Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Togean Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia

We wanted more diving. We wanted it to be good. So why not go to the middle of nowhere. That's what we did. Flew from Bali to Makassar at the bottom of the weird "K" shaped island of Sulawesi and spent the night after a fairly authentic fish dinner involving: choosing your dead fish from a tub (gotta pick the fresh ones), having a rat charge you while choosing your fish, ordering random sides from a menu you can't read, realizing by the dish of water they bring that you're supposed to eat with your hands, being unable to finish the massive bbq'd fish (I even got the small one) they bring you for $3. A quick flight to Palu in the center of the island the next morning and then we hired a van to take us to the small town where you catch the ferry to the Togeans.
Sulawesi is definitely off the beaten track for tourists as there's not too much here to interest most people. There's some diving in the very south and at the very top of the island, but not much else besides the Togeans (which are such a bitch to get to) that attracts travelers. We were a bit of a spectacle as people in most parts of Sulawesi don't see a lot of white people from what I can tell. After consulting the Lonely Planet & the opinions of various cab drivers and locals we determined that the drive would take anywhere from 6-10 hours. Oh boy! 9 hours of RURAL driving, some of it in the rain, on less than reputable roads, eating nothing but weird cookies & chips, we finally made it our jump off point around midnight. Up at 8am we were able to catch the 6 hour ferry to the Togeans.........
There are only two "resorts" in the Togeans, Black Marlin & Paradise. We opted for Paradise as we'd heard it was a little nicer and run by a crazy Swiss-French dive master who'd been there for 15 years. Now "resort" is an interesting word and can have a variety of meanings. Here, it means wooden bungalows with lots of cracks, leaky roofs, power from 6-11pm, mosquitos galore, spiders, rats, random noises all night, lots of rice & fish, but it also means insanely gorgeous terrain & epic diving. For one thing, the water here is so calm & warm its insane as the Togeans are located in the very center of Sulawesi & are proctected from most swells & storms. We'd come up from dives in shallow water sometimes where the water temp had to be mid 70s at least. We did 7 dives over the next few days but our most memorable ones were the 2 at the Atoll & the island of Una Una.

ATOLL- an atoll is an island of coral that encircles a lagoon and in this case it was a straight wall of coral about 10 stories up from the sea floor. At about 25 meters you would look up a sheer cliff & feel as if Dale Chihuly (or maybe Jerome Baker) had affixed glass-blown vases of every color to it. Huge, huge coral fans, "vases",fish everywhere, large overhangs you could swim under and even a small cave to swim through. Also a sick narrow canyon we got to descend through to start one of the dives. The coral here is the real star and I've never seen anything like it in terms of size and sheer numbers. Amazing

UNA UNA- The next day our 2 dives were at this island about an hour by boat. On the way we saw Marlin breaching & flying fish looking like they'd just been thrown out of the water. If the star of the atoll was the coral, the star of Una Una is the fish. Lots of really big fish. We swam with schools of Jack & Barracuda (700-800) about 3ft long swirling around us. You could look up and see the Barracuda forming a kind of huge, silver, shimmering funnel to the surface. It was really something to see, all these fish moving together in perfect unison forming these crazy forms with light streaming down through the water. Also, 6 gigantic Napolean fish and some big Grouper as well. Very cool and a perfect compliment to the beautiful coral of the atoll the day before. Probably my favorite dives of the trip

Link to some facebook pics.......

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