Tag Archives: Sulawesi

Sulawesi Travel Guide: Unveiling the Hidden Gems of Celebes

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the captivating landscapes and rich cultural tapestry of Sulawesi with this comprehensive Sulawesi Travel Guide.

Sulawesi, also known as Celebes, is a diverse and captivating island in Indonesia. Divided into distinct regions, each part of Sulawesi offers its own unique attractions and experiences. Here’s a guide to help you explore this fascinating island:

South Sulawesi – Rich Culture and Natural Wonders

In the Sulawesi travel guide, you’ll find a plethora of amazing destinations and attractions. Here’s what to visit:

1. Tana Toraja

Immerse yourself in the unique culture of Tana Toraja. Visit traditional villages, witness intricate funeral ceremonies, and explore ancient burial sites. This village is known for its unique burial rituals and traditional architecture. Visitors can learn about Toraja culture and see traditional Toraja houses, known as tongkonan.

Das Hochland von Tana Toraja
The highlands of Tana Toraja. Schwarzenfelder, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Hours and Prices:

  • Tana Toraja: The village is open to visitors from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. Check with local guides for specific event schedules and pricing.

How to Get There::

  • Tana Toraja: Take a scenic drive from Makassar, approximately 8-10 hours. The village is located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Makassar City. Visitors can take a bus or van from Makassar to Rantepao, which takes about 10 hours. From Rantepao, visitors can take a taxi or angkot to Toraja Village.

Tana Toraja, located in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a region known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and unique traditions. Here’s a closer look at what makes Tana Toraja a remarkable destination:

Unique Traditions and Ceremonies:

Tana Toraja is renowned for its elaborate funeral ceremonies, which can last for days or even weeks. These ceremonies are considered among the most important events in Torajan culture. They involve intricate rituals and the sacrifice of water buffalo, which hold significant cultural symbolism.

Ancient Burial Sites:

One of the most striking features of Tana Toraja is its traditional burial sites. These sites, known as “Lemo” and “Londa,” consist of cliff-side graves and burial caves where the deceased are interred. Intricately carved effigies known as “Tau-Tau” guard the resting places.

Wall cemetery in Tanah toraja
Wall cemetery in Tanah Toraja is a cultural cemetery in tanah toraja that located in the wall, the wooden statue symbolize the people that pass away. Neisyaranifauzia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Breathtaking Landscapes:

The natural beauty of Tana Toraja is awe-inspiring. Rolling hills, lush rice terraces, and dramatic cliffs contribute to the region’s stunning scenery. The landscape is perfect for outdoor activities like trekking and exploring the countryside.

Traditional Villages:

Tana Toraja is dotted with picturesque traditional villages characterized by distinctive Torajan architecture. The houses, known as “Tongkonan,” are adorned with ornate carvings and boat-shaped roofs. Visiting these villages offers a glimpse into the daily life and customs of the Torajan people.

Rumah Tongkonan Di Toraja
The Tongkonan house is a traditional Toraja house, South Sulawesi. In front of the house are lined with buffalo horns, which show the social status of the house owner. Duduhsadarachmat, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Local Handicrafts and Souvenirs:

Tana Toraja is known for its intricate handwoven textiles and unique handicrafts. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase these locally-made items as souvenirs, supporting the livelihoods of the Torajan artisans.

How to Get There:

The most common way to reach Tana Toraja is by flying into Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. From Makassar, it’s possible to take a scenic drive to Tana Toraja, which typically takes around 8-10 hours.

Visiting Tips:
  • It’s recommended to hire a local guide who can provide valuable insights into Torajan culture and traditions.
  • Respect local customs, particularly during funeral ceremonies, by observing and following any instructions given by hosts or guides.
  • Bring comfortable footwear for exploring villages and potentially hilly terrain.

Tana Toraja offers a unique cultural experience in a breathtaking natural setting. Visitors to this region of South Sulawesi are sure to be captivated by its rich traditions and stunning landscapes.

From Bali to Tana Toraja | Complete Guide to Visit South Sulawesi

2. Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park

Discover the “Kingdom of Butterflies” in this park. Marvel at stunning waterfalls and observe a diverse range of butterfly species.

Opening Hours and Prices:

  • Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park: Open during daylight hours. Entrance fees may apply.

How to Get There

  • Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park: Accessible by car from Makassar, around 2-3 hours.

Sulawesi Travel Guide: Rammang-Rammang is one of the villages in Maros district, South Sulawesi which is in the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park area.
Rammang-rammang karst in Bantimurung-Bulusaraung . Rammang-Rammang is one of the villages in Maros district, South Sulawesi which is in the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park area. This village, which is only inhabited by a dozen heads of families, has extraordinary charm because of its natural landscape. Chafidwahyu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park, located in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a natural wonderland known for its diverse flora and fauna, stunning waterfalls, and unique limestone formations. Here’s a closer look at what makes this national park a must-visit destination:

Kingdom of Butterflies:

Bantimurung-Bulusaraung is often referred to as the “Kingdom of Butterflies” due to its incredible butterfly population. The park is home to hundreds of species, making it a paradise for butterfly enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Stunning Waterfalls:

Within the park, you’ll find several beautiful waterfalls, including the renowned Bantimurung Waterfall. Surrounded by lush greenery, these cascading falls provide a serene and picturesque setting for visitors.

Caves and Karst Formations:

The park is characterized by its limestone karst formations, creating a unique landscape of caves and caverns. Exploring these caves, such as Goa Maria and Goa Batu, offers an intriguing glimpse into the natural geology of the area.

Maros Pangkep Karst Forest

Maros Pangkep Karst Forest is listed in UNESCO Global Geopark, located in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a remarkable natural wonder. This expansive forest is known for its stunning limestone karst formations, which rise majestically from the ground, creating a breathtaking landscape.

What to Explore:
  1. Karst Towers: The most prominent feature of Maros Pangkep is its towering limestone formations. These unique geological structures have been shaped by natural processes over millions of years.
  2. Caves and Caverns: The karst forest is home to numerous caves and caverns, some of which contain ancient cave paintings. One of the most famous caves is Leang-Leang, where you can witness prehistoric artwork dating back thousands of years.
  3. Butterfly Garden: Within the forest, you’ll find a butterfly conservation area. It’s a delightful place to observe various species of butterflies fluttering amidst the natural surroundings.
  4. Cultural Sites: Maros Pangkep is also rich in cultural heritage. You can explore traditional villages and learn about the local way of life.

Hand print paintings in Pettakere Cave, Maros
Hand paintings made by ancient humans in Pettakere Cave, Maros, South Sulawesi. The age and material of this prehistoric painting cannot be ascertained. According to estimates, it is 39,900 years old and was made from stone and earth. Sabjan Badio, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to Get There:

Maros Pangkep Karst Forest is located about 40 kilometers north of Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. You can hire a local guide or take a guided tour to ensure you explore the area safely and responsibly.

Visiting Tips:
  • Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes for exploring the forest and caves.
  • Bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water, as the area can get quite hot and sunny.
  • Respect the natural environment and cultural sites by not disturbing wildlife or ancient artifacts.
  • It’s a good idea to hire a local guide who is familiar with the area, as they can provide valuable insights and ensure your safety.

Maros Pangkep Karst Forest offers a unique opportunity to witness the wonders of nature and explore the rich history of the region. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a nature lover, this extraordinary destination in South Sulawesi is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Rich Biodiversity:

Bantimurung-Bulusaraung is home to a wide range of plant and animal species, including various orchids, ferns, and diverse wildlife. Birdwatchers will also find plenty of opportunities to spot avian species in their natural habitat.

How to Get There:

The national park is located approximately 50 kilometers north of Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. Visitors can hire a local guide or take a guided tour to ensure a safe and informative exploration of the park.

Green river, Bantimurung National Park
Green river at the Bantimurung National Park. 22Kartika, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting Tips:
  • Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear for exploring the park’s trails and caves.
  • Consider bringing insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes, especially near water sources.
  • Pack a picnic to enjoy amidst the natural surroundings, or check with local guides for nearby dining options.

Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and biodiversity of South Sulawesi. Whether you’re captivated by butterflies, fascinated by caves, or simply seeking a peaceful escape into nature, this national park has something special to offer every visitor.

3. Wakatobi

Wakatobi is an archipelago located in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The name “Wakatobi” is an acronym derived from the four main islands in the archipelago: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko. This remote and pristine area is renowned for its incredible marine biodiversity and is considered one of the top diving destinations in the world.

Bajo Village, Wakatobi
The floating village of Bajo tribe on the island of Wangi-Wangi, Wakatobi National Park, South East Sulawesi. Pambudiyoga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The name “Wakatobi” comes from the four main islands it’s made up of – Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko.

Daily Activity Bajau Tribe in Bajau Sampela Village, Wakatobi Indonesia
Daily Activity Bajau Tribe in Bajau Sampela Village, Wakatobi Indonesia. BastianKyle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wakatobi National Park

Wakatobi National Park encompasses the marine territory surrounding these islands and is known for its stunning coral reefs, vibrant marine life, and crystal-clear waters. Divers and snorkelers flock to Wakatobi to explore its underwater wonders, which include a wide variety of fish species, colorful corals, and even rare and endangered marine creatures.

Memasang transek karang di Pulau Tomia
Installing coral transects (to monitor corals) on Tomia Island in Wakatobi National Park. Fakhrizal Setiawan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The islands of Wakatobi

The islands of Wakatobi are relatively isolated, providing a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere for visitors. The archipelago’s natural beauty and ecological significance have earned it a reputation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Sousu Beach, Wakatobi
Sousu beach located in the island of Wangi-Wangi, Wakatobi National Park, South East Sulawesi. Pambudiyoga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to reach Wakatobi?

To reach Wakatobi, travelers typically fly to Matahora Airport on Wangi-Wangi Island, which serves as the main entry point to the archipelago. From there, they can access the other islands within Wakatobi, each offering its own unique diving spots and natural attractions.

To get to Wakatobi, you’ll likely first fly to Makassar (Ujung Pandang Airport) or Kendari Airport from big cities in Indonesia. Then, you’ll catch another flight that takes you directly to Wangi-Wangi. Another option is flying to Bau Bau on Buton Island, and from there, you can take a boat to one of the islands in Wakatobi.

Keep in mind that Lion Air now offers a direct flight from Jakarta to Wangi-wangi, but it’s available only on specific days.

Once you arrive at the Wakatobi airport, it’s on the other side of the island from the city. You’ll need to arrange transportation to the city, either by taxi or ojek. It might take around 30 minutes to wait for one, and then another 30 minutes for the ride into town.

Whether you’re an avid diver, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a remote and pristine getaway, Wakatobi offers an unforgettable experience in the heart of Indonesia’s marine biodiversity hotspot.

Central Sulawesi – Natural Beauty and Serene Lakes

What to Visit:

1. Lake Poso

Enjoy the tranquility of Lake Poso. Swim in clear waters, go kayaking, and relish the serene surroundings.

Opening Hours and Prices:

  • Lake Poso: No specific opening hours. Local activities may have separate pricing.

How to Get There:

  • Lake Poso: Accessible by car from Poso or Tentena, approximately 2-3 hours.

Tentena Danau Poso Siuri Beach
Siuri Beach at Danau Poso (Poso Lake), near Tentena. Kondephy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Poso, nestled in the heart of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a hidden gem known for its serene beauty, crystal-clear waters, and tranquil surroundings. Here’s a closer look at what makes Lake Poso a special destination:

Tranquil Waters and Scenic Beauty:

Lake Poso is renowned for its calm, emerald-green waters, which stretch out against a backdrop of lush hills and mountains. The serene atmosphere makes it an ideal spot for relaxation, swimming, and enjoying the natural surroundings.

Outdoor Activities:

The lake offers opportunities for various water-based activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing. Adventurous visitors can explore the lake’s perimeter by renting a boat or taking a guided tour.

Lore Lindu National Park Connection:

Lake Poso is located near the renowned Lore Lindu National Park, which is home to diverse wildlife and ancient megalithic sites. Visitors to Lake Poso can also explore this neighboring natural wonder.

Cultural Encounters:

Around Lake Poso, you’ll find small villages inhabited by the local Pamona people. Engaging with the community provides a chance to learn about their traditional way of life and customs.

Poso Lake from Padamarari
Poso Lake from Padamarari (is in a hilly area with geographical contours following the west side of Lake Poso). Bagas Chrisara, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Birdwatching Paradise:

The lake and its surrounding areas are a haven for birdwatchers. Bird enthusiasts can spot various species, including endemic and migratory birds, making it a delight for ornithologists and nature lovers.

How to Get There:

Lake Poso is located approximately 10 hours by road from Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi. Visitors can also choose to fly into Poso and then travel to the lake by car. Palu airport (PLW) called Mutiara SIS Aljufri Airport

Visiting Tips:
  • Pack appropriate clothing for outdoor activities and consider bringing a hat and sunscreen to protect against the sun.
  • Respect the local communities and their cultural practices. Engage with them in a courteous and considerate manner.

Lake Poso provides a peaceful retreat for those seeking natural beauty and tranquility. Whether you’re interested in outdoor adventures or simply want to unwind amidst breathtaking scenery, this hidden gem in Central Sulawesi offers a memorable experience for all who visit.

From Palu airport to Lake Poso

From Ujung Pandang Airport to Lake Poso

2. Palu Valley

Nestled between lush mountains, the Palu Valley offers stunning views, serene lakes, and opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and birdwatching.

Opening Hours and Prices:

  • Palu Valley: No specific opening hours. Check with local guides for activity costs.

How to Get There:

  • Palu Valley: Drive from Palu city, around 1-2 hours.

Palu Valley, situated in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a picturesque region known for its stunning landscapes, serene lakes, and opportunities for outdoor adventure. Here’s a closer look at what makes Palu Valley a remarkable destination:

The view from Taura Kapopo Sigi, we can see Palu Valley, Palu Bay, Palu City from Taura Kapopo which is 314 meters (1030 ft) above sea level. Just 15 minutes from the outskirts of town. Johntaufan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Palu City

Palu City is situated along the scenic coast of Palu Bay, offering picturesque views of the sea and the surrounding mountains. The city’s coastline is dotted with beaches, making it a popular spot for relaxation and water-based activities.

The Palu City is known for its diverse and delicious cuisine, influenced by the rich culinary traditions of Central Sulawesi. Visitors can savor local specialties such as “Mie Kering” (dried noodles), “Bagea” (traditional cakes), and fresh seafood dishes.

The city is home to various cultural sites and landmarks that reflect the heritage of the local communities. The Central Sulawesi Grand Mosque, with its distinctive architecture, is a notable religious and architectural landmark in the city.

Palu city at night
Palu city, seen at night. Palu City Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Serene Lakes and Scenic Beauty:

Palu Valley is home to several tranquil lakes, including Lake Poso and Lake Lindu. The calm waters are surrounded by lush greenery and offer a peaceful setting for relaxation and water-based activities.

Lake Tambing, October 2016
Tambing Lake, located in Lore Lindu National Park, Indonesia. Bagas Chrisara, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rice Terraces and Agriculture:

The valley is characterized by its terraced rice fields, a testament to the agricultural practices of the local communities. These terraces not only contribute to the region’s picturesque beauty but also provide sustenance for the inhabitants.

Hiking and Outdoor Activities:

The surrounding hills and mountains offer opportunities for hiking and trekking. Exploring the trails allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the valley and witness the diversity of flora and fauna.

Cultural Encounters:

The valley is inhabited by various ethnic groups, each with its own distinct culture and traditions. Engaging with the local communities provides a chance to learn about their way of life and participate in traditional activities.

Lore Lindu National Park Connection:

The valley is in close proximity to Lore Lindu National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Visitors can extend their exploration to this protected area, which is renowned for its biodiversity and ancient megalithic sites.

Kawasan Cagar Budaya Lembah Behoa
Besoa valley in Lore Lindu National Park. In addition to having biodiversity, the Besoa Valley also has a variety of unique cultural heritage remains such as megalithic statues, kalamba, dakon stones, stone mortars, gemstones, stone umpaks, menhirs, grave jars, and so on. It was explained that every megalithic site complex found is generally composed of andesite rock with the size of the elements varying depending on the function of the elements. Romi Hidayat1986, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to Get There:

To reach Palu Valley, visitors can fly into Palu airport (PLW) called Mutiara SIS Aljufri Airport, the capital of Central Sulawesi, and then travel by road to the valley. The journey offers scenic views of the surrounding landscape.

Visiting Tips:
  • Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear for outdoor activities like hiking and exploring the countryside.
  • Respect the local customs and traditions of the communities you encounter during your visit.

Palu Valley invites travelers to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and rich culture of Central Sulawesi. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure or a tranquil retreat amidst breathtaking scenery, this valley offers a memorable experience for all who explore its wonders.

Megalitikum Lore Lindu
A Megalith statue in Lore Lindu National Park. These megaliths are located in the Telawi Mountains morphological area with 5 spatial units: Napu Valley, Behoa Valley, and Bada Valley which are included in Poso Regency, as well as Palu Valley and Lake Lindu in Sigi Regency. Most of the remains are in Lore Lindu National Park. Apart from being the oldest in Indonesia, the Lore Lindu Megalithic also has a distribution of megalithic remains which are closely related to past beliefs. Ganjarmustika1904, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

North Sulawesi – Marine Wonders and Wildlife Encounters

What to Visit:

1. Bunaken National Park

Dive into an underwater paradise. Explore colorful coral reefs and an abundance of marine life in this renowned national park. This world-renowned national park is home to an incredible diversity of marine life, making it a popular destination for diving and snorkeling.

Opening Hours and Prices:

  • Bunaken National Park: The park is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. Check with local dive operators for specific diving times and pricing.

How to Get There:

  • Bunaken National Park: Take a boat ride from Manado, approximately 30-45 minutes. The park is located about 15 kilometers from Manado. Visitors can take a boat from Manado to the park, which takes about 30 minutes.

Bunaken National Park, located off the coast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a marine paradise renowned for its vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life, and world-class diving opportunities.

Bunaken Marine Park (6)
Bunaken National Marine Park, Manado, Indonesia. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a closer look at what makes Bunaken National Park a must-visit destination for underwater enthusiasts:

Vibrant Coral Reefs:

Bunaken is celebrated for its stunning coral reefs, which are among the most biodiverse in the world. The park boasts a rich tapestry of corals in various shapes, sizes, and colors, providing a breathtaking underwater landscape.

Diverse Marine Life:

The park is home to an astounding array of marine species, including colorful fish, turtles, rays, and even reef sharks. Divers and snorkelers have the opportunity to witness this underwater ecosystem up close.

World-Class Diving Sites:

Bunaken offers numerous world-class diving sites, each with its own unique features. Sites like Lekuan, Mandolin, and Fukui Point cater to divers of all levels, from beginners to advanced, ensuring a memorable experience for everyone.

Wall Diving Adventures:

One of the highlights of diving in Bunaken is the opportunity to experience wall diving. The park’s underwater cliffs and steep drop-offs provide an exhilarating and awe-inspiring diving experience.

Tail-spot butterflyfish 8
Tail-spot Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellicaudus), Bunaken, Indonesia. Vincent Kruger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Conservation Efforts:

Bunaken National Park is dedicated to the preservation of its marine ecosystem. Efforts are made to protect the coral reefs, manage sustainable tourism, and promote awareness of the importance of marine conservation.

How to Get There:

To reach Bunaken, travelers typically fly into Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi. From Manado, it’s a short boat ride to the island of Bunaken.

Dorfstraße auf Bunaken
One of the small cobbled village streets on Bunaken Island. Lunaloop, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting Tips:
  • It’s advisable to dive with a certified dive operator to ensure safety and responsible diving practices.
  • Follow proper reef etiquette, such as avoiding touching or standing on the corals, to help preserve the fragile ecosystem.
  • Bring appropriate sun protection, as the tropical sun can be intense, even underwater.

Liang Beach Bunaken
Liang Beach Bunaken. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bunaken National Park offers a captivating underwater world for divers and snorkelers alike. Whether you’re an experienced diver or a beginner, this marine sanctuary in North Sulawesi promises an unforgettable exploration of the ocean’s wonders.

From Bali to Manado | Complete Guide to Visit Bunaken, North Sulawesi

2. Tangkoko Nature Reserve

Encounter unique wildlife like the tarsier, black macaque, and various birds in this nature reserve.

Opening Hours and Prices:

  • Tangkoko Nature Reserve: Open during daylight hours. Entrance fees may apply.

How to Get There:

  • Tangkoko Nature Reserve: Drive from Manado, around 2-3 hours.

Tangkoko Nature Reserve, situated in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a biodiverse haven known for its unique wildlife and lush rainforest. Here’s a closer look at what makes Tangkoko Nature Reserve a remarkable destination for nature enthusiasts:

Tangkoko National Park, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tangkoko National Park. Looking toward Mount Tangkoko, from the sea. Lip Kee Yap, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fascinating Wildlife:

Tangkoko is renowned for its diverse range of wildlife, including some species found nowhere else on Earth. Visitors have the chance to encounter the endangered Sulawesi black crested macaque, the tiny spectral tarsier, and numerous bird species.

Sulawesi Black Crested Macaque:

One of the most iconic inhabitants of the reserve is the Sulawesi black crested macaque, also known as the “yaki.” This primate species is native to Sulawesi and is recognized for its distinctive appearance.

Spectral Tarsier:

Tangkoko is also home to the spectral tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world. Known for its large eyes and remarkable ability to leap from tree to tree, the tarsier is a fascinating creature to observe.

Rich Flora:

The reserve is characterized by lush rainforest, providing a habitat for a wide variety of plant species, including towering hardwood trees, ferns, and orchids. The verdant landscape offers a picturesque backdrop for wildlife viewing.

Hiking and Trekking Trails:

Tangkoko offers well-maintained trails for hiking and trekking, allowing visitors to explore the forest and spot wildlife. Guided tours are recommended to ensure a safe and informative experience.

Night Tours:

For those seeking a unique adventure, night tours in Tangkoko offer the chance to observe nocturnal creatures, including the spectral tarsier, in their natural habitat.

How to Get There: Tangkoko Nature Reserve is located approximately 50 kilometers from Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi. Visitors can hire a local guide or join a guided tour to explore the reserve.

Visiting Tips:
  • Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for trekking in the forest.
  • Bring insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes, especially in the evening and at night.
  • Follow the guidance of local guides and respect the natural environment and wildlife.

Tangkoko Nature Reserve offers a rare opportunity to witness the incredible biodiversity of North Sulawesi. Whether you’re captivated by primates, fascinated by unique flora, or simply seeking a connection with nature, this reserve promises an unforgettable experience for all who venture into its depths.

Taman Wisata Alam Batuputih (2)
Lanscape of Tangkoko Beach. This photo take on Taman Wisata Alam Batuputih (Batuputih Nature Park). North Sulawesi. R.Rahasia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before setting out on your adventure, be sure to consult this Sulawesi travel guide for the latest updates on opening hours and admission fees. Additionally, remember to check with local authorities or guides for any updated information. Enjoy your exploration of Sulawesi!

Photo credit (main picture): Pontohyesi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Must See Places in Indonesia | A Guide to the Country’s Best Attractions to Explore and Discover

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Whether you’re on a family adventure, making cherished memories with friends, or enjoying a romantic escape, Villa Carissa in the heart of Seminyak is your starting point for exploring Bali’s many wonders and enjoying a truly tranquil vacation.

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From Bali to Tana Toraja | Discovery of a millennial animist culture!

Tana Toraja is an ethnic region and not a city. The Toraja people live in a mountainous region in South Sulawesi. The majority of the Torajas are of the Christian religion (Protestant then Catholic): the bell towers of the Protestants are distinguished by a rooster. There is no direct flight from From Bali to Tana Toraja. The fastest flight lasts 7h 30m and includes a stopover. Tana Toraja, a mountainous region where lives a people who knew how to preserve their ancestral traditions and an extraordinary culture.

The Torajas are known mainly for their rites and funerary sites as well as the architecture of their habitat. Between July and August, the small villages are a buzz of activity as it funeral season.

Death is not considered as a sad event but as a time to celebrate, with elaborate festivities. The squimish may want to pass as the celebration includes buffalo slaughter.

Boat-House Mausoleum, Kete Kesu Village, Tana Toraja 1376
Boat-House Mausoleum. Kete Kesu Village, Tana Toraja. A modern form of burial in Toraja is to inter the deceased in mausolea such as this. The burial chamber is cylindrical in form, but its cross-section resembles a leaf or a bud from nature. The end of this one is decorated with a sunburst motif, that resembles the Majapahit Sun on Java. The burial chamber is encased in a boat-shaped bier; the “boat house” architecture is ubiquitous in Toraja, unique to that place, and used both in the distant past and today for houses, granaries, and coffins. Traditional sun-and-moon roosters and other decorations are painted underneath the roof, and portrait photographs of the principal deceased couple (other family members may also share the burial chamber) are affixed below the pediment. Michael Gunther, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The Torajas are said to be former sailors from southern China or Burma. After having conquered the coasts of Sulawesi, they took refuge in the mountains before the invasion of the Bugis peoples and the arrival of Islam.

In Sulawesi, it is the originality of their culture and their impressive funeral ceremonies that have made the Toraja famous. The very particular architecture of their houses in the shape of a boat and the fantastic landscapes of rice fields will make you understand to what extent the Tana Toraja is a land of encounters, sacred rites and beauty…

So, isolated from the world and to meet their needs, they learned to use every plot of land, abandoning slash and burn cultivation for terraced rice fields. So many vestiges for you to discover!

Rumah Adat Tongkonan (Toraja) 01
Tongkonan, the traditional house of the Toraja tribe. The roof is curved like a boat, consisting of a bamboo structure (currently some tongkonan use zinc roof). The location of this Tongkonan is in the Ne’Gandeng Museum, Tagari, North Toraja. Ribkha Tandepadang, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From Bali to Tana Toraja by Plane

This is the best travel itinerary from Bali to Tana Toraja by plane (at the moment):

  • Ngurah Rai Airport (DPS) to Sultan Hasanuddin Airport (UPG) flight time: 1 hr 20 min.
    Stopover in UPG.
  • Sultan Hasanuddin Airport (UPG) to Toraja Airport (TRT) flight time: 55 min.
  • And only around 1h 15mn drive from TRT airport to Rantepao (biggest city in Tana Toraja)

Example flights from Bali to Tana Toraja:

  • Ngurah Rai (DPS) > Makassar (UPG) > Toraja Airport (TRT)
    • Flight time: DPS to UPG 1h20mn and UPG to TRT 55 minutes. Total flight time: 2h 15m (excluding transit). With transit, sometime it takes 7 to 9 hours in total (flight time and transit time).
    • And only around 1h 15mn drive from TRT airport to Rantepao (biggest city in Tana Toraja)
  • Ngurah Rai (DPS) > Makassar (UPG) > Lagalio Palopo (LLO)
    • Flight time: Ngurah Rai (DPS) to Makassar (UPG) 1h 20m flight. STOPOVER. Makassar (UPG) to Lagalio Palopo (LLO) 1h flight. Total flight time: 2h 20mn (excluding transit).
    • And from (LLO) drive to Tana Toraja Regency takes around 4 hours drive by car.
  • Ngurah Rai (DPS) > Jakarta (CGK) > Makassar (UPG) > Toraja Airport (TRT)
    • Flight Time: DPS to CGK 1h 50m and CGK to UPG 2h 25m and UPG to TRT 55m. Total flight time: 4h 10mn (excluding transit).
    • And only around 1h 15mn drive from TRT airport to Rantepao (biggest city in Tana Toraja)
  • Ngurah Rai (DPS) > Makassar (UPG) > Mamuju (MJU)
    • Flight time: Ngurah Rai (DPS) to Makassar (UPG) it takes 1h 20m by flight. STOPOVER in Makassar Sultan Hasanuddin (UPG) to Mamuju (MJU) it takes 1h. Total flight time: 2h 20mn (excluding transit).
    • And from Mamuju (MJU) to Tana Toraja Regency takes 7 hours drive by car / bus.
  • Ngurah Rai (DPS) > Makassar (UPG)
    • Flight time: Ngurah Rai (DPS) to Makassar Sultan Hasanuddin (UPG) it takes 1h 20m by flight. Total flight time: 1h 20mn.
    • And from Makassar airport (UPG) to Tana Toraja Regency takes 9 hours drive by car / bus. But along the way you’ll pass the scenic rice terrace and Bugis traditional house.

Airlines from Bali to Raja Ampat:

How to get to Toraja by bus or car from Makassar, Ten Tena or Ampana?

The big city of the Toraja country is Rantepao. I fyou decide to fly from Bali to Makassar, you have to get to Toraja by private car or bus. The journey is long… very long, whether you come from North or South Sulawesi.

  • Makassar (south) > Rantepao: duration 9 hours – € 12 / IDR 200,000
  • TenTena (north) > Rantepao: duration 13 hours – € 11 / IDR 180,000
  • Ampana (north) > Rantepao: duration 17 hours – € 15 / IDR 250,000
  • Manado (north) > Rantepao: duration 26 hours – € 40 / IDR 600,000


  • For night journeys, remember to put on your pants + a sweet because like everywhere in Asia, the air conditioning is on full blast in the night buses and it is very cold!!
  • You can also privatize a mini van with driver for more comfort.  It won’t be much shorter but you won’t be with other people.  Personally, I find that night buses are more comfortable (seat almost bed) and safer. Minivans tend to drive a little fast and on this type of road, in the event of an accident it is always better to be the bigger one

The strong points in Tanatoraja

◊ Visit of traditional villages to discover the Toraja way of life.
◊ Discovery of funerary caves and their impressive balconies with mortuary effigies.
◊ Drive through sublime landscapes and cross Bugis villages.
◊ Discovery of the animist beliefs preserved by the Toraja people with perhaps the chance to participate in a funeral ceremony if planned in the region during your stay.

Things to do and see in Tana Toraja

1. Rantepao, capital of the Tana Toraja

The big city of the Toraja is Rantepao. This is the city that serves as a starting point for the discovery of the Toraja.

When you visit Rantepao and the Toraja, you quickly realize that the whole life of the islanders is organized around death and funerals.

Rantepao is both the tourist capital of the Toraja country and the base camp to discover the traditional Toraja villages and the incredible landscapes of the region. Indeed, it is an excellent starting point to meet the Toraja people known for their unusual funeral ceremonies and rites.

The city itself is not very big. It is discovered quite quickly through its 3 main arteries. However, in spite of its size, the guetshouses, the restaurants as well as the souvenir shops abound there.

Paddy Fields Rantepao Sulawesi (109318155)
Paddy Fields Rantepao Sulawesi. Ullasa Kodandaramaiah, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although it is the tourist capital of the Toraja country, there are not many things to do in Rantepao. The main attraction of the city remains its market housing a traditional market and a market for animals. The first takes place every day. You will find a succession of stalls rich in colors offering fresh products such as fruit and vegetables, fish, rice… The market for animals, meanwhile, takes place every Friday. It is renowned for its buffaloes, a sacred animal central to the beliefs of the Toraja people. If any buffalo costs between € 3,000 to 4,000, an albino buffalo, recognizable with its pink skin and blue eyes can be worth up to € 45,000.

From Rantepao, it is easy to discover the surrounding landscapes, made up of mountains and rice terraces. Make a few stops in traditional villages like Palawa where you will discover the atypical houses called Tongkonan.

When to go?

The city of Rantepao enjoys a humid tropical climate with two distinct seasons. A rainy season between November and April, and a dry season, between May to October. The best time to visit this region is between the months of June to October.

How to get there?

Most tourists who wish to travel to Rantepao by bus do so from Makassar in the south, and from Tentena in the north.

Bus to Rantepao from Makassar:

From Makassar, two main companies namely, Litha and Bintang Prima, travel to Rantepao. In addition, their buses are comfortable and allow you to rest during the 8 hours of road necessary to cross the 350 km which separate these two localities. The trip costs around 150,000 Rp/pers.

Bus to Rantepao from Tentena

From the town of Tentena, several bus companies offer trips to Rantepao.

Several bus companies offer trips from different towns north of Rantepao. The cost of the trip is around Rp 170,000 and the trip lasts between 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

2. KeTe Kesu (Tongkonan Village)

KeTe’Kesu is an old Toraja village on the edge of a pond where you can see Tongkonans (the famous Toraja houses) and a sanctuary cave where chiefs would be “deposited”. One can enter the Tongkonans if they are open.

These houses (the Tongkonans in general) have the particularity of not being able to be bought or sold. Only on family inheritance.

This village is indeed famous for its traditional Toraja cemetery where the bodies are placed on cliffs and caves behind this village. There are also several tombs that are considered modern, namely tombs that use buildings such as houses and have photos of family members who have been buried in them.

Keti Kesu, Tana Toraja 1373
KeteKesu, Tana Toraja. Kete Kesu is one of the villages that has been designated by the Indonesian government as a national heritage site and, more practically speaking, as a tourist destination. It is arranged in the traditional way, with granaries to the left and houses to the right. The buildings are of course modern, but the boat shape of their roofs is very old, and is thought to trace back to the seafaring origin of this Austronesian people. Michael Gunther, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Londa cliff

Londa, a small village located not far from the capital of the Toraja country has become an essential stopover thanks to its unusual rites and traditions. Indeed, in this village, the deceased are placed in a cave (about 1 km deep) located on the side of a cliff. At the entrance to this cave, there are also the famous Tau-tau, these small wooden figurines carved in the image of the deceased. If the sight of a few bones doesn’t scare you, visiting Londa Cave will give you a memorable experience during your stay in Indonesia.


The presence of the Tau-tau, some of which are several hundred years old, proves that the Londa cave served as a cemetery for the inhabitants of the region since very remote times. A legend also says that in the past, a couple whose relationship was forbidden found themselves in this cave to kill themselves. For some, they jumped off the cliff. For others, they hanged themselves. But no matter how they died, visiting the cave you will find the bones of a man and a woman placed side by side.

Tana Toraja, Londa outside
Rock tombs in Londa. Kondephy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Londa Cave

The village of Londa is located 6 km (3.7 miles) from Rantepao, the capital of the country Toraja, the most visited place in Indonesia after Bali and Java. Like all the villages that make up the Toraja country, Londa has its own funeral rite which has become a real tourist attraction over time. Indeed, the village is famous for its rather special tombs. Located on the side of a steep rock, two natural caves with a length of about 1 km (0.6 mile) serve as a vault for the deceased of the village.

With the company of a guide, you have the opportunity to visit these burial chambers. However, the course is not easy and requires good physical condition. Given the depth of the cave, you should also have a good source of lighting, or failing that, you can always rent oil lamps, better known as Petromax, at the entrance to the site. For the local guides on site, you should know that most of them are family with the deceased. Thus, they will not only be able to lead you through the cave, but also tell the story of this place and explain to you why certain deceased are placed in such a place.

Tau Tau figurines

But before visiting the cave itself, one of the things that will not fail to attract your attention are the many statuettes carved in the image of the deceased located just above the entrance to the cave. Known as Tau-tau, these wooden figurines indicate the presence of a person who belonged to a high social stratum. Of great artistic and cultural value, the Tau-tau, some of which are hundreds of years old, are prone to theft due to their high price.

Inside the cave, hundreds of skulls and thousands of bones are strewn all over the floor, while the coffins are hung high. But despite all this, the air is breathable and there is no unpleasant smell. If the first meters of the cave are easily accessible, the deeper you go inside, the more access becomes more and more difficult. You will even have to crawl to reach the last burial chamber.

Rotsgraven met tau-tau in Tana Toraja, KITLV 177770
Tana Toraja, Lemo, Tau Tau. Steijlen, Fridus., CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Londa?

The village of Londa is only 6 km (3.7 miles) from the town of Rantepao, in the direction of Makale. 15 minutes is enough to get there by car, and even less if you go there by scooter.

4. Visite funeral sites

There many funeral site, below are the most commons.

And yes, to attend a funeral ceremony in the Toraja Country, you will necessarily have to be accompanied by a local guide. Or at least the first time. Indeed, the guide has the authorization to introduce tourists during the ceremonies.

Moreover, by going there with a guide, you will have all the explanations. And a funeral ceremony in the Toraja without explanations is of no interest. Plus, it will be exactly where to go and when.

Tana Toraja, Salu funeral (6823105668)
Tana Toraja, Salu funeral, a new group of people paying respect to the deceased enters the ‘house’ with the tau tau to receive food and drinks. Arian Zwegers, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Lemo

Lemo is the largest troglodyte cemetery in the Toraja Country.
There are only 2 or 3 people left who still know how to dig graves in the traditional way… that is to say, by hand!

GiorcesToraja 030
Lemo, Toraja, South Sulawesi. Giorces, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

From Rantepao to Lemo it takes around 20 minutes by car.

  • Bori Rante

The particular case of Bori Rante. When we visited, the ceremonial ground was in the middle of nature. Today, the only photos found online show a site of megaliths surrounded by tongkonans. It would seem that these tongkonans are houses for funerals, like in Sa’dan.

A site with huge megaliths and troglodyte tombs. At the time, the site hosted animal sacrifices.

Boro Parinding or Bori Rante, is a grave complex of stone burrows and rante or the place of the death ceremony of Rambu Solo which is located in Bori Village, Sesean District, North Toraja.

Leaving the site from the back, passing in front of the recent troglodyte tombs and going up in the direction of the “200 buffalo horns” we come across a Tongkonan with a lot of buffalo horns (is it the 200 buffalo horns?).

Kalimbuang Bori
Rante Kalimbuang or also known as Bori Parinding is an Indonesian cultural heritage site in Bori Village, Sesean, North Toraja. JelajahSuwanto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Lokomata

Only 5 km (3.1 miles) from Batutumonga, on the road to Pangalla, Lokomata is visited by a few tourists because of its large rock. This circular mastodon, a good 20 meters (65 ft) in diameter, is dug with graves. The village behind is, like many others in the region, denatured by corrugated iron.

  • Tampang Allo (The Chiefs Cemetery)

Open cave containing several “sarcophagi” of what would be former Toraja caste leaders. The burial cave is like a cemetery but of a particularly special kind. The one chosen by our guide is not touristic, it is small but representative of the customs of the Toraja country.

The coffins are wooden, and most of them are very damaged, the bones and skulls have fallen out. These were therefore replaced in a well-ordered manner in different places in the cave. You will also find “tau tau”, small symbolic wooden effigies. It was an opportunity to ask him a thousand questions about this culture so incredible and different from ours. In this cellar, the oldest coffins date back more than 400 years.

5. Do Trekking

  • In the middle of rice fields and mountains in the vicinity of Lemo. Being invited to share a delicious toraja coffee in the middle of the rice fields by the farmers.
  • From Makale: Suaya, Tampangallo, Kambira (babies in the trees).
  • The landscapes around Batutumonga (rice fields in water, funerary sites).
  • Batutumonga, Lempo, Deri, Palawa: landscapes, funerary sites, traditional villages.
    The landscapes around Mamasa, with many villages.

6. Visit Traditional villages

  • Kete Kesu: Tongkonan houses and burial site.
  • Palawa: tongkonan.
  • The villages around Mamasa, with a different Tongkonan architecture: less colorful, lots of geometric patterns and pointillism and no animal painting. And boat-shaped coffins – the Mandar come from the sea.
  • Ballapeu and its surroundings.

7. Visit Statue of Jesus Christ Blessing (Jesus Buntu Burake)

Jesus Christ Blessing is at Makale in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. It stands on the top of Buntu Burake hill at about 1 700 meters (5 577 ft) above sea level and offers a great panorama. With a total height of 40 meters (130 ft), it is one of the tallest statue of Jesus Christ in the world.

Patung Yesus Kristus Memberkati
Jesus Christ Blessing Statue (Jesus Buntu Burake / Patung Yesus Kristus Memberkati) ni Makale. Herryz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

8. Tilanga Natural Pool

This picturesque place with clear blue waters is located very close to Lemo or 10 km north of Makale. We weren’t going to go there at all, jump in another truck for Makale, but on the way the man told us about the lake, and we turned back.

From the main road in Tilanga, walk a few miles, but what a beautiful views on the sides.

Other Best South Sulawesi places to visit

Makassar, the main city of Sulawesi

Makassar (also known as Ujungpandang) is a city located in South Sulawesi. This beautiful city that mixes tradition and modernity is the capital of the province of South Sulawesi.

The city of Makassar is very pleasant to visit. There is a long walk to do on the coast. You will also be able to visit Fort Rotterdam and a floating mosque.

The atmosphere of Makassar is very warm and the location of the city is ideal for natural explorations in the region.

From Bali to Makassar

It takes 1h 20 minutes from Bali to Makassar airport.

Here are some ideas of places to visit in Makassar on the island of Sulawesi:

  • Fort Rotterdam
  • Losari Beach
  • Samalona Island
  • Akkarena Beach
  • Dome 99 Mosque

Makassar Montage
From top, left to right: Karebosi Skyline, Trans Studio Makassar. Floating Mosque Makassar, Traditional Macasssr houses Makassar-Gowa road, Statue. File:Makassar CBD Skyline.jpg: HumaidynursaidyFile:TransStudioStreet.JPG: SankoFile:Floating Mosque Sulawesi.jpg: IkhvanFile:Bugis houses Sulawesi.jpg: BanjuniFile:Fisher Statue.jpg: SergeyFile:FortRotterdam3.jpg: SankoFile:Losari Beach.jpg: Closariderivative work: Badpuccini, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Tempe and its floating homes

Tempe Lake is a large lake located in the South Sulawesi region. It is a magical place where you can find floating houses inhabited by Indonesians.
The houses move according to the wind and the currents. The inhabitants of this houses are mainly fishermen.

Visit Lake Tempe in a traditional canoe, admire the beauty and serenity of this lake, as well as the daily life of fishermen who live around it with their floating houses. Considered one of the greatest freshwater fish products in the world!. Then continue to visit Palopo with the boat port and fishing village, the road climbs with the magnificent landscape between the mountains, hills and the sea.

Floating houses on Lake Tempe
Floating houses on Lake Tempe. Francesc Genové, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You could try to stay with the locals in one of these floating houses in order to experience an extraordinary adventure! It’s quite easy to visit the floating village by chartering a longboat from the bustling market town of Sengkang. It generally takes about an hour to reach the floating village and you’ll need at least an hour to float among the homes and watch the fishermen pulling traps or casting nets.

Taka Bonerate National Park (Selayar Island)

The Taka Bonerate National Park is located on a collection of small islands in the Flores Sea in southernmost Sulawesi. It extends over 15 islands for a total area of 5 308 square meters (57 134 square feet). According to Wikipedia, it is the 3rd largest atoli in the world.

Keindahan Taman Nasional Takabonerate
Taka Bonerate National Park is a marine park which includes the Takabonerate atoll islands, located in the Flores Sea, south of Sulawesi island of Indonesia.
The area, which consists of the atoll islands and surrounding marine area was granted national park protection status in 1992. In 2015 the Taka Bone Rate National Park has been included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. RaiyaniM, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taka Bonerate National Park is renowned as a scuba diving destination. It is a nature reserve that protects many marine species but also many species of birds. There are some wonderful coral reefs here. So, do you want to go diving in one of the most beautiful marine places in the world?

How to go to Selayar island?

In fact, Selayar is very accessible, only 40 minutes by plane from Makassar, for 25 euros via wings air. To get the tickets, you can use Traveloka (the tickets are not more expensive there, and above all it solves the problems linked to the lion air / wing air site which does not work with all credit cards). The airport is located near the main town of Benteng, a small seaside town (taxi journey IDR 150,000) where you can ask the inhabitants for homestays. You can enjoy fresh fish on the port, sarraba (drink ginger coconut palm sugar, to die for).

The following destinations are served from H. Aroeppala Airport (KSR):

  • Airlines Destinations
  • Aviastar Mandiri: from Bone, Kendari, Labuan Bajo, Ruteng
  • Citilink: from Makassar
  • Susi Air: from Bima, Bone, Kendari
  • Wings Air: from Makassar

Or you can drive from Makassar Taka Bonerate National Park (Selayar island) by driving and then ferry
it takes around 5 hours 30 minutes.


In the surroundings, you can negotiate with a boatman to take you to the beach of Liang Kareta (count in IDR 300 000 for about half a day, you can also ask to take you snorkeling in the surroundings, in particular the site of ujung lola, in the northwest of the island opposite Benteng, pulau pasi, but people call it by the name of the villages, especially that of Gusung, go for a walk there too, there are mangroves). You can rent fins for IDR 20,000 a day from shops in Benteng.

In the vicinity of Beteng (15 minutes by scooter) there is also the village of Bitombang, known for its houses over 100 years old, built on huge stilts (7 to 12m), and the many centenarians who populate the city.

Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park

Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park is located in South Sulawesi, north of Makassar.

This is a huge park with an area of more than 43,000 square meters (462 848 square feet). The park is composed of 3 distinct types of ecosystems: a karst region, lowland forests and low mountain forests.
It is a region where rare species of butterflies, birds and insects are found. There is also the butterfly museum.

Bantimurung-Bulusauraung National Park
Bantimurung-Bulusauraung National Park, South Sulawesi – Indonesia. 22Kartika, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you visit the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park, you should take a trip to the famous Bantimurung waterfall. It is a magnificent waterfall 15 meters (49 feet) high.

Bantimurung National Park waterfall
Waterfall at Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park. Benjuni, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are also many caves in the park and beautiful hikes to do in this beautiful park to visit in Sulawesi!

Mount Karst and lakes in Bantimurung - Bulusaraung National Park
Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park is a national park in South Sulawesi in Indonesia. The park contains the Rammang-Rammang karst area, the second-largest karst area known in the world after the one in South-Eastern China. The park is in Maros Regency, 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the north of Makassar (one hour drive) or just 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport (30 minutes drive). Most of the Karst formations are tall and steep at almost a 90-degree angle line along both sides of the road from Maros city to Bantimurung continuing on up to the Pangkajene and Islands Regency (Indonesian: Pangkajene dan Kepulauan, commonly abbreviated as Pangkep). Aalmarusy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sources: PinterPandai, CleverlySmart, Lonely PlanetDiscover Your IndonesiaWonderful Indonesia, UNESCO

Photo credit (main picture): Rudyasho (CC BY 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Photo description: funeral ritual Rambu Solo in Tana Toraja.

From Bali to Manado | Complete Guide to Visit Bunaken, North Sulawesi

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Villa Carissa in Seminyak Center

From Bali to Manado | Complete Guide to Visit Bunaken, North Sulawesi

Manado is the ideal starting point to discover North Sulawesi. In addition to diving or snorkeling in Bunaken National Park, Manado offers beautiful excursions around the Minahasa culture: Ascent of the Mahawu volcano and its acid lake, discovery of the Tandano caldera lake, visit of a fish farm and visit of the Waruga animist tombs. From Manado, a day of hiking can be organized in Tangkoko Park, to meet endemic species such as couscous or tarsier, the smallest monkey in the world. There is no direct flight from Bali to Manado at the moment. But you can fly directly from Singapore to Manado!

Manado is the main city in North Sulawesi, and most people here follow the Protestant faith. One of the coolest things about Manado is the Bunaken National Marine Park. It’s like an underwater wonderland with colorful coral reefs and all sorts of amazing sea creatures. It’s a must-see if you’re into underwater adventures!

In 1658, the Dutch East India Company built the Fort Amsterdam fortress in Manado.
Members of a religious mission in the Netherlands build the first Christian church which they call Oude Kerk (“Old Church”).
In 1859, the English biologist Alfred Wallace arrived in Manado.
During World War II, from 1939 to 1945, the city suffered severe bomb attacks.

Bunaken & manado tua islands
Bunaken and Manado Tua islands. Pontohyesi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From Bali to Manado by airplane

  • Bali to Manado via Ujung Pandang (UPG Makassar)
  • Bali to Manado via Jakarta (CGK)

Airlines from Bali to Manado

  • Lion Air
  • Batik Air
  • Citilink
  • Garuda

How to go to Bunaken from Manado?

To reach Bunaken Island, it’s very simple. Just take a boat from the port of Manado. The port is located just behind the Manado market. The most complicated thing is knowing which boat to take. In fact, there are two types of boat:

  • Tourist boat / speed boat: price of the boat (1,000,000IDR) to be divided by the number of people.
  • Local boat: crossing costs IDR 50,000 per person and takes 45 minutes.

The local boat to joined Bunaken from Manado, called the Bahtera boat; departs daily at 2 p.m.

Finally, for the return to Manado, the public boat leaves from Bunaken every day EXCEPT Sunday at 9 am.

Most hotels in Bunaken pick you up for free when you arrive in Bunaken (if you let them know beforehand). The resorts are not located right next to the port, otherwise you will have to go there on foot (at least 15 minutes walk) or by motorbike taxi (IDR 15 000 per person).

Read also: From Bali To Raja Ampat (4 Kings) | Complete Guide to Visit West Papua

1. Visit the city of Manado, capital of the North (point of arrival)

Manado is the capital of North Sulawesi, it will be especially your point of arrival before discovering the surroundings.

Manado is very well connected to major cities in Indonesia and even in Asia.
But from Europe, the most logical thing is to land in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia. Why?

  • Jakarta will be your gateway to Indonesia and you are sure to be visa-free when arriving there.
  • The Jakarta-Manado flight is direct – about 3 hours.

Manado Skyline SSW waterfront 2
View of Manado’s waterfront facing south-southwest. Juxlos, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The city’s temples are superb

The Ban Hian Kong is a small 19th century Buddhist temple, the oldest in the region, the Kuan Yin temple, the great mosque and the many churches are also worth visiting.

Ban Hin Kiong
Ban Hin Kiong Temple, Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Escape to Lembeh Island

In less than an hour by boat from the coast, the island of Lembeh will be a total change of scenery!

The island is separated from Celebes by the Lembeh Strait and is a popular scuba diving site due to its high biodiversity.

Lembeh Island view from Port of Bitung
Lembeh Island view from Port of Bitung. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll through the atypical local market of Tomohon

The Tomohon market is truly an experience to do when visiting Sulawesi. Fruit, vegetables, exotic flowers but also grilled animals of all kinds!

The markets of the city will allow you to discover a little more the life of the inhabitants. Discover the seaside fish market “Pasar 45” and the citrus market.

The city of Manado offers the Bemo as a mode of transport

The Bemo: it’s a van with 2 benches, a sort of hybrid between a taxi and a bus. It is a means of transport that is both practical and economical. Normally with 10 seats, it can accommodate 16 people with their luggage.

2. Bunaken

This small, car-free island, surrounded by incredible marine life, is breathtaking! Renowned worldwide for its seabed, Bunaken is one of the best spots in Indonesia but also in the world for scuba diving. Bunaken has one of the most important marine biodiversity. Located 18 km (11 miles) from the coast of Manado, Bunaken Island is a little gem with only 3000 inhabitants.

Located off the coast of North Sulawesi, this marine park is a haven for divers and snorkelers. It boasts some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs and marine life.

Bunaken Marine Park
Bunaken National Marine Park, Manado, Indonesia. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bunaken is considered one of the best scuba diving destinations in amazing Indonesia. People from all over the world come here just to dive. Divers will be delighted by the huge drop-offs covered with magnificent corals and by the crystal clear waters! The seabed around Bunaken Island is also incredibly deep, down to 1600m or 5249ft. This destination really has something special!

Here you can find large pelagic fish as well as small creatures that make this dive destination great for underwater photography.

Bunaken Island belongs to the Bunaken Marine National Park established in 1991. It encompasses several other islands like Manado, Tua, Siladen, Montehagen, Nain and Nain Kecil. Due to the creation of the marine reserve, the waters around Bunaken are healthy and offer fantastic biodiversity and some of the most beautiful corals in the world.

Bunaken Marine Park (8)Bunaken National Marine Park, Manado, Indonesia. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This destination also offers great snorkeling options for non-divers.

Activities to do and excursions in Bunaken, Manado

Bunaken Marine National Park is primarily a diving destination. However, there is the possibility of doing lots of other things during your stay or if you are not diving:

  • Snorkeling above the coral gardens, which are fantastic right in front of most hotels.
  • Hike the trails around the island or climb the volcano of Manado Tua.
  • Fish with local fishermen, but outside the marine reserve 😉
  • Go on a whale or dolphin watching excursion
  • All these excursions can easily be organized for you by your diving club.

Bunaken ManadoTua2
Manado Tua is a volcanic island in the Celebes Sea off the northeast coast of Sulawesi. The island is located on Bunaken National Park. User: (WT-shared) Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Best time to visit Bunaken, Manado

During the peak of the tourist season which takes place in July and August, the dive centers can be full and it is recommended to book well in advance! Otherwise, the rest of the year is ok. See our diving page for more information.

Direct flights from Bali to Bunaken

There are 2 flights daily from Bali to Bunaken (Manado, Sam Ratulangi International Airport) and it takes 3 hours 50 minutes with Lion Air.

And from Bunaken to Bali, there are 2 direct flights.

Health and security

If you plan to go on a trip to Bunaken, Manado, we advise you to invest in a good travel insurance which also covers scuba diving. You never know what can happen and good insurance can get you out of tough situations. I recommend this travel insurance because they offer worldwide coverage and cover many risky sports like scuba diving.

Where is Bunaken, Manado located in the world?

Bunaken is a very small island (8 km²) located at the northern tip of the island of Sulawesi, in northern Indonesia. It is part of the immense Bunaken Marine National Park, which covers an area of ​​890.65 km² of which only 3% is terrestrial.

Manado Tua

Manado Tua is a volcanic island in the Celebes Sea, just off the northeastern coast of Sulawesi. It’s part of the Bunaken National Park. The name Manado comes from an old word, “manadou” or “wanazou,” which basically means “on the far coast” or “in the distance.”

This word has its roots in the local Minahasan languages. When the people moved their settlement from the island to Sulawesi, they brought the name Manado with them. So, the island came to be known as “Old Manado” or Manado Tua.

Pulau Manado Tua
Pulau Manado Tua, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Marwan Mohamad, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marine National Park Conservation Fee

There is an entrance fee for Bunaken Marine Park. It costs IDR 150 000 per person (about CHF 10 or EUR 9.50 or USD 10.10) and generally it is the resort that obtains it and gives you your badge.

There is no tax for the Lembeh Strait.

If you have any other questions or comments, please let us know in the comments or by contacting us directly.

Bunaken Island gate
Gate to Bunaken Island, Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


North Sulawesi consists of three main diving areas: Bunaken National Marine Park on the west coast, the Bangka Archipelago in the north and the Lembeh Strait on the east coast.

From Manado airport to Bunaken National Park takes around 40 minutes by car.

Although covering an area that is not very large, each of these areas offers very unique diving experiences. With access to over 150 dive sites, North Sulawesi is a fantastic place to spend your diving vacation!

Water temperature: between 26℃ or 78.8°F (Lembeh) and up to 30℃ or 86°F (Bunaken).
Topography: reef flats, coral walls, sandbanks, pinnacles, slopes.
Currents: Generally light, suitable for all skill levels.

Lekuan 1, 2 and 3

This large diving area can be visited in 3 times because there are so many things to see. It is a huge drop-off covered with giant sponges, black corals and gorgonians. It is undoubtedly one of the favorite sites for divers. The crevices are home to multiple species, butterflyfish, fusiliers, sea snakes, parrotfish, boxfish but also many turtles, eagle rays and napoleons, which roam around.

Lekuan 1. The first dive on Lekuan gives you the tone, indeed the wall is so big that you won’t be able to see everything. The water is crystal clear, you will come across sharks, turtles, trevallies, good-sized napoleons, and large schools of angelfish.

Lekuan 2. Second dive to continue exploring the reef. Here it is a beautiful collection of soft corals, there are hard corals, or even small caves and crevices. This beautiful setting is home to a dense fauna of tropical fish and turtles.

Nembrotha cristata bunaken
Nembrotha cristata, a species of colorful sea slug, pictured at Lekuan II dive site, Bunaken Marine National Park, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Nembrotha cristata is a type of colorful sea slug that lives underwater. It’s also known as a nudibranch. These creatures are small, usually less than 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) long, and they come in bright and beautiful colors like orange, green, and blue. They have little frilly parts on their backs that help them breathe. Nembrotha cristata is often found in coral reefs, where it eats things like sponges. They’re really interesting to look at if you like marine life! Mindmaker at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lekuan 3. Here you will dive down a small sandy slope to reach the drop off again. Barracuda shoals are common, but there are also macrofauna, such as cleaner shrimp. The sea fans and sponges are superb.

Fukui Dot

This site is in the southeastern part of Bunaken Park. It is a slope where multitudes of corals of all kinds, sponges and giant molluscs have landed. You will encounter schools of various fish, barracudas, eels, red mullets, eagle rays, parrotfish, etc.

Barracuda dot

It is a large drop off with several stages covered in sand. The clarity of the water makes the visibility excellent, you can see up to 30 meters. Barracuda and parrotfish abound at this dive site, which is reserved for experienced divers, due to the strong currents.


You will start the dive on a gentle slope to reach a beautiful drop-off. The fauna is very dense on this site with large napoleons, butterflyfish, eagle rays, and sometimes small sharks.

The Molas Shipwreck site

This site has a very varied underwater life. The wreck of an old warship lies between 10 and 42 meters deep. Black, hard and soft corals, but also sponges, blue ribbon moray eels, frogfish, nudibranchs and lionfish are just waiting to be unearthed. It is not possible to enter the wreckage.

Batu Hitam (black rock)

Located near the Molas wreck, it is a beautiful reef with coral tables. This beautiful macro dive is ideal for photographers, as there is no current. There are ribbon moray eels, a fine collection of nudibranchs, leaffish, frogfish and crocodilefish.

Siladen Island offers two dive sites

On Siladen 1, you will dive over a vertiginous wall. The fixed fauna is remarkable. This site is very popular for snorkeling. Macrofauna is everywhere, you will see a lot of pygmy seahorses, and crabs. Sometimes in the blue, we observe white tip sharks.

Siladen 2 is on the northeast coast of the island. It is a gentle slope with large rocks and a multitude of corals. The current is stronger, it attracts pelagics. We observe sharks, napoleons and parrots.

Bunaken Timur 1 & 2

It is a huge reef located east of Bunaken Island. We can say that the area is home to all the fauna of the region and superb corals, of all sizes and colors. There is a nice variety of reef fish, but also pelagic and macrofauna. When there is no power, it is a dream location for photographers.

Mandolin Dot

Here a lot of sea fans and many small caves, habitats of a beautiful fauna. This site is accessible from the shore. If you do not want to explore the caves, you can admire the top of the reef, the fauna is very dense: surgeons, groupers, napoleons, rays or turtles.

Manado Tua

Around this small volcanic island, you will observe dizzying drop-offs, cracked by crevasses, where huge turtles hide. The decor is set: here we observe elephant ear corals, magnificent gorgonians, and all around are whitetip sharks and blacktip sharks, emperor fish, batfish and fusiliers swirling around.

3. Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park on the way to Gorontalo

Bogani national park formerly known as Dumoga Bone National Park, it was established in 1991 and was renamed in honour of Nani Wartabone, a local resistance fighter who drove the Japanese from Gorontalo during the World War II.

The park is considered by the Wildlife Conservation Society as the most important site for nature conservation in Sulawesi. It is home to many endemic species of the island, among which the threatened anoa.

Also found in the reserve are hammerhead chicken, babirusa (deer boar), the Sulawesi warty pig and the Gorontalo macaque.

The park contains endangered species of plants and trees such as the palm Pholidocarpus ihur and other special wood species and plants from the genus Amorphophallus . In the park are observed: 24 species of mammals, 125 species of birds, 11 species of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, 38 species of butterflies and 200 species of beetles. The mammalian species such as the crested macaque (Macaca nigra), Temminck’s macaque (Macaca nigrescens), celebes tarsier (Tarsius tarsier), celebe palm roller (Macrogalidia musschenbroekii), anoa (Bubalus depressicornis also called gems buffalo), berganoa ( B. quarlesi), golden babiroessa (Babyrousa babyrussa also called deer boar), and the flying fox Rousettus bidens (often referred to as Bonea bidens or Bone bat ) are all endemic mammals that only occur on Celebes.

The park is also home to numerous endemic bird species such as the rusty-brown pitfall ( Ninox ios ) and the iconic hammerfowl (Macrocephalon maleo). A kind of grouse that lays the eggs in places with geothermal heat.

Maleo bird

The maleo is endemic to the island and is the park’s mascot. 2 This bird has successfully bred in the park, and as of February 2012, around 3,300 birds have been released into the wild.

Macrocephalon maleo - Muara Pusian (2)
Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo) at Muara Pusian, North Sulawesi. Ariefrahman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hungoyono camp on Bone Bolango is the largest habitat for these Maleo with four breeding sites. Birds usually need hot geothermal sand to breed, like in the Hungoyono camp.

Spectral tarsier / ghost tarsier

The ghost tarsier is one of the endangered species that inhabits the park.

Tarsiers are nocturnal creatures that do activities at night and sleep during the day. Therefore Tarsiers hunt at night. Their main prey is insects such as cockroaches, crickets, and occasionally small reptiles, birds and bats. Its habitat is in the forests of North Sulawesi to South Sulawesi, as well as on islands around Sulawesi such as Suwu, Selayar and Peleng.

Tarsius tarsier Tandurusa zoo
Tarsier Tarsius sp., Grand Naemundung Mini Zoo, Tandurusa, Bitung, North Sulawesi. Sakurai Midori, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tarsiers can also be found in the Philippines. In Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park, South Sulawesi, Tarsier is better known by the local community as “balao cengke” or “squat mouse” if translated into Indonesian.

4. Discover the main volcanoes Mahawu and Lokon

Ideal for hiking and for a change from the city or the sea, discover the two volcanoes Mahawu and Lokon.


Mount Mahawu is a stratovolcano located immediately east from Lokon-Empung volcano in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Set off on this 12.9 km (8 miles) round-trip route near Tomohon, North Sulawesi. Generally considered a moderate course, it takes an average of 4h 23min to complete. It is a popular route for roaming, hiking and mountain biking, but you can still enjoy some quiet moments.

Mahawu (34799015484)
Crater of Mahawu in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Jacob Mojiwat, source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmojiwat/34799015484/ (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The hiking trail here is no less beautiful than the crater, by the way, as this hiking trail has the charm of a soothing grove.

Sunlight streaming through the tree branches also accompanies tourists on the hiking trail in mount Mahawu.

Another attraction of Mount Mahawu is that it has rare plant species. The rare plants that thrive here are rare plants typical of North Sulawesi.


Mount Lokon is beautiful too,also known as Gunung Lokon (in Indonesian language), together with Mount Empung, is a twin volcano in the Tomohon, Minahasa Regency, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, roughly 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Manado.

Check out this 6.6 km (4.1 miles) round trip route near Tomohon, North Sulawesi. Generally considered a moderate course, it takes an average of 2h 54min to cover it. It is a popular route for roaming and hiking, but you can still enjoy some quiet time.

Lokon (35471444692)
Mount Lokon seen from East in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Jacob Mojiwat, source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmojiwat/35471444692/ (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Mount Lokon climbing route is quite difficult as there are a lot of big rocks to climb and the rocks are a bit slippery due to the moss growing around the rock.

You will cross a dry river which is an old lava flow and small sandy rocks, be careful as on your side is a steep ravine.

You also have to be careful near the crater, sometimes the smell of crater gas will be carried away by the wind, and this gas is poisonous, do not inhale the smell of this crater gas.

Photo credit (main photo): Niek van Son (CC BY 2.0) Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/niek_van_son/29789916401/ via Wikimedia Commons

From Bali to Tana Toraja | Complete Guide to Visit South Sulawesi

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