The Togian Islands: may the force be with you
Welcome to the Togian islands!
On your ferry from Ampana or Gorontalo to Wakai you’ll meet an interesting fauna wishing to spend some time on the islands. Human beings like you probably, a crowd so interesting and beach-oriented to display a variety of conversational topics such as:
- Will I find accommodation?
- How can I find accommodation?
- Is this island better than that island?
- Which is the best place to find accommodation?
- I booked a room: am I safe?
- I didn’t book a room: may I hope?
Doubts doubts doubts. The Lonely Planet guidebook, Bible of the Lazy Traveller, is constantly consulted: countless quotes from the Sleeping&Eating section. The Interpreters of the Bible work in groups to detect hidden meaning and secret info (pathetic outcome). Sometimes the Interpreters raise their heads like they are going to unveil the deepest truth. Everybody looks at them with a mix of growing expectations and fear, but then nothing happens: the Interpreters fall asleep and life goes on. In other occasions they wake up and shout, waving their hands in a very epileptic way. The Mystic of the Revelation descends upon the passengers. A real moment of Perfect Idiotism.
OK, here a few hints you can consider, follow or disregard.
ACCOMMODATION – “Be aware, the Togian islands are not like the Gilis: you can’t just show up without booking!” … “On the Togians there are no shops, bring all you need from the mainland, otherwise you’ll face difficult days!” … blabla… blablabla… Bullshit. Two things are true: 1) the Togians are not like te Gilis (no fucking Buddha Bar atmosphere!), and 2) the mainland is populated by paranoid people. Don’t listen to them and go straight to your destination of choice. Going to the Togian without booking is absolutely feasible. No place is full, even when it’s full: if all the bungalows are occupied you’ll be offered a basic room, if the basic rooms have already been taken then you’ll stay in one of the staff rooms, and if not you’ll sleep outside with a mosquito net and under a roof. You’ll never end spending the night on the beach – unless you want to, of course. You can buy food stuff and other basic items on Wakai, Katupat, Malenge and in almost every fishermen village you’ll cross during your stay (bottled water, chocolate-looking cookies, soda, peanuts, toilet papers, flavouring powder for your water, etc. you won’t find condoms), anyway if your mood is tuned on the island life you won’t need a lot.
Fadhila Cottages (Katupat) – It’s as simple as that: don’t go there. French speaking staff, French food and French people everywhere. Nothing against France (generally), but this isn’t exactly our idea of peace on a remote island. If you don’t dive they will tolerate you – but nothing more. Twenty-five bungalows on a relatively small space: yes, it may look a little bit ‘industrial’.
Lestari Cottages (Malenge) – An idea of paradise. Sandwiched between a green-blue bay and the ocean, Lestari has been our coup de foudre. Snorkelling along the old bridge that links the island to the small Bajau village is something you can’t miss. Bedbugs in some bungalows and rats partying on the roof of the basic rooms. (Sleeping outside, ie when the place is full: 100,000; basic room 125,000; bungalow with shared bathroom: 150,000; bungalow with private bathroom 200,000. All prices are per person and include breakfast, lunch and dinner). Oh yes, one thing: there is no mobile coverage in Malenge, meaning that it’s not possible to book anything by phone. The telephone number given in the 10th edition (May 2013) of Lonely Planet’s ‘Indonesia’ (0852 4100 3685) is Fadhila’s! As you can imagine, Fadhila Cottage won’t pass your booking to Lestari (why should they?).
Bolilanga Island Resort (Bolilanga) – Romantic setting. Rats shitting in the standard rooms during the night. A beautiful waiting room, but we couldn’t think of spending there more than a couple of days. Great snorkelling. (Dormitory room = small room behind the reception desk: 125,000; standard bungalow: 200,000; superior/deluxe bungalow: 300,000. All prices are per person and include breakfast, lunch and dinner).
Losmen (Wakai, Katupat, Malenge) – Basic accommodation is available in the villages of Wakai, Katupat and Malenge.
Kadiriri – Three resorts, two of them sharing the same strip of beach. We didn’t go there. All the reviews we got from other people were quite bland. It seems there’s a boat coming every night just to play disco music for one hour. Auch.
TRANSPORT – The boat schedule runs as follows (see map below):
AMPANA-TOGIAN ISLANDS (Wakai-Katupat-Malenge): every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday the boat leaves at 10 AM.
TOGIAN ISLANDS (Malenge-Katupat-Wakai) – AMPANA: every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. The boat leaves at 6AM (arrives in Katupat around 7AM and in Wakai between 8 and 9AM)
AMPANA-WAKAI-GORONTALO: every Sunday and Thursday at 10 AM; from Wakai to Gorontalo at 4PM.
GORONTALO-WAKAI-AMPANA: every Tuesday and Friday at 8PM arriving in Wakai at 7AM. Then from Wakai to Ampana at 10AM.
AMPANA-BOMBA: every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday at 9AM.
BOMBA-AMPANA: every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 9AM.
Avoid to buy a cabin and go for a BISNIS ticket!
THE WOMAN AT THE HARBOUR – This is a character you’ll surely notice once you land in Wakai. Short and frenetic, this ubiquity-gifted woman might represent the logistic solution to your hopping problems. She tries to make a living out of your very island experience, so be ready to deal with her if you don’t find a small boat or if you need a ‘bisnis’ ticket to Gorontalo. You’ll see her selling tickets on the ferry (yes, she is disquietingly amazing) and arranging island hopping from her private jetty 50 meters away from the harbour (she owns a couple of small boats). If all the ‘bisnis’ ticket to Gorontalo are sold out she will assure you saying that it’s OK to take a business seat with an ‘economik’ ticket (then somebody will appear speaking on her behalf and you’ll be able to ‘upgrade’ your ticket for just 20,000 IDR… ). The Woman at the Harbour: use only in case of extreme necessity.
Enjoy and drink it up!