The Togean Islands are a small group of islands between Central and North Sulawesi, in northern Indonesia. There really is no easy way to get there but if you’re looking for a remote destination and unmatched beauty, these islands are ideal. Nick and I and our friends, Matt, Sam and Rey spent two weeks exploring in June 2016 at the front end of our summer in Indonesia. Because we were traveling during Ramadan and Sulawesi is a Muslim island, transportation wasn’t reliable, boat schedules changed and it was very difficult to get a beer when you wanted one (think black market, back room deals), but the islands were virtually empty, some we had all to ourselves.
Due to it being so remote, the coral reefs are pristine, and although they have experienced coral bleaching and the occasional dynamite blast, overall the reefs are intact and full of life. Togean is a great place to dive if you are interested in macro, but don’t expect big ticket items like sharks and manta rays. It’s apparant that over fishing is a problem that needs to be addressed, but despite this the diving was outstanding.
We love to get off the beaten path and this is the perfect place to unwind and disconnect.
Poya Lisa was a three hour public boat ride from the nearest port town, Ampana and our first stop on the trip. It’s a very small island, a couple hundred metres across on parts, with 10-12 bungalows. Nick and I stayed in the “expensive” bungalow at $18/night just for the view alone. Situated on the cliffside, we watched sunset from our balcony every night and could jump off into the water below for snorkeling around the island.
The family living on the island offered a free snorkeling trip to a near-by reef and wall drop off and a paid snorkeling trip to some reefs further out, an afternoon on a secluded beach and lunch cooked over a coconut fire. You know those screen savers, the ones with a small island, a lone palm tree and turquoise water in every direction…that’s what some of these islands look like. It is the ultimate definition of paradise.
After a few nights on Poya Lisa we traveled by boat 2 hours further into the islands to Kadidiri. We did all of our diving in Togean from here. The dive shop Black Marlin, that came recommended by locals, took us to secluded dive sites, kept the trips relaxed and fun. On our best day we paid extra to have our captain take us to an atoll; I’d never seen one before and it is still one of the most memorable days of the entire trip. After diving we spent our days lounging on the pier, drinking Bintang while Matt DJ’d.
Kadidiri is a larger island with three resorts and smaller secluded beaches so we rented kayaks a few times to explore the around the island and discuss plans to live here forever.
It rained for the first few days on the island, which kept us in our bungalows for longer than we wanted but when the sun finally peaked through I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was. Our friend Antonia, who we met on Poya Lisa, told us we had to visit before we heading back to Sulawesi and it didn’t disappoint.
We spent days snorkelling around the island and took a local boat to the famous California reef. If our evenings weren’t spent on the dock waiting for sunset, we were having bonfires with the family who lived on the island. We will never forget the night on the dock when the water lit up with neon green bio-luminecense while we all exchanged travel stories. We had made friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
If it wasn’t for Matt and his friendship with Rey, Nick and I would never know what the Togean Islands are. Some of our fondest memories of our trip around the world were spent here making new friends and disconnecting from our Western reality. The islands are far too difficult to reach for anyone on a two week vacation, so unless we do another extended travel break we may never see them again. For now I remain thankful for this special time in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.