Togean Islands, Indonesia

The Togean Islands are a collection of limestone plots huddled in a large peninsula formed by North and Central Sulawesi.  They are a well known, but difficult to reach, place to forget time and become one with sand and sun.

We started our Togean Odyssey in Manado, near the Northeastern tip of Sulawesi.  First we caught a bus to Gorontalo, an uncomfortable 12 hour bus under the full heat of the equatorial sun.  After 3 days in Gorontalo we were able to catch the Puspita ferry to the Togeans.  The Puspita is a large wooden ferry, which charmed us with it’s creaks and cracks over each swell.  We were lucky to be able to book one of the crew’s cabins and sleep most of the way.

After 11 hours our final destination, Fadilla Island, came into view.  It was a merciful 1 minute boat ride across from the town of Katuput where the ferry let us off.  We immediately hit the beach.  The stress melted off our bones and our only concerns became the next plot twist in our books and which side of the island would have the best snorkeling that day.

Fadilla Cottages, the only accommodations on the small islands, is run by a family that has lived in the Togeans forever.  They employ an Australian dive instructor with a jovial spirit and far to many hours underwater for one lifetime.  Our travel mates Dag (Dah-ugk) and Lotte (Lot-ah) were our only neighbors, so we basically had the place to ourselves.  Dag decided to get his Open Water certification so we waited for him to finish (1 day) and headed off to see the reefs.

The Togean Islands suffer from severe overfishing, mostly for export to China and Japan.  We knew this before we came so it was no surprise when our familiar gilled friends didn’t come out to greet us in mass.  The coral however is still spectacular and Dag’s excitement was very contagious.  We did 4 dives and each was quite different than the next.  We even got to hear a dynamite blast in the water, courtesy of the very damaging fishing practices of some unscrupulous Bajo fisherman.  Sadly the underwater world of the Togeans is already well past its prime and continued overfishing, cyanide fishing, and dynamite bombing threaten what remains.  Perhaps as interesting as anything else was viewing the results of a valuable but mismanaged resource in real time.

On the island things began to degenerate as the staff battled with deviant and dangerous behavior within their ranks and the conflict between the Dive Instructor and Management came to a head.  The flower wilted instantly and we were happy to charter a boat out instead of waiting 2 more days for a ferry.

Our next destination was Kadidiri Paradise, on the island of Kadidiri.  Though the facilities were nice the place had no soul and its bland flavor kept us only two days.  On the bright side, the beach and food were quite good. For the second time in a week when we left we were happy to watch the island fade into the distance.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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