Sunday, November 2, 2008

THE TOGIAN ISLANDS

The secret is out. Long passed around on the backpacker grapevine as a not-to-be-missed stopover, the Togian Islands in the Tomini Gulf are starting to show up on the radarof jaded Jakartans looking for a new getaway.
The Togians, a tight cluster of 56 islands and islets nestled between the two eastern arms of pinwheel-shaped Sulawesi, offer vast rewards for anybody with the patience and resolve to venture out that way : clear turquoise waters, perfect hidden beaches, dense jungles sheltering exotic wildlife and, best of all, breath-taking coral reefs.
But prepare yourself for more than a bumpy ride out to this prisyine paradise : the airport in Gorontalo is the closest one gets to fly-in convenience. After that it’s about an hour’s drive to the city’s port for a grueling ride on the sole ferry servicing the Togian archipelago (the islands are sometimes known as the Togeans). The boat journeyto Wakai, the best serviced port of the region and the main jumping-off point to smaller island destinations,can take 18 hours or more, which may seem longer if you don’t bring along adequate seasickness medication.
The big draw of the togians is the multitude of immaculate reefs that surround many of the islands, with Batu Daka, Malenge, Togean, Kadidiri and Una-Una seeing the mostdivers and snorkelers. This is the one place in Indonesia to encounter three types of coral environments : fringing, atoll and barrier reefs. And They won’t disappoint you.
The Aquatic realm boasts 500 types of hard and soft corals of unsurpassed beauty and a helthy array of marine life that rivals Bunaken. For underwater photographers, it’s macro-lens drean come true, with the plentiful assortment of nudibranchs of all color combinations and docile pygmy seahorses ready to pose.
During our dives, we were dazzled with sightings of sea cucumbers, lobsters, frogfish, leaf fish, stone fish Napoloean Wrasse, bumpheads and shoals of snappers tuna, jackfish and trevalli,entertaining us with their succinct synchronized movements. Gray reef sharks dolphins and dugongs are not uncommon in these waters.
Accomodation
Althogh backpackershave been journeying to the Togians for many years, scuba diving in the area didn’t take off until 1999. Since then four dive operations have sprouted up, two of which are side by side on Kadidiri islands : Paradise and Black Marlin. Other popular dive centers are Island Retreat outside the village of Bomba on Pulau Walea Kodi.
All have small cottages, as well as transportation and three mals. Facilities are basic but comfortable and easy to adjust to.
Not much information is available about the numerous bungalows for hire throughout the islands so it’s best to check with the hotels

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