NE Sulawesi Isl. – Beaches to Volcanoes

Paddle powered ferry crossing the river, Manado, Sulawaisi

Paddle powered ferry crossing the river, Manado, Sulawesi

We flew a couple of hours to the Northern end of Sulawesi Island. Here in we found an odd juxtaposition of modern and undeveloped. The city of Manado was the only place in Indonesia we saw where there are more automobiles than motor bikes, and many tall office buildings. (But then we did not spend time in Jakarta). We also spent 5 days on the island of Bunaken, right off shore, which was far more primitive. Every day we snorkeled, typically along coral walls, seeing new things every time.

Getting to Bunaken Island was a bit of a cultural adventure. We decided to try to public boat because it was ridiculously cheaper than a private boat. The public boat “dock” was an incredibly grimy affair – including rats and people peeing on the steps to the boat, tons of litter in the muddy river – you get the picture.

Inside the Ferry Boat

Inside the Ferry Boat

Our boat was loaded heavily with water bottles, construction materials, mattresses, people, a live rooster, water, food and many other boxes and crates. Many of the passengers sat on the roof. Dan sat on top with the owner of the inn where we would stay and a weathered older man who chain smoked and drank from a bottle of palm wine, but was really friendly!



Our boat to Buanken Island, waiting for the tide to rise.

Our boat to Bunaken Island, waiting for the tide to rise.

In the US we occasionally hear of fatal ferry accidents. It was easy to see how they could happen here. This boat was a wooden one about 70 feet long and 12 feet wide. It was powered by a 40 HP outboard. The Captain sat with the outboard in the back, where he could see absolutely nothing. There were no life jackets, life boats, compass, lights, and no evidence of a bilge pump. There were two spare engines. Our passage was perfectly calm but we were told that 2 meter waves are not uncommon.

Tarsier - worlds' smallest primate

Tarsier – worlds’ smallest primate

After our trip so Bunaken we returned to Sulawesi and drove to the town of Tomohon, which is known for its greenery, beautiful (active) volcanoes and flowers. We trekked up to a volcano crater that was still venting sulphur and visited a park where they have the cutest little pocket sized monkeys, called Tarsiers, and animals they call Sulawesi bears which look more like possums.

Mountains of vegetables

Mountains of vegetables

Tomohon has one of the most fantastic markets we have ever seen. It is huge, and appears to be almost like a regional distribution center for the overwhelming amount of produce grown on the island. We have never seen so much green lettuce in one place. But the other thing this market is known for is its rather gruesome meat area. There you will see dogs, rats, bats, snakes etc., in various stages of preparation for the dinner table. To us it was a very macabre scene. There was a cage of live dogs right next to a counter where there was a dead one, and we know they do the killings right there in the market, but fortunately we did not see one. By the way, not all Indonesians eat dogs! Many people we talked to said they would not consider it. If you wish to see these photos follow this link.

Other favorite photos from Northern Suluwesi Island and Bunaken Island are below.  Click on one to see a slide show with captions.


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