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The Togean—or Togian—Islands are a little-visited archipelago in the southern region of the Tomini Sea in northern Sulawesi.

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Famous for both their difficulty to reach and diving, the archipelago comprises seven primary islands near the centre of a global hotspot of biodiversity known as the coral triangle. Home to a great number of rare marine and terrestrial species, most tourists who come here are divers or snorkellers hoping to see some of the world’s best marine life in unspoiled surroundings.

No shortage of sand. Photo taken in or around Togean Islands, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

No shortage of sand. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Are the surroundings unspoiled? Not really. While above the water, the islands are little developed, below the waves it’s a different story. Since the early 1990s, highly destructive fishing methods like dynamite fishing and cyanide poisoning have been widely used in the Togeans, causing a steep decline in fish numbers and immense shallow reef damage.

Sharks, large fish and turtles are rarely seen, especially compared to locations like Komodo National Park, which has seen better (though not perfect) protection. Over two separate two-week trips to the Togean Islands we saw not a single example of boat pilots running snorkelling trips using buoys; anchors were freely thrown onto reefs and, while boat pilots made some effort to stick to already smashed channels, attention was cursory. These are very simple practices that would have a significant impact.

Resorts with a flourish. Photo taken in or around Togean Islands, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Resorts with a flourish. Photo: Stuart McDonald

While evidence of logging is rarely seen from a boat, under the water clear examples of coral smashed by sunken logs can be seen on some house reefs. Other effects, such as silt run off from cleared areas of jungle for cash crop farming, is less obvious to the untrained eye. Rising sea temperatures and crown of thorns starfish have also caused significant damage to the reefs. Napoleon fish are a natural predator for the crown of thorns starfish, but they are sought after by fishermen for the Chinese export market and this is leading to growing numbers of ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Togean Islands.
 Read up on where to eat on Togean Islands.
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