A tropical adventure; the remote Togean Islands

Ever since reading about the remote Togean Islands we wanted to go. For us it sounded like the perfect destinations after our packed trip through Yunnan and Sichuan. After moving around every 2 to 3 days, it was time for some welldeserved vitamine Sea. So after a great flight with Silk airlines (never had so much food and drinks on a plane), a stopover in Singapore we landed early in the morning on Manado airport. From the plane we could already see some turquoise sea and lush green hilltops filled with palm trees. We decided to spend one night in Manado, to relax and rest after our night flight. Manado is not the most exciting city, once it was a beautiful colonial town, however not much of the old grandeur is left. What remains is a rapid expanding city with crazy traffic. So after one night we were happy to catch another plane to Gorontalo, the city were we would catch the ferry to our island destination.

From Gorontalo airport it is about 45 minutes drive to the city and during the drive you can enjoy the view over the ricefields. We decided to spend our time in Gorontalo researching the possibilities for the days in between Togean Islands and Bunaken,where we would meet Loes and Simon. The ferry to Wakai, the biggest town on the Togeans, leaves Gorontalo twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. It takes about 13 hours and the majority of the trip is done during the night. After reading some stories online we decided long before we arrived in Indonesia, that a private hut would be our best option. We managed to get one via travellingsulawesi.com. Each hut has two bunk beds, we offered to share our hut with Maitu, a Finish girl we shared our taxi with. We were happy we made a reservation in advance, since there are only 5 huts and sleeping on a small mattress on the several decks did not look very attractive, especially since we cary a shitload of luggage which we did not want to leave unattended. Around 7 in the morning we reached Wakai. In Wakai you need to charter a boat the island on which your resort is. We shared a traditional wooden slowboat together with some other people that needed to go to Malenge. The boat ride, despite being a bit uncomfortable, gave us the perfect opportunity to discover the beauty of the Togeans, About 2,5 hours we could watch the bluest waters I have ever seen, the several white sand beaches backed by a tropical jungle and some small traditional Bayu villages. After a quick stop at Sandy Bay to drop of the other people on our boat, we were soon arrived in the small bay home to Bahia Tomini. We were immediately welcomed by Kike and Eva, the Spanish owners of Bahia Tomini. This small resort has three cottages and a resort. Small, cosy and peacefull, exactly the tranquillity we were looking for. The cottages all have a big bamboo bed, a balcony with hammocks, and a private outdoor bathroom. From your bed you could see the white sandy beach and the ocean.

Kike and Eva are famous for their cooking skills. Everywhere on tripadvisor you could read about the lovely food they would put on the table. Lunch did not disappoint us, we had a variety of food, some delicious curry, tempe, fried fish and patatas bravas were served. We were in paradise and food heaven at the same time! During lunch, which is served family style on a long table, we met the other guest, Michael and Renate from Germany and Nathalie and Daniel from Quebec, Canada. In the afternoon we decided to take it easy and enjoy this fabulous place, we went out for a swim and relaxed in the hammocks. Apparently there is a tradition that around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, a small sweet delight is served, a jummy surprise. In the afternoon a local fisherman arrived by boat, offering his catch of the day, Sepia. Kike asked Koen if he liked eating squid….uhmm hell yeah we like squid. Especially if it is so fresh and the kitchen has worked their magic. Dinner was a real feast again, great food, a cold Bintang, nice company and a fantastic sunset over the ocean. There is not much more you can wish for. We called it a night early with the sound of the waves on the background.

Next morning Eva and Kike offered to show us the good snorkelling spots in the house reef. Bahia Tomini has beautiful coral reef just in front of the beach. We saw so many different kinds of tropical fish. For Koen and me the first encounter with the tropical underwater world. In the afternoon we decided to join Nathalie and Daniel on a trip to the bayu village Pulau Papan on the other side of the island. This small village is build on wooden …. In the water. In the middle of this small fisherman village is a rock, from which you can witness the beauty of the different shades of the bluest waters and the long wooden bridge to the mainland. The children in the villages were curious and loved the camera. From the bridge you could see the coral, different kinds of fish and sea urchens. We finished our visit to Pulau Papan just in time, before clouds covered the sun and the magic of the bright blue waters disappeared a little. Back at Bahia Tomini a small snack was waiting for us and and again a fantastic dinner was put on the table afterwards. These family style dinners are great, Kike and Eva have a lot of humour and speak so passionate about the island and their small resort. We had a great time sharing stories with Nathalie and Daniel. We decided that the next day we would snorkel around reef 4. About 20 minutes away from the island there is a beautiful reef. The reef is divided in different sections. Reef 4 is located around a small round sandbank. We snorkelled around the island in waters so bright, if felt like snorkelling in an aquarium. The reef was extremely beautiful, the colors of the different kinds of coral, the huge amounts of fish, it was truly amazing. It was like being in a real life version of Finding Nemo. Dori and Nemo both showed their faces. Another colorfull aspect of snorkelling was the color of my butt cheeks and Koen’s hamstrings. The crystal blue waters work as a magnifier, and despite the heeps of sunscreen, our skin was not prepared for this amount of sunlight. If other people could see us in the waters, I swear that they would think they had seen a lobster…auch.

The afternoon we spend exploring the house reef, enjoying the sun, reading a book. Our trip finally started to feel like a little bit of holiday. The day after we decided to just relax and enjoy the island life while reading a book. We also had to study our theory for the Padi Open Water course, so what better way to this than overlooking the ocean. It is hard not love life at Bahia Tomini. The bay is beautiful, the reef is so rich with sealife and every meal is another highlight, especially if they combine Spanish cuisine with local Togean ingredients, like Empanada filled with local mushrooms and banana flower. Everything is homemade, the bread in the morning, the dough for the empanada. The salads are super healthy and the fish can not be fresher. Food prepared with love, we cannot get enough of it.

On our last full day we decided that we could not leave before discovering one more reef. In the morning tropical showers, almost ruined our plans, but in the afternoon the sky cleared and we were ready to go. We decided to go to reef 5. This section of the reef is massive and to see it all, you need several daytrips. The coral is beautiful and the drop off is impressive. Staring into the deep blue trying to discover some bigger fish is addictive. Floating above the corals is a fantastic feeling and every few centimetres there is something new to discover. You quickly learn to keep your head in the waters at all times. You will for sure miss the greatest thing of the day, if you decide to clean your mask at the surface. It happened to me, apparently there was an eagle ray swimming under my feet while I was cleaning my mask. Daniel made a great picture of it, me head above the water, Koen pointing at the ray under my feet. Shit happens, but at least we had something to laugh about. We had a great last evening with some homemade cannelloni and some shots of Arak (local spirit made from palmtrees) mixed with cola. Next morning it was time to leave this little paradise. Not before making some group pictures and getting one of the recipes of the ladies in the kitchen. Promising that we would come back someday we stepped into the boat and departed together with Eva, Daniel and Nathalie to Wakai. Here we still had a couple of hours before our ferry would depart, to walk around town a bit and get some lunch. At four in the afternoon our Ferry left Wakai and we officially set course to Gorontalo, watching the sunset over our beloved Togean Islands.

Looking back this part of our trip was so special. Not only was the hospitality of Eva and Kike and their staff amazing. The area of the Togeans still has that untouched Robinson Cruisoe feeling. The waters and reefs are amazing, the best we have seen so far for snorkelling. And we were lucky to have such great company in Daniel and Nathalie, in a small resort you have to lucky when it comes to the other guest. Our stay at Malenge was so far one of the highlights of our trips. A little sad to leave, but also excited for new adventures and again a promise to return someday!

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