The Most Unique Destination in Indonesia – The Togean Islands

posted on May 8th 2014 in Blog & Indonesia with 18 Comments

Ever daydreamed of those marvelous faraway places with pristine white beaches and turquoise water like the Maldives?

I bet you did!

What if I tell you there’s a fascinating place having it SAME scenery to enjoy  for 20$ a day?

Togian islands

The Togean Islands, Indonesia

Togean (or Togian) Islands – an archipelago of 7 thousand islands and islets situated North East from Sulawesi shores in the gulf of Tominco.

The place is damned hard to reach, making it even more worthy for true wanderlusters and adventure-seekers!


Different adventures happened to me on my way there.

The bus got stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere in heavy tropical storm and all the passengers had to push it back on the solid ground for a few hours.

We’ve nearly missed  the ferry in Ampana ‘cause of that and called the captain to delay it.

Yet, each hour you spend on the twisted jungle road or a ferry towards The Togean Islands is absolutely worth it. 


How to get to the Togean Islands

From Bali: Fly from Denpasar to Palu. Flights scheduled daily. From Palu take a public minibus leaving at 9.00 and 16.00 daily to Ampana.

From Gorontalo/Manado: a ferry ride will take around 12-14 hours. Schedule available here.

From Ampana: a ferry leaves each day except Friday at 10 am in the morning. Check out the schedule here. Tickets can be bought on spot and cost around 5-6$.

You’ll arrive to Wakai – the main city of the archipelago from where you can hire a private boat to any island you wish.

Ferry Travel Classes

From Ampana to Wakai

The local way – you don’t have a reserved seat, so feel free to crash wherever you want on the lower or upper deck. You can occupy special podiums, yet you’ll have to be faster than the locals to grab your place.

Pros: you sleep under the amazing tropical sky with billions of stats above your head

Cons: it may be chilly and windy, so a sleeping bag’s preferable.

2nd class: you get a seat in a separate room with quite enough leg space, yet it’s not revertible.

1st class: chairs are more comfortable, a telly shouting loud, air conditioning and more leg space.

Luxury-deluxe: available for tourists only. Approach someone from the crew and get a separate cabin with 4 bunks, mildly clean and cozy to sleep. Price per cabin around 40$ (10$ per person).

On the way to the Togeans

On the way to the Togeans

Kadidiri, Togean Islands

Do you remember Alex Garland’s novel The Beach?

Well, Kadidiri islet is pretty much the same to that dreamy destination that only the true travelers can reach.


There’s no wi-fi, cell connection or supermarkets.

Water’s brought in barrels from other islands, electricity is available for a few evening hours…

Would you dare to live the real castaway life for a few days (weeks?)


Incredible coral reefs starting in mere meter from the shore, colorful wish of all size and shape sneaking around you and perfect white sand beach and moisture jungles growing wild right behind your bungalow nearly made me stay here for good.

(Ah, and free coconuts at your porch)


Highlights + things to do at the Togean Islands

Meet the Bajau people. 


Often being called the Sea Gypsies, bajau indigenous people spend most of  their lives drifting ocean waves.

Born and raised on boat houses, kids here learn to dive up to 10 meters with no gear at the age of 7.

A gypsy community has settled at the Togeans a few years ago and make their living by selling valuable marine like sea cucumbers and shark fins to the Chinese.


You can buy the freshest fish and seafood here to to be later cooked at your homestay. Believe me, it would be the finest and yummies meal ever.

Foreigners rarely visit the village, so be ready to cusrous looks and children following you and asking to take your hand. A cute little girl was walking with me hand in hand all the way around :)


Go snorkelling in a jelly fish lake.

Jelly Fish Say WHAT?! 

Togean Islands are so incredible that even jelly fish don’t sting here!

No one could explain me how this fresh water lake actually appeared at the middle of the island and how those jelly fish got there, so let’s say it’s one of the Togean Islands amazing mysteries.

Watching huge pink and white jelly fish floating around you is spectacular!

Spend a night at a deserted islet

Togian Islands

A night at a private island at the Maldives starts from $1,000 and can reach huge numbers. You can feel exquisite and have a private beach party at the Togeans 100 times cheaper! (literary!) 

My top choice would be Karina Beach Island.

Togean Islands

Imagine camping at night under huge coco palms. Making simple food on fire and swimming in warm waves with shimmering plankton glowing around you once you move.

Have you ever seen a night sky as beautiful as this?

Tropic Sky

Take a day trip to Una Una island and hike a still active volcano.

The last eruption happened in 1983 and flushed the whole village. A few people came back and started new homes by now, yet there are still plenty of white sand beaches for solitude walks. Beaches Togean A hike up Una Una will take around 3 hours and you need to do it with a guide. Paths upwards can be tricky and there are a few difficult areas to cross.

Go into the Wild: Explore Jungles at Kadidiri. 


An amazing, deserted beach is hidden right on the opposite shore. You’ll need to track through thick rainforest, though.Always, keep your eyes on the path as it’s a tricky one and can disappear before you notice it.

A person who got lost in the jungles is telling you this :) The very same jungles btw. 

Ask someone’s from the homestay to take you there and take a torch just in case :)

And grab free pineapples on your way back!

Dive! Dive! Dive! You are at one of the most unique diving spots in the world!

No Photoshop at all

No Photoshop at all

Marine life is mind-bogglingly diverse!  You can see 98% of the world’s coral species here, at the Togeans.

Best diving spots at the Togeans

B24 Bomber Wreck – an American plane downed during World War II is still in excellent condition today! The right wing still has has propeller, and you can even spot the machine guns. Peer through the windows, check out the cockpit that looks absolutely new with chairs and machinery in excellent condition.

Labyrinth – a  bunch of coral reef corridors with sandy bottom. Fun and perfect for beginning divers.

The Crack – you’ll be swimming along an underwater canyon to a large rock with a large crack splitting a cliff in two. The only place at the Togeans where you can see sharks.

The Gap – a gorgeous coral slop with numerous colorful corals and fish. Eagle rays, tunas herds and barracudas often come here.

The Pinnacle – a jaw dropping sight next to Una Una Volcano Island. Sponges of blue, gold and even black color cover the rocky walls, hundreds of corals of unimaginable shapes and size. Butterfly fish, angel fish and over 20 other species I can’t name.

Check more info on Togean Diving Spots here

Getting your first diving certificate at the Togeans will cost you about $68-95 and a single dive would start from 20-35$.

Where to stay at the Togean Islands 

Kadidiri Kadidiri has 3 accommodation options to choose from (which I think is just enough!)

The luxurious: Kadidiri Paradise Dive Resort

This places has the most facilities and popular within travelling families, who crash at Kadidiry for weeks. A private house on the beach for 2-4 people will cost 50-80$ a day including meals three times a day.

Contact (there’s no wi-fi and good cell recepient on Kadidri, so it may take time till someone gets back to you concerning reservations and stuff)

+62 852 4118 2440

Your new homePondok Lestari Kadidiri

Pondok Lestari can be translated from Indonesian as “everlasting homestay“. I liked this place so much, that was thinking of ditching all my commitments and crash here for a month, or even a few.

The place is family-owned with and very hospitable as you  immediately make friends with everyone, help “Mom” cook dinner, hang out with kids of your age and take boat trips together to amazing places around.

Me and Udding from Pondok Lestrari

Me and Udding from Pondok Lestrari

When it’s time to say good bye, your heart melts as it feels like you say good bye to your own family.

For just 15$ a day you get a wooden bungalow right at the beach with bathroom outside and daily homemade meals, simple yet yummy!


+62 852 4199 8586

or contact Udding via FB 

Your Diving school: The Black Merlin

Sandwiched in between the previous two, this place offers rooms for 20-30$, but has the smallest beach of all. (But you can walk anywhere anyway).

However, I heard a few stories from fellow travelers who booked their stay here that they were asked to pay twice more upon arrival, so make all your arrangements carefully.

Black Merlin has a diving school where you can get your certificate within a day and they offer numerous boat trips to best diving spots around the archipelago.


+62 (0)823 4074 2000
+62 (0)856 5720 2004
+62 (0)812 380 6904


You don’t need to spend a fortune at a 5 star resort at the Maldives. Togean Islands are just one of the many insanely beautiful places Indonesia has to offer you!


Spending a month at the paradise island of Kadidri chasing sand crabs, sleeping under palm trees and snorkeling would cost you roughly 300$.

Who’s coming with me next time?


Photos by my lovely friend Oxana Chorna – a girl traveling with 19 kilos of camera gear – and me. In case you would like to use any images – please, credit back to my blog. 

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  • Bert LiskieWhiskey

    Hi Elena.. Looks like a hell of a trip! I would maybe head that direction in 1,5 week. The part of the deserted island grabbed my attention though..

    You think it’s doable to get to such an island and stay there for a couple of days on your own, given that you’d bring enough food and water?

    In terms of shelter.. some kind of construction would be needed, or did you sleep under the stars?

    And finally, what about the boat taxi prices you arrange to these islands?

  • hi Elena.. when was your visit to Togian? When would be the best time?

  • Ahhh… how have I not found this post before? It’s really one of the most inspiring things I’ve read in a long time. If I ever get married, it sounds like a pretty perfect place to a honeymoon!
    Katie Featherstone recently posted…Friday Fix: The Great Barrier ReefMy Profile

    • Thank you, Katie! Guess, it’s cause I need to add a search box somewhere 😀 I was thinking of it as a cool castway-styled honeymoon destination too!

  • Bridget

    This looks amazing! I’m hoping to go in July.. Is the food expensive? Is it more expensive than other islands in indonesia?

    • Bridget, nope. Food’s included in the price of your stay and there’s a tiny shop with some snacks (also cheap). Besides, you can buy sea food and fresh fish from the sea gypsies and ask to get it cooked for you. (again, the prices are really low, compared to the rest of Indonesia).

  • Colby Enfinger

    How much for plane tickets?

    • Depends from where you are flying :) The closest airport is in Gorontalo/Manado on Sulawesi from where you need to take the ferry. There’s a bunch of cheap daily flights to them from Bali/Jakarta (around 30-40$). I usually use to find different flight options from my place to the destination I need.

  • Rita

    How long did you stay, and how much did it cost you? Is there wifi or something else? What language did they speak? Was it hard to get room?

    • I’ve stayed for a week and the total for everything was less than 250$ (incl snorkeling and day trips and food, but not diving). Nope, no wi-fi on Kadidiri or normal cell phone connection. But you can go to Wakai by boat where they do have at least one place with the Internet. My hosts spoke good English and so does the stuff at other resorts.

      Nope, you just need to book say 1 month advance. You can message me on FB in private if you have any other questions :) (or write an email)

  • This is exactly how I imagine the place. Lovely!

    • It’s way-way more cool in real life! You should absolutely visit the islets!

  • Alex

    Hey, thanks for the great post, but I was wondering how you got around the islands. How much was boat transportation between different places in the islands, or did you row your own catamaran? Thanks!

    • Yes, the locals have boats and would be happy to take you on board for a small fee if you need to get anywhere :)

  • Awesome story! Im in the milds of searching a unique place for spending new year, Togean looks perfect!
    Thanks so much for your writing :)

    • Yep, you can have a private NY party on one of the deserted islands, but you better bring all champagne in advance! :)

  • It looks like a little slice of paradise! That water looks so inviting!!