Sulawesi, Indonesia

About the island Sulawesi

Sulawesi – known as Celebes in past times – is an odd shaped but amazing island in Indonesia. Indonesia has many thousands islands, ranging from big to tiny; Sulawesi is the fourth biggest island (and 11th biggest in the world). To many travelers Sulawesi represents the ultimate ‘off the beaten track’ holiday. Here you can experience a different kind of Indonesia all together. Mass tourism has not yet arrived in Sulawesi, though some tourist highlights attract many thousands of tourists each year. A trip to Sulawesi basically boils down to the following attractions & activities: Scuba diving, jungle trekking, cultural splendor and volcanoes/highlands.

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3 main regions

Sulawesi consists of three main regions:

  • Southern Sulawesi with capital Makassar has many cultural highlights and you can also find the stunning Wakatobi Marine Park in this region.
  • Central Sulewesi is known for its beautiful highlands with pleasant climate. Here you also find a few of the biggest attractions the island has to offer: Tana Toraja, the Togian Islands and Lore Lindu National Park.
  • Northern Sulawesi is best known for its splendid diving conditions. There are three marine parks where you can experience world class diving; Bunaken, Lembeh and Bangka. Here you also have a couple of volcanos and lakes, and the Minahasa tribes in the highlands (near Tomohon). Northern Sulawesi also has plenty of places to spot wildlife. The most popular national parks in this region are: Tangkoko National Park and Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park.

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Wildlife

Sulawesi has numerous national parks, and three in particular are well worth a visit; Lore Lindu National Park, Tangkoko National Park and the biggest of the three; Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park. Of these three a visit to Lore Lindu NP probably gives you the best jungle experience. All three parks offer great hikes, an abundance of wildlife, guided tours and the option to stay overnight. Tangkoko is easiest accessible for tourists, as it’s only a 1,5 hour drive from Manado. Getting to the other two parks requires a bit more traveling.

Some examples of wildlife endemic to Sulawesi are the Tarsier, the Crested Macaque and the Babirusa. There are many other endemic species, including several bird and fish species.

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Marine life

Sulawesi is renowned for its scuba diving and snorkeling possibilities. Sulawesi has four official marine parks; Bunaken, Wakatobi, Taka Bone Rate and Kepulauan Togean. These marine parks are protected areas where fishing is prohibited. Diving conditions in these marine parks are absolutely stunning. Everywhere you look there are beautiful corals, the seas surrounding Sulawesi are teeming with marine life. It is said that the waters around Sulawesi contains a percentage of fish species that is one of the highest in the world.

Besides the four marine parks, you can also enjoy perfect diving conditions at Lembeh Strait and Bangka Island. Diving facilities have greatly developed over the years in Sulawesi. Each of the marine parks offer great diving, and there are numerous diving schools that operate at each location. Some of the marine parks are not easy to reach, like Wakatobi and Taka Bone Rate. However, Bunaken, Lembeh, Bangka and Togian are much better accessible and all offer awesome scuba diving and snorkeling conditions.

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Stunning islands

Sulawesi has numerous beautiful marine parks that attract scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world. The islands within these marine parks are absolutely stunning. Even non-divers will have a perfect time. Most of the resorts have private beaches, where you can do some great sunbathing.

The Togian Islands and the Wakatobi Islands have the best beaches. They also attract less tourists compared to the other islands, so chances are big that you will have your own secluded beach.

There is even a special lake at Togian with jellyfish that do not sting, which allows you to swim with them.

Islands like Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh are great too, but mostly attract those that come there for scuba diving. Besides the main islands we mentioned just now, there are also many hundreds of islands where you will not find any tourists. Often there is no accommodation on these islands, or there is but nobody has heard of it yet. Real adventurous travelers often venture out to explore the lesser known islands around Sulawesi.

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Cultural gems

Islands like Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh are great too, but mostly attract those that come there for scuba diving. Besides the main islands we mentioned just now, there are also many hundreds of islands where you will not find any tourists. Often there is no accommodation on these islands, or there is but nobody has heard of it yet. Real adventurous travelers often venture out to explore the lesser known islands around Sulawesi.

Less intense, but equally interesting are the Minahasa tribes in the Tomohon area in Northern Sulawesi. You can witness typical Minahasan dances, and the fierce hot Minahasan food. The area surrounding Tomohon is also great for nature/hiking enthusiasts. Trips to Tomohon usually start from Manado.

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