This blip of a town is the main southern gateway to the Togeans with near daily boat connections to at least some part of the archipelago from either the central port or a small village just to the west of town.
Ampana is a small, friendly and remarkably clean town -- one of the cleanest we've seen in all of Indonesia in fact (save the festy canal near the water) and while we saw it in the midst of Ramadan, we imagine across the rest of the year this isn't a bad place to lose a day or two waiting for the boat to the Togean Islands.
With mountains backing it in the distance and clear waters running out from the pebbly beach to the Tomini Sea beyond, this is a relatively scenic spot and (outside of Ramadan) there are a couple of beachfront bars and simple seafood restaurants to soak up the atmosphere in.
Few travellers though come here to soak up the Ampana vibe though. Virtually all will be using it as either a transit point to or from the islands, or, as was the case with us, as a resupply point to get cash and chocolate before returning to the islands -- in both cases, Ampana does the job.
Between Ampana and neighbouring Labuhan are a handful of places to stay covering most budgets. Ampana has plenty of places to eat along the main road through town, along with a couple of seaside bars/restaurants that make for an ideal sundowner (outside of Ramadan).
There is a small "Tourist Information Office" on the pier at Ampana (on your right when looking at the sea) that can provide limited information on accommodation availability (some places work solely on a walk-in basis), along with boat timetable information and tips for ways to fill your slow time in Ampana -- if you're stuck here for any period of time drop by and have a chat to Ulfah . She'll have ideas for stuff but if you find her rates too high, you'll be able to negotiate prices elsewhere.
The central area of Ampana is small and easily walkable. The only reason you'd need to use an ojek (or a horsecart) is to get to the alternative boat landing spot (for Bomba) at Labuhan.
The main pier is the centrepoint of town. With your back to the water, follow the road to the right for the market and take your first left for the Oasis Hotel and the losman next door. Continue up this road and you'll reach the main drag through town. Take a left and you'll quickly hit a decent nasi campur place, one more block (crossing the road back to the pier), on the opposite side of the road is Nasi Jamil, whose giggling staff do a solid satay.
Back up to the pier road, walk down towards the pier and take the first right (or coming from the pier, your first left) and you'll find two convenience stores that are the epicentre of the traveller restocking scene -- note to those travelling with kids, the minimart slightly further from the pier road has Cornflakes and paint sets.
While there is a BRI bank and ATM in the centre of Ampana (two blocks west of the boat pier), this won't be of use to many travellers. There is however a Mandiri ATM on the road to Labuhan. If you want to walk there, just take the main road and keep going, it is perhaps a 20-minute walk from the pier -- or flag down an ojek and ask for Mandiri.
Ampana has a basic hospital familiar with dealing with dengue and malaria cases. Ampana is considerably closer to the Togeans than Gorontalo, but Gorontalo has a larger hospital and a far more conveniently placed air connection to the rest of Indonesia. It's a hard call to decide where to recommend you head should you be unfortunate enough to come down with either. We'd be inclined to say let the boat timetable determine wether you head north or south.
Internet cafes are scattered across central Ampana and there is also a solid 3G signal via Telkomsel -- if you're heading to the islands, check your email now as you most likely won't be checking it again till you're back on mainland Sulawesi.
If you arrive at Labuhan on a public boat from Bomba, you'll be disgorged on a pebble beach with a cluster of waiting ojek drivers -- they'll ferry you into Ampana for 5,000 rupiah. To your left there is boatyard for wooden mid-sized cargo boats (quite interesting and photogenic) and next door to that is Marina Cottage, with its smart and very solid wooden bungalows.
By Stuart McDonald.