If you're approaching the Togeans from the north -- perhaps because you chose to fly from Makassar or are heading down from Bunaken and Manado -- then your natural gateway is the fair-sized city of Gorontalo, midway along the northern arm of the Sulawesi octopus.
Gorontalo is considerably further away from the Togean Islands than the southern launching point of Ampana (almost triple the distance) and has a less frequent ferry connection (mostly twice a week) but the airport, with its daily flights to both Makassar and Manado, swing the deal for many who can't face yet another long distance Sulawesi bus or Kijang ride.
Gorontalo is a sizeable -- and sprawling -- city, but the area of interest to most travellers is quite compact, with the most frequently used hotels, places to eat and shopping venues all within quite easy walking distance of one another.
Most travellers aim straight for the long-running New Melati Hotel, which while having variable rooms has a bit of a traveller vibe. There's a good guestbook, a social garden area, an internet cafe (and impromptu beer shop) next door and a very knowledgeable and helpful owner. Staff here can be very helpful with onwards travel planning too. There are plenty of other hotels though (mostly within walking distance of the New Melati) should you be looking for something a little more upmarket.
Foodwise, limited Western food is on offer (yes, the stories are true, there is a pizzeria here), and there's also a fair-sized mall, plenty of ATMs and an immigration office that is friendly and quick (well, certainly quicker than Manado) for tourist visa extensions.
By Stuart McDonald.