Welcome to the Land of the Smiling People
Sulawesi is simply stunning! Whether visiting Tanah Toraja, one of the many National Parks, or the far north around Manado, including the dive destinations of Bunaken Island and Lembeh, this is a trip of discovery and adventure.
One thing you need plenty off, when visiting Sulawesi, is time. Things just move a little more slowly here, which is part of the charm. Another reason is that there is so incredibly much to do and see. In addition, traveling to your next destination might not be as straight forward as you think. Roads can be blocked, Pelni Lines could change their schedules, or be fully booked., or not go at all!
The season for traditional cremation ceremonies in Tanah Toraja is in July and August. As this coincides with the high season for travel to Indonesia in general, it can get quite busy. Please consider visiting Tanah Toraja at other times as well, it’s definitely worth a visit, regardless of when you can get here.
For information about National Parks in Sulawesi, please click on the link in the side panel to the right of this article.
The city of Manado in the far north of Sulawesi is a convenient place to base yourself if you don’t want to spend the majority of your time diving. Manado is surrounded by volcanoes, both active and inactive. Tangkoko National Park can easily be reached either from Manado, or as a side trip from Lembeh Island on a non-diving day.
The attractions of Tangkoko are, of course, the cute tarsiers you can see here around dusk. Early in the morning the park is alive with the chatter of black macaque monkeys, and the unmistakable sounds of hornbills.
Tomohon village is the starting point if you want to hike Mt Lokon volcano. The village also has a (very) traditional market, and it’s probably better not to visit some parts of the market if you are squeamish.
And then there is the diving!
Bunaken Island can be reached in 45 minutes by speed boat from Manado. Bunaken is a charming little island, however, apart from diving there is not all that much to do here. Then again, most visitors come here to dive in Bunaken National Marine Park.
Lembeh Straits is the place where most of the amazing photos you have seen in dive magazines have been taken. If you have never tried muck-diving, or if you are an underwater photographer who still does not have a photo of the Lembeh Dragon, this is the place to come. Just a word of warning – muck-diving is a very real health hazard, as it is incredibly addictive.
Lembeh Island, although only about 15 minutes by speed boat from the harbour city of Bitung, is actually quite isolated. There are basically no roads on the island, and there are no hiking trails either. Boats are the only means of transport from village to village. Lembeh is a paradise for divers, but non-divers better remember to bring their Kindle or iPad, as there is not much else to entertain themselves with.
For information about Sulawesi land tours, please go to our Explore Indonesia Tanah Toraja page