Paradise on Earth: The Togian islands, the best kept secret of Indonesia

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After a week in Bali, always moving around, driving our motorbikes from one place to the other, a lot of parties and not so much beach time, it was time to give ourselves a proper vacation and relax.

We heard about Togean Islands from a friend. He told us about this paradise that almost no one knew about and that was super hard to get to. We searched for the islands on the map to check what was the closest airport. And so we bought flights from Denpasar to the city of Gorontalo, in Sulawesi.

At the time we didn’t know much, we found a couple of blog posts about the Togian, mentioning a ferry that left mainland twice a week from a small city called Marisa, 4 hours away from Gorontalo. So we got a car to take us there, hoping to find a boat at the port, willing to take us. But, apparently it wasn’t that easy.

Going to the Togian Islands turned out to be an extremely difficult mission. We got to Marisa on Saturday and had to wait until Monday for the 14-hour ferry, which meant wasting 3 days of the week we had left.  No one in this end-of-the-world town spoke a word of English so we first looked for a hotel with wifi so we could use Google translator in our phones to be able to have a “conversation” with the lovely locals, who stared at us, giggling and queuing up to take photos with the foreigners. They would first start taking photos very discretely, but once “the fear of the white people” was gone they’d start taking photos of each one of us individually, and then altogether, a then hugging, and then  a selfie, and it would carry on until we let them.

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Google translator wasn’t taking us anywhere, we asked for a speedboat but some said it didn’t exist, others “had a friend” but didn’t know when or how much. It was all very uncertain and we wanted to leave as soon as possible. 

Next to where we were staying – Irene Hotel – there was a supermarket owned by a Chinese family. The girl, around 20 years old, was back home on holidays from her University in Jakarta, and she spoke English!  She asked her dad for help and from that moment on she became our mediator. They took us in the back of a truck to the house of the dad’s friend. This friend owned a speedboat and maybe could take us. We arrived at Irpan’s house already past dinner time to meet his wife, who seemed to handle all the deals while the husband was in the sea. She said Irpan could take the 6 of us the next morning  around 8 am, it would cost us 4.5 million rupees and we’d be there in 3 hours. 

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Very expensive for Indonesian standards, but what the hell, this was supposed to be remote hidden paradise. So we closed de deal. The next morning Irpan showed up about 3 hours late and we parted to Kadidiri, one of the Togean islands, the most beautiful according to what we were told.  

The photos speak for themselves but it was in fact one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to. Clear water, corals and colorful fish everywhere, almost no people, no cellphones, no internet, no cars, electricity only after 5pm and water for showers 1hour a day. The perfect place to relax for 5 full days.

The island of Kadidiri has 3 small hotels, all next to each other. We chose the Black Marlin Dive Resort, for the diving, for the cute rooms and for the nice staff. We paid 240 rupees (15€) a night for a private suite and 3 meals a day.  Unbelievable prices for paradise!

For the next 5  days all we did was sleeping, eating, reading, and enjoying the sun. We hanged out with the people that lived there (and spoke English!), we went snorkeling, diving and visiting all the other little islands. It was so good, so worth the effort to get there!

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Best place I’ve ever dived in, and the cheapest also (35€ per dive, if you have the course). In case you go diving in Kadidiri, ask for Ali to be your diving instructor, he will take you to the most amazing coral cliffs and show you fish you never imagined existed! 

We took some time to do the island hopping as well, we went to Malengue, we visited the fishermen’s floating village and the jelly fish lake. There was a couple of hikes as well, we did the short one up to Barracuda beach. But the best thing to do is definitely diving!

Even though I ate spicy food every day, got heavily beaten by a cockroach, got scared to death in my own bathroom by a huge crab inside the toilet that insisted on showing up every time I wanted to pee, I’d still stay there for a month if I could. Every place they took us to was better than the one before, all the islands, the beaches, the places for snorkeling, everything was amazing. I really think we were very close to what people call paradise.

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Thank you Indonesia, thank you Lina, Ali, Opi, Jaco, Dani and all the guys we left behind at the Black Marlin!!!