paddle boarding. North Sulawesi is surrounded by some of the richest waters in Indonesia. Within its many islands, North Sulawesi is a treasure trove of opportunities to explore the natural environments of endemic, sought after species above and below the water as well as cultural experiences and breathtaking landscapes. Three main national parks are located here, two on land can be accessed by sea allowing the large stretches of the jungle to remain untouched. Cruise along the calm seas where the horizon meets the water. Beneath the ocean; encounter some of the most lively and bizarre marine life and above it; the highest percentage of endemic birdlife in the world and an opportunity to spot on of the smallest known primates, the tarsier.
The Tangkok Batuangus Nature Reserve is only a short trip from Manado International Airport and covers an area of 8700 hectares including three mountain ranges Mt. Tangkoko, Mt Dua Saudara and Mt Batuangus. The area protects hundreds of mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species. Over half of which are endemic to the island with preventative measures helping these animals from becoming extinct. Sulawesi landscapes encompass rolling hills and valleys with hardwood trees, plant life and volcanoes both active and extinct. The wildlife is in abundance and a resident area for Celebes crested macaque, the Sulawesi bear cuscus, Sulawesi dwarf cuscus, black tailless monkeys, wild pigs and birds including the knobbed hornbill, Sulawesi hornbill and maleo.
Surrounded by coral reefs, turquoise waters and white sand beaches dotted with palm trees. The Togean Islands are a little slice of paradise in the heart of the coral triangle and the only place in Indonesia where you can find all three major reef environments in one location – atoll, barrier and fringing reefs. The three largest islands are Batudaka, Togian and Talatakoh. Visit the villages of the indigenous Bajau People or hike the Una Una volcano, rising 500 metres above sea level with a two kilometre wide caldera before spending the afternoon visiting the waterfall in Wakia, relaxing on Karina Beach or one of the other isolated bays.
For divers and snorkelers, the spectacle of open water topography is a mixture of coral canyons, plunging drop-offs and giant gorgona corals a habitat to hundreds of tropical fish, macro life and the famous Mariona Lake. The Lake is home to the non-stinging jellyfish of pink, blue and ghostly white colourings. Numerous reefs and old World War II wrecks are dotted amongst the islands including a sunken B-24 bomber plane at 14 to 22 metres deep. Barriers and fringing reefs surround the coastlines and merge with seagrass and mangroves. Painted frogfish, seahorses and leaf scorpionfish are amongst the unusually diverse marine life found here.
Nani Wartabone Park is a national park covering 2800 square kilometres on the Minahassa Peninsula and paramount for the conservation of Sulawesi wildlife. Unique flora and fauna including species such as the piper aduncum, trema orientalis, yellow wood and carrion flowers. As well, a habitat for many endangered and endemic species including the anoa, cinnabar, hawk owl and larger animals like thecc babirusas and Sulawesi warty pig. The parks mascot and endemic animal is the maleo megapode which incubates its eggs in the hot Sulawesi sand.
The Sangihe Island group encompass two regencies within the North Sulawesi province and are located to the northeast between the Celebes Sea and the Molucca Sea. The island is made up of active volcano, fertile soil and mountain ranges between 77 islands of which only 56 are inhabited. These islands are economically boosted by the cultivation of spices such as vanilla, nutmeg and cloves. The islands promise a plethora of opportunities for divers and snorkelers amongst white sand beaches which remain untouched clean coral reefs, low lying atolls and wrecks from World War II. The remoteness of the area makes it a nautical paradise for cruising in peace and the experience to truly absorb its beauty.
Each of the islands offers a different experience for those looking for unique marine life. Underwater pinnacles, table corals, dogtooth tuna and mackerels at Biaro Island. Ruang Island is dominated by a volcanic cone with two black lava flows which run from the crater at the summit into the sea providing its black sand, Napoleon wrasses and large schools of barracuda. The Bunaken National Marine Park provides habitat to 390 species of coral, many fish, mollusc, reptile and marine mammal species representative of the overall tropical water ecosystems of Indonesia. The forested hills rising to 680 metres above sea level are the Talaud Islands where the production of ebony, ironwood as well as the cultivation of copra, sago and nutmeg are the prominent production and the islands ultimate trade.
The bustling port city of Makassar and surrounding islands make up South Sulawesi on the southern end of Sulawesi Province. A location for world-class diving, pristine beaches, karst landscapes and the Taka Bonerate National Park – the largest atoll in the world. Home to a diverse range of ethnic groups and protected highlands, a dramatic backdrop of mountain ranges and rice paddies amongst forgotten waterfalls and verdant hills within hidden villages. The activities for culture and adventure experiences are endless with unforgettable views and some of the best seafood. Creating dishes using age old preparation techniques.
At the heart of the coral triangle, the area encompasses some popular cruising areas some which include the Wakatobi Group, Selayar Islands Regency and Pantai Bira on the southeast corner of the Peninsula. The latter, a healthy mix of turquoise water and tropical vegetation. Where getting up close with resident monkeys and monitor lizards is a unique opportunity.
Selayar Islands are located in the archipelago of the South Sulawesi Province lying between Sulawesi and Flores which explains its diverse culture and dynamic marine ecology. A swathe of white sand beaches and gin like waters remain quiet and isolated. North and West sides of the area are formed by steep rocky cliffs, while the East and Southern ends combine sloping beach with lush forest areas. Those that live on the 62 inhabited islands come from tribes like Makassar, Mandar and Bugis; a seafaring tribe. The tribes welcome guests to visit and learn about their culture, traditions and ancient heritage through the many historical sites across the island. Including that of the Dongson Kettledrum, dating back over 2,000 years to the bronze age and the largest in the world. Age old techniques are still being used in the construction of traditional boats and houses.
A cruising ground of beaches and bays all with their own illustrious past and home to unique wildlife species. The Baloiya Beach, Pinang Beach and Je’neiya Beach are all worth visiting to spend a day lapping up the crystal waters or exploring the dense foliage forest for a chance to spot tarsiers and wild boars in their natural habitat. On the eastern side the water falls away deeply. Offering spectacular wall diving with parts of the coastline protected to preserve the environments reef and hundreds of fish species who congregate there.
At the most southeastern edge of South Sulawesi lies the Wakatobi Islands a national marine park made up of four main islands. Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko. Not only do the wonders of these islands lie beneath the ocean but the traditional and cultural diversity of its people amongst ancient landmarks and historical legacies makes it a fascinating destination. The second largest barrier reef in the world and the playground of hundreds of marine animals and mammals including dolphins and whales with carpets of almost three-quarters of the worlds coral species. Over 50 sensational dive sites are in the area and Operation Wallacea group actively conducting research and preserving conservation in the area.
Taka Bonerate National Park is the third largest atoll in the world and located within the coral triangle. Consisting of 21 islands 7 of which are inhabited by local tribes and home to many species of birds while other areas are sand dunes and cays. Tinabo Island is a lodging ground for baby sharks and provides easy access and safety for beginner divers. A number of activities can be enjoyed including kayaking, snorkelling and swimming also providing a spectacular cruising area for dolphin watching and admiring romantic sunsets from the aft deck.
Clear waters and white sand beaches are a divers paradise. Contour walls, ravines, sloping areas and underwater islands are breeding grounds for nudibranchs, frogfish, flatworms, shrimp crocodile fish and larger animals including octopus and sharks. The colourful coral reefs and giant sponges carpet the ocean floor while dugongs, tuna, turtles and manta glide past.
Visiting Tana Toraja is one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations and an eerie cultural experience. Local customs and rituals are still very much centre stage here where the life of a deceased person is celebrated in multiple festivals after their passing. The reclothing and washing of a person’s corpse during ceremonies held three times a year and the body is brought along to the party. Other traditional customs include infant burials within tree trunks, open tombs and stone graves representing canoes or boats which store human skulls and bones. Visitors can visit Kete Kesu to get a glimpse of these ancient relics.
Other sites worth a visit include Sarambu Waterfall and Buntu Barack monument, considered to be the second tallest statue of Jesus in the world representing the teachings of love and peace. The monument can be reached by hiking the hills behind Makale City a backdrop of karst hills provides a peaceful atmosphere and perfect photo opportunity.