The Sangihe Islands: a micro travel guide

The Sangihe Islands, what a damn fine piece of Indonesia! We collected travel info, slept here and there, and took a lot of picures.
The outcome? A freakytracks micro travel guide to Sangihe and its surroundings.

The Sangihe islands

Where? Celebes Sea, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
What? A less-visited group of islands including Sangihe (alias Sangir, the big one), Kalama, Kahakitang, Mahengetang, Bebalang, Dakupang, Nusa, and Bukide.
How? By flight: three times a week from Sam Ratulangi Apt in Manado (Wings/Lion group), 1-hour flight (http://www2.lionair.co.id/ accepts only Indonesian credit/debit cards);
By boat: Bahari Express (from Manado on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9AM); Prima Oasis (from Manado on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9AM); slower and cheaper (but no so uncomfortable) ships leave Manado every evening at 6PM (harbour near Hotel Marina).
Why?  Hiking, snorkelling&diving, bird watching and relaxing island life

TAHUNA
Tahuna isn’t lovely, still you’ll end up loving it. This is the capital of the Sangihe-Talaud groups of islands, so be prepared to enjoy the vibrant life the city has to offer – just kidding: a bunch of ATMs near the market is the most vibrant thing you’ll come across during your stay. The town is well stocked with shops, restaurants (rice or noodles?), churches, and extremely easy-going people (this applies also to police officers). Internet: The warnet Skynet is just in front of the Mega Rya market (5,000 IDR/hour). Connection is hectic. Money: use your magic plastic cards to draw some cash from the numerous ATMs or bring enough rupiah; exchanging Eurodollars would be a real challenge.

Street in Tahuna

Street in Tahuna

Accommodation: Wisma Melia is the place to go if you want a proper cup of coffee for breakfast. This busy women-run hotel has clean rooms and great, inexpensive food. Prices: single/double 150,000/200,000 IDR; lunch/dinner 25,000; simple breakfast included). Near Towo Terminal and next to Tahuna Hotel. Nasional Hotel comes highly recommended by all the people you’ll meet on the island – people who ignore the meaning of the word creepy, because yes, this place is creepy. The Nasional Hotel is a Carpenter experience from the very beginning (the receptionist staring at you while you’re staring at the wall covered with broken clocks) to the very end (you talking to some cockroaches). This place might look OK from the outside, but once you’re in you’ll have no doubt: the Nasional is perfectly unclean. Superior rooms have been described by a fellow traveller as clean and comfortable (luxury starts from 400,000 IDR). Standard room is 150,000 IDR. Prices don’t include the 10% tax. The breakfast ‘buffet’ is a joke. Other options are Tahuna Hotel, close to Wisma Melia, and Madina Hotel not far from the harbor just before Bahari Express. Moving your bum around: Terminal Towo – next the Total gas station, roughly between the Nasional Hotel and Wisma Melia. Buses leaves for Tamako (20,000), Lapango (30,000), Naha (20,000) and Kendihe (20,000). Mikrolets running around Tahuna leave from here. Terminal Petta – near the Mega Riya market. Buses leave regularly in the morning for Enemawira and Petta (1/2 hour, 10,000 IDR). Airport – The airport is in Naha. A mikrolet waits for the passengers of each flight, so it’s better to collect your rucksack as fast as you can and go straight to the parking area. If you miss it, a reasonable price for a private car to Tahuna is around 50,000 IDR (be aware: the starting price might be as ridiculously high as 300,000 IDR!). Surrounded by coconut plantations and so delightfully islander, the airport deserves our aesthetic appreciation.

Naha Airport, Sangihe

Naha Airport, Sangihe

GUNUNG AWU
The trailhead to the crater of Mt Awu is located in Kampung Angges, just 10 km from Tahuna. It will take you 3-4 hours to ascend the volcano. The trail is well marked and if the weather is clement the views can be spectacular. If you choose to climb with a local guide, make sure to clarify which point you want to reach: the crater rim (1250 m) or the highest point, that is, the summit (1340 m). The highest point can be reached from Desa Kendahe – and not from Kampung Angges. For a detailed description of the trek (starting point in Kampung Angges) see http://www.gunungbagging.com/awu/.

TAMAKO and LELIPANG
On your way to Lapango, Tamako is a small, lively town. There are two good reasons to stop here: the beaches near Tamako (the seafront of Tamako itself is relatively dirty), and Lelipang, the gate to a magnificent jungle. Just 2 kilometers before entering Tamako coming from Tahuna there’s a series of bays and beaches: they all look good, but the ones without a backing village are the best. Snorkel, swim, or observe the fishermen in a superb setting.

Seafront road, Tamako

Seafront road, Tamako

A more secret option is Palingang beach, 2 km south of Tamako: reaching this spot involves some walking through the plantations. It’s possible to buy fruits on the road. Lelipang, just 15 minutes away from Tamako by ojek (10,000 with luggage), is exactly the kind of place we love: a small village facing a dense mass of deep vegetation! The Rainbow Losmen (wesley_rainbow@yahoo.co.id) offers great accommodation and excellent food (single/double 60,000/80,000 IDR; meal 25,000; breakfast included).

Rainbow Losmen, Lelipang

Rainbow Losmen, Lelipang

Lelipang road

Lelipang road

Wesley will be more than pleased to share some of his knowledge of the local flora and fauna with you. Snakes are not unknown here and in the (likely) event you spot one… well, don’t panic and ask Wesley all you need to appease your fear (two the golden rules: 1. don’t hug them, and 2. don’t step on them!).

The snake in the bathroom

The snake in the bathroom

The Tedunang Waterfalls are the most popular attraction near Lelipang. Just a few kilometers away from the Rainbow Losmen, the Tedunang system consists of four waterfalls reachable from a well-marked path (four sun-powered lampposts have been placed at the level of each waterfall).

Tedunang Waterfall #4

Tedunang Waterfall #4

Tedunang Waterfalls: a map

Tedunang Waterfalls: a map

The last waterfall, with its 20 meters of height, is the one you don’t want to miss. A three hours trek from the waterfalls lead you to the top of Mount Kakiraeng. The forest is home to an extraordinary variety of animals, including: Sangihe Shike-thrust (Colluricinla sanghirensis), Cerulean Paradise-flycatcher (Eutrichomyias rowleyi), Sangihe White-eye (Zosterops nerchorni), eating millipedes, tarantulas, and tarsiers (Tarsius tarsier).

PANANUARENG BEACH
Pananuareng (or Pananualeng) beach, on the western side of the island, is very popular among locals (they compare Pananuareng to Bali). Week-ends become particularly crowded here, but during the rest of the week you’ll spot only some fishermen and a few dogs. The beach is clean and snorkelling is good.

Pananuareng beach

Pananuareng beach I

Pananuareng beach II

Pananuareng beach II

At the end of the road that connects the beach to the main road there are some kiosks where it’s possible to buy food and drinks (only in week-ends) and a picnic area facing the ocean – all comes with a modest dose of litter. To reach Pananuareng from Tahuna go to Terminal Petta in Tahuna and take a mikrolet to Petta (12,000 IDR). Once in Petta you have to options: 1) take an ojek to Pananuareng (around 20,000-25,000 IDR), or 2) head to the market and catch a collective car going south (8,000 IDR, ask the driver to stop at the junction with the small road descending to Pananuareng beach).

Near Pananuareng beach

Near Pananuareng beach

BEBALANG ISLAND
Oh, Bebalang. “You must go there, it’s so beautiful”: so the owner of the bakery spoke, and I obeyed. If it weren’t for the talkative woman of the pastry shop in front of the Nasional Hotel, I would have never set foot on this curious, a-touristic piece of land. Of course the woman in question never went to Bebalang, but she was entitled to suggest me the place on the basis of her well-developed network of acquaintances and friends. While I was approaching the island from Lapango for the first time, some kind of whitish structure in the middle of the island caught my attention. What the hell is this?, I asked myself. The ‘thing’ seemed unnatural and out of proportions: a building made of concrete, something too big for that tiny strip of land set between two small hills covered with trees. After a few minutes all became clear: it was a church – what else could it be? Bebalang, population 314, has three churches and one big cross on the highest (or most visible) point of the island. The cross represents a collective pride – and pride is blind. Most of the islanders reside in the southern area of the village along an uneventful seafront. The northern shore, with the jetty dominated by the impressive church, is where the fishermen boats dock. The last house on the right is the only losmen of Bebalang, Joksen Homestay (www.joksenhomestay.freakytracks.com). Joksen offers basic accommodation, warm hospitality and a good spot to observe the life of the island (room 40,000 IDR/person; lunch/dinner 20,000; full-day excursion 300,000; transport Lapango-Bebalang 100,000 IDR, max 3 people).

Joksen Homestay

Joksen Homestay

A typical excursion is the so-called ‘empty beach’ on Dakupang Island. Dakupang island is just 10 minutes from Bebalang: the setting is wonderful, but the beach is not empty… or not as empty as one might expect. It happens that the local government had the brilliant idea to build some bungalows to start a hospitality business, but then the money run out and the project was abandoned. As a consequence the beach is a little bit spoiled by these unfinished structures, and that’s a real shame: what really may attract visitors is the idea of untouched nature. Anyway, snorkelling here is good (strong current though).

Dakupang island

Dakupang island

Bebalang from Dakupang beach

Bebalang from Dakupang beach

From Bebalang is also possible to organise a trip to Mahengetang Island to visit the underwater volcano (full day, 1,500,000 IDR). To reach Bebalang from Sangihe you must go first to Lapango (1 hour drive from Tamako) and then find a small boat to Bebalang. You can arrange for Joksen to pick you up in Lapango (costly option) or catch a shared boat (cheap options, but try to show up early in the morning or not too late in the afternoon).

LOCAL GUIDE
Ubiquitous and English speaking Nirwan (mail: nirwan@nirwanasangihe.com / web: www.nirwanasangihe.com / tel. +6282196497723 ) will be more than happy to help you sorting out any logistic arrangements.

A VISUAL GUIDE

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Icons: Maps Icons Collection http://mapicons.nicolasmollet.com

SMART PEOPLE YOU MIGHT COME ACROSS WHILE VISITING SANGIHE
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Kakakin Kura

Kakakin Kura

Claudio speaking. I'm the co-founder of Freaky Tracks - quite happily, I must say. I taught Italian in New Zealand, undertook fieldwork research in West Africa and tested videogames in Madrid. I am a linguist, a minimalist runner and a travel addict… and nope, I won't stop moving around!
Kakakin Kura

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  • Nicole Raymond Low

    Hey 🙂 This page is really cool, it’s nice to know so much more about Sangihe.
    I would like to ask if it’s okay in weather to go there in end of October? Thanks 🙂

    • Thanks!
      Early October yes, late October to be avoided 🙂
      Safe travels!

Ehi buddy, wanna be a friend and enjoy our updates?

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