indonesia part 2: togean islands, sulawesi

previous part: indonesia part 1: the northern part of north sulawesi (bunaken, tomohon)

we had planned on staying in the togean islands for about a week, but as lonely planet says…

yes, it does take some determination to get to the Togean Islands, but believe us, it takes much more determination to leave.

this turned out to be true because of both motivation and possibilities, but let me start at the beginning:

endless journey
on the bus to gorontalo, 13:15 we decided to go south “the local way” from manado and took the public bus. 400 km, more than 10 hours later and a bit richer in indonesian experiences, we arrived in gorontalo. there, we just had a quick dinner, went to the last ATM for some time (no ATMs in the togeans), and continued on to the harbour to catch the once-a-week night ferry. in 2011, it left gorontalo every friday at 7 p.m. and arrived in wakai around 10 a.m., but schedules are said to be changing frequently.
in wakai, we were approached by a local woman called “uni”, who we were a bit suspicious about at first. it turned out, she’s a very honest person who can absolutely be trusted. after we declined on having a look at her new cottages about 20 minutes away by boat (we already had plans), uni offered to host us until the connecting boat to malenge island would get there in the afternoon.
a 4-hour ride on the next public boat brought us to malenge island (northeast of the main islands), where we were approached by the owner of one of the two accommodations of the island: malenge indah, which also offers cottages now (not mentioned in lonely planet yet). so, another boatride of 40 minutes in the beginning night (adding up to 36 hours of continuous travel) finally brought us to our destination: a small, very remote bay with 5 cottages.

panorama: a picture from paradise. malenge indah cottages, pulau malenge, togian islands.

malenge: total relaxation
once there, we didn’t do much other than read and snorkel (for the first few days, i even skipped the latter). the price of 125.000 idr per person and day included 3 meals a day and fresh water, and the food was very good. electrical power was only available for a few hours after sunset (as in all of the togeans, except for bigger resorts). since it was already the off-season (and ramadan was coming to an end), the only other travellers there were brigitte from holland, and miguel & joao from portugal.
instead of a shower, there was a traditional indonesian mandi: a basin of water and a scoop. i was very impressed with how efficient a mandi shower is – it’s possible to get very clean with less than 5 liters of water, compared to the 50+ liters used during an average 5 minute shower.

id-ul-fitr celebrations
special togean id-ul fitr tradition: kids firing bamboo cannons we went back to the village for the celebrations called id-ul-fitr (the end of ramadan), and found a little settlement of joyful people, preparing nasi bulum (bamboo rice) and other specialities, wearing their new clothes and lighting lots of lanterns and lights. starting in the evening, children fired bamboo cannons filled with oil (a special togean tradition) and everybody just had a good time. the next morning, people would visit or invite their relatives, share meals etc.
the next morning came, and we got news that the government had “changed its mind” about when the moon was really new, and thus had postponed id-ul-fitr by one day – litterally in the last minute. interesting.

the next few days were spent relaxing, reading, snorkelling and playing cards. i’d like to mention the snorkelling spot “number five”, which is a must-see if you go to malenge island. i’ve never seen such a diversity in a reef at depths of only a meter or so!

wakai: sunset beach cottages
sunset cottages, near wakai as we found out, there were no public boats scheduled during the week of id-ul-fitr, so we stayed a little longer. eventually, the portuguese and us chartered a small boat for the two-hour journey to wakai, and we went to see uni’s own startup, sunset beach cottages (it’s located a short boat ride from wakai village).
at the time we visited, she had already completed 3 huts (each with its own hammock and private bathroom incl. shower and western toilet) and the restaurant, an impressive building on poles that overlooks the little cobble bay. place plans for the future even include a dive shop.
i can recommend staying at sunset cottages – not only because it’s a nice place, but because uni’s an honest friend of travellers, and will generally help them whether they stay with her or not.

bomba: poya lisa cottages – a lonely snorkelling island
our next and last destination in the togeans (our cash reserves dwindled) was poya lisa near bomba. to get there from wakai, we needed to charter another boat (uni’s dad took us) and enjoyed a two-hour boatride through clusters of little islands.
one of these islands turned out to be the place: a quiet, little island with two beaches, a few cottages and a restaurant building. here we met annabelle and william, a fun couple from canada/france.

panorama: poya lisa cottages, bomba, togean islands

the beautiful reef started right off the beach (pipefish everywhere!), but what was special about poya lisa, were the free half-day trips to mind-boggling snorkel- and dive spots (diving, however, is only possible with the other choice, island retreat).

a few relaxing days later, and we were once more on our way south. next stop: the mountainous region of tana toraja.
if you are in the general area, don’t miss out on the togeans – it was our favourite place of indonesia. be sure to bring lots of cash, since there are no ATMs.

our accommodation suggestions for the togean islands (all of the places were 125.000 IDR per person and day, incl. 3 meals and water):

  • malenge indah cottages, malenge: basic bamboo cottages with mandi bathroom and excellent food. very secluded and wonderfully quiet. amazing reefs. a 45 minute boatride from malenge village (included).
  • sunset beach cottages, wakai (fb): this place is very new, so it’s not in the travel guides yet. it’s located on another island, a short boatride from wakai (included). brand new wooden cottages with hammock and private bathroom, very cool restaurant setting and also excellent food. there’s a bit of reef not far from the small-cobble beach.
  • poya lisa cottages, bomba: very nice cottages incl. hammock and (for some) private bathrooms, on a quiet little island. again, there’s wonderful food (fresh fruit for dessert!) and if you ask, they will open coconuts for you. the reefs around here were stunning, and the free snorkelling trips were the dot on the i.

german photo titles are available in the photo gallery.

4 thoughts on “indonesia part 2: togean islands, sulawesi

  1. Hi Math, I enjoyed reading your blog. Very interesting and informative + nice photo’s. I hope you enjoyed your stay at Sunset Beach with Uni (this is from her husband). I hope you can help Uni by writing a review of Sunset Beach on Tripadvisor. Search for Tripadvisor Togian Hotels. The wiring has been improved now so I hope you don’t include a photo of that. There are photos on Facebook Togian Sunsetbeach if you want to see some of the improvements we’ve made. I’m sure that Uni would be pleased to see you again if you plan to come back to the Togians. Cheers, Ian

  2. Hi Math,

    I was wondering if you knew how to contact poya lisa to check availibility?

    Many thanks for your help (including the wonderful blog)!


  3. alex, i don’t think there is a way. there are no phone lines, and no cellpone reception either. they have quite a few cottages, though, so i’d just go there and see. it’s worth it! as far as i know, the owner has a few emergency beds in the village.
    also, there’s “togian island retreat” (run by a friendly expat californian woman) close by, with even more cottages if everything else is full.

  4. MArkus,

    nice details on Togean Islands and u have got some really great photos too!
    thanks for the info n experience shared.

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