I had always been curious about Togean Islands, and somehow, it constantly lured me to come. The only reason stopping me going there was its its inconvenient access, despite its proximity from Gorontalo. A year ago when scuba diving in Gorontalo, I met Luka, dive instructor, who had spent a great deal of time in Togean. Convinced it was worth going, I then gathered three other diver friends to come along. During Vesak break, we took off and landed at Gorontalo airport in the afternoon, where our airport transfer was ready to take us to town. We had a few hours to kill before heading to the harbour by 6 pm the afternoon.
Two hours after its scheduled departure time, Tuna Tomini ferry finally started to move at 8 pm as it had to wait for a few foreign passengers from the airport (had they missed this ferry, they would have to wait until Tuesday as there are only two departure every Friday and Tuesday). The four of us were lucky to have occupied air conditioned top cabins, which might belong to the crews, judging from the personal items in the room. Our cabin was next to the Steering Room
and was close to the cafeteria where people gathered and chat. The rest of passengers occupied the double deck platform on the second floor, and some even took the space between trucks and cars on the first floor. In no time, I started to doze off as my motion sickness medication started to take effect.
The next morning, we were woken up at 7 am when the ferry reached Wakai, where a wooden outrigger, Ketinting, was waiting. We squeezed ourselves in the narrow Ketinting and were anxious to head towards Pangempa Island. After an hour ride, we reached the island and were greeted by the staff. Fadhila Cottage Dive Resort is a family-run resort, consisting of several bungalows only. We got to choose our own bungalow. Mine was a twin bed beach front bungalow close to the restaurant. As soon as I saw the turquoise water and white sand beach, I felt my tensed muscle loosened up. After lunch, I could not help jumping into the calm water near the pier where I spot puffer fish and scorpion fish. In the afternoon, we went to Tanjung Dive site for our first check dive. Even though visibility was not great,
I managed to get a few shots of nudi branch, thanks to my buddy Nina who led me to those tiny creatures, invisible to my poor eyesight.
The following day, we headed towards Bomber dive site, where a Second World War American B24 Bomber had sunk near Wakai during Japanese raid. Our speedboat moved towards Wakai, going through a narrow, salt-water crocodile-infested mangrove passage between islands. I tried to find any signs of them without success. How I wish to see one in the wild! I decided to skip the first dive at Bomber and went to the the next dive site called Taupan (typhoon). It’s relatively shallow area near the shore with relatively poor visibility with some current. While other cheered at the number of nudi branch shots captured underwater, I enjoyed the dive interval more than anyone as we went to a sandy bottom, crystal clear beach; it felt like swimming in a huge sandy bottom pool.
What a treat! After lunch, we headed towards Mariona Lake, where we could swim with the stingless jelly fish. There are four Jelly Fish Lake in Indonesia: Kakaban near Derawan, Raja Ampat, Togean and Labuan Bajo. Unfortunately, there were
not many jelly fish at Mariona Lake, of which size was relatively small. These stingless jelly fish are prone to chemical reaction from the sunscreen as well as human touch. Exhausted, we headed towards the resort where we were greeted by a colourful rainbow in the sky. Later on I learned, my friend, Shanty, who joined a volleyball game at the beach had a luxury of watching four dolphins passing just a few meters from the shore. What a miss!
That evening, I had a hypertension scare as my ihealth reading showed an extremely high number, and I decided to skip the following day dive trip (it turned out I had brought a faulty equipment). The following day, while every one went off for the dives at Una Una, I spent the entire day relaxing at the resort in a comfortable hammock at the porch of the bungalow. What a peaceful and timeless moment as I felt time was irrelevant!
When my friends came back from Una Una, they had big smiles on their face as they had witness one of the most beautiful Pinnacles, of which underwater sight was as good as Raja Ampat I was told.
They saw, among others, a sizeable feeding turtle, Eagle Ray, four black tip sharks and gigantic nudi branch. That afternoon, I and my friend, Nina, decided to visit Katupat Village in the neighboring island to see the sunset. The people in the village made their living mostly from fishery, and during the month of December when sea was rough, they had to halt their activities.
The next day, we decided to take it easy and headed towards Reef 4 dive site around 10am. It's an atoll in the middle of the ocean with plenty of soft and colourful corals in the shallow water, frequently visited by snorkelers. What’s amazing about this place was the color of the sea, which was Turquoise blue in the size of a few football fields. What an eye candy! Both I and my buddy, Shanty, were not into macro photography and had decided to simply enjoy the peaceful experience underwater. We loved the feeling of being surrounded by colourful fish swimming around us. It's like swimming in Sea World!
For lunch, we visited Bahia Tomini, a four bungalows homestay, run by a foreigner. Unfortunately, when we were there, the wind must have blown
towards the beach that all sorts of garbage was washed ashore. I wished that the Ministry of Environment had taken an action towards protecting this pristine area as a National Park, where bomb and cyanides fishing was banned. Equally important was increasing awareness towards keeping the sea clean. Just like in many remote places in the Eastern part of Indonesia, the villagers have not realized the potentials of tourism and their awareness towards environment was relatively low.
After our second dive at Reef 5, we headed towards Kadoda Village. What’s interesting about Togean is that wherever you go, you will find white sand and turquoise blue water sea. As we walked through the serene and peaceful village by the shore, we noticed two ladies washing their clothes on the pathways, and when asked, they explained that was the spot that they could get water. My heart sunk. Clean water is the most basic human needs.
After a few minutes walking, we reached a volley ball field and noticed a bunch of women playing. They warmly invited us to join them, and it turned out, whichever team lost, they had to treat the winning team. As our team was
on the winning side, we signalled to leave the game and walked towards Pulau Papan or Wooden Island through a 2 km wooden walk way, built by the government to connect the two islands. Pulau Papan is the settlement of Bajo tribes, sea gypsies, who are nomad and live on the sea. Unlike the Bajo tribes village in Maiga, Malaysia, the people at Pulau Papan was considered having a more modern life style as they built their wooden houses by the sea. Our efforts to purchase lobsters were fruitless; a group visitors had purchased them all the day before. Heading back, we were greeted by a magnificent sunset view as the sky changed its color to reddish orange with a full moon appearing on the other side of the horizon.
The next day, we headed towards Taypi Wall and Coral Garden for our last dives. On the second dive at Coral Garden, both I and my buddy, Shanty, decided to take it easy while the rest have descended. For a strange reason, our dive guide, Dedy, didn't have a newly filled tank for the second dive and had to use the remaining air of my tank, used in prior
dive. Once descended, we had to swim against the current which had grown stronger. Concerned that he might not have sufficient air, our guide decided to turn around and had a drift dive instead. Little that we knew we went towards the wrong direction and ended up spending the rest of our half an hour dive in the shallow coral garden. Other than a shy eel, small fish and colorful soft corals, we didn’t see much, while the rest had a big grin when surfaced. What a pity!
We ended the day by visiting Kadidiri Paradise Resort, which had again white sand and clear water beach. Having two entries, the resort is accessible through the newly built jetty at the front and the lagoon behind. That evening, our agony was paid off by the beautiful sight of the full moon shining brightly, among the twinkling stars as if the entire universe was aware that it was our last night in Togean. We spent our evening star gazing at the pier. Without realizing it, it was the end of our trip as we were ready to leave for Wakai the following day.
Half heartedly, we said goodbye to the
staff and left with our Ketinting heading towards Wakai where the ferry was to arrive from Ampana. Leaving Wakai around 3pm, we reached Gorontalo at 4 am, and had to catch our flight to Jakarta. We had chosen Garuda vs other local airlines as we thought it was more reliable; we were wrong. Our flight was delayed for five hours due to bad weather while we were in Gorontalo, and while in transit in Makassar, we had an additional 5 hours delay. Thanks to Garuda, it was one of the longest journey home. By the time we reached home, it was 36 hours after we left Togean! Had I taken a flight this long, I would have reached Peru!
Anyhow, despite all the mishaps, I had the time of my life, and whilst debating whether or not I would go back, part of me had missed Togean.
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