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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Gorontalo

Visitors to Gorontalo no longer have to travel overland. Regular flights now connect Gorontalo with the outside world. Daily flights are available from Jakarta via Makassar (Ujung Pandang) to Gorontalo with Lion Air and Sriwijaya Airlines. Many international flights arrive in Jakarta. Air Asia flies several times a week to Makassar, arriving from Kuala Lumpur late in the evening. Travelers can continue to Gorontalo the next morning. Flights from Gorontalo to Makassar easily connect with Air Asia’s return flight to KL. Travelers can also fly from Denpasar Bali in one day.

From Manado, Wings Air (a subsidiary of Lion Air) now flies every day, leaving in the evening for Gorontalo. This allows passengers arriving on Silk Air from Singapore to connect. The return flight to Manado is early in the morning, allowing travelers to connect with Silk Air or with flights to other parts of Indonesia. Better yet, tickets for the Manado/Gorontalo flight on Wings Air can be purchased on line at www2.lionair.co.id.

If you prefer to travel overland, private transport can be arranged in Manado with a driving time of about 9 hours. Alternatively, you could go by bus; Manado to Gorontalo takes about 10 hours; Fajar Indah is a recommended company. Roads are mostly in good condition, with a few small dirt and rock sections under repair. Your schedule shouldn't be too tight. Sometimes buses are delayed because of flat tires or engine troubles. Better spend at least one night in Gorontalo before moving on by bus or boat. The city is quite pretty, clean and very friendly with beautiful old colonial buildings.

Accommodation: Not only Backpackers will find the Hotel Melati comfortable enough and with more English (and Dutch) spoken (by Pak Alex, if he's around) than in most other hotels in Gorontalo. Address: Jl. Gajah Mada No. 33. Phone: (+62) 435 822934 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (+62) 435 822934      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. E-mail: avelberg@hotmail.com.
Newly renovated Hotel Yulia has air-conditioning, cable TV and hot water. Rates are a good value.
Next door is a much more luxurious option, Quality Hotel Gorontalo, where some staff speak English.

-Recommendation-

Gorontalo Oasis Hotel
Although nestled in the heart of Gorontalo City, Gorontalo Oasis Hotel is a world away. At its center is a grove of giant sago palms surrounding a pool of natural spring water. Light breezes from the mountains rustle the bamboo. Fragrant flowers perfume the night air. Rooms come with a single queen or two twin beds, air conditioning, hot water shower, international cable television, mini bar, and underwater photo print. The fastest Internet connection in Gorontalo is available throughout the Oasis. Miguel's Diving has its office here.
Address: Jl. Agus Salim No 29, Gorontalo City
Gorontalo Oasis Hotel Email: gorontalo.oasis@yahoo.com
Tel/Fax: (+62) 852 4004 2027

Scuba diving has been available for several years in Gorontalo with dive season being November to April. Miguel's Diving has its office at the new Gorontalo Oasis Hotel in Jl. Agus Salim No 29. With its new custom-built speedboat, seven dive sites are within only a ten-minute boat ride from town. With over 20 dive sites from which to choose, certified divers can enjoy dramatic coral walls, multiple pinnacles, caverns, muck, shallow coral gardens and two wrecks. One important feature of diving there is the continental wall of Sulawesi, which comes within a few meters of the coastline, bringing deep blue water right to shore. Having some of the most dense and diverse hard coral growth in the Indo-Pacific region, Gorontalo also has a growing list of new, undescribed or endemic species. The huge, surreal Salvador Dali sponge can only be found in Gorontalo. The provincial government has just published a top quality book of underwater photos taken there by three of Asia's best marine photojournalists. Information on the book Gorontalo: Hidden Paradise is available through the Miguel's Diving web site.

Exchanging foreign currency is difficult in Gorontalo. The notes have to be brandnew, clean and unfolded!

Going from Manado to Palu/Central Sulawesi by bus takes around 18 hours. Most travellers prefer the route through the Togian Islands.


The Togian (Togean) Islands

When crossing Sulawesi from South to North or North to South most travellers now choose for a stopover of at least several days at the Togian Islands. The Togians are a picturesque archipelago of 56 islands and inlets, located in the Tomini Bay. Formed by volcanic activity, the islands are covered by lush rainforest and surrounded by ancient coral reef formations. Both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems teem with exotic wildlife - much of which is extremely rare or endangered. The reefs and coastal areas provide habitat and breeding areas for hawksbill turtle, the green turtle and the dugong. Togian forests and skies are filled with exotic creatures such as the Togian Macaque, the babirusa, the Sulawesi Hornbill, and hanging parrots. Within this tropical paradise, 37 villages provide bright spots of gaiety and culture of several ethnicities, including the Bobongko, Togian, Suluan and the Bajau.

IMPORTANT: Be advised that Malaria is a big problem in most parts of the Togian Islands. Protect your skin with lots of mosquito repellent; anti malaria drugs are adviced! Dengue fever is also widespread.

How to get there:
  • (Updated February 2010)
    There are three weekly connections from Gorontalo to the Togians now. Here's the schedule:
    Gorontalo Wakai Ampana
    Dep Arr Dep Arr
    Tue 20:00 Wed 09:00 Wed 10:00 Wed 16:00
    Fri 20:00 Sat 09:00 Sat 10:00 Sat 16:00
    Wed 20:00 Thu 13:00 Thu 14:00 Thu 18:00

    Ampana Wakai Gorontalo
    Dep Arr Dep Arr
    Sun 10:00 Sun 16:00 Sun 17:00 Mon 06:00
    Thu 10:00 Thu 16:00 Thu 17:00 Fri 06:00
    Mon 10:00 Mon 14:00 Mon 15:00 Tue 08:00

    Ships: Car ferry - Wooden boat

    Price: Rp. 70,000 - 100,000 pp, depending on ship.
    Please note!!! Schedules are changing frequently, so no guarantees possible. Not even Pak Alex at Melati Hotel always knows the exact schedule, so better try to find out yourself.
  • There is a ferry from Gorontalo to Pagimana/Central Sulawesi every other evening. From Pagimana by bemo, car, bus or anything to Ampana (4 to 6 hours). Stay one night in Ampana and take one of the boats to the Togians the next morning (none on Fridays!). The Black Marlin Dive Centre can arrange charters from Bunta (half way from Pagiamana to Ampana) in about 2-3 hrs to Kadidiri.
  • Alternatively you can travel to Ampana via Luwuk: from Manado by plane (twice a week: Monday and Saturday) or Pelni ship to Luwuk, then by bus on to Pagimana and Ampana. If you travel this way you can stay for a couple of days at the Maleo Cottages near Luwuk. Yani and her French husband Jerome are great hosts who can arrange everything for you: from snorkeling, diving and trekking to sailing and trips to Banggai.
  • You can charter a boat from Marisa/North Sulawesi to the Togians or the other way round. Be aware that weather conditions can change very fast in this part of the world and that these small boats do not have any navigational equipment.
Accommodation and Diving
The Togian Islands offer the unique opportunity for both divers and snorkelers to explore all 3 types of coral reef: fringe, barrier and atoll. There is a wide selection of dive sites from gentle slope to dramatic drop offs, perfect for beginners and experienced alike with some deeper dives for the advanced diver. Highlights: Atolls (3 in all), Una-Una (active volcano), B24 World War II bomber wreck.

From simple cottage style homestays to quite luxurious dive resorts the Togian Islands offer a good variety of accommodation:

Most upmarket is the Italian run Walea Dive Resort with rates of US$ 60 per person and night (full board), or US$ 120 with two dives.

Another PADI Dive Centre is the Black Marlin Dive Centre at Wakai Cottages/Kadidiri. Rooms rates Rp. 135,000 (Standard) and Rp. 175,000 (Deluxe) with meals, plus 10% tax. €22,50/ daytime dive, €27.50/night dive. PADI dive courses. Discounts for longer stays. Black Marlin can accept traveller cheques (USD, Euro) and even credit cards (Master, VISA).

Mixed reports about the Kadidiri Paradise. A licensed dive instructor is only available for 6 months a year. It's a guy called Gonzag; if he's there it's actually recommended to dive with him. Few mosquitoes here.

Mostly very good comments about the Fadhila Cottages in Katupat: US$ 18 - 20 per day and person including 3 meals. A recent report (June 2010) says that the resort has a new dive instructor.

In Malenge try the friendly Malenge Indah.

Lestari Kadidiri is a real bargain at Rp 75.000 per night full board, including free boat trips to nearby islands for snorkeling trips. There are also some nice photos on Picasaweb.

The Togian Island Retreat in Bomba has recently got kind of mixed comments and I would be grateful for updates from people who have been there in the last few months. Prices are ranging from US$ 22 to US$ 30 per day and person (plus tax) with fullboard. One dive is US$ 25, with discounts for multiple dives. According to the latest information there is a Spanish dive instructor at the resort since October 2009. However, instructors and divemasters seem to come and go, so better enquire before, especially if you want to do a course.
Some people have reported that there are too many dogs and cats at the place. Hardly any mosquitoes, so malaria is not much of a problem here.


There is no possibility to exchange money/traveller cheques at the Togians, so take enough cash with you. Some of the dive centers might be able to accept tc's and even credit cards but please check with them before.

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