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Indonesia forum

Maluku or NE Sulawesi?

Posted by dezatron on 21/9/2016 at 04:14


I have just over two weeks left in North Sulawesi, and was originally going to spend a large part of that in the Togeans. But I have been hearing/reading a bit about the Maluku region and also the Sagnier islands to the north, and would like to check out one or both of those places. If anyone has been to either, or even better both of those places and could tell me which would be a better option, or even just any info/suggestions relative to those places, your help would be appreciated!
Some info;
I have 16 days to kill before my flight out of Manado
I love diving and particularly snorkelling, and have my own freedive gear
I'm on a mid range backpacker budget
Most crucially (from what I can gauge), I know very limited Bahasa (I originally wasn't planning to come to Indo on this trip; long story). Would I be ok with the basics and a phrase book?

As mentioned, any constructive info would be massively appreciated. Thanks in advance!

#1 dezatron has been a member since 20/9/2016. Posts: 2

Posted by amnicoll on 21/9/2016 at 06:05

I can not make a recommendation but do not worry about communication especially if you have the basics and phrase book as English is quite widely spoken and understood in places that tourists venture

#2 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 976

Posted by SBE on 21/9/2016 at 11:44

Haven't been to north Maluku or the islands north of Manado but you could try the Bandas. The snorkeling there is definitely better than in the Togians though the latter does actually have a few good spots.

Weather is supposed to better in the Togians at this time of year but I've been to the Bandas multiple times and the best weather I ever experienced there was during the month of September. Was pouring with rain in Ambon (where they probably take the readings for weather statistics) but we didn't get a single drop of rain the whole month in the Bandas. Can't guarantee it'll be like that this year too (especially with La Nina) but I think the weather should be relatively OK.

Garuda seems to fly from Manado to Ambon via Ternate. Probably Lion does as well but a quick random search on Skyscanner showed Garuda as the cheapest flight and it's a way better airline. Flight takes 5-6hrs which is quicker than the 9hr kijang journey between Gorontalo and Manado.

Getting from Ambon to Bandaneira (and back again) is no longer the enormous logistical headache it used to be either. A twice weekly fastboat means you no longer have to wait two weeks for the next Pelni ferry and I see flights have even just started up again. Here's a link with the latest travel info... should be pretty accurate as it's from a very well run dive shop based in Bandaneira.


English is spoken at nearly all the guesthouses in Bandaneira. Fewer locals speak English on the other islands but it shouldn't be too much of a problem. They're pretty used to having tourists around these days so you should be fine with the basics and a phrase book.

Bandaneira has the most comfortable accommodation and creature comforts like 24hr electricity (ie fans or A/C at night) but you have to take a boat to go snorkeling if you stay there. There is a beach (black sand) on the island but it isn't great. There are several snorkeling spots around Bandaneira for half day trips or you can do a whole day trip to the islands further away. Price depends on the distance and how many people are sharing the boat. A boat varied from about 150,000Rp for a short trip to nearby spots about 700,000Rp for a day trip to Hatta a couple of years ago... probably costs a bit more now.

Pulau Hatta is probably the best place for off the beach snorkeling, has an awesome drop off which is only a meter from the sand in one place but there aren't a lot of places to stay so you might find it hard to get a room. Also if the sea's rough you may not be able get off the island for a few days ... best to get back to Bandaneira a day or two before you're planning to leave just in case. There's a public boat but it doesn't run every day even when the sea is calm.

Pulau Ay (or Ai) is another island you can stay on ... the snorkeling off the beach isn't quite as good as Hatta but there are several guesthouses and it's usually easy enough to find accommodation. Ay has a very long deserted beach round the back which is accessed by a pleasant 20 minute (ish) stroll through jungle and nutmeg plantations but it's hard to get out to the reef from the beach at low tide. You can swim there from the village side of the island though, if you're a decent swimmer and the aggressive trigger fish hanging out on the corner will let you by!

When I was last there a couple of years ago, locals on Ay were talking about making tourists pay a new fee to visit or stay in order to "save the reefs and the fish" ... I don't know if this brilliant (not) idea ever took root. I've never seen many tourists staying on Ay and only one or two snorkeling or diving boats visited per day (at most). Unless tourist numbers are now far higher (which they may be, thanks to easier access to the Bandas these days) I can't see how hitting tourists with an entrance fee is going to help save their reef. From what I could see, its decline was mostly due to locals using hard corals as a building material, everyone chucking all their rubbish into the sea and no raw sewage treatment. Anyway, maybe ask if you now have to pay a fee to go to Pulau Ay before heading there. Ay is a bit closer to Bandaneira and has a public boat service every day, takes about an hour to get there.

Have never actually stayed on Pulau Run but if you go to the Bandas the tiny uninhabited Pulau Nailaka right next to it should definitely be on your snorkeling trip list, preferably on a calm sunny day when the views back to Pulau Ai with the volcano behind it are simply gorgeous. Be careful of the currents on Neilaka when the tide's coming in, they can be very strong.

A couple of weeks is a good time to stay...long enough to see everywhere but not so long you'll be bored out of your mind. If you are bored you could check out the muck diving on Ambon or check out Saparua or Seram.

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

Posted by gecktrek on 21/9/2016 at 17:10

hey sbe, thanks for the information, very useful!

#4 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 181

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