Gorontalo – Togeans, North Sulawesi – A Picturesque Lag of the Journey

Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 12 October 2010   •  Itinerary

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There were 2 things that made me curious about the Togean islands. First, Prita Laura, a well-known Indonesian anchor and presenter who I consider quite smart said that Tomini Gulf, where this mini archipelago is located, is her favorite location to vacate. And I tell you, it’s not a common answer from a prominent person. I’m a fool and for some unexplainable reason, I believed her. Second, which actually isn’t the second reason but more to supporting my initial motive, is reading Lonely Planet: Indonesia’s take on it: ‘Yes, it does take determination to get to the Togean islands, but believe us, it takes much more determination to leave’.

Travel Indonesia: Manado

Previous: Manado – The Start of Uncovering a Mistery Land. 

Next: Togean Islands – A World Beyond Our Own: Underwater. 

The suffocating ride to Gorontalo.

It takes about a forgivable 9 hours drive from Manado to Gorontalo, the city where we would get our ferry to the Togean island. I consider it forgivable since it was a luxurious drive with a travel service using a private car. It’s far more comfortable compared to the busses that can take an easy 12 hours jammed up with locals, local goods, including chickens and motorcycles if you’re lucky. We had our reasons to take up this services (read: how to get there) and I’m glad we made the right choice.

Travel Indonesia: Manado

The luxury of traveling with a travel service in the form of a private car is that you can do reasonable stops of your liking and… you get to enjoy so many breathtaking views all the way to Gorontalo. It was one picturesque view after another. Once you’re done enjoying one scene you’re suddenly enjoying the next. This lag of the journey shows a great face of Indonesian landscape. Ocean, hills, mountain, rice paddies, fields, fruits, people, and villages. Although I had my episodes of snoozes, I love waking up every time being greeted with a fresh new sight.

Travel Indonesia: Manado

Our diver was one true racer. His car was named Ali Topan, famous street rebel in Indonesia. He had racer stickers on his Innova car, had the racing stirring wheel and matching dashboard, also a racing attitude which got us at Gorontalo port on time even though we made so many stops.

We made a few stops on the way: to take pictures, to buy snacks, to have lunch and to buy fruits, all of the necessary. We took 2 stops for fruits which were bananas and rambutan. Rambutan is a tropical fruit similar to longans. It’s name is from the word rambut which means hair, thus rambutan means hairy. And you can see why. Peel it and enjoy its flesh without eating the seed. Good huh? And at a bargain, we got a whole medium size bag filled with these goodies for IRD 20,000.

Travel Indonesia: Manado

We didn’t see much once arriving in Gorontalo. We concluded that it was a nice clean city in a glimpse. We didn’t have much time to venture off either considering the ferry we were gonna take departed at 8. So, to the port immediately, not forgetting our bag of rambutan.

Waking up in a dream

The ferry departed at 8 and would take 10 hours to the Wakai island. Wakai port is the first port to reach Kadidiri island, where all the hype in Togean Archipleago was going on. For me, the trip was a decent sleep in Reno’s sleeping bag for about 6 hours after watching a rerun on the TV. They have cable, you know? But crew held kept the remote, so what you see on the screen was what you get :p The fairly cheap executive class was a bit too cold for my liking, but satisfying for the mere price we had to pay.

Waking up, we approached the islands. The ferry passed between islands both inhibited and deserted, big and small, with and without sandy beaches or tropical settings. It was a beautiful 2 hours coming in to the Wakai port.

Travel Indonesia: Gorontalo

I was looking at one of the beaches, seeing what I thought was villagers houses neatly done, thinking it would be nice to just have a house on a private beach and live simple such as these people, but with internet of course hehehehe… . Coming on to the Wakai port, we saw most of the village hung above water on being traditional houses on stilts as the usual setting for villages on the rim of Indonesian beaches or rivers. The village was like any other charming Indonesian village, quite clean and the people were fairly friendly. Need I say how funny the kids are?

Travel Indonesia: Togian

We had to do a short walk from the main port to a smaller one. During this short walk, I could see clove spread and dried in the sun. It was a lovely walk having to smell clove along the way. Clove apparently is one of their commodities, dried in front of the locals houses or in any open land nearby, soon to be sold. Enjoying this feeling built up my anxiousness towards our temporary destination. I had butterflies in my stomach, curious to see where this lag of this journey would cease.

Travel Indonesia: Togian

Travel Indonesia: Togian

Since we didn’t have any reservation, we had to work the floor and ask around. Reno apparently was proactive and already had us a ride to Kadidiri island. Fingers crossed, we hoped could get accommodation on such short notice in this high season. Tagging along Sarah and Lai’s (a couple Reno met on the ferry) pick up service, we hopped on the little fisherman boat for an hour of close-up sight seeing of fresh blue waters, lush forests, and rocks popping up from the sea. Turning right at a corner, we got to our destination. Little did I know, the houses on the beach that I was admiring, was the Kadidiri facilities, well known to accommodate travelers all over the world. It had turquoise water, white sandy beaches, laid back tone accommodation, and tourists with swimming and sun bathing apparels. We were the only Indonesian travelers there… what???

Travel Indonesia: Togian

Travel Indonesia: Togian

Personally, I felt really strange being traveling so far, so remote, and then meeting international tourists enjoying this lovely place. I was a bit shocked and fell in to confusion for a while. I thought I was traveling my own country, but it doesn’t look like it… Ah screw it, I’m here to enjoy myself! Let this be the country of traveleres. After sucking in how beautiful the place by just doing nothing and sitting at the hammock, we started to ask for accommodation. Lestari is the backpackers class crib. With shared bathrooms, simple bungalows, basic facilities (yes, including beer), and a friendly price, Lestari became our first choice, and apparently everybody else’s. The facility was packed full. We couldn’t get a room at all, and by that I mean we even tried to get a room in the owners house and failed. With a little unprofessional rejection from Lestari, we then decided to take our holiday spirit to the neighboring business and ended in Paradise. Yes, it’s called the Kadidiri Paradise Resort.

Travel Indonesia: Togian

So how did we spend our time in Paradise and played with the Black Marlin you say? Well you have to wait for our next lag of the trip, the part where we had fun in the sun and time stopped as if it never ran in the first place. Stay tuned!

On our way from Manado to Gorontalo we had lunch in a restaurant chosen by the driver. It was a nice open restaurant with some Sulawesi cuisines and some general dishes. The restaurant is in a form of a buffet. Self service, take what you want, and pay after you eat. Confess to what you have eaten! A simple dish of fish, some veggies and the famous dabu, plus a bottled drink cost about IDR 25,000/person.

 Travel Indonesia: Togian

Travel Indonesia: Manado

Here are also the bananas and rambutan mentioned earlier.

Travel Indonesia: Togian

Travel Indonesia: Manado

From Manado to Gorontalo

As I mentioned before, there are 2 choices when it comes to public land transportation from Manado. You could take a bus from Manado which departs really in the morning. As we know of from our private car taxi, there are no overnight busses. Busses leave early to get to Gorontalo arriving in the afternoon or dawn because they’re not very fast. It takes about 12 hours and the seats, like most of the Sulawesi busses, are less comfortable for so many hours. Goods attached to a bus is not a new sight in Sulawesi, including the Manado-Gorontalo route.

Travel Indonesia: Manado

We, on the other hand, chose to take a travel service or taxi, in the form of a private car. We went with Garuda Permai travel sevices. They organize private cars to Gorontalo. One taxi can fit up to 7 people but the back seat isn’t VIP at all. It might seem like you won’t be able to fit in, but believe me, they will make things happen and shove you in there! The back seat is a bit cramped and you would have luggage above your head. There is space for luggage but beware that locals usually have a lot to bring with them, not to mention your own big bag for your trip. The trip starts at about 8 am and would take a pleasant 9-10 hours and a lot of stops including lunch. Travel services also only do day trips, and make stops which you or anyone else would need to do. They can pick you up from your accommodation up to where you would or want to stop.

Travel Indonesia: Manado

 A ticket to Gorontalo on these taxis would depend on where you’re sitting. The front seat is the most expensive of IDR 150,000. Followed by the middle row which cost IDR 125,000/pax  and the back row of IDR 100,000/pax. The trip makes a lunch stop but is not included in the price (the menu is in ‘eats’).

CV. Garuda Permai

Jl. Kartini

Phone: 0431 – 864673 / 864623

You could also take a plane to Gorontalo, although flights are not daily. Flights are provided by Batavia Air. Not sure about the ticket price though, but you probably can check it online.

From Gorontalo to the Togians

There are a few choices of sea transportation to Togian island, mainly a crossing to the island with a boat. There are 2 ferries that routinely pass the route, travelling from Gorontalo to Ampana, stopping mainly at Wakai and a few more islands.

KM. Tuna Tomini

This was our ride from Gorontalo. The KM Tuna Tomini is a nice steel ferry boat that runs twice every week. It runs on Mondays and Thursdays, and takes a relaxing 10 hours to arrive in Wakai. It takes about 4 hours from a town called Ampana, located south of the Togian Islands. You can hop on at the Gorontalo port and buy a ticket go show! There is plenty of room with not much passengers. This ferry only stops at Wakai port. From here, you would have to manage on yourself to where ever you wish. You’re a big girl/boy now, I’m sure you can manage 😛 There are a few class choices that you pick from.

Travel Indonesia: Gorontalo

Business class: Reclining seats but very old, AC, and a TV. It has a clean bathroom and quite plenty of water. Beware: they use a squatting toilet. You can pay an extra IDR 5,000 for a thin mattress. Price 78,000/pax.

Travel Indonesia: Gorontalo

You could also choose the business class hard sleepers with the price of IDR 63,000/pax, with just your basics thin mattress with no TV and AC. It’s alright considering it’s a night ferry and you probably could just sleep through the night.

Travel Indonesia: Gorontalo

Economy class: You get reclining seats with fresh air. No TV of course. But you get a great view. Not much to see in the night but a great view in the morning. Even the business class passengers peep out to enjoy the scenery J. Ticket price is IDR 55,000/pax.

And not to worry, the ferry has a canteen that sells snacks, instant noodles, and other muchies. Not to forget, water and bottled colored drinks including the basic sodas.


Another choice is the wooden ferry called the Puspita. It takes about another 5 hours on this boat to get to Wakai. The thing is Puspita makes several stops. This would be the perfect ferry for you to visit the other areas such as Malenge, etc especially if you are on a tight budget. I heard that it could get pricey if you rent your own boat from Kadidiri or any other island even if it’s a fishing boat.

This ferry has 1 class only, THE class. I’m not sure if they have seats or hard sleepers or just chill on the deck, but a lot of travelers still use this ferry to get to Togian.

The ferry runs 3 times a week. Not sure what days exactly, sorry. We’ll update soon 😛

There is also an alternative to rent a boat from the town of A town of Ampana. It’s about a 4 hour boat ride to Togian. I’m not sure of the price so I’m not going to say anything about it. But during our stay at the Kadidiri Island, this service proves itself to be a popular choice. Although you could get pretty wet since it’s a fisherman’s boat without any walls to it, but it’s a choice that is relatively on call.

You can search for these boats from the Tourism Information Center located not far from the town (I think everyone knows where it, so you could just ask any local for direction), or just pop in the Oasis Hotel. But a hard warning is… beware of a guy self proclaiming his name to be Mr. Coral. Bad advice, bad service, bad promises and bad sense of style 😛

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