Togean Islands – Swimming in the Jellyfish Lake

Posted by on July 23, 2013

Bunaken-6006After my memorable stay on Bunaken, it took a very long journey to make it to the Togean Islands in Sulawesi. On the way down, this trip seemed like a legit option which literally everyone here does. The islands also promised some nice diving and easy chilling on nice beaches. But first I had to take an 8 hour car ride from Manado to Gorontalo and straight after that another 10 hour ferry ride. I finally arrived in Wakai, the main city of the Togeans, at about 7 in the morning and was greeted by grey skies, rain and comparably low temperatures. Pretty unusual for this time of the year and not what I really expected but I was too tired to really worry about it. What I did expect though was a rather uncrowded place with less tourists but that didn’t go as planned either.


Kadidiri Island – more crowded than expected
I arrived on the island of Kadidiri and inquired about rooms. To my surprise everything but the deluxe rooms were fully booked and on top of that, they wanted to charge double since I was single. Robert, a seasoned traveler from Australia, had the same problem and we both decided to look for other options. A cheapie close by was fully booked leaving the dive resort “Black Marlin” as the only option. They only had one bungalow available so me and Rob decided to team up and share for that night. The islands being that busy was pretty surprising but I guess the main tourist season even affects these remote islands. Besides July and August the region is probably a lot more quiet.

My plan was to stay three days on Kadidiri. Relaxing, snorkeling and diving. Unfortunately on the way there I caught a cold which kept me from going underwater. That left snorkeling and relaxation. Kadidiri was a paradise for the latter. With a nice beach in front of the bungalow, bean bags and pillows to chill out in, my recovery should proceed fast. But I felt pretty bored fairly quickly. I felt a little restless and the urge to do something. And for that, Kadidiri was not the perfect place. You were basically confined to that beach without the possibility to explore villages or the surrounding area. Not really what I like but I still wanted to make the best of it.

The pier on Kadidiri Beach. Great place to relax.

The pier on Kadidiri Beach. Great place to relax.

Surrounded by Jellyfish
I signed up for a day trip to the so called “Jellyfish Lake” close by, situated on one of the other islands. I figured, after my extreme encounter with the jellyfish on Bunaken, snorkeling with hundreds of that species would be sort of a therapy. It was six of us taking of for the lake in a small boat at about 10 o’ clock. Weather was nice and we arrived at the lake excited to descend into the world of jellyfish. Good thing these specimens were not poisonous. We jumped in with our snorkeling gear on and were surprised not to be totally surrounded by the slimy creatures. In the end, that was the picture I had in my mind. But there were still enough of them around and it was actually a bit more pleasant to swim and move around. We had fun picking some of the jellyfish up and playing with them. It was a cool experience, especially taken the fact that there is only one more lake similar to this on this planet. I think that one is in Palau.

The second stop was at a secluded beach where we snorkeled for a bit. The beach was very nice with very clear water but the snorkeling was rather mediocre compared to the underwater paradise of Bunaken. And that, to be honest, has to go for the whole of Kadidiri Island. Nevertheless we really enjoyed the stop at the beach taking in some sun after that first grey and rainy day.

Tropical Depression...

Tropical Depression…

Meet the Baju People
The highlight of the trip was still to come though. We finished our day-trip at a small village of the Baju People. The Baju are so called sea gypsies who were used to live on boats and travel along the coasts of Indonesia and the Philippines. Some still do so but the people here had settled down a while ago. The village was a congregation of houses on stilts and slowly chugging by, we were joyfully greeted by the village’s children. Once we left the boat, we were surrounded by the little brats and accompanied to tour the village. It was so nice and the locals, even all of the adults, were super friendly. Taking pictures was no problem and most of them even asked for having their picture taken. We had a great time but after a while it was time to say goodbye and head back to Kadidiri. It was definitely the best part of our tour that day.

The rest of my stay on the Togeans was spent relaxing, taking to the other guests, who by that time got less than at the beginning and trying to recover from my still persistent cold. It was alright but after the three days, I was ready to go, regain my freedom to do whatever I want and go exploring again.

Sunset on Kadidiri, Togean Islands.
Sunset on Kadidiri, Togean Islands.

Last thoughts…
Overall the Togeans couldn’t live up to my expectations. The snorkeling was rather mediocre and definitely not as good as on Bunaken. The beach itself was very nice and was just inviting to relax and chill out.  But I felt a little caged in. There was nowhere to go by yourself, no village to explore no hikes to take. However, I have to say that I only explored this one island of a few there. And as far as I know, there are islands with a different character and more activities on offer. So maybe it was just a bad choice of mine. Generally I was ready to get going and exploring again. I was looking forward to make it to Cenral Sulawesi where motorbike trips, hiking and some cultural highlights were waiting.

13 Responses to Togean Islands – Swimming in the Jellyfish Lake

  1. samokan

    The island is looks like a really nice place to just chill and relax and get away from the city.

    • Phil D.

      Hi there, it is true. Definitely a great getaway. And no internet and rarely ever phone signal. So if you wanna get away from everything and just relax, than this is definitely the place 😉

  2. Littlenomadid

    are there many jellyfish in the lake? would really love to swim there. I think it’s a different species from one in Palau.

    • Phil D.

      Hi there, there are a bit but I expected more to be honest. I thought it would be just full of them. But I guess it is highly dependent on the temperature of the water and outside. They tend to submerge deeper if it is too hot. So generally there are heaps in that lake. I am not sure however if it is the same species. In any case, it is definitely a great experience.

  3. elenastravelgram

    I’ve been to Kadidiri in June 2012 and it wasn’t that much crowded at all. Though, we’ve booked the lodging in advance at Lestardi ( the least luxuruos place), but definitely the friendliest as the locals who run it are amazing guys. I’ve made friends to the whole family 🙂

    For hiking, you should have taken a boat to a nearby islet to check out Una Una volcano. It’s still active, so the locals moved out of the island and you can enjoy all that amazing beaches to yourself.

    On Kadidiri I went hiking upwards in the jungles, there’s a small hidden path, a local can show you. I’ve spent the afternoon on a deserted beach all alone .

    • Phil D.

      Hi Elena,
      I was considering going to Una Una, also for the diving. But then decided against it. Or maybe it wasn’t even offered during my stay, I don’t remember. It’s a nice place to stay for a couple of days, that’s for sure. I remember there was huge group of Ukrainians staying at Lestari. Two of them, a couple, went up hiking as well and had to get rescued because they got lost so badly. They came back with their legs all scratched up. Maybe they should have taken a local guide as well, hehe. Where else in Sulawesi did you go to? I liked Tanah Toraja best. Such a great scenery there.

      • elenastravelgram

        Phil,

        I’m like laughing out so much right now. You know, we’ve been at Kadidiri at the same time (huge coincedednce) and I was among those Ukrainians, and one of two people who got lost in the jungles. That’s quite a hilarious story, btw I’m yet going to publish on my blog. We weren’t needed to get rescued actualy as we were having pretty great time with a bonfire and a palm leaves bedding to spend the night and get back by morning, as wondering in the dark without a torch was a bad idea. That’s how I got scretched in the jungles, I couldn’t see my way at all. Yet, we’ve told noone about our plans (we’ve didn’t plan to stay out that long), so everyone else got really worried and asked the locals to find us.

        Yes, Tana Toraja was amazing and weird at the same time, I mean the funeral ceremony with buffalos killed. I did like Manado too for a trip at the national monkey and tarsiers park and a market nearby with odd things to buy and cook like bats, snakes and …dogs. That made me think of Sulawesi as a place full of unexpected traditions.

  4. Phil D.

    How funny, but that must have then been 2013, so last year and not 2012. I just briefly talked to one of your friends who got scratched up and he mentioned the story. Such a coincidence that we were there at the same time. I didn’t go to the park up in Manado since I went straight to Bunaken from there. It was great for diving and very relaxed. Had a good time at my little resort. Yeah, Sulawesi was very cool …. good times there.

  5. elenastravelgram

    Sorry, it’me who confused the dates, in was summer 2013.

    Got your FB request and would love to keep in touch.

    All the best in your travels!

    -Elena

  6. Brad Bernard

    Oh, it’s so nice to see this post, I loved the Togeans. The jellyfish lake was a crazy experience. I got dropped off there by myself (long story!) and went swimming. Totally freaky but I’m glad I knew they wouldn’t sting. I’m glad you got to visit the sea gypsies, life is getting tougher for them. Ali took me out to stay with his sea gypsy cousins, I didn’t even bring food or water, so it was amazing to live they way they do and learn their ways. Glad you had such an awesome time!

    • Phil D.

      HI Brad, thanks for stopping by. When did you visit the Togeans? Glad to hear you had a good time there as well. I really liked the fact that you got to stay with the sea gypsies…that sounds like an amazing experience. I wish I could have done that. Where exactly did you stay on the Togeans? Cheers, Philipp

      • Brad Bernard

        I stayed at the Black Marlin. Loved it! Chill but also had a good atmosphere. Ali works there and can take you to stay in the sea gypsie colony if you beg him. They said they’ve never seen a foreigner stay there and everyone was curious why I didn’t leave at sundown. I took freediving courses in the Gilis before I went to train for it, but it was one of the more difficult things I’ve done. Unlike me, you may want to bring food and water or you will definitely see first hand how tough it is for them.

    • Phil D.

      Great story, I wish I would have known about this opportunity back then. I also stayed at Black Marlin, what a coincidence. I had a little shack above the restaurant for cheap money hehe…. Thanks for sharing that story…. Cheers