The Togian Islands Complete Travel and Dive Guide

The Togian Islands are a true tropical paradise, with beautiful powder white sand beaches, covered by tropical forests and surrounded by pristine coral reefs in crystal clear waters. This archipelago of 56 islands and islets is located in the middle of the Gulf of Tomini, on the central coast of Sulawesi. Protected by continuous barrier reefs, the islands are famous for clear, calm waters in the protected area. Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands and the 56 Togian islands are among the most remote. It takes 3 flights and several boat and ferry rides to get from Bali, so get ready for an adventure off the beaten track when traveling to the Togians. Being so remote protects many hidden treasures of global tourism; diving is excellent in the untouched protected reefs, the nomadic culture of the famous sea gypsy people & # 39; bajo & # 39; it is still preserved and is one of the only places in the world where you can still swim alone with millions of harmless jellyfish in Lake Mariona.

My diving friend making a safety stop in the crystal clear waters of the Togean Islands.

Togean Islands Travel Highlights

Exploring this hidden tropical paradise was an incredible experience, everything from the night tour on a local ferry to spearfishing with the legendary Bajo people.

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Diving is the main reason why travelers find their way here. The fauna and flora on these isolated islands is incredible and most of the highlights are underwater. The water is crystal clear and we had more than 30 m of visibility on most dives, with dives ranging from large fish, unreal corals, tiny creatures to dives in a World War II B24 bomber wreck!

Many endangered species live on the Togean islands, including dugongs, hawks and green sea turtles. It is one of the only populations of gigantic species threatened with extinction. coconut crab that you can see walking and climbing trees on these islands

The culture and lifestyle of the unique Low people “Sea gypsies”, living in their floating houses is something like a real aquaholic that I always wanted to see and really liked. You can see how the nomad Bajau Laut people live in harmony with the sea in the Pulau Papan village.

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Swimming in Mariona Lake, a lake of jellyfish, where millions of these creatures have lost the ability to sting, this is one of the few places where the isolation of jellyfish has rendered them harmless over millions of years.

A big coconut crab, these guys usually climb on the palm trees. It is a species of terrestrial hermit crab and is the largest living arthropod in the world, growing up to 4 kg and 1 m in length!
A large coconut crab on the island of Malenge.

Where are the Togean Islands?

The huge island Sulawesi is one of the approximately 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia and is the fourth largest island in Indonesia, after Sumatra, Borneo and Papua. Sulawesi has a strange shape, with four ’arms’ or peninsulas that extend from the body of the island. The Togian Islands are located in the Gulf of Tomini, between the northern and eastern Minahasa peninsulas.

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Getting to the Togean Islands.

The Togean Islands in Central Sulawesi can only be reached by boat; from the north, the islands can be accessed from Gorontalo and from the south of Ampana.

From Gorontalo – Fly from Makassar to Gorontalo, take a slow boat overnight to Wakai, Tomini Tuna operates twice a week, it is a 12 hour ferry trip

From Ampana – fly to Ampana – Wings Air / Lion Air fly to Palu and from Palu to Ampana every day, from any major city in Indonesia. Unfortunately you need to book two separate flights, but this can be done on the same day. The easiest way to reach the islands is with a daily public launch. Speed ​​Boats departs from Ampana to Wakai every morning. You can get off at Bomba. A daily public ferry departs for Wakai (5 hours) or Bomba (2.5 hours).

De Wakai, you can reach almost any other Togeans island in public or private boats. Most resorts pick up guests directly from the port

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I traveled overland from southern Sulawesi to Ampana and by ferry to Wakai, from here by boat to Kadidiri. From Kadidiri, I traveled by ferry to Gorontalo, in the north of Sulawesi, and continued on to Makasar, from where I went to dive in the Lembeh Strait and Bunaken.

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To go to Lake Mariona and Pulao Papan, just ask the Black Marlin team who helped us find a local captain to take us.

Which Togean Island to go ..

The three largest islands in the Togeans are Batudaka, Togean and Una Una, most people arrive at the port of Wakai on the island of Batudaka. The main islands have good accommodation and facilities, but the hidden treasures are in the small, untouched tropical islands scattered in the Gulf of Tomini.

the Togian Islands map petty nomads

Kadidiri

Kadidiri is tourist by Togian standards and is one of the small islands with the most resorts. I stayed at the Black Marlin accommodation here, there were some other guests, it was great to meet other people. It was far from being busy or touristy. Having people who know the area and the facilities here made it easier to organize more adventures in Kadidiri. The diving was good, with untouched reefs in crystal clear waters. We organize local canoes / boats to take us to the neighboring islands and places where we spend a few days.

Accommodation:

Katupat

If you really want to escape the world, this is your place. Only accommodations are Fadhila country houses, located on small islands off Katupat. There is a small fishing village Lembanato in Katupat and the jellyfish lake Mariona Lake is located on the island.

Malenge

Malenge Island is a true paradise off the beaten path, it is made up of two small islands – the Papan and Kakoda Islands, connected by a 1800 m long water trail over the water. Snorkeling was cool in Malenge,

Accommodation: Sifa Dive Resort

Togean Islands Arriving at Pulau Papan after a long journey by local boat.
Togian Islands Arriving in Pulau Papan after a long journey by local boat.

Pulau Papan

This small Bajo community connected to Malenge Island by a long wooden bridge was great to see how these nomads live gypsies, still practicing with compressor diving and spearfishing with traditional equipment. We asked and stayed with some of the local people, it was a great experience that they cooked rice for us and some of the fish we threw. I believe that there are now several inns on the island.

Una Una

Una Una is a beautiful volcanic island with black volcanic sand, coconut trees that line emerald waters on black beaches. The dive is great with large schools of barracudas and horse monkeys, untouched and healthy coral reefs, turtles, rays and sharks. It is located far from the other islands.

AccommodationPristine Paradise Dive Resort Una Una

Diving in the Togian Islands

The diving conditions were fantastic on my dives, with 30 m visibility and 31C water temperature. In the center of the Gulf of Tomini, this is known as the calmest bay in the world and I experienced great diving conditions here.

Kadidiri Dive – dramatic starts, beautiful pinnacles and gorges with immaculate reefs and beautiful marine life, like morays, turtles, schools of barracuda and interesting nudibranchs. The reefs are said to host 314 species of coral, 541 species of mollusks and 819 species of tropical fish. Near the mangroves, the diving masters told me they saw dugongs, unfortunately we were not so lucky!

Diving in wreck of a B24 bomber airplane about an hour's boat ride from Kadidiri was an interesting dive. The plane was part of an American bomb squad that crashed during World War II. When we dived into the wreckage, the visibility around the plane's wreckage was not as good as in the reefs, it was less than 10 meters. You can penetrate the main cabin and there were fish, nudis and soft corals around the wreck.

The sinking of the World War II B42 bomber was an interesting dive.
The sinking of the World War II B42 bomber was an interesting dive.

Diving from Una Una – Incredible diving, more than 30 dive sites with reefs covered by huge fans and beautiful corals with marine life, ranging from pelagic species like rays and sharks, huge schools of fish, barracudas, jack fish to good macro diving with frog fish, seahorses, leafy scorpion fish and a variety of nudibranchs.

I had a lot of fun here, but it takes time and effort to get to the Togean Islands. Traveling just for diving, I prefer to go to Lembeh, Komodo or Raja Ampat. Check out our article on all Best Diving in Indonesia.

Interesting sea slug on coral growing in the destruction of the B42 bomber.
Interesting sea slug on coral growing in the destruction of the B42 bomber. Diving in Togean Islands

Togian Islands Diving Season

The Togian Islands can dive all year round, but from March to December it is seen as the best time to dive here. This is the dry season, making diving more enjoyable, but visibility and conditions are good for diving in all seasons.

Liveaboard diving in the Togian Islands

The Togian Islands are difficult to access and the perfect location for an off-the-grid liveaboard experience. There are four popular liveaboards that operate around the Togians.

The sun shines

KLM Sunshine is an intimate and luxurious 30m liveaboard with double cabins equipped with a private bathroom. Operating in the crystal clear waters of Indonesia, it is home to a thriving ecosystem of over 600 species of coral and 3000 species of fish. Diving facilities include a spacious dive deck, rinse tanks, dive station, Nitrox and dive guides.

  • in US $ 179 / day
  • Gourmet restaurant on board, serving delicious meals
  • a large terrace with comfortable seating
  • Check out KLM Sunshine

Swim in Lake Mariona with the jellyfish that doesn't bite

Lake Mariona, in Katupat, near the main island of Togean, is one of the 7 ’jellyfish lakes’ of the world. The famous jellyfish lake in Palau was always on my wish list, so I was super excited when I found out that there was a similar lake in the Togians. In this rare lake, jellyfish have lost the ability to sting millions of years of geographic isolation. Swimming with thousands of harmless jams was beautiful and an unreal experience. To get to Lake Mariona, ask at your guesthouse for a boat contact, we were three friends who shared a local boat and it didn't cost an arm and a leg. The existence of this specific jellyfish lake is not very well known, we were the only people posing for selfies with the incredible jellyfish when we were there.

Swimming among thousands of harmless jellyfish was an unreal experience!
Swimming among thousands of harmless jellyfish was an unreal experience!

Stay with a local Bajo family

I have been fascinated by the people of Indonesia and the Philippines since I watched the documentary Planeta Humano. The film crew follows the lives of these sea gypsies living a nomadic life in the ocean. The documentary shows the incredible ability that fishermen from Bajo have to hunt underwater with very primitive equipment and how fishing is done in these parts by diving in a compressor. We had the privilege of staying in the village of Bajo Pulao Papan, on the Togean Islands, and having the opportunity to meet some of these unique people.

We paid a local boat owner in Kadidiri to take me and 2 friends to Pulao Papan, where he talked to some local people and arranged for us to stay in one of the houses on the water with a local family. The city does not receive many foreign visitors and the children were fascinated by us, following us everywhere.

Some of the local fishermen were fishing by doing “compressor diving”. They dive with a shallow supply of air from a compressor on a boat and extend a huge net under the sea, similar to the way commercial divers work under water. While diving, they chase all the reef fish in the net and pull the net into the boat. This is a dangerous practice mainly due to the risk of decompression sickness and is very harmful to reefs and marine life.

The bathroom of the house we stayed in, we went to dive in front of the house!
The bathroom of the house we stayed in, we went to dive in front of the house!

We had a choice between taking a dive with the compressor with them or fishing with a local expert one morning and we chose to fish.

Dive with the people of the “sea gypsies”

The Bajo people practice spearfishing free diving to not use diving equipment, they do it without fins and some of them even use traditional equipment they manufacture, wooden goggles and homemade firearms.

I practice spearfishing at home in South Africa and I was very excited to do spearfishing with a specialist using these traditional methods.

I tried to use the authentic glasses, a wooden frame equipped with a glass lens. It was difficult to see with the goggles leaking, I believe that many underwater divers wear modern masks today, they were diving barefoot, not wearing flippers certainly makes it much more difficult to dive deep.

Local wooden masks
Local wooden masks

Not using flippers with a pistol in one hand made deep diving difficult. I managed to dive up to 17m, but I definitely couldn't reach the depths that Subin did in the documentary!

Evan running a decent dive using only local equipment.
Evan running a decent dive using only local equipment.

Diving with local homemade weapons, these spears are limited to target smaller fish. The weapons are not strong enough to catch larger fish.

The guns are powered by two rubbers cut into the car's internal tubes. To increase the distance at which they can fire, some of the weapons are very large, with pipes up to 2 m long.

I believe that underwater hunting is a very selective and ecological way of fishing and I did not shoot many fish, as I was not interested in photographing small reef fish.

The local champion hunting in the traditional way.
The local champion hunting in the traditional way.

There were some good-sized blue fins hunting in the shallows. However, these game fish were very skittish when we entered the water. Sneaking up to them was not very successful without using fins. Thus, we could never get close enough to lance them, and the weak car-tube guns were not powerful enough to try to hunt these larger fish.

In the village Palau Papan
In the village Palau Papan

Mariona Lake and Pulao Papan were magicians and it is a mission to complete. Experiencing this place is definitely worth it, if you travel to the north of Sulawesi.

Hike on the UnaUna volcano

An incredible day of hiking through the beautiful jungle to the volcano and inside the crater. Organize a guide in your store. Inside the crater, you can bathe and see signs of volcanic activity; boiling water, steam and sulfur. The walk takes about 5 hours.

More adventures in Sulawesi!

  • Heading north. – Funeral ceremonies, hanging tombs, coffee farms and a crazy bus chase in Tana Touraja.
  • South Sulawesi. – It is not known as the north, but Pantai Bira has a lot of potential. We did some nice dives in the area.
  • North Sulawesi. – Diving into the famous walls of Bunaken and the magical creations of the Lembeh Strait. Take a look at our photos and you will understand why this place is a photographer's dream!

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