We wanted to relax a bit at the end of our trip, and the Togean Islands are made for this it seems. We went to Poyalisa (Pulau Poya), a tiny island which a single family-run guest house with some small cottages on it. The island is not visible on Google maps at this time, but it is a 100m swim from Bomba divers. The speedboat and ferry to Wakai can drop you off at Bomba/Poyalisa if you tell them in advance. There is no public boat to Wakai from Pulau Poya, but you can charter one.
The cottages on the island are basic, power comes from a generator which only runs at night, and a boat pumps water into a large tank connected to the cottages once per day. Food is included and delicious, grilled fish every day. It is served on a large table in the main building, so everybody meets there 3 times a day to eat, talk, and plan the next snorkeling trip.
Some snorkeling trips are free, and those to remote locations will cost you the equivalent of a beer. We went to almost all trips that were offered, including the spot near Taupan, Bomba atoll, and some others of which I forget the names.
The snorkeling in the Togeans is excellent, with lots of beautiful hard coral and small fish. I’ve seen other reefs while snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean and my impression is that there were comparably few larger fishes in the Togean Islands.
You can also snorkel directly at Poyalisa of course. The corals are not as great and visibility is less than at the reefs, but you can find lots of interesting species, including moray eels, lion fishes, needlefish, sea urchins, sea stars and seahorses. We also saw sea snakes, lobsters and a sea turtle at the atoll. Another sea turtle showed up in the sea grass at Poyalisa, 50m from the beach.
You can also visit the small village Bomba (5 minutes by boat) and a nearby bat cave in the forest.
Most travelers go to Ampana because you can get to the Togean Islands easily from its port. There is a public ferry from Amapana to Wakai on the Togeans on most days, and the more expensive speed boat goes there daily — if the weather permits. Better plan an extra day to get to and from the Togean Islands, maybe even two if you need to catch an expensive international flight.
To get to Ampana, we took a public car (11 people, 1.5h) from Tentena to Poso. There we changed to a minibus which took about 4.5h to get to Ampana. The street from Poso to Ampana is in excellent condition and also offers great views.
Ampana is a nice small town stretched out along the water in a long bay. It has various ATMs and banks now. You will have to spend the night there to take the ferry in the morning, so take the time to visit the market and the port area.
We stayed at Marina Cottages, where Eddie at the info desk speaks good English and has lots of information on the Togean Islands.
I originally intended to go to Lore Lindo National Park from Tentena, but it turned out that it’s currently (June 2016) not very advisable. People told us that while it is safe to go to the villages of Bomba and Gintu and the nearby megaliths, trekking in remote areas of the park would maybe not be a good idea: a group of terrorists is hiding in the park, and the military is operating in the area. So we decided to do some trekking near Tentena, in the mountains west of lake Poso.
When going there, keep in mind this is cloud forest at about 1,000m above sea level. It’s always wet and it rains a lot. And if you don’t move, it gets cold in a t-shirt. But it’s very steep and muddy terrain, so you won’t be freezing while you walk. 😉
Together with our guide Nyong and our ranger William, we used a hiking trail created by trekking guides from Tentena. It hadn’t been used by them in a while, but other people use it to enter the forest to collect resin by tapping trees or to put up traps.
The region has primary rain forest that is very beautiful, but we encountered only very little wild life while we climbed higher and higher. The path leads to a small hut in the rain forest where we stayed for the night.
The next day we went down to the lake on the other side, using an even steeper path. We were a bit unlucky with the weather, even for the cloud forest according to our guide: it started raining in the early morning, and it got worse and worse. It would not stop until the night.
We were more sliding than walking down the mountain, and the noise from the rain along with the very slippery ground made it hard to watch out for wild life while walking. We were lucky to almost bump into a sloth on the last kilometers. Still it was a great trip and Nyong and William did a great job explaining things about the forest and finding the way.
The city of Tentena lies at the northern tip of lake Poso in Central Sulawesi. It’s a small, predominantly christian town that is famous for the eels and gold fish which are caught in the lake. Sadly the road from Rantepao to Tentena is in pretty bad shape, and the 360km took us about 15h.
There’s not much going on in Tentena itself, but it is an excellent base for exploring the surroundings with a few restaurants and hostels. And it is not that hot in Tentena because it is a few hundred meters above sea level.
The water in the lake and river is very clear, as you can see from the two bridges which connect the 2 parts of the city at opposite riversides.
We visited a waterfall near a Balinese village and a beach on the western side of lake Poso. You may have seen way too many waterfalls already in Indonesia, but this is one of the better ones.
We stayed at the great Losmen Tropicana hostel. There we also met Nyong, a guide with whom we went on a 2 day rain forest trek west of Tentena.
The small city of Rantepao (population 40,000) in South Sulawesi lies in Toraja, a region that is known for being the cultural center of the Toraja ethnic group. Traditionally, the people in the region are rice farmers. Rantepoa lies in the highlands and is less hot than Makassar.
The Toraja are known for their traditional culture, which includes animal sacrifices during ceremonies held at various events, e.g., a funeral or when a traditional house has been build. I read about it in our guide book before coming to Toraja and expected there would be some traditional museum village filled with actors that perform for tourist groups – something I’d rather skip to be honest. I thought we would just go to Toraja for some trekking in the great scenery.
But it turned out that the culture of the Toraja is still alive everywhere in the region, and that the people were very friendly and interested in talking to visitors. One morning, a guy we met at the Wisma Maria hostel was talking to Johannis, a guide from Toraja, about visiting a ceremony. After asking Johannis lots of questions, we decided to join, and I did not regret it. It was a very interesting day. I strongly recommend to invest the time to find a friendly and good guide from Toraja who suits you, personally knows the people you will be visiting and also knows about the culture.
The scenery around Rantepao is great, and you can rent a motor bike or just walk around. We walked near Batutumonga one day, and from Rantepao to the village Kesu (near the larger Ke’te Kesu) on another day. Both were great trips.
Makassar, also known as Ujung Pandang, is the largest city in Sulawesi with a population of more than 1.2 million. It is an important transportation hub with a large port that has dominated trade in the region for centuries.
The city is very hot, and even hanging out near the waterfront does not help much. We checked out the area near the waterfront and Fort Rotterdam. In the southern part of the waterfront, you can find the floating mosque. In the evenings, many people hang out in the area, and food stalls selling sweet bananas with chocolate show up.
We also visited the central market, a maze of tunnels filled mostly with clothes, and the smaller fish market south of the floating mosque (there also is a larger one, north of the very large port area).
With the exception of the waterfront area, it’s not much fun to walk around in Makassar on foot because of the heavy traffic. Better go by motor bike, pete-pete, or ojek, like everybody else does.
We met many friendly, open and very interested people in Makassar who wanted to talk to us out of curiosity or to practice their English.