Arriving at Kendari Airport, we will be transferred to Lapuko Harbour, where we will join our splendid ship, the Ombak Putih. After lunch and a general briefing, we will depart for Pulau Bokori, or one of the two islands nearby, where we can enjoy beach activities and snorkelling. In the evening, we will cruise down the eastern shore of central Sulawesi to the small and isolated Padea Islands in the Manui Archipelago.
After breakfast, we can visit the village of Padea Darat on Pulau Padea Besar. We will then spend the rest of the day exploring the islands with kayaks and paddleboards, and snorkelling off Pulau Padea Kecil, where there is a good drop-off with beautiful corals and an abundance of fish, and again later near Pulau Padea Besar. In the evening, we will cruise to the south side of Pulau Labengke Besar.
Labengki – a pretty cluster of hilly, jungle-clad islands, with deserted white-sand beaches – is renowned as an underwater paradise. The best-known islands are Labengki Besar and Labengki Kecil, where there is a heart-shaped bay called Teluk Cinta (cinta means love) and a stunning view from the top of the hills above. At the Toli Toli giant clam reef, home to a giant clam conservation project, we can enjoy a fantastic snorkelling experience with the opportunity to see dozens of huge clams. We can also visit the colourful village, and the impressive Blue Lagoon. Later, we will cruise to Pulau Sombori, which offers more blue lagoons, stalactite diamond caves and beautiful turquoise bays filled with coral rock islands. We will spend the afternoon snorkelling and exploring the area. Overnight we will cruise to Salabangka.
We will spend a full day exploring the Salabangka Archipelago, visiting a local village and participating in some trekking and bird-watching, with the opportunity to do some snorkelling in the afternoon. We will then cruise overnight to Banggai Island.
The best way to tour the village of Banggai is by bentor (motorised pedicab) transport. We will visit the market, the Sultan’s Palace, a grave of kings of the past, and the ceremonial house (Rumah Adat) of one of the main indigenous tribes. At the harbour we might see the beautiful Banggai cardinal fish, hovering in groups in the calm shallows. The tranquil bays of Banggai and its neighbouring islands are the only places on Earth where you can see these tiny, exquisite fish in their natural habitat. Sadly, they may soon be gone from the wild because they are being collected for the aquarium trade faster than they can reproduce in nature. The Banggai cardinal fish conservation project is working hard to prevent this from happening and we will visit the project to learn more. In the afternoon, we will have time for snorkelling at Pulau Potil, north of Banggai. Overnight we will cruise to Desa Taima, North Tompotika.
At Pantai Taima, a nesting site of the famous, endemic and nearly-extinct maleo bird we will visit a project by the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (ALTO). Here, we hope to see the almost-extinct, huge maleo birds digging in the sand to lay their eggs. Instead of incubating their eggs, the maleos tap the natural resources of the island, relying on heat from thermal vents or sun-warmed sand to incubate their eggs. Furthermore, instead of building up like other megapodes, maleos dig down. We will also visit the nearby bat-island Tangkuladi (Pulau Empat), which is also part of the ALTO-conservation project. At lunchtime will we depart for the Togian Islands, stopping to snorkel near one of the islands that we pass on the way.
Those who feel fit can participate in a four-hour jungle trek from Tanjung Malenge, on the southwest side of the island, ending up on the north side. Others can go snorkelling off the north side of the island. Later, we will visit the bajo (sea gypsy) village of Desa Kadoda, accessed via a wooden bridge, hundreds of metres long. These are the Bajao people who build their homes on stilts over the sea. Historically, Indonesia has had many nomadic tribes often referred to as ‘sea-gypsies’ due to the fact that they mainly travelled and lived in boats. These people have now had to adapt to life in a static village. Nevertheless, still being so close to the water, their dependence on the sea is not lost. Their children are introduced to the sea at a young age and grow accustomed to living and playing within the ocean environment.
In the morning we will take the dinghies and explore the narrow channel between the islands of Togian and Talatakoh, ending up at another fascinating bajo village, called Kabalutan, where more than 2,000 people live in the middle of the sea. In the afternoon we can enjoy some fabulous snorkelling at a reef north of Pulau Bolilanga.
Today we will visit Danau (Lake) Mariona, on the north side of the island to snorkel with thousands of multi-hued stingless jelly fish; it still remains a mystery as to how this lake was formed. We will spend the rest of the morning at the paradisical Karina Beach, where we can snorkel and participate in water sports. In the afternoon, we can enjoy some good snorkelling on the Tumbulawa Reef, and in the late afternoon we will visit Desa Tumbulawa to marvel at the sight of dozens of the Knobbed Hornbills flying in to roost in the trees. In the evening, we’ll have a fun farewell party on board with the crew while cruising to Gorontalo.
We will wake up at Gorontalo harbour. After saying goodbye to the crew, we disembark. On the way to the airport we visit the Portuguese built Fort Otanaha, from where there is a beautiful view of the city of Gorontalo and the vast Limboto Lake.