A bit pricey, but worth it.
Published/Last edited or updated: 14th April, 2018
While certainly not the cheapest place to learn to dive in Southeast Asia, the Togean Islands in Sulawesi, Indonesia are nevertheless a fabulous place to pick up a new skill—diving. Say hello to a variety of marine life and beautiful coral in this fairly isolated archipelago, where dive sites are blissfully uncrowded.
Learning to dive on the Togeans may be more expensive than what you’d pay at a busier diving hub like Ko Tao, but the diving is generally far less crowded. So for this isolation, you do pay a premium.
A PADI Open Water course goes for around 5,500,000 rupiah on the Togeans. We saw it at Bomba Divers for 5,100,000 rupiah, at Black Marlin for 5,800,000, for 5,500,000 at Kadidiri Paradise and E340 (around 5,800,000) at Sifa Dive Resort. Over on Una Una, Sanctum Dive charges 5,400,000 while Pristine Paradise charges 5,500,000. Note all these prices were taken from their websites, please contact the operators directly for details and don’t use price as the sole determinant on who to use.
The Togeans are not Ko Tao, where you can walk down the road and compare 10 dive shops in an hour. Do your research online and ideally with a few current personal recommendations in hand. If a centre is specifically recommended to you, check that the instructor concerned is still working there—great people leave and are perhaps replaced by those not so great.
Remember too, that medical facilities are a long way away; if something goes wrong, you are unlikely to get the help you need in a timely manner. There is a hospital in Ampana, but the nearest decompression chamber is in Manado.
Aside from the instructor, general dive shop guidance holds. Ask to speak to other students or divers—outside the shop. Ask to see the dive gear—especially in the resorts which do not have dedicated dive staff, check the gear carefully. Is it a mismatched collected of gear with broken straps, clips and badly weathered masks and snorkels? How experienced is the instructor? Do they speak your language well? Is importance given to the theory? Is the instructor being paid? (Not all instructors in the Togeans are—some get only food and board.)
These are all valid questions to ask. Diving done badly can be life threatening and you’re fully within your rights to check that the dive shop taking your cash is going to look after you. If you’re on the fence, ask to go out on a snorkelling trip with divers (most resorts permit this for a small fee) to see how tightly the ship runs, and, most importantly, to take in diver comments as they exit the water after the dive. If they had a bad (or fabulous) time they’ll be eager to tell you all about it while they are still dripping wet.
The mechanics of learning to dive in the Togeans is similar to anywhere else. A bunch of theory comes first, followed by diving skill drills and tests, most likely off your resort beach, and then four dives at a variety of destinations near your resort. In our case we dove two separate wall dives at Taupan, Bandiri atoll and a shallower reef and sand dive. Conditions were tremendous.
Black Marlin Dive Resort Pulau Kadidiri. www.blackmarlindiving.com
Bomba Divers Pulau Batudaka. https://www.arayadiveresort.com/bombadivers
Kadidiri Paradise Pulau Kadidiri. http://www.kadidiriparadise.com/
Pristine Paradise Una Una. http://www.pristine-paradise.com/
Sanctum Dive Una Una. http://www.sanctumdiveindonesia.com/
Sifa Dive Resort Pulau Malenge. http://www.malenge.eu/
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.