Is Sulawesi near Bali

Amsi and Remo travel around the world

Travel period: June 2014 - May 2015 | by Andreas Amsler

Sulawesi and Bali

Manado and Bunaken National Park

The next afternoon we went to Manado on the island of Sulawesi by plane. Since our flight was delayed by over 2 hours, we didn't reach Manado until shortly after midnight. We drove into the city and moved into our hotel directly at the harbor for that night.
The next morning we first went to the immigration office in Manado. We wanted to extend our visa. After waiting 5 hours and paying bribes, we were able to extend our visa in one day. That's how it works in Indonesia. In the afternoon we took a small ship to the island of Bunaken. The island is located in an underwater nature reserve and is sensational for diving. We moved into a room in the Panorama Resort. A simple resort. However, from our bungalow we had a direct view of the sea. Accommodation including full board with drinks only cost CHF 20.- per day. Here we met a Dutch couple and a Chilean. Otherwise the resort was pretty empty, as it was rather low season. We mainly spent the next 6 days diving. We did 2-3 dives a day which were really top notch. We mainly dived on steep faces, some of which fell directly to over 400 meters. The corals here are still very intact and the biodiversity is sensational. We saw an incredible number of reef fish. We were also able to observe isolated blacktip reef sharks. It also has a lot of turtles and the macro range is great too. Our guide Jobel was able to show us an incredible number of small reef inhabitants. We saw hundreds of different nudibranchs, decorator crabs, boxing crabs, oranguntang crabs, and cleening shrimp. That was the first time that we saw such a biodiversity in the macro area.
On one dive we were even incredibly lucky to meet dolphins and to watch them for about a minute. A sensational experience that was never seen before. Once we also did a night dive and there we discovered new bizarre creatures again. Gigantic nudibranchs, various crabs and shrimp. We even saw a turtle on a night excursion.
After 6 days of diving we went back to Manado. We picked up our passport and then traveled on to Gorontalo.

View from our bungalow on Bunaken Island

Our bunglaow in the Panaroma Resort on Bunaken Island

Our bunglaow in the Panaroma Resort on Bunaken Island

View from our bungalow

Panorama Resort Bunaken Island

Panorama Resort Bunaken Island

Panorama Resort Bunaken Island

Panorama Resort Bunaken Island

Turtle Bunaken National Park

Nudibranch Bunaken

Leave scorpion fish bunaken

Crab in Bunaken

Nudibranchs in Bunaken

Ghost Pipefish Bunaken

Me and Remo

Nudibranch Bunaken

Bunaken clown fish

Boxing Crab Bunaken

Scorpionfish bunaken

Bunaken clown fish

Shrimp bunaken

I annoy the clownfish

Turtle bunaken

Bunaken reef

Bunaken reef

Dolphins Bunaken

Dolphins bunaken

Bunaken reef

Clown fish

Me and a giant turtle

Remo and I with a giant mussel in Bunaken

Remo with Cleaning Shrimp

Togian Island

This trip took 10 hours and we drove in a car that we shared with locals. In Gorontalo we spent one night and the next evening we boarded the night ferry. The ferry wasn't necessarily the newest model and didn't really look suitable for the ocean. However, since the weather was calm, the 12 hour crossing was not a problem. We had a cabin to sleep in and so the night passed pretty quickly. The next morning we reached Wakai in the Togian Islands. A small group of islands far away from any civilization. We drove to the Black Marlin Dive Resort on Khadiri Island. A really nice and simple resort, with bungalows which are really right on the beach. Here we met a few other travelers from Belgium, Austria, Germany and even a Ukrainian couple. A nice group of people. We spent 5 wonderful days here, when the focus was on relaxing. Of course we also did a few dives. However, it has to be said that you don't have to go to the expense of driving here because of the diving. The reefs are practically empty of fish, as bomb fishing has unfortunately left its mark. The corals are not really nice either. The only dive site that is really worthwhile is the island of Una Una, which is about 1 ½ hours drive away. Since we did 2 dives which can be seen.
Otherwise we relaxed in our resort, which was really great. Comfortable seating on the terraces directly above the sea and sun loungers right on the beach. So we could spend a lot of time reading, watching series or just lying around. In the evenings there was Bintang and Arac, and we spent fun evenings with the other guests at the resort. We got on really well with the Belgians in particular. After 5 days it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful Togian Islands. We took a small boat back to the main town of Wakai and there we took the ferry to Ampana south of Togian Island.

Bunk on the ferry to Togian Island

Togian Island

Togian Island

Black Marlin Dive Resort, Togian Island

Black Marlin Dive Resort, Togian Island

Togian Island

Togian Island

Togian Island

Togian Island

Nudibranch on night dive, Togian Island

Clownfish, night diving, Togian Island

Giant snail, night dive, Togian Island

Seahorses, night dive, Togian Island

Giant snail and starfish, night dive, Togian Island

Clownfish, night dive, Togian Island

Butterflyfish, night dive, Togian Island

Shrimp, night dive, Togian Island

Clownfish and Shrimp, Night Dive, Togian Island

Shrimp, night dive, Togian Island

Togian Island

Scorpionfish, Togian Island

Togian Island

Togian Island

Togian Island

Tour guides study on the ferry to Ampana

Toraja

On the ferry we met 2 Dutch women who had the same goal as us. We all wanted to go to South Sulawesi, to the city of Toraja. So there were already six of us, with the two Belgians from the Togian Islands. When we arrived in Ampana, we looked for a minibus together that should take us to Tentena that same day. We also met an Indonesian who also had the same destination as us. Together we drove 8 hours to Tentena where we arrived at 10 p.m. After a round of bintang we all went to sleep. The next day the Indonesian organized another minibus for us, which should take us to Rantepao. This trip was a real ordeal. The minivan was small and very uncomfortable, and with all of our luggage, space was pretty tight. The journey lasted almost 12 hours and, really at the end of our tether, we arrived in Rantepao at around 9:00 p.m. After a fine dinner we fell asleep in our hotel.
The next day our group organized a guide. We wanted to look at the area around Toraja. This area is wonderfully located in the mountainous landscape of Sulawesi. You cross wonderful green rice fields. The region is known for its special cult of the dead. People are laid out in their own house for up to a year after their death so that an appropriate funeral can be organized. These funerals are small folk festivals and last longer than a week, and you are also very welcome as a white tourist. Because the more people attend a funeral, the greater the honor for the deceased.

That first morning, our guide took us to a funeral. We brought gifts and were warmly received by the family. We were able to sit down and were offered tea and pastries. It was a special feeling to be in the middle of a funeral of strangers, but that's part of it here. Animals are always sacrificed in honor of the deceased. A total of 15 water buffalo and around 120 pigs were sacrificed at this funeral. This is also special for us, as the animals are sacrificed in the middle of the burial grounds. That day we heard how the pigs were sacrificed. Quickening the panicked animals is not for the faint of heart. The pigs are killed with a targeted prick in the heart and then die within about 1 minute.
After the funeral, we continued to explore the area around Toraja with the guide. He led us to the graves of the deceased. The region is known for these special graves and the cult of the dead. The graves are carved into the rock face, where the coffin of the dead is then pushed into it. Then the grave, where sometimes several family members lie together, is closed. In front of this, large dolls of the deceased are placed on balconies in front of the graves. That afternoon we visited various grave sites, some of them of high-ranking families. We also visited the graves of babies. These are not buried in caves. Holes are made in a large tree where the deceased baby can go. After that, it is closed, and over the years the grave grows so closed. Up to 30 babies were buried in some trees. We also saw the traditional Toraja houses, for which the region is also known. It was a very interesting day. We drove the whole day with the rented scooters through the very beautiful landscape, with rice fields and many traditional villages.
The next day we left early in the morning to attend the same funeral again as the day before. This morning we could see how the buffalo were sacrificed. They were taken to the central funeral square. They were slashed open with a targeted blow with a machete on the neck. The animal bled to death within a minute. This spectacle was absolutely not for the faint of heart. The animals are not only simply sacrificed, they are also eaten during the funeral. In part, the funeral resembles a huge butcher's shop, where the animals are then expertly cut up.
The rest of the day we drove our scooters through the region again and enjoyed the wonderful landscape. We saw some graves again and some traditional Toraja villages with their special houses. That was another great day.

Lake Posi, Tentena

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Baby Grave, Toraja

Toraja Village

Toraja Village, Remo, Me and Eko

Our rice group

buffalo

Toraja Village

Toraja

Remo and me, Toraja

Toraja tombs

Toraja

Toraja tombs

Toraja tombs

Toraja tombs

Toraja

Toraja

Funeral, Toraja

Buffalo just before he was sacrificed

sacrificed pig

sacrificed buffalo

Sacrificed buffalo

funeral

Buffalo is filleted

Our scooters

Toraja tombs

Our tour group Toraja

Toraja tombs

Rice field with Toraja Village in the background

Buffalo in front of Toraja Village

Toraja Village

Grave in a Toraja Village

Toraja tombs

Toraja Village

Toraja Village

Traditional house village

Toraja

Bira

In the evening at 9 p.m. we took the night bus to Makassar. This was a positive surprise for once. We had booked the comfort class and this bus was really super modern, with comfortable armchairs that could almost be converted into a bed. So we slept wonderfully. At 4 a.m. the bus suddenly broke down. So we had to wait in the middle of nowhere for a second bus, which was almost as comfortable. At 6 a.m. we reached Makassar airport. Here we said goodbye to the Dutch women who flew back to Bali that day. We booked the flights to Bali for 6 days later. With a rented taxi we made our way to the very south of Sulawesi. After a 5 hour drive we finally reached Bira. A small village on a wonderful beach in the very south of Sulawesi. We wanted to dive here again for a few days because we were told that the conditions for big fish would be good here.
We found a wonderful place to stay outside of Bira. The Cosmos bungalows consist of only 3 bungalows and a small restaurant directly above a cliff. There is a wonderful beach below the facility on the cliff. We spent 5 relaxing days here. When the weather was good we went diving. The diving here was really great again. At the manta point we met 25 reef sharks on one dive. Sensational!! The current was very strong on this dive and we had to use our reef hoe. The dive site was somewhat similar to the famous Blue Corner dive site in Palau. We also saw some tuna and turtles. The dive sites here are definitely also highly recommended. Unfortunately we were here 2 months after the main season. During the season in August and September they even saw hammerheads and a tiger shark here. Nevertheless we were happy to see some reef sharks.
But otherwise Bira is also super relaxed, especially during the week you feel all alone on this long beach and can enjoy the beautiful water. At the weekend, a lot of locals populate the beach.
Apart from a restaurant and a few accommodations, there isn't much here. You can really spend a few relaxing days here, far away from tourism.
One day we couldn't dive because of the weather. We then took a trip to another beach a little outside of Bira. Huge cargo ships are still being built entirely from wood on this beach. It was very impressive to watch these workers as they built the huge ships without any large equipment.
Then it was time to say goodbye and we drove back to Makassar. With a shared taxi we need 5 hours. We shared a 7 seater with 7 Indonesians, so there were 9 of us in this car. It was an interesting trip, but cheap. From Makassar we flew back to Bali.

View from the Cosmos Bungalow in Bira

View from the Cosmos Bungalow in Bira

Bira beach

Bira beach

Bira beach

Cosmos bungalow

Sunset after surfacing from the dive.

Bira beach

Traditional cargo ship on the beach in Bira

Traditional cargo ship on the beach in Bira

Traditional cargo ship on the beach in Bira

Traditional cargo ship on the beach in Bira

Traditional cargo ship on the beach in Bira

Bira Beach

Sunset Bira

Sunset Bira

Sunset Bira

Remo dive in Bira

Whittip Reefshark, Bira

Lionfish, Bira

Bira

Ghost moray, Bira

Remo

Blue spotted rays, Bira

Crocodile fish, bira

Turtle, bira

Puffer fish, Bira

Reef in Bira

Blue spotted rays, Bira

Reef in Bira

Clownfish, Bira

Reef in Bira

After the dive

Bali

In the evening we reached Kuta and went to the Swiss Restaurant for dinner. After a delicious Zurich schnitzel with hash browns, we played a little jass.
The next day we went to Sanur, where we organized a diving trip for the next day. The rest of the day was relaxing and our blog has to be worked on every now and then.
Today we went with a diving boat to Manta Point, which is located in front of the island of Lembogian. On the first dive we were unfortunately unsuccessful and we did not find a single manta. Shortly after the dive we took the boat to the next bay. Then we were more lucky and we met the manta rays. We were able to dive with up to 11 manta rays for about 25 minutes. A sensational experience. They weren't big mantas, but the biggest ones should have been around 2.5 meters. Above all, it was sensational that the mantas swam around us and weren't bothered by our presence at all. We made the last dive off the island of Lembogian. It was a nice drift dive with quite a current. It was great to fly over the reef.
In the evening we plunged into the nightlife of Kuta. We spent a boozy night with the Dutch women we met again at the Sky Garden in Kuta.
The next morning we went to Ubud by bus. A pretty tourist town in the mountains of Bali. This city is known for its handicrafts. Here you can buy beautiful hand-painted pictures at great prices. Everything else related to handicrafts is also offered here. So we mainly spent the first day exploring the various art markets.
The next day we rented a scooter and drove towards the mountains. We looked for the rice fields, for which the area around Ubud is also known. We loved the touristic rice terraces, but were a bit disappointed as the terraces were quite small and unspectacular.So we drove on with the scooters, looking for more rice fields. We asked the locals and finally found a bit larger rice fields about 1 hour outside of Ubud.
In the afternoon we had attended a Balinese cooking class. We were the only two guests so we could really learn how to cook here. It was fun to prepare our own food again. It was also delicious.
The next day we went to the art markets again and bought some pictures and other souvenirs.
Today we went back to Kuta. We enjoyed another Balinese massage in the afternoon. In the evening we went back to the Swiss dinner. We ended the evening with a cozy slide.
The next morning our flight went to Manila.

Clown trigger fish, Manta Point, Bali

Remo with Manta, Manta Bay, Bali

Remo and Mata, Manta Bay, Bali

Manta Bay, Bali

Me and Manta, Manta Bay, Bali

Remo and Me, Manta Bay, Bali

Manta Bay, Bali

Nemos, Lembogian Island

Rice terraces near Ubud

Rice field, near Ubud

Peasants at work

Rice field near Ubud

Rice field near Bira

Rice drying

Peasants at work

Peasants at work

Peasants at work

Peasants at work

Peasants at work

Rice terraces

Temple near Ubud

Temple near Ubud

Rice terraces near Ubud

Remo and I make a flower basket for the gods

Remo and I make a flower basket for the gods

What's the matter?:
Our dream came true. Together we go on a 10 month trip around the world. First to South America and then after a short detour to the USA via Hawaii to the Pacific to Guam and Palau. Then a few more months in Asia. Let's see what the next few months have in store for us ...
Details:
Departure:09.06.2014
Duration:11 months
Homecoming:May 2015
Destinations: Chile
Bolivia
Peru
Ecuador
United States
Palau
Indonesia