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Indonesia forum

Sulawesi travel plan

Posted by ukeiro on 30/4/2016 at 20:59


We are a young couple traveling Indonesia for a month. We plan to stay in Java for a few weeks and then travel around Sulawesi. Overall we have 19 days in Sulawesi.

The itinerary in mind is this:

27 JUN Fly Yogyakarta to Makassar

27 JUN Night bus to Rantepao

28-01 JUL Tana Toraja 4 days

2 JUL Private car from Rantepao to Ampana (cost around Rp 2.000.000 and takes min 14 hours)

3 JUL Morning ferry from Ampana to Togians

3-11 JUL Togian Islands (stay in two different resorts)

12 JUL Togian to Manado

13-15 JUL Bunaken snorkeling trip, Tangkako National Park

15 JUL Fly Manado to Kuala Lumpur

Could you please share your thoughts if this is doable?

I know that the biggest problem is getting in and out of Togians. Would appreciate any insights about taking a private car from Rantepao to Ampana - is it possible to make the morning ferry from Ampana to Togians if to start moving from Rantepao the previous morning?

How do you recommend getting to Manado from Togians on July 12th? I heard there are some flights out of Ampana, has anyone traveled to/from there on flight?


#1 ukeiro has been a member since 30/4/2016. Posts: 3

Posted by YogaSearcherBali on 30/4/2016 at 23:37

There is a flight from Ampana, you can check the flight schedule here https://ampanacreative.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/jadwal-penerbangan-bandar-udara-tanjung-api-tojo-una-una-ampana/

#2 YogaSearcherBali has been a member since 25/2/2016. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 71

Posted by somtam2000 on 2/5/2016 at 17:10 admin

For Togians to Manado, take ferry to Gorontalo then bus or taxi from there to Manada. The drive takes about nine hours.

According to the Aviastar website they're not flying to Ampana, so not sure about that link posted above.

#3 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by SBE on 3/5/2016 at 14:25

I think Aviastar still had flights from Ampana when I was there a couple of months ago but they aren't very useful for most people. Just short hops to Gorontalo , Palu and Luwuk once a week and their schedules are inconvenient for ferries. AFAIK there are still no air connections between Ampana and Manado.

Your itinerary doesn't look very doable to me, I think you've crammed too much in and haven't allowed enough time for getting between places (or recovering from the transport).

I've never taken a private car all the way from Rantepao but I did it by bus once and it took about 22 hours just to get to Poso. Vehicles break down frequently and there have been major roadworks on that road for the last few years. They completely close the road to all traffic for a few hours at certain times of day...don't know when the road improvements will be finished. Most people choose to break the journey in Tentana anyway and this isn't a bad idea, not just for you but for the driver as well...it reduces the chance of him falling asleep at the wheel and killing everyone. I doubt if you'd make the morning ferry even if you stopped for a night in Tentena (which is still roughly 7 hours from Ampana) but I haven't actually tried so it might be doable.

On a more positive note, there's a new daily tourist speedboat to Wakai, much faster than the local ferries and it means you won't have to spend more than one night in Ampana (The local ferries don't run every day). Space on the speedboat is limited so it's wise to book your seats in advance, especially in July which is high season.

Re getting from the Togians to Manado on Tuesday July 12... I think you meant getting from Gorontalo (not Togians) to Manado because you'll have to take the night ferry from the Togians on the 11th. Ferry only runs on Mondays and Thursdays and the journey time is about 12 hours. It's scheduled to leave Wakai at 4pm so it generally arrives in Gorontalo well before dawn, though it was two hours late last time I took it. If you're planning on going straight to Manado, I suggest renting a cabin on the Tuna Tomini ferry so you can try and get some sleep before spending a further 9 hours squashed up in a shared taxi. The crew were charging 500,000Rp for their cramped 4 bunk cabins a couple of months ago... the crew cabins have A/C but no washing facilities and it's unlikely that the sheets will have been changed any time recently. It's a tourist rip off (locals pay a lot less) but it's pretty impossible to bargain the price down or get a decent sleep elsewhere on the ferry.

Personally I'd skip Manado altogether. I don't think it's worth the extra travel, money and hassle for such a short time there. I'd spend the extra days relaxing and snorkeling in the Togians and then fly to Makassar from Gorontalo and get a connecting flight to KL. The logistics aren't too bad by Sulawesi standards though it does involve a fair bit of hanging around at airports etc ....overnight ferry to Gorontalo on July 14th, next day 11.15 am Lion Air flight to Makassar and then the Air Asia to KL late afternoon. Gorontalo airport is about 1 hour from the ferry harbour and getting transport there at 4am is no problem. When the ferry arrives in Gorontalo you'll be met by swarms of transport touts. As you won't be in any hurry you could take a bentor to the airport ... it's cheaper and more fun than a proper taxi.

#4 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by somtam2000 on 3/5/2016 at 17:22 admin

SBE - any idea on the speedboat price from Ampana to Wakai? If you know, let me know and I'll add it into the guide.


#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by SBE on 4/5/2016 at 04:31

Hi Somtam,

Ahem, I'm pretty sure I took notes and they must be somewhere in my computer but I'm damned if I can find them now! From memory, the new speedboat costs 150K and journey time is about 90 minutes instead of 4 hours. Leaves Ampana at 9am and the return trip from Wakai leaves at 11am. Didn't use it myself so not sure which piers it uses but locals will know.

#6 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by ukeiro on 6/5/2016 at 02:56

Thank you everyone, especially SBE, for your informative answers!

What if to do the same itinerary from North to South instead?

27 Jun Yogyakarta to Manado flight

28-30 Jun Manado (Bunaken and Tangkoko National Park day trips)

1 Jul Fly Manado to Gorontalo

1 Jul Ferry to Wakai 5pm

2-8 Jul Togian Islands

9 Jul Ferry to Ampana

9 Jul Private car to Rantepao with a stop in Tentana

10-14 Jul Tana Toraja

15 Jul Bus back to Makassar and fly to KL

The advantage for doing it from North to South are:

- having a bit more time for Manado which I want as a base for doing a few day trips to Bunaken and Tangkoko National Park

- being able to fly to Gorontalo and take the ferry to Togians on the same day

- less pressure with the private car ride from Ampana to Rantepao, as there won't be a need to catch early ferry and can rest longer during the ride

Few more questions:

Do you still recommend visiting Bunaken and Tangkoko National Park or these places are not worthwhile if going to Togians and Taman Negara National Park later anyway? If no, then what else would you recommend?

Is the car ride from Ampana to Rantepao very taxing and dangerous? I don't see any good alternative to this, as even taking a ride to Luwuk (6h?) means staying there the night and flying out to Makassar the next day and then again taking a long ride to Rantepao.

At what time should I leave Rantepao in order to catch the Airasia Makassar to Kuala Lumpur flight at 17.40?

#7 ukeiro has been a member since 30/4/2016. Posts: 3

Posted by SBE on 10/5/2016 at 04:55


Might be easier in that direction but the time in the Togians is shorter and it'll be the Idul Fitri holiday while you're there. It's the biggest Muslim holiday of the year (official public holiday lasts five days) and it'll be harder to island hop...local ferries might not be running for the best part of a week and local captains might not want to do private charters, especially on July 6th and 7th.

Ferries should be running again on March 9th but it'll probably be very busy with a lot of people on the move so make sure you have a reservation if you're taking the speedboat and book the car south in advance too.

I see you're planning to go all the way from the Togians to Rantepao on July 9th. That's a very long way and yes it'll be extremely taxing for both you and your driver. Personally I'd break the journey with an overnight stop in Tentana and cut a day off Rantepao.

Buses from Rantepao to Makassar take 8-9 hours which is easy peasy and very quick and comfortable compared to Ampana-Rantepao. However, unless things have changed since I last did that route a few years ago, you've only got the choice between a day bus or a night bus and you can't choose what time to leave. I don't think you'll make your flight with a day bus. The night bus can probably drop you off at the airport at around 6am which isn't terribly convenient either. There are several bus companies in Rantepao though, maybe one of them now offers a schedule that suits you, check when you're in Rantepao.

As for Bunaken and Tangkoko... haven't been to either for over a decade. Personally I prefer the Togians to Bunaken. The diving's probably a bit better in Bunaken but the Togians are prettier above water. Only went to Tankoko once ages ago and didn't like it much because it was difficult to do anything without a guide. Can't remember much about it except being prevented from going for a stroll in the forest on our own by aggressive park officials....maybe someone else who's been there more recently can help with this question.

#8 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by SBE on 11/5/2016 at 05:11

Oops, just reread my reply and notice there's a typo in it that might be a bit confusing for you. Re ferries after Idul Fitri holiday.... that should read July 9th of course, no idea why I wrote March 9th instead!

#9 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by ukeiro on 12/5/2016 at 00:17

Thank SBE, your answers were truly useful!

I will skip Manado and Bunaken but will otherwise try to do this itinerary from North to South.

#10 ukeiro has been a member since 30/4/2016. Posts: 3

Posted by Travellingwiththejoneses on 16/5/2016 at 05:13

Hello SBE,
Sorry to drop in on this post but we are planning a similar trip starting on July 10th in Makassar coming from KL and other places before.

We are a family of 4, our kids are 10 & 13years old and we have travelled before so are ok with "some" hard travelling as take month out each year to explore SE Asia.

We plan to travel to Toraja (hoped to fly if possible) on the 11th to spend1-2 days max before heading to Ampana which sounds like a hell trip to catch the speedboat you mentioned (is there a number we can email or call to book) to Wakai.

We have booked our accomodation on Togean 14-18th, can this be done or am I dreaming?

We were going to carry on towards Gorontalo but from what you have written it sounds too difficult so I'm now thinking of speedboat back to Ampana before travelling to Poso so we can fly back to Makassar on the 19th for a night and then its back to KL before overnight on the 20th to Australia.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Take care

#11 Travellingwiththejoneses has been a member since 16/5/2016. Posts: 1

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