Sangir-Talaud Islands

Sangir-Talaud Islands

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Strewn across the sea between Indonesia and the southern Philippines are the volcanic island groups of Sangir and Talaud. There are 77 islands, of which 56 are inhabited. The capital of the group is Tahuna on Sangir Besar; the other major settlement is Lirung on Pulau Salibabu.

The islands offer dozens of unspoilt sandy beaches, a few crumbling Portuguese forts, several volcanoes to climb, many caves and waterfalls to explore, and some superb divingand snorkelling (bring your own gear). But like most wonderfully pristine places, the islands are not easy to reach and only a few intrepid foreigners ever make it here. There are a few rustic places to stay on Tahuna and if you turn up, chances are they will find you.

Once a week, Lion Air flies from Manado) to Naha, which is about 20km from Tahuna, and twice a week it flies from Manado to Melanguane, which is near Lirung in the Talaud group.

From Bitung, the Pelni liner Sangiang stops at Tahuna and Lirung once every two weeks. The seas can get quite rough during the high wind from October to April.

Pulau Lembeh & The Lembeh Strait

Pulau Lembeh & The Lembeh Strait

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Lembeh is known almost exclusively for its diving and has emerged as the critter capital of Indonesia. There are dives available for all levels from searching the muddy shallows for the bizarre stuff, more classic coral dives, five wrecks, and fantastic night dives lit by phosphorescence. The corals, beaches and above water activities are arguably better at Bunaken but Lembeh has amazing underwater variety and less visitors.

Two tank dives cost around €60 and PADI Open Water Diving courses are usually about €350.

Kotamobagu

Kotamobagu

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Kotamobagu (Indonesia: Kota Kotamobagu) is a city in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It has a population of 107,459 (2010).[1]

Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park

Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park

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About 50km west of Kotamobagu, this very rarely visited national park (193,600 hectares) has the highest conservation value in North Sulawesi, but it’s mostly inaccessible. The park (formerly known as Dumoga-Bone) is at the headwaters of Sungai Dumoga and is a haven for rare flora and fauna, including black-crested macaque (yaki) and a species of giant fruit bat only discovered in 1992.

Visit the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park office, on the road to Doloduo, about 5km from central Kotamobagu, the nearest town. At this office you can buy permits (30,000Rp per visit), pick up useful tips, look at decent trekking maps and ask lots of questions.

The area around the park entrance at Kosinggolan village has several trails, lasting from one to nine hours, and there are various options for overnight jaunts through the jungle if you have camping equipment. Take a regular mikrolet to Doloduo from the Serasi terminal in Kotamobagu. Then walk about 2km west (or ask the mikrolet driver to continue) to the ranger station at Kosinggolan, just inside the park, where you must register and pick up a compulsory guide for 80,000Rp per short hike (more for longer trips).

In Kotamobagu there are ATMs and a supermarket – stay at the Hotel Ramayana.

Bunaken

Bunaken

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This tiny, coral-fringed isle is North Sulawesi’s top tourist destination but (so far) it’s managed to avoid becoming resort-land and maintains a rootsy island soul. Tourist accommodation is spread out along two beaches – other than that, the island belongs to the islanders; these friendly folk have a seemingly endless reserve of authentically warm smiles. There are no hassles here, just laid-back beachy bliss.

However, most people come to Bunaken for the diving. The marine biodiversity is extraordinary, with more than 300 types of coral and 3000 species of fish, so when you first get your head in the water and see the abundant corals, sponges and phenomenally colourful life all around you, it’s a life-shaking experience. The 808-hectare island is part of the 75,265-hectare Bunaken Manado Tua Marine National Park (Taman Laut Bunaken Manado Tua), which includes Manado Tua (Old Manado), the dormant volcano that can be seen from Manado and climbed in about four hours; Nain and Mantehage islands; and Pulau Siladen, which has some more accommodation options.

With the developing and expanding city of Manado right next door, Bunaken is becoming more and more accessible. Within two hours of arriving to Manado from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or most parts of Indonesia, you can be in a bamboo beach shack on Bunaken watching the sunset. Unfortunately, this proximity also means that the huge amounts of garbage generated by the city can sweep onto Pantai Liang, turning the picturesque tropical beach into a refuse heap. The scarcity of fresh water has limited the island’s development, and villagers must import their drinking water from Manado. Washing water is drawn from small, brackish wells.

Prices from accomodation to a Bintang are much higher than in mainland Sulawesi and some of resorts discriminate against nondivers, either by charging higher accommodation prices or turning them away.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/sulawesi/pulau-bunaken

Bitung

Bitung

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Bitung is the chief regional port and home to many factories. Despite its spectacular setting, the town is unattractive, so most travellers make for Manado) or beyond as soon as possible.

Regardless of what time you arrive by boat in Bitung, there will be buses going to Manado, but if you need to leave Bitung by boat early in the morning, it may be prudent to stay overnight. Be vigilant around the docks, as plenty of pickpockets turn up to greet the Pelni liners.

Wisma Pelaut is the best place to stay if you get stuck here and there are plenty of basic rumah makan in the town centre and near the port.

Around Tomohon

Around Tomohon

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Introducing Tomohon

Tomohon is a pleasant, cool respite from Manado), with a stunning setting below Gunung Lokon volcano. It’s popular with city folk on weekends; for travellers, it’s a possible (though spread-out) alternative to Manado, and an ideal base from which to explore the many nearby attractions.

Gunung Lokon (1580m) contains a simmering crater lake of varying hues, which takes about three hours to reach (and another hour to the peak) from Tomohon. Before climbing any volcano in the area, report to the vulcanology centre. The centre can provide advice about the hike. Volcano Resort in Tomohon can help arrange this and other hikes in the area, for guests.

You can drive almost all the way to the top of Gunung Mahawu, where you’ll be rewarded with views over the whole region and into a 180m-wide, 140m-deep sulphuric crater lake. There’s no public transport but lots of tours go here. This place gets swarmed by locals on the weekends.

There are numerous other places to explore from Tomohon, and all are accessible by mikrolet. Danau Linow, a small, highly sulphurous lake that changes colours with the light, is home to extensive birdlife. Take a mikrolet to Sonder, get off at Lahendong and walk 1.5km to the lake. From Danau Linow you can hike 8km to Danau Tondano, but you’ll need to ask directions.

Gorontalo

Gorontalo

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The port of Gorontalo has the feel of an overgrown country town, where all the locals seem to know each other and everyone is superfriendly. The town features some of the best-preserved Dutch houses in Sulawesi and still retains a languid colonial feel.

Gorontalo’s local hero is Nani Wartabone, an anti-Dutch guerrilla, and there is a large statue of him in Lapangan Nani Wartabone, adjacent to the Melati Hotel.

There are a few banks with ATMs along Jl Jend Ahmad Yani.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/gorontalo

Manado

Manado

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With an overabundance of shopping malls and cavernous holes in the sidewalk, Manado) doesn’t usually register as one of North Sulawesi)’s highlights. It’s a well-serviced and friendly place, however, with more than its share of comfortable hotels and some good places to eat. Around the city are nearby adventures at Bunaken, Tomohon, the Lembeh Strait and Tangkoko-Batuangas Dua Saudara Nature Reserve, and to get to these places most travellers will have to spend one night or more in Manado.

A recommended tour company based in Manado is Bunaken Tour & Travel in partnership with Michael Leitzinger, who has been specializing in tours around Sulawesi, Papua and Maluku since 1993.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/sulawesi/manado