Sightseeing in Sulawesi Part 1: Palu, Ampana and Wakai

Sightseeing in Sulawesi Part 1: Palu, Ampana and Wakai

It is my privilege to tell you a brief story on my journey to Sulawesi, Indonesia. This was my first time and I hope not my last time to explore the beauty and mystical island of Sulawesi.

As a fly-in-fly-out worker, I have two weeks off from my work site. For the journey, I had spared seven days only with the constraint of buying an inbound ticket. I started the journey from Balikpapan, East Borneo and bought the ticket to Palu, Central Sulawesi just a few days before.

My sole and foremost idea was to visit Togean National Park and enjoy the sun for the next few days. However, I changed the plan just when I arrived in Wakai. Instead, I continue the trip to Gorontalo and later to Toraja. There are a few ways to reach the place, but I chose Palu due to shorter time when boarding on ferry to Togean. It takes roughly four hours on ferry when boarding from Palu – Ampana and more than ten hours on ferry when boarding from Gorontalo.


Palu, Central Sulawesi

A quite capital situated in the most scenic places I have ever seen. Palu is located just by a bay, surrounded by steep mountainous landscape. The airport, Mutiara Airport, is very old, but they have built a newer and more sophisticated airport in front of old airport. The new airport is yet to be operational, but one thing to assure everyone when visiting the city, the airport is located not that far from the city center. It is accessible by a variety of public transportation: taxi, minivan and ojek (rented motorcycle).

The city should be humid, but bless me for experiencing the city in the breeziest possible weather. I took the liberty of riding ojek from airport to a travel agent that would take me on overnight minivan to Ampana.

Should you have the chance to visit this city, there’s not so much to do, except enjoying the marvelous scenery of Palu Bay with amazing mountainous background. The bay is also surrounded by beaches, fishermen boats and public parks. Ensure you’ve walked around the bay from one edge to another edge and spot the landmark of the city, Bridge of Palu IV; the chic bridge connects the east and west part of the city which is divided by Palu River.

If you are fond of trying local dishes, grilled fish it is! A complete meal including rice and fresh fishes from the bay may cost you not more than a sandwich. As a general view, I consider the price of goods and services in Palu are much lower than in Jakarta.

At around 5pm, I got back to the travel agent and ready for overnight minivan to Ampana, the harbor to Wakai at Togean National Park. The travel agent is responsible only to get you from Palu to Ampana, it takes around 10hrs.

The overnight journey takes you through the national road, Trans-Sulawesi. Expect some rough but exciting ride as there are a few broken bridges along the way. The minivan must ride down the river to get on to the other side while the bridges are being built or renovated. Some part of the roads is also not asphalt-ed. Something to remember, though you’ll get the chance to visit horrifying-like road, it is not impossible to have good sleep along the way.


Ampana, Central Sulawesi

At around 4am in the morning, I arrived in Ampana. I stopped by the nearest beach to have some rest. The ferry that will take me to Wakai, Togean Islands, departs at 10am. When the sun rises, I visited the nearest market and enjoyed local dishes for breakfast. One thing to remember, sea fish is probably the main component of any local dishes in Sulawesi. Be aware for those having allergic reaction to sea fish.

The harbor is located quite far from city center, around 20 minutes ride by motorcycle. Make sure you’ve checked the ferries schedule before since there is no daily ferries to Wakai. Alternatively, private boat can be rented through local fishermen or travel agent in much higher prices.

The Touna Tomini Ferry consists of two different seating classes, economy and business. Both classes are equipped with communal cable television showing international TV shows, reclining seats, toilets and cafeteria. The only difference is air conditioner in business class. To be honest, you don’t really need air conditioner when on ferries due to fresh sea air circulated through windows in economic class. Alternatively, some people tend to sit on the deck behind navigator’s main room. The view is much clearer above, though you can only see water along the way.


Wakai, Togean Islands, Central Sulawesi

Wakai is located in Tomini Bay, between Central Sulawesi and Gorontalo. It is a port city where Touna Tomini ferry transited by before continuing the trip to Gorontalo.

I explored Wakai just around its small port. Though it is a small port compared to Ampana, the crowd is much alive. I stopped by a food stall and bought a few of local dish, I would call those local dish though it is basically rice in banana leaves J. Again, prices of goods are generally cheaper than in Java. A bunch of rice in banana leaves and a box of grilled fish cost me no more than an American Dollar.

The ferry departs from Wakai to Gorontalo at around 6pm. The trip would take around 12-13 hours and arrive in Gorontalo in early morning. It is acceptable for passengers on board to take more than a seat for sleeping during overnight trip. Some people spend the night on ferry’s deck though the wind can be rough sometime.


Travel diary shared by yusufputra