Published: July 6th 2010July 6th 2010
We have about 100 photos of sunsets like this. I'll restrain myself and just post a couple.
The Togean Islands
June 29, 2010
We are getting ready to leave the Togean islands and head back to Jakarta for the return flight home. As I woke up this morning to this quiet, the jungle to my left with the chickens high-stepping about and the tide coming in just four meters from our hut, I realized it will be a long time to get back to this sort of tranquility. For one, it just takes so long to get here, at least three full days of some grueling travel. Two, life at home is great, but busier than here where options of wonderfully limited.
We’ve been in the Togeans for one week and have absolutely loved it. It’s odd to write about what we’ve done as the activities are more or less what anyone does on islands. Swim, sun, read, snorkel, dive, eat, nap, and repeat. Here are some of my favorite moments though:
*Watching the sunsets.
Each night we dressed for these sunsets as if they were the main event of the day and deserved a clean shirt. We’d usually go for one last swim right before the sunset and then take bucket showers, grab a
Adam Jumping off the Dock
I love how he turned toward the camera to smile while holding the nose.
beer, and head out to swing our feet over the dock and watch the sun slip down.
*The Honeymoon suite at Island Retreat on Bomba island.
The ex-pat, Sylvie, who runs this place gave us the honeymoon suite—our own little hut at the edge of her place so we felt completely isolated. I also loved the fact that we had a front porch and a side porch where they would bring our breakfast and where we each had a hammock to read.
*And speaking of Island Retreat, the meals here are crazy indulgent.
Since there is really nothing around, all the hostels in the Togeans include food because there is not a store, warung (street vendor), or restaurant to walk to. Hell, there’s not a street. Sylvie indulges in the Western food and one night alone we had home-made pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, home-made bread, salad of greens and herbs I don’t even understand, a squash and curry soup, and if that’s not enough, whole fried fish for each of us. Yeah. Crazy. I ate until my stomach hurt and for once I could not blame the water. It was me being that greedy kid stuffing
Charlotte with Children Following
We had just pulled up to the dock to this stilt village and the children came flocking.
in the birthday cake at the party.
*The Stilt Villages.
All around the Togeans are a few villages, most of them stilt villages. We visited one and all the children came running. Some boys jumped off the dock in excitement, just running, stripping, and whoosh—in the water. The girls flocked around me, each trying to hold my hand—which was difficult considering I only have two hands and there were about twenty girls around me once. One child smelled the hand, and liked it so much, she pulled my arm around to her friends so they could all smell it and then held my hand to her heart. There was no pretense at all here. One old lady came out of her hut to show us how well she could walk the planks that went from hut to hut, her keeping her balance with this twenty-foot pole. When she got to the end, she stood up straight, motioned for us to take a picture, and beamed. And here is the amazing part to the visit. No one asked for a single thing. No money, no bonbon (candy), no nothing.
*Jumping off the docks
As we left the stilt villages,
Adam and a couple of our other friends jumped in the water with the boys. They loved the grown-ups acting like kids. And here at Island Retreat, I kinda got over my fear of heights and would jump off the dock although Adam does like to remind me it’s not really that far. For Chicken Little, it is.
And two favorite parts that Adam wants to add:
*The Calm Waters
The water is totally glassy and flat. I don’t think either of us has ever seen such calm waters. The only time we hear waves are at night as we sleep and high tide moves in.
*How Big the Area Is/How Unexplored
There is nothing here, and you get the feeling that you are one of the first to be here—although that is far from the truth. It feels that way though. One thing we didn’t understand from reading about the Togeans was how large this chain of islands are—and how large each island in the chain is. To go from one island to another will be about a two-hour boat ride. And on each island only a teeny portion has a village—and rarely is there a village at
Woman from the Stilt Village
She wanted to show us how easy it is to walk on these planks that we were wobbling along. (It's not easy at all and she knew it, stopping and asking us to take a photo of her.)
all. Just jungle on black volcanic rock.
**Tips for other travelers for the Togeans:
We had a hard time finding reliable information on the Togeans, so I’ve gone a bit overboard here with the detail. I also included all pictures of hotels at the end of the blog so other travelers could see some of the opportunities. After three nights on Kandidiri Island staying at Black Marlin, we hired a intsy teeny weeny boat to take us on a two and half hour boat ride to this one beach we had passed on the way to Black Marlin. It looked beautiful from afar, and we had to see what it was about. It’s on the island of Bomba and is the location of Island Retreat. All the following information is either about Kandidiri or Bomba.
*Where to stay in the Togeans
If you go to Kandidiri:
This is the most social of all spots in the Togeans, but still—that is not saying much.
On Kandidiri Island, all three places to stay are good. I was surprised about just how small this beach was, especially to have three places on it. And in each hotel, the
bungalows are all quite close together. At Black Marlin, you will hear your neighbors for sure. No place is posh. So, don’t expect running water or electricity for more than about five hours a day. Black Marlin runs the water for two hours a day. Here’s my sense of all three places:
Paradise: Seems well organized, largest grounds and rooms, dive center that competes with Black Marlin’s. This was the prettiest place but I’m not sure of the vibe. It felt the most isolated in a few different senses: I never heard people partying there, and it’s set back a little so you don’t see it while you are out swimming.
Black Marlin: We totally enjoyed our stay there and loved the pack of very friendly dogs that roam about and get along. One dog slept in our room each night. Another dog walked off with a friend’s bottle of rum in its mouth. The food was better than expected as I had read reports that it wasn’t good. The main problem here is the owner is not around and the place is suffering from not having a boss. In fact, all the workers there seem a bit
confused and frustrated about what their role is. The one who kinda runs the desk speaks little English and does not have a good head for keeping track of who was who or what was happening. Ali, the one written about in Lonely Planet, seems to mainly just tell folks that he was mentioned in Lonely Planet—not that “he thinks he is king or anything.” I never could figure out what job he had except maybe to lead the sing-alongs around the fire at night. The dive instructors are often asked questions about what’s happening because they speak English, but this is not a role they want and are quick and right to tell you so. Rooms smell of mildew and are hot. There is no breeze as whoever designed these bungalows allowed for little windows and the dive shop is dark as well for the same reason. The one guy who knew what was happening the most is the one who rents snorkels and whatnot in the dive shop. He speaks good English, too. One of the best things about this place is the people staying are all friendly and fun to hang out with. And the beach is
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
On our way to the Togeans--looking grimy but happy. At this point, we had been traveling for about 30 some hours straight.
lovely. A little turtle grass, but otherwise pretty great.
Bring your own toilet paper, towels, soap, snacks, etc. We brought whiskey, too, and were happy about that. We paid $200,000 rupiah a night each which includes meals, so about $45 US total. And this was for the deluxe room.
Pondok Lestari: The folks who stayed here all chuckled about the shitty rooms, but loved it anyway. What you read in Lonely Planet about the lovely owners who take you on free trips is true. We wished in the end we would have stayed here and saved some money.
*While Island Retreat is great, bring snacks and maybe keep them in the kitchen because the rats will definitely eat them. But why you need snacks is there is nothing to buy here and meals are late. Usually we didn’t eat dinner until 8:30—which is rough when lunch is at 1:30 and you’ve been playing around all day. I was either starved or stuffed here.
And the friendly dogs that Lonely Planet compliments perhaps have taken a personality dive. One dog was in heat, so the fights (and otherwise) were fairly constant and brutal.
I had read rave reviews of the gorgeous beaches, great diving, and fabulous water clarity. This is a lovely place, no doubt, but it is not the best diving or best beaches I’ve seen. Turtle grass is on most of the beaches and the diving is lovely, but not that impressive and tends to be similar as it is mainly cliff walls. Sipadan, Komodo, and Pulau Perentians (the latter in Malaysia) all ranked higher for me.
*How to get to the Togeans.
(We were coming from Ampana and returned there.)
Simply put, it’s a mess, and do allow for three days to get here and to return. We both had to control that American fix-it mentality and restrain from saying: “Why can’t you just…” We read multiple blogs and asked tons of people how to arrive. In the end, about 30 different places said that ferries ran everyday except Thursday and Sunday from Ampana to Wakai where you could then hire a boat to Kandidiri. When we arrived, we found that the boats only ran Thursday or Sunday. But that wasn’t right either as two of the ferries were busted. So, bottom line: it changes
Charlotte Checking Her Air
Yeah, I double check that air.
too much to say. Go with plenty of time and plan to spend a night or two someplace where you weren’t expecting.
Since we were pressed for time as this was the final leg of our trip, we ended up doing private charters to reduce the traveling time. We hired a car and driver from Tana Toraja to Ampana for two million ($200 US). This took 16 hours and was as fast as a man could drive. I think the poor guy only slept once for about 30 minutes and he sped around the windy roads that make up most of the trip. We then got VERY lucky and happened upon a boat leaving in thirty minutes direct to Kandidiri. Eleven others were on it and it cost 100,000 ($10 US) each. The boat ride then took five hours.
To island hop:
To get to Bomba, we hired a guy with a little boat to take us directly and paid 500,000 ($50 US) for us both for the 2.5 hour trip. Again, all of this was expensive, but direct and the fastest, easiest possible.
There are more photos below