Located within the spiraling tentacles of central Sulawesi in Indonesia, the Togean Islands are a paradise that graciously rewards anyone willing to make the effort of getting there. The archipelago of 56 nearly-uninhabited islands hold some of the best diving and snorkeling found in Indonesia, if not the world.
Forgotten fishing villages, isolated lagoons, romantic seclusion - the Togean Islands have everything that one would expect from such an exotic and hard-to-reach destination. Unlike the Gili Islands which draw in the crowds, the Togean Islands are a place to go for superb diving and peaceful relaxation.
Life in the Togean Islands is just as diverse above the water as under. In 2008, a new species of bird was discovered - a testament to just how unspoiled the Togeans remain.
The most popular destination in the Togeans, Pulau Kadidiri is the stopping point for most visitors. Three bungalow operations - pretty much the only choices for eating, sleeping, and socializing - have claimed a pleasant strip of sand and provide all amenities. Electricity is available only from morning until 9 p.m.
Away from the beach, criss-crossing trails allow for some walks in the jungle to secluded coves and untouched patches of sand dotted around the island. You may even be lucky enough to spot massive coconut crabs - the largest land arthropod in the world - climbing trees at night, although their numbers are dwindling.
- Black Marlin Cottages: With pleasant wooden cottages and a great atmosphere, Black Marlin is the best value for the money on Kadidiri. The English owner has done a good job of providing what travelers need to stay on the island including excellent family-style meals.
- Pondok Lestari: Occupying the end of the strip, Pondok Lestari is the choice for budget travelers. Bungalows and bathrooms are very basic, but the prices are the best on the island. Free snorkeling trips by boat are available.
- Kadidiri Paradise Resort: For those with higher budgets, this is the nicest resort in the Togeans. The posh bungalows have decks with a view and the grounds are meticulously maintained. The dive center is top-notch.
Diving the Togean Islands
Unlike much of Indonesia, the effects of dynamite and cyanide fishing are not apparent in the Togean Islands. The coral is in excellent condition and an astounding array of marine life including turtles, blacktail barracudas, blue marlins, sharks, and bumpheads frequent the water. Even a crashed American B24 bomber has become a popular dive site.
Visibility can reach 40 meters in the dry season. A single dive at Black Marlin is around US $35; bundled packages are available. All three dive centers accept credit cards.
Snorkeling Taipi Island
Some of the best snorkeling in Indonesia is found around tiny Taipi Island, a short speedboat ride from Kadidiri. Some of the bungalows offer free snorkeling trips to the island. The island contains an abandoned bungalow operation and can be swam around in less than one hour. Reef sharks, turtles, bumpheads, and even saltwater crocodiles roam the crystalline waters.
Food on Kadidiri
All three bungalow operations include food in their prices. The meals are family-style with bowls of different offerings placed on the table; showing up late for dinner once will be a hungry reminder to be on time in the future! Not surprisingly, the main course is usually fish served with other great Indonesian food.
Nightlife on Kadidiri
Aside from a few drinks at the guest house or the occasional bonfire on the beach, there is very little nightlife in the Togean Islands. Most things shut down fairly early - when the electricity does - because people are diving in the mornings.
There are no shops on Kadidiri. The bungalows sell drinks, snacks, and a few small basics. It is possible to tag along on one of the daily supply runs via speedboat to Wakai for making simple purchases.
There are no ATMs or banks on Kadidiri. The bungalow operations accept credit cards, dollars, and euros.
Getting to Kadidiri, Togean Islands
Reaching the Togean Islands is not for the faint-hearted and should not be attempted unless you have extra time. Buses, flights, and ferries regularly change their schedules or don't run at all, depending on the volume of passengers. Most of the small, Indonesian airlines do not have internet booking; a ticket must be purchased at the counter in the airport or from a satellite office.
The most-desirable route is to fly into Manado in the north of Sulawesi. From there, catch one of the twice-weekly flights to Luwuk, then take an eight-hour bus to Ampana. Ampana is the usual port for ferries to the Togean Islands, however boats sometimes go from Bunta and Marisa.
Another option is to fly from Monado to Gorantalo, then take the 15-hour, very uncomfortable ferry to Wakai. There is at least one ferry a week, but schedules vary wildly.
Once in Wakai, you must take a speedboat to Kadidiri. Each bungalow operation runs speedboats to the island. In the low season, it is necessary to call ahead to arrange for transport. If your potential bungalow does not have a speedboat waiting at the dock in Wakai, it is possible to pay for a ride with one of the other two operations.
When to Go
The best time to dive the Togean Islands is during the dry season from April to November.