Sumatra & Sulawesi - In the land of orangutans and the unique underwater world 2022/2023
Indonesia is a Southeast Asian island nation located on the archipelagos between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. With over 17,000 islands, this is the largest archipelago in the world. The island of Bali is probably the most famous, of the islands I was already in 2016/2017.
But this time I'm traveling to the sixth largest island in the world (!) and the largest in Indonesia - Sumatra. I want to go into the jungle, hoping to see the last free-living orangutans and the Sumatran tiger. Afterwards, I will travel to another, larger island called Sulawesi, which used to be called "Celebes". It is known for its breathtaking underwater world and its special villages. In these villages live people who have and maintain a special way of dealing with the dead.
However, I will not plunge into the Indonesian adventure alone. On the page https://www.travel-friends.de I made a call for my already planned round trip. There were many Travelbegeisterte, but when I read Heikes sympathetic message, I thought immediately, I must get to know more closely, that could fit. And so it happened. During our first Facetime phone call together, it turned out that we both come from the "lovely Tauber valley" and share a passion for travel, adventure and diving.
So we decided to start the journey together.
Be curious, read along with pleasure, if on 17.12.2022 two former Taubertal Girls make Indonesia unsafe and plunge into the adventure.
The night before, Heike already traveled from Berlin to join me in Munich.
At four o'clock in the morning our alarm clock rang, we got dressed and trudged with our suitcases through the snow to the bus stop. We wanted to leave a little earlier, because we didn't know if the schedule would be kept in this weather. But we were lucky, bus and S-Bahn arrived on time, so we arrived at the airport shortly after six o'clock. Check-in at Qatar Airways took longer, as always, but that didn't matter to us because we had enough buffer. At the security check, of course, I was again examined for explosives, but this time again no sign: they found nothing.
We both got a butter pretzel and a cappuccino, sat down at our gate and waited until boarding opened.
We also took off almost on time. Considering that more than 100 flights had been canceled the days before because of black ice and snow, we were really lucky. When we taxied onto the runway, only the plane was de-iced and we then left white-dusted Munich.
After a five-hour flight, we landed in Doha. We had a two-hour layover there, but it passed quickly because boarding for the second flight began an hour before departure and this time we had a longer way to go. We flew over the Indian Ocean and Sumatra, because Qatar did not fly to Medan, the capital of the island. So eight hours later we arrived in Jakarta, the largest Indonesian airport on the island of Java. Here we had to buy our visa, get our suitcases and check in again. Since we had a three and a half hour layover, this was all no problem and went smoothly. We even had some buffer at the end and treated ourselves to an avocado iced coffee, which was very tasty.
After almost 28 hours on our feet, 16 of them flying hours, we had almost made it. Ihsan, our guide on Sumatra, was already waiting for us at the exit and greeted us in German. He took us to Dedek, our driver, and we all drove together through the province of North Sumatra. Ihsan explained us many digne about the island. Among other things, that 10-15% of the population are Chinese, who have settled there since the mid-19th century. In addition, Dutch people are also present with a larger percentage. They are known for their tobacco plantations.
We also stopped on the side of the road to buy fried goodies, and to try them as well. I noticed that the country is very green. There had been an extreme amount of rain in the past few weeks, and you could see it. Roads were broken, rivers were brown. And there was another thunderstorm coming up.
There were also many great photo motifs on the roadside, but my eyes just didn't keep up and I kept falling asleep.
After three hours and a total of 32 hours of travel, we finally made it. We walked from the parking lot over a suspension bridge and were accommodated in the "Ecolodge Bukit Lawang Cottage" https://bukitlawang.ecolodges.id We were upgraded and got a small welcomedrink.
Heike and I moved into our rooms, showered, had dinner and discussed the next days with our guide Ihsan and the ranger Suker, who will accompany us into the jungle tomorrow.
Afterwards we fell into bed dog-tired.
1. day - Welcome to the Orang- Utan Jungle
We were woken up today by jungle sounds. We had breakfast on the terrace, overlooking the river "Sungai Bohorok" and the jungle.
After putting our suitcases at the reception and locking up our valuables, we met our guide and ranger on time at 9am and set off into the jungle.
We were really lucky with the weather today, because the sun was shining. The days and weeks before it had only rained. Here is currently rainy season. However, it had 80% humidity at almost 27 degrees. On the way we met Ipul, who is also called Tarzan of Sumatra. He walks barefoot and knows every spot in this national park, which is called "Gunung Leusser National Park". He told us about a movie he is in that is on YouTube and Netflix. https://youtu.be/wmFqdmVYCno
After about half an hour, the first orangutan finally appeared. High in the trees. It was a mother named Radna, 27 years old, with her baby. We were able to observe and photograph them for more than half an hour. Partly they came also very far down to us.
We continued through the jungle over roots, sticks and stones. It was also partly slippery - just Adventure Hiking. The hike to the gorillas in Uganda was a piece of cake in comparison.
After another hour and a half we saw another mother with her baby.
Suker, our ranger also kept calling out "Thomas, Thomas", but we didn't know who exactly he meant until he met us at some point along the way. It was the chief of a monkey gang, whose species is called "Thomas Leaf Money" and lives only on Sumatra. He sat relatively far down and liked to be photographed. Probably he is already used to people.
In the middle of the path we stopped for a break and got something tasty to eat. Afterwards we went on our way strengthened again.
And we were still lucky: another orangutan mother with baby showed up. There we spent just under an hour. It was great to watch them eating as well as chilling and the little one tried his first gymnastics and climbing exercises. We were told that it is rare to see so many on one trek.
After a good six and a half hours and just under seven kilometers, we arrived totally sweaty and dirty at our camp on the banks of a river. Heike and I did not miss the chance and jumped in. A great refreshment.
Afterwards we got a freshly made coffee from our cook, looked at our photos, talked with Sukar and Ihsan and relaxed until it got dark. Then a thunderstorm moved in and a short time later it started to rain heavily.
We spent the evening all together in a small tent. We had a delicious dinner. There was tofu, chicken, vegetarian curry and rice.
Let's see how the night will be here without electricity, without light except for a few candles, and the loud rain splashing on the tarp of the tent.
2. day - Adventure trekking
The night was extraordinary and short. After we went to sleep relatively early, I woke up again around midnight, because it thundered, lightning and thundered violently. With a flashlight, I made my way to the bathroom in the dark. Everywhere it croaked. When I came back, I saw a giant frog, so I spontaneously decided to get my camera and take pictures in the dark. Heike woke up too and so we looked for one and the other frog. Snakes, which I actually also wanted to photograph, we did not find. Maybe better so, who knows if they would not have been dangerous and poisonous.
Afterwards, we went back to sleep. But I woke up with a headache and backache the next morning, because the mattress was very thin and there was no pillow. Heike woke up with sore muscles.
We took breakfast on the bank of the river in the middle of the deepest jungle. There were delicious pancakes with banana and a coffee to go with it. Wonderful! Pure nature feeling.
After that, we packed up our things and set off for the next hiking tour around 9:30 am. First it went again steeply uphill. Since it had rained quite a bit during the night, everything was extremely muddy and slippery. So that it was partly really dangerous. Sukar carried this steep climb also Heike's backpack. But we all arrived at the top without an accident. After a short breather for both of us, Sukar and Ihsan called and looked for the Big Boss of the orangutans. We kept hearing the voice of a male, unfortunately too far away. On the way we saw a "Pig tail monkey" sitting in a tree. He let himself be photographed in peace.
We continued to march downhill. It happened: I slipped and fell down. Fortunately I did not hurt myself. Thank God it was not steep, left or right downhill. My foot did not bend either. Once again I was lucky.
Today we had put the focus on the male big orangutans. However, they did not show up, because they do not like gray, wet weather. Rest was made around noon. There was something tasty to eat again. When we wanted to go on our way to find more orangutans, we discovered a jungle turtle.
Just under 7,000 orangutans live on Sumatra. On Borneo, the neighboring island of Sumatra are still just under 2,000 native. We also learned today that orangutans do not live in groups, but are solitary animals. The children stay with their mothers until they are six years old.
When we came along a raging river, we were suddenly told: We have to get to the other side. I was really afraid for my camera equipment. Sukar, our ranger took Heike's backpack and brought it over dry without any problems to show me that everything stays dry. Afterwards he came back, grabbed my backpack and brought it dry to the other shore as well.
Heike and I waited dutifully until we were fetched. Man was that an adventure when we arrived over there. Real "Adventure Life". We walked a little upstream along the shore. After about five minutes we were told again. We have to cross. So the same game again.
But then we made it after ten kilometers through the jungle of Sumatra and reached the second camp. A little disappointed that we had not seen an orangutan, we moved into our tent and were about to get ready for a swim.
Then the men shouted: Orangutan in the tree. We did not want to believe it, but they were right. A mother, about 17 years old with her two-year-old little daughter.
After a good 20 minutes the two even came up to the camp, so that I could take really nice close-ups.
When I had enough photos in my bag, I put the camera aside and watched the two up close. A great feeling, they are such incredibly beautiful animals. Then before dinner we took a small bath at a waterfall.
We ended the evening together in the main tent with a beer and delicious dinner and singing. Tomorrow it goes back to civilization.
(Melodie: Jingle bells)
Jungle trek, jungle trekIn Bukit lawangSee the monkeys, See the birdSee orang utanhey,...repeat...Trekking together Eating togetherSleeping together in Bukit Lawanghey,Jungle trek jungle trekIn Bukit lawangSee the monkeys, See the birdSee orang utanJungle trek, jungle trekIn Bukit lawangSee the monkey... see the Tiger....everybody run
3. day - Rafting and back to civilization
The second night was much better, because we got a small pillow and a blanket. Although it rained again all night, but the roof was built differently and so we hardly heard the rain.
When we all had breakfast together, we got a visit, from Wati and her little daughter. That was quite an experience.
Then it was time to pack our backpacks and head for the river. A young man was already waiting there with a rafting tire. We packed everything except my photo backpack. We were all not quite comfortable with that, so the cook took it back with him. And then the wild ride started.
On the ride we got soaking wet, but also had a lot of fun. Our handlebars in the back even capsized and we were again lucky to see two orangutans. After 30 minutes we got closer to Bukit Lawang and could watch the people on the shore and wave to them.
We stopped in front of our first accommodation. We said goodbye to Sukar and the cook for the great time in the jungle, which we will never forget. Afterwards we could take a shower and change clothes. Was that a great feeling to be clean again.
After that we drove almost four hours to Medan, the capital of Sumatra, which has almost three million inhabitants. On the way we passed palm oil plantations and made a stop in a small town. There we had a delicious lunch.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we again got two rooms instead of one, so we could completely spread out and relax.
Checking in online for tomorrow, I saw that the flight times had changed and contacted the guide and the girls from Shanti Travel, with whom I had planned and organized the entire trip individually. They checked the flights and told the guide again. So we could sleep about longer and have breakfast at the hotel instead of having to take a packed lunch.
The night I will certainly sleep well, because such a large bed with a comfortable mattress and comforter with pillow does after three days in the jungle really good.
4. day - Island hopping
I slept like a rock. To be able to stretch all fours from itself has done incredibly well.After a hearty breakfast, we were picked up again shortly after half past six in the morning and taken to the airport.
When we wanted to check in our luggage, they suddenly told me that I had 1.3 kilograms too much. I had to repack. When the lady was satisfied, we could check everything in and said goodbye to Ihsan, our guide, for the great time on Sumatra.
We still had an hour and a half before boarding, so we had a coffee before the security check. 20 minutes before boarding we went through security, but then it happened: everything was fine except my tripod! That was supposed to be in the main suitcase, but it was already checked in. Then they said it would be added to the main luggage, which I didn't want, because it could get lost between all the luggage. Alisa from SHANTI Travel, with whom I spoke on the phone, and who spoke briefly with the staff, unfortunately could not help me either. The security staff remained stubborn. No discussion possible. But I also remained stubborn until I persuaded them to accompany me to the gate to give it to the cabin crew there. But again they remained stubborn. When we then suggested to pack it with Heike in the backpack they said yes, but her backpack should then also to the large luggage and not in the cabin. So we packed her powerbank etc to me and gave her backpack. With two plastic bags and my photo backpack, we then went on board. Here it was again: Stop, only with mask! Heike had this however in the backpack. Fortunately, the staff still had one left for her. This is the first airline (Citilink) which made such a fuss with everything.
For food and drink they also demanded what, whereupon we waived it. In Jakarta we had just under two hours stay, because a direct flight from Sumatra to Makassar or Sulawesi there is unfortunately not.
We used the time and ate a snack. Along the way, I tried to get my MacBook running again, because he was a bit bitchy since yesterday. At the same time, I also searched Google for an Apple store in Makassar, which could possibly get the problem under control and contacted the girls from SHANTI Travel, so that they could ask the driver / guide if he could make a detour there in an emergency. On the plane I made further attempts and possibilities, with positive success for the time being. If it also works tomorrow morning, I have a solution to keep my MacBook running the rest of the time. Because this is urgently necessary to pull my memory cards with the photos regularly on an external hard drive, delete and frei zumachen and to fill the travel blog further.
Arrived in Makassar, we waited anxiously for the luggage, whether everything came along. And yes, everything was there.
Our new guide, Natan, was already waiting outside. We drove together to a seafood restaurant and had a delicious dinner. Afterwards he brought us to the hotel and we checked in.
Tomorrow we will start our round trip through Sulawesi.
5. day - Driving through Sulawesi
At breakfast in the hotel today we were the complete eye-catcher. Only Asians and we two blondes. Before we left for a somewhat longer car ride, we discovered after breakfast still a Rooftop, which we visited of course immediately. From there we had a great view of the harbor and over the city of Makassar. Also because the sun was shining and a thunderstorm was coming up, we found the atmosphere very impressive.
After leaving Makassar, which is located in the "Bugis" region and is known for its colorful houses on stilts, we passed some rice plantations. It rained a lot today, but we didn't mind since we were sitting in the car most of the time.
We stopped at a few highlights, were able to take pictures and had lunch in a small village in a local restaurant in a winding corner. On the way, we learned some things about Sulawesi, and we taught each other a word or two of each other's language.
The roads here are not in good condition. However, the government lacks the money to repair them. Natan told us that the roads have already been so damaged by the rain for more than two years, because it has become much more than before. Climate change sends its regards.
In the afternoon we passed the "Erotic Mountains". Here it was unfortunately also a bit foggy and rainy. But I found the weather mood great, times another photo than always with blue sky.
And the highest mountain of Sulawesi with more than 3,000 meters we could also partly see. The other half disappeared in the fog. When it got dark, we finally reached the region "Tana Toraja". This region is known for its traditional houses with roofs made of buffalo horn. Our hotel also had one.
After check in, we both strolled around the town a bit and packed our hiking gear for tomorrow. Then it's "Hiking Adventure" again.
6. day - Market, death rituals and Christmas HikingBefore we left for a hike in the mountains, we first visited the cattle market in Bolu, which is located next to Rantepao, a town in Tana Toraja (Torajaland). Buffalo, pigs, roosters, fruits and vegetables are sold there.
For a small buffalo you have to put down 7,000 €, for a white one with blue eyes almost 20,000 €. The buffaloes are bought only for the funeral of a deceased. The more buffaloes, the more respected the deceased was. These are slaughtered and eaten only for the funeral.
The pigs cost "only" 700 €. We found them tied up, in sacks or in stalls. Here we became quite different and we left this corner briskly.
In the case of roosters, merchants tried to impress customers with small rooster fights.
When we left the animal stalls we came to a vegetable, fruit and all sorts of things market. Here it was already more pleasant. People thought it was great that we were taking pictures and were always friendly to us.
We continued to a traditional weaving village and to Palawan, one of the oldest villages of the Toraja. Houses with unusual roofs made of bamboo and decorated with buffalo horns can be seen here in large numbers. We were even allowed to look into one of these houses.
Natan told us that when someone has died, the funeral does not take place until enough money has been collected. So it can happen that the deceased stays for years in the family home. In addition, the smaller buffalo horn houses are also used as warehouses for rice. We were also allowed to look into such a storehouse.
After we finished the cultural part, we set out on foot. We crossed some green rice terraces, bamboo forests and plantations with cocoa and coffee trees. On the way we met again and again the locals who greeted us friendly. We also met a larger group of children. They were totally happy to see us and accompany us for quite a while.
After almost seven kilometers at today's 25 degrees and almost 60% humidity, we reached the highest point of the region: Batutumonga. Here it was beautiful and we had a breathtaking view over the rice fields and to Rantepao.
Heilig Abend verbrachten wir auf der Terrasse unseres Guesthouses und genossen den Abend bei Klaviermusik und Bier, wenn nicht gerade der Strom ausfiel.
7. day - From South to Central Sulawesi
The Christmas breakfast turned out to be a bit meager. There was a banana pancake and a coffee. However, we had a beautiful view of the rice fields and Rantepao.
Before we set off on another long drive through the interior of the country, we again met the Swiss, whom we had already met at the market the day before. We chatted a bit and started shortly after 8:00 am.
We drove through lush landscapes, on mountain roads and through tropical forest. With beautiful views. On the way we continued with German as well as Indonesian vocabulary.
Driving here is very special. The solid lines are more for decoration. Overtaking is very special: left or right, roads narrow or curvy, it doesn't matter. Everyone drives as he wants. As a passenger, you need strong nerves here and a trust in the driver.
The lunch break we made again in a local restaurant on the roadside. There were delicious chicken skewers in peanut sauce and rice.
In the late afternoon we reached Pendolo, a small village on the southern shore of Lake Poso, the largest here on Sulawesi, which also marks the border between South and Central Sulawesi.
Along the route, we again passed some palm oil, coffee, cocoa and pineapple plantations. We stopped at a pineapple stand on the side of the road and ate a fresh pineapple. It was very, very tasty.
Then in the dark we reached Tentena. Our accommodation https://www.dolidi-ndano-towale.com is located a bit above and at the edge of the lake. When we arrived there, unfortunately, no one was on site. Everyone was at a Christmas party and so we had to wait until someone came to check in. We got a super nice apartment with a view of the lake.
Heike did not miss the chance to swim another round in the dark. The electricity also failed here from time to time. But that's how it is when you spend the night in the middle of nowhere. We all ate dinner and then fell exhausted into bed.
Kleines Wörterbuch:Danke = Terima kasihKein Problem = Didak MasalaFrohe Weihnachten = Selamat NatalHühnchen = AyamFisch = IkanHähnenspieße = Tusuk sate ayamMein Name ist = Nama sayaWie viel kostet das? = werpa hargaLecker = enank
8. day - Off to the sea
We woke up with a view of the Poso Lake. We enjoyed the complete silence, only the chirping of the birds and the splashing of the water from the lake could be heard. Before breakfast I walked along the jetty, armed with my camera, because I wanted to catch one or two birds, which I did. There were many different species here, many that I didn't know yet. I saw, among others, two new nectar birds, several hornbills, and a kingfisher that was eagerly fishing.
Herson, who owns the cottage, conjured up a delicious breakfast for us. Instead of coffee, we had delicious cocoa and fresh mango juice. He told us that the mangoes come directly from the garden here. So it also tasted, fresh and delicious.
After leaving Tententa and the insanely great accommodation, we drove on through Central Sulawesi. Left and right there were again some plantations with pineapple and cocoa to see.
We also made a coffee stop right by the sea and had lunch at a local restaurant on the beach. To eat there was delicious fresh fish.
In the early afternoon we reached Ampana, a port town. The Marina Cottage is located a little outside on the outskirts of town and near the harbor. Our small bungalow with sea view is less than 20 meters from the beach, so of course we put on our bikinis after check in and jumped into the water.
Heike spotted a jet ski and was eager to ride, but didn't find the driver at first. An Austrian couple staying the night was asked by locals if they would like to go for a ride. The boy said yes, and went for a ride. Heike was next and then I tried it too. Was cool and we had to pay nothing at all for it, just once again make photos with them.
Children also joined us and loved bathing with us and having their picture taken.
We enjoyed the sunset from our own terrace.
Tomorrow we will go by speedboat to the Togian Islands.
9. day - Crossing to paradise , jellyfish lake and fishing village
At breakfast we learned from our agency that the speedboat on which we had already reserved two places in August would be broken. On site we were told that a government group had booked the boat and there was no more space. Just because they pay more, we have to wait? Not with me! I made that pretty clear on site and also on the phone with Shanti Travel. After some discussions we got a private boat and each had to pay "only" 250,000 Indonesian rupiah on top. That is the equivalent of 15 €. Not fair either, since we had already paid for the actual seats, but well, we wanted to cross and the hotel and the agency took over the largest part. Tatjana and Paul from Austria also drove with us. At 9:40 we finally left Ampana in the direction of Tongan Island.
Luckily the swell was calm today, so my travel tablets helped and I didn't get seasick. After almost 3.5 hours of sailing we reached our island "Kadidiri" and our accommodation https://www.kadidiriparadise.com
We were warmly welcomed and said goodbye to the Austrian couple, who went on to another island. There was no real check in, the food was already on the table and then we were shown two bungalows: one on the beach and one with glass front directly on a jetty. Of course we wanted to have that, but for that we would have had to pay extra, so we then took the one with beach/sea view, which is also very nice. Here we stay the next three nights.
Jochen, an older German (71) asked us if he could join us, because we drove in the early afternoon to a neighboring island to a jellyfish lake.
Which is a very special natural phenomenon. It is a naturally formed saltwater lake, in which there are thousands of non-nettle jellyfish. The animals find the climate around them good, so they can reproduce undisturbed. The jellyfish are absolutely harmless and non-toxic. Here we snorkeled in the middle of jellyfish. For me a new, special experience.
Then we went next door to a bay where we snorkeled again. But there was a lot of dirt and garbage, which I found very unfortunate. When I swam a little further out I saw some nice corals, but few fish.
Before we drove back, we stopped at the fishing village "Tangkian". In the Togeans most of the Baja (people of the Baja, also called sea nomads or sea gypsies) have settled and founded small fishing villages. Usually they build wooden houses and walk on stilts through the sea along the island coast. Having spent their entire lives on the sea, the Bajaus are excellent divers. They are able to dive deeper and longer than most people without any additional equipment. The children already greeted us and gave us a friendly welcome. But we were shocked and amazed how simple and dirty the people live here. Totally isolated from the outside world and in the middle of garbage and simple houses made of wood. The older ones played volleyball on a square, next to it garbage was burned. The smaller ones found it rather more interesting to marvel at us. Many wanted to be photographed again and again, with but also without us. I would have loved to take one of the children with me, they are so cute.
When it got dark we docked again at our hotel, showered and met with our divemaster. With him we discussed the next diving days and excursions. At 7pm we had dinner and got to know the other guests. An older Norwegian, who also takes pictures and another French couple, who is already over 70 years old and still dives. Thus, we two are the "chicks" in the round. We eat together with the hosts. Everything is totally familiar, which is very great.
In the evening we sat together, chatted and sang. One played the guitar.
Electricity is only available from 17-23 o'clock. Internet is only available for a fee, so I will upload the blog entries late and the photos only after the stay here.
So please don't worry, we are now enjoying the time to the fullest and switching off completely.
10. day- First Diving Day
We woke up to the sound of the sea before our alarm went off. We fixed our dive gear, I checked my cameras and then we walked around the resort until breakfast was served.
Strengthened, we then made our way to the diving school, which is located behind the main building on the other side. Here we got a briefing from Irul. After that was done, we both had to demonstrate if we could put our equipment together by ourselves. That worked quite well. Heike also got a little refresher crash course, since she only had 6 dives and her last one 1.5 years ago, before it was off to the boat.
Adam was the captain. Less than five minutes later we reached the house reef. Here there should be pygmy seahorses, which can only be seen on the Togian.
Jeffrey, my divemaster, and I dove down first and started looking. We looked in every Nepthea soft coral. However, we just couldn't find the 1 cm small animal. In total, the dive lasted just under 62 minutes, it went down to 24.5 meters and we saw a couple of Annemonefish, a larger Moray Eel and three different Nudi branches. ""More"" unfortunately not. For me a somewhat disappointed dive, since also the reef was not so great. Heike on the other hand came up happier with Irul, because she saw a crocodile fish and a big sea cucumber. She was also happy that the dive and the underwater exercises had worked out well.
Our break before the second dive we made in our hotel on the terrace. The second dive was unfortunately a bit worse. Of course we were also looking for the seahorse here, but unsuccessfully. The reef was not nice, nothing colorful, no great corals or fish, except for a small blue spotted stingray that swam away relatively fast when it spotted us. We did see small shrimp, but they were so tiny that even with macro they were not really photographable.
We spent the afternoon chilling in hammocks and talking with another German tourist who came from the neighboring hotel. With Irul we discussed today's night dive at the house reef, as well as tomorrow's dive trip.
When it got dark I met Irul at the dive center. We got ready. He had put on three wetsuits on top of each other, I only wore mine with 3mm. The Indonesians find the 29 degrees water temperature cold. I, on the other hand, found it quite comfortable. Jeffery was our driver. At the house reef we rolled backwards into the water and dove down into the depths. It went down to just under 15 meters.
Right at the beginning I saw a small shrimp, more followed. Big fish and big animals were absent. The Togies are also more known for their macros. And so it was. You have to have a good eye to find these very small animals. But Irul found one after the other. From tiny Nudi branches, shrimps and crabs. But we didn't find the seahorse on this dive either. After almost 60 minutes we surfaced again. In the meantime there was a real swell and so we went back quickly.
There I met the others who were already at dinner. I quickly showered and joined them. Later we sat comfortably on the beach like the night before.
11. day 2. Diving day - 10 hours on, in and under water
Already at 8:00 am we set off today. In bright sunshine we left our island for a day trip. Only a few clouds were in the sky.
After 40 minutes we stopped at a small fishing village. Since it was Irul's birthday today, we briefly visited his family. Here, too, we were warmly welcomed and everyone wanted to take pictures and have their picture taken.
We continued to the first dive spot "Hotel California" in the middle of the sea.
We got ready and dived down. The visibility was great, there was a lot of beautiful coral and many sharks could be seen.
Since we were only three today Irul took care of Heike most of the time, searched a little less and I was mostly on my own. Unfortunately, I have therefore also not so many and good photos shot because I always had to have the other two in view and they dived a little above. After about 65 minutes we went up again and at five meters we had our three minute "safty stop" as usual.
Lunch was on a coral bank in the middle of the sea!
Afterwards I snorkeled around a bit more and was able to find two small clownfish.
The second dive we did barely five minutes from the coral bank. It was called "dive spot 5". Since Irul noticed that I didn't like it that much because I was on my own, he explained the dive computer to Heike and dived down to 27 meters with me. Heike only has the open water and is only allowed to dive to 18 meters. We saw sharks again. This time I wanted to film and photograph them but down there the visibility was not optimal. So we dived up to Heike and I searched there for small macro objects. But I also found some shrimps myself and even another crocodile fish.
After about an hour this dive was over and we drove to another fishing village. There were a few tarred paths and also a viewpoint. To get to another village there was a long jetty that we strolled over. To the left and right there was clear water and beautiful colorful corals to discover.
The sun burned violently, and despite always cream it caught us both today with a sunburn. Me in the face and Heike especially on the legs.
On the way back it was windy and Adam (we call him but always: "the one who always laughs") gave real gas. I got soaking wet and Heike slept and stayed dry. The two boys took care of us and Adam even gave us each a chain as a souvenir.
When we came back everyone was already waiting for us so that we could have dinner together. Afterwards we celebrated Irul's birthday and our farewell.
Because tomorrow we will go back to Ampana and further to Luwuk.
Today we slept a little longer, because the departure was actually scheduled for 12 o'clock.
We wanted to spend the morning relaxing on the beach and snorkeling at the house reef. But nothing came of it. Because at breakfast we were told that at 9 o'clock the boat leaves. We didn't understand anything at first, wrote to SHANTI Travel, who confirmed to us the night before that the boat leaves at 12 o'clock, but quickly packed our things, paid and said goodbye to everyone. We will definitely be back!
Irul and Adam took us to the jetty. And there it was: our boat, a typical Indonesian wooden boat with loose boards on the floor and a very strong, loud engine. We took a seat and Adam drove us to the harbor town of Wakai on another island of the Togians.
It took 40 minutes to get there, we then had to wait two hours and we used the time to walk along the shopping street a bit.
But the sun shone down on us so strongly that a short time later we were back at the harbor and looked for a place in the shade.
Adam stayed with us the whole time. Around 11:30 then came the speedboat "Hercules". But at 12 o'clock there was still no departure, because on Fridays the Muslims always pray and so the departure was postponed to 13 o'clock. We thanked Adam and left the Togian Islands.
Just under two hours later we reached Ampana. Here we were picked up by Herrmann, whom we had already met four days ago when he brought Paul and Tatjana to Ampana.
We set off in the direction of Luwuk, on the east coast of Sulawesi.
During the five-hour drive, of course, we stopped again to have a delicious meal at a local restaurant. Afterwards, everyone in the restaurant wanted to take a picture with us.
When we wanted to refuel, everything was silent again. Because it was prayed again. Our driver also stopped. He tried to clarify to us that during the prayer the Muslims neither shop, nor drive a car or refuel.
After almost six hours we reached our destination for today and fell exhausted into bed.
13. day - New Year's Eve with a difference - Indonesian serenityWe enjoyed breakfast today with a beautiful view of Luwuk and the sea.
Before we drove to the airport, we chilled a bit in the lounge at the hotel.
The airport in Luwuk is very small and in the off-season flies as good as no plane. Today only one to Makassar. Otherwise, an additional plane flies directly to Mandao in the north, where we want to go.
During boarding, we had to walk across the tarmac once, because the plane was at the very back.
Arrived in Makassar, we had to go through the security check again. Everything worked out, we went to the gate and there we stood for the first time, in a horde of people. Some flights were on the display board, including ours.
We thought first: Oh, he has a little delay, but then suddenly came employees of the airline and distributed food. When I went to the counter to ask, they said: "Here you have something to eat, sorry delay, planned new: 18:30 clock", means in two and a half hours. I was on the verge of a tantrum, but so slowly the Indonesian serenity also arrives at me.
So I tried to relax, Heike with her calm manner helped me.
Sonow we sat with our food at the gate and waited.
Around 18:30 clock was then but finally boarding. The flight passed relatively quickly and so we landed around 9 pm in Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi. There our new guide Donald and a driver were already waiting calmly. Since we were so late, SHANTI Travel allowed us to use the highway so that we could still arrive at our new accommodation in the jungle before midnight and celebrate a bit. The highways cost money here. The driver stepped on the gas and after just under an hour and a half we reached "Tangkoko Hill" in the small town of Batu Puthin.
But it was quiet, no party, no guests. When we moved into our small bungalow and came back to the main building for dinner, Donald and Ifon, our house mother joined us. We drank some homebrew (arak) together, but it was too strong for me and I stuck to beer. Spontaneously they asked us if we wanted to come with them to the village to their family to celebrate there. We agreed and without changing our clothes we left.
There we were warmly welcomed. In the church next door was sung atmospheric, outside boomed and celebrated.
At midnight the whole village drove through the main street with their scooters and a few cars. Heike rode along with Ifon. I rather stayed at the roadside. When I asked Donald around 01:00 that I would like to go back to get some more sleep, Ifon brought out another scooter and I rode with Donald a round behind Ifon and Heike before going back to the accommodation.
There we met with our new friends from Kadidiri Paradise in the Togian Islands. They said that they missed us, asked when we would come back and wished us a happy new year.
Afterwards we set our alarm clock for half past four and fell asleep quickly but happily.
14. day - Jungle againAfter barely two hours, the alarm clock tore us from our sleep. Ifon and Donald wanted to pick us up for an early morning jungle tour. We got ready, I packed my photo equipment and so we were punctually at five o'clock up at the restaurant. But nobody was there. Indonesian time sends its regards. 10 minutes later Donald joined us, we drank a coffee and then drove to the entrance of the national park. There Ifon was already waiting.First we walked a bit into the jungle to get to the beach. From there we enjoyed the sunrise.
When it got light we went back into the thicket. We were looking for The black Monkeys, "Macaca Nigra", but did not find them. Suddenly Ifon heard a green kingfisher and found it too.
Then we had to go through the thicket again and high up on a mountain. There we had seen hornbill birds. But they sat too far up to be able to photograph or observe them.
But half so bad, we found shortly after a small owl with the name "Ochre-bellied boobook". Here I finally built up my tripod, which I had dragged the whole time. So I could make a few great shots without shaking.
When I was satisfied, we trudged after Ifon through the thicket and then, in a larger tree sat him: one of the smallest primates in the world (Tarsius Spectrum). He is no bigger than a man's fist and just cute. We both didn't want to go any further.
But on the way back I discovered another frog.
I was happy with my yield, even if we did not find the "Macaca Nigra". But then, shortly before the main path near the beach we finally met a larger group of this monkey species. This group consisted of about 20-30 monkeys. Mamas with babies, children, males - everything was there.
When we arrived at the exit, we had covered nine kilometers. A delicious breakfast awaited us at the lodging.
After we were full, we showered and slept for two hours before meeting Donald for lunch. We talked for a while and around 4pm we left for an evening tour of the jungle.
After a good half hour we saw two hornbills sitting high in the tree. This time the light was good and so I managed to get some usable pictures.
We also spotted a cuscus bear on our hike, but too far up hidden in the thicket. On the way back we discovered again two small "Tarsius Spectrum". We would have loved to take them home as pets, they are so cute.
When it got dark Ifon found another poisonous tarantula.
Back at the accommodation we had a delicious dinner. Ifon and Donald then asked if we would come to a karaoke party. We did not think long, despite tiredness we went with them. The party took place at friends of Ifon. Here we were warmly welcomed and immediately danced along. The music was turned up so high that we could only talk by shouting at each other and hoped not to go deaf from it. There was such a party in almost every street.
At some point they all started singing. We realized that the Indonesians actually all have good voices. Our driver, Donald and Ifon also gave their best. Then it was our turn: we chose "Angels" by Robbie Williams. We were photographed and filmed, but we quickly realized that it was better to pass the mic again.
After about two and a half hours this party was over and it went on to a public village party. Here, too, there was singing, dancing and a lot of drinking.
Around 11 pm, however, I got so tired that we were driven back to the accommodation and fell into bed dog-tired.
15. day - Jungle, local market and Bunaken Island
At 5:30 we met Ifon at the entrance to the jungle. One last time we had to keep our eyes open and our camera ready, who knows what we will see today. After a good two kilometers Ifon spotted a rare "lilac kingfisher". We all tried to take some photos today. But Donald and Ifon praised me for my quality. That pleased me very much.
When we had some photos in the bag we walked further into the jungle looking up. We wanted to find the couscous bear again. It took a while, but it paid off. We discovered three of them. However, they were sitting high up in the tree again. With the right converter, telephoto lens as well as tripod I managed to take two three good pictures.
After seven kilometers, the last jungle tour was over at some point. We drove back, had breakfast, showered and said goodbye and thanked Ifon for their great hospitality.
On the way back to Manado we stopped in the second largest city of North Sulawesi, "Bitung". Here we strolled over the "Girian Market". But we didn't get far, because we ourselves were once again the highlight. Everyone wanted to be photographed with us or by me. After half an hour, however, the water was on our foreheads again, so we turned back to the car and drove on.
Lunch was made in a seafood restaurant where karaoke was sung again. Our driver and Donald took the microphone, we just listened and enjoyed our fresh fish, which we had chosen ourselves.
The two then took us to the dive store, which works together with the resort of the Bunaken. We said goodbye to them and thanked them for the great days.
After a coffee and some waiting we were brought to the harbor and with a private boat we went over to the Bunaken, an Indonesian island group in the Celebes Sea. Our resort https://kudalaut-resort.com/de/ is located on the island "Siladen". Upon arrival we were met with umbrellas as it had started to rain. At the bar we got our welcome drink, had to fill out a few things and were then taken to our room.
Here we rested a bit and first had to come down again, because after two and a half weeks of adventure vacations, simple accommodations and mostly without tourists, it was completely different here: luxury, only Europeans. But that's what we had chosen, to come down and enjoy some luxury at the end.
Before dinner we clarified a few things with the diving school. After dinner I said goodbye, because I urgently needed sleep. Heike joined the other Germans who are here and ended up late at night at a local birthday party.
16. day - Diving day
After an extensive breakfast directly on the beach, Heike and I had to arrive at the dive center already at 7:45 am.
There we got our missing equipment. On the board the groups were listed. Heike was assigned to Karim, I to Martin, whom we had met yesterday on the boat. However, the two did not appear, so Heike could go diving with her divemaster Angel and I with my dive master Steve, without extra charge.
We drove about ten minutes to the first dive spot "Bunaken 1". With a roll backwards I went into the water and dived with Steven down to 31 meters. And there was a lot to see this time: Right at the beginning I discovered two big Frogfishs and on the further dive two big turtles, an Orang Utan crab which I saw for the first time by the way, more crabs and shrimps. After almost an hour we surfaced again, of course with a safety stop at 5 meters.
Heike immediately told me about her dive and that she had also seen turtles. We were both mega happy and satisfied. We all took a break together on the boat. There were three other Germans on board. There was fruit, cake, coffee and water.
The second dive spot was called "Bunaken Timur 2". Also there I dived with Steven down to 27 meters. I saw a white tip reef shark, turtles, nudibranches, again an orangutan crab, beautiful corals and an anemone crab. After an hour it was time to surface again.
Back at the accommodation we rested and then went for a walk on the beach. Suddenly someone called out: "Mirjam?" and who was sitting there: Karin. I had already been to the Seychelles with her. I had met her in 2019 while diving in Sri Lanka. We talked only briefly, because already there was food. Afterwards I had to rest a bit, because I had spontaneously booked a third dive.
At 15 o'clock was departure. Heike went with us, but she only wanted to snorkel. At the dive spot " Mika Kampung" there were three groups. This time I had a buddy: Simone, from Ulm. Steve was our guide. It was a reef dive and it had it partly really in itself. But even there we could dive down to 26 meters for a short time. Suddenly I saw a sea turtle as big as I had never seen one before. Here on the Bunaken they are really huge. Simone even told me later that she saw an even bigger one yesterday, which I didn't believe. When we surfaced and went on board, Heike told me that the snorkeling with "Captain Jack" was great. She saw many turtles and two rays.
Heike and I spent the evening with Samuel (bartender) and Steve on the beach. Steve had his guitar with him. So we sang again, danced a bit and just chilled.
Heike stayed in the resort today, I went out again. My buddy today was Martin, who had been missing the day before. We got ready and I dived down with Steve and Martin at the dive spot "Leukan piqumi". Right at the beginning we encountered a beautiful turtle sitting and eating on a coral. Later I saw another white tip reef shark and some Nudi branches below us. After 20 minutes we had to turn back because Martin had hardly any air left. I, on the other hand, still had well over 140 bar. I already thought, that should be it? That would have been a disappointment, especially because it was a special dive for me - the one hundredth. But the disappointment lasted only a short time. Steve took Martin to the top, I was allowed to continue diving with Angel and her student diver in the meantime, until Steve came back down to me. I saw two turtles cuddling, swimming and dancing with each other. And then Steve pulled out his card and congratulated me on my 100th dive. I was totally touched and fitting to this experience another turtle watched us from its resting place. At the safety stop we made some more nonsense and a few photos of us.
I used the break to sunbathe a bit on the deck. When we arrived at the second dive spot, the weather became worse and the current too strong, so we spontaneously decided to go to another one called "Cha-cha- Point". Martin was diving with Angel and his buddy Karim this time, so I was lucky enough to dive alone with Steve again. At this point there should be octopuses. We searched everything but found none. But I saw turtles again (green and crater turtles) and a few Nudi branches. After 60 minutes we surfaced again, although I still had 100 bar in the tank.
Back at the dive center we discussed the night dive for tonight and then I went to the room. I told Heike about the dives. She, on the other hand, had only chilled and slept. In the afternoon we sat on the beach and at the bar.
Around 5:30 pm I arrived again at the dive center. Steve was already waiting and Captain Jack drove us over to the mainland. I got my briefing and Steve said that we can dive for 80 minutes, because it is not so deep and we will search a lot to take pictures. We then got ready, dove down and turned on our flashlights.
At first I only saw sand and thought to myself, what kind of dive is this. But then I saw some coral blocks, which we illuminated bit by bit and also found again and again something great: Scorpion fish, shrimp, Nudi branches and other small animals.
But at some point Steve started searching the sand and I just didn't understand why. But after an hour I got problems with my mask, so I wanted to go upstairs, which Steven again did not quite understand, but of course came up with me. Upstairs I explained it to him and he thought I was scared. When I asked him what he had been looking for in the sand, he said that he had been looking for the rare blue-spotted octopus for me, but hadn't found it.
Back at the beach Heike was already waiting for me. I took a quick shower and we went to dinner together. The evening we both spent first with a drink alone on the beach, later we were still together with Steve and a few other locals on the "Jetty", a jetty and talked.
18. Last diving day
The sun was shining and the sky showed us its most beautiful blue. Perfect for a last day of diving!
We left the island at eight o'clock and drove just under 25 minutes to the dive spot " Tanjung kopi". Nicole and Peter, who have been diving here many times and are very experienced with over 600 dives, told us that they had experienced a real violent drift dive years ago and said that they were thrown around like in a washing machine. This scared Heike and me a bit. But the conditions that day were great, so we had nothing to fear. Heike again had the pleasure of diving alone with Angel. I was assigned to the two experienced divers and Steve was again our dive guide.
As we dove down I could see up to 25 meters. The visibility was very clear. The water temperature was close to 30 degrees. We dove along the coral wall and saw some small animals like some Nudi branches, crabs, shrimps and at the very end I also spotted three bigger lobsters. Bunaken National Park is known for its abundant variety of macro subjects. But I prefer somehow more the big animals like sharks, turtles, rays, bigger fishes. From far away I saw a turtle disappearing in the deep, dark sea. After a good 50 minutes, this dive was unfortunately over, because the existing slight current has cost some strength and air.
The break before the second dive we made on deck. And today I struggled a bit with fatigue, so at some point I jumped back into the water. Angel and Steve joined me, a bit involuntarily, because I grabbed them and jumped in together with them.
At the second dive spot "Tangjung Parigigi" it looked a bit different. The visibility was also good, but not like the first dive. However, it was again a coral wall along which we dived. In a cave we discovered small baby reef sharks. But they were not easy to photograph, because they hid in the cave far back again and again. I also saw a lobster and two other Nudi branch species. After the safety stop this dive was over after an hour.
On the way back we both decided to do another dive, a night dive (for Heike the first one). She with Angel and I with Steve, so I can take pictures in peace. We enjoyed the afternoon in the shade, slept a little and relaxed. To refuel strength and energy for tonight, because after the Nightdive we want to enjoy the last evening.
With the sun setting behind the Bunaken volcano, we headed to the mainland of Manado. Here our last dive took place.
Roll backwards into the water, flashlight on and down into the depths. At the beginning I had some problems with the current, but after a few minutes that was no longer an issue. Steve kept searching the sandy bottom for small animals and the octopus. He found so small animals that I recognized only by zooming in.
On our dive we also met Angel and Heike once. Since Angel had a special eye for Nudi Branches, she showed us two that I had never seen before and that had great colors. I was amazed at their beauty.
A few fish, shrimps and crabs we also saw. After almost 80 minutes my last dive was over. Heike stayed under water for 54 minutes, she was enthusiastic about her first night dive. She would have liked to see another shark, but none showed up. Back at the resort we had a delicious dinner, and then sat at the bar, where Samuel and a colleague played live music.
When actually all guests and employees were already in their rooms, the four of us (Samuel, Heike, Steve and I) walked a bit along the beach and they showed us their favorite place. The two guys played music again and so we enjoyed the last evening.
Since we are not allowed to dive 24 hours before departure, we decided to go out with the dive boat anyway to go snorkeling.Normally Harry was assigned to snorkel with us, but when asked if Steve would come snorkeling with us, we switched and he went with us.Heike saw the first two turtles, but then there were more and more. Great to have so many around. We also saw two smaller reef sharks and I discovered two small blue spotted rays.
Before we went to the second diving or snorkeling paltz, we drove to the island "Bunaken", moored at the jetty and Steve showed us a small market. Here he bought us both a bracelet as a souvenir and a delicious drinking coconut we also enjoyed.
At the second spot the water was not quite as clear, but a few turtles and many schools of fish could be seen here as well.
But suddenly dark clouds came up and we had to return as soon as possible. As soon as we arrived, it started to shake. We showered, packed our things and enjoyed the last hours with Samuel at the bar before we went back to the mainland.
It was not easy for us to say goodbye. Similar to the Togian Islands, everyone waved to us when we left and after 10 minutes we reached the mainland.
From there we were brought to the capital Manado to our hotel. We checked in and then walked a little through the streets until we came to the port, here we ate dinner and on the way back we discovered a small market. Back at the hotel we packed our things, because tomorrow it is called goodbye, it goes back to Germany.
Now, it's time to say goodbye!
We enjoyed the time with all of you!
You made our vacation to a special one!
Mirjam & Heike
Recommended contact information:
Sumatra: Guide Ishan: +62 822 74189671
Sumatra: Ranger Bukit Lawang Sukar: +62 823 60962103
Sumatra: Unterkunft: https://bukitlawang.ecolodges.id
Süd-/ Zentralsulawesi: Guide Nathan: +62 813 43518272
Sulawesi Lake Poso: Unterkunft: Dolidi Ndao Towale Resort
Togian Island: Unterkunft: https://kadidiriparadise.com
Nordsulawesi: Guide Donald: +62 81245023893
Nordsulawesi: Unterkunft: Tangkoko Hill Batu Putih
Nordsulawesi: Rangerin Tangkoko NP: Ifon
Bunaken Nationalpark: Unterkunft: https://celebesdivers.com/de/
Tauchguides: Stev(en) und Angel
Reiseagentur: Shanti Travel https://www.shantitravel.com/en