At Asia Senses Travel we’re adventurers at heart. Our journeys are all about discovering new places and cultures while creating unforgettable memories through physical activity and breathtaking scenery.
Undiscovered North Sulawesi: Siladen Island and Manado
Your exclusive guide with itinerary, visas, money, weather and more!
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In this 8-day journey through North Sulawesi, experience the raw natural and cultural beauty of this remote and little-visited corner of Indonesia. See exotic wildlife in Tangkoko National Park and Tasikoki Wildlife Reserve. Then, experience the tropical ambience of the Lembeh Strait and Siladen Island to wrap up an amazing adventure in the heart of paradise.
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DAY 01: MANADO ARRIVAL – TOMOHON
Arrive this afternoon in MANADO. As you have made your way through immigration, baggage claim and customs you will be greeted by your local guide and tour leader before beginning this wildlife and ocean adventure in North Sulawesi.
After that, head to the TOMOHON in the Minahasa Highlands. The airport you are leaving is named after the Minahasan politician, journalist, teacher and Indonesian independence hero Sam Ratulangi, who is well known in the county for his saying “man lives to help others live”. You will stay at his family’s private home and country inn today.
Check-in at the Gardenia Country Inn, which is until today the private residence of the Ratulangi family. The national hero’s son and his wife have been receiving international guests on a regular basis, and since many of them commented on the beauty of their residence and surrounding gardens, established a small boutique hotel on the Highlands’s hills, overlooking the majestic and active Lokon Volcano. Be welcomed with a drink at the “lobby”, which is actually the hallway and terrace of the family home, before you check-in to your rooms and have time to get fresh.
Visit the neighboring Ekayana Pagoda. While North Sulawesi is mainly Christian, of course there are also other religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism present in this part of the diverse and multi-religious archipelago nation. On the path to the main building 18 gold-colored so called Lohan statues are lining the way, and depict sinners who returned to the right path.
Should the afternoon haze still allow for it, you may have a panoramic 360 degree view into the highland surroundings from the 9th story of the towering pagoda to Tomohon town, Tondano Lake, Manado and the majestic Mahawu and Lokon volcanoes. At the turtle lake try to hit a rotating bell with a coin, which may help you to fulfil one chosen wish symbolized by the position you chose at the pond’s side: there is wealth, luck, fame, longevity, and happiness.
NOTE: Manado is accessible by flights by Silk Air from Singapore to Manado MI274 SIN 09:45 – MDC 13:15 (Wed, Fri, Sat & Mon) or Garuda Indonesia from Jakarta to Manado GA 602 CKG 05:30 – MDC 09:55
Overnight in Tomohon.
Gardenia Country Inn
DAY 02: MINAHASA HIGHLANDS
Today, embark on a discovery of the Minahasa Highlands. Following breakfast, visit Tomohon Market. At this lively market, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetable are on display. However, it is also known as the market of extremes, since there is a section with bush meat, displaying everything from bats to rats and many more – certainly not everyone’s taste but interesting for those who choose to view it. Due to our responsible travel commitments, we do not recommend a visit to this section of the market, but many do.
Continue for a cycling tour along the shores of Tondano Lake, the largest lake of North Sulawesi. Tondano Lake is nestled among the rolling hills of the Minahasa Highlands and there’s always a fresh breeze across its large silverish surface, which makes cycling through the lush landscapes a relaxed venture. Its shores are lined with aqua culture farms and seafood restaurants, one of which will be the side of a delicious Sulawesian lunch today.
After lunch, cycle to Pulutan Pottery Village, where nearly every household is involved in the making of pottery. Pieces such as pots and vases or small sets of pottery tables and chairs have traditionally been produced for the local market and nowadays mostly commissioned works for customers outside of Sulawesi and Indonesia. Apart from the local families involved in the production of pottery, a training centre provides the community with the respective skills and ideas needed to create pottery.
At Linow Lake, the smell of sulphur fills the air, and the fascinating turquoise surface of the lake indicates its volcanic origin. Here, enjoy an Indonesian specialty the Sulawesi way: fried banana not with honey or sweet dips, but with spicy chili sauce. Relax with a cup of tea or coffee by the lake shore while enjoying this tasty treat. On the way back to Tomohon, stop by Pinaras Waterfall for a short trek down the 180 stairs (path can be slippery towards the waterfall), to experience the fresh spray of the 40-metre tall waterfall. Afterwards, return to the hotel for an early rest.
Overnight in Tomohon.
Gardenia Country Inn
DAY 03: MOUNT LOKON – TANGKOKO NATIONAL PARK – LEMBEH STRAIT
Today, wake up early at 04:00 am and head to nearby Mount Lokon. Start trekking before first light by a quarry at the foot of the mountain and ascend slowly across an old lava flow. While climbing up the mountain, witness sunrise over the highlands. Cross a gravel field in order to reach the rim of an active crater which lies on the slope below the actual top of the volcano. From here, enjoy panoramic views into the surrounding area and the smoking rim.
NOTE: A good level of physical fitness and balance is required for the trek to Mount Lokon crater rim; the path can be narrow and is partly steep, the lava flow can be slippery. Good, sturdy shoes with a strong profile under the soles are definitely required, sneakers may be too slippery. A warm jacket is not required, but functional clothing and a windbreaker may be advised. Trek approx. 2 km / way = 1,5 - 2 hours / way, depending on the speed, partly steep, a few sections require hands.
Descend to the foot of the mountain and return by vehicle to the hotel for breakfast. Afterwards, take some time to freshen up and check-out before continuing on the road through the Minahasa Highlands towards the Lembeh Strait. Lunch is served en route at a local restaurant (basic bathrooms) in Bitung City.
The next highlight for today is the Tangkoko National Park. Go for a relaxed walk in the deep, lush forest in search of the amazing wildlife endemic to this region and protected in the national park zone. There is a very high probability to see animals. The biodiversity in Tangkoko National Park is very high and, apart from the famous Celebes crested macaque and the cute tarsier, there are 127 mammal, 233 bird and 104 reptile and amphibian species. Among them is also the Sulawesi bear, dwarf cuscus and birds such as the knobbed hornbill, Sulawesi hornbill and maleo.
A highlight for most is an encounter with the Celebes crested macaque or black crested macaque, locally known as yaki or wolai. With its hairless face and, with the exception of some white hair in the shoulders, is entirely jet black. Unusual for a primate, it has striking reddish-brown eyes. The long muzzle with high cheeks and the long hair tuft, or crest, at the top of the head are remarkable features. It has an "apelike" appearance and resembles a miniature version of “King Kong”. After the national park visit, continue the journey towards Lembeh Strait for check-in at a hotel on a beautiful black sand beach.
Overnight at Lembeh Strait.
NAD-Lembeh Resort Bastianos Lembeh Dive Resort
DAY 04: TASIKOKI WILDLIFE RESERVE – SILADEN ISLAND
This morning, check out and depart for an educational experience at the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre. Meet one of the researchers at the visitor and education center to understand the dimensions and implications of the trade with protected species in Southeast Asia and strategies to cope with it. While walking through the premises, see how animals that have been kept in captivity are rehabilitated and prepared for reintroduction into the wild where they belong.
At noon, move to the observation tower by the shore. From here, enjoy panoramic views over the rescue centre, surrounding forest and the Lembeh Strait. In the kitchen and community room of the lodge where environmentalists live and work, a simple local lunch is prepared.
After lunch, depart towards the northern coast and BUNAKEN MARINE NATIONAL PARK. At the harbour, hop on a boat and transfer to Siladen Island and check-in at the hotel there. Apart from the many coconut trees and a small fishermen village, there is not much on this little islet, aside from nature and beauty, which measures just a few hundred metres in diameter. It is surrounded by a white sand beach and beautiful coral reefs.
Especially in a place like Sulawesi, which is part of an area known as the “Coral Triangle” that is the oceanic equivalent of the Amazon, scuba diving is almost a mandatory experience. Join us to explore one of the reefs of Siladen Island today. The exact location chosen by the experienced dive instructors will depend on tides, currents, visibility, cleanliness and weather on the respective day.
NOTE: No prior experience is required for the discovery scuba dive. Participants should be in good health, and have no heart or respiratory illnesses. Ears should be healthy as well. For participants who prefer to do snorkelling instead of the discovery dive, snorkelling can be arranged at a discount compared with the regular trip price. Experienced, certified scuba divers may book an actual dive excursion with morning and afternoon dives at a surcharge.
First, move to the classroom of the Siladen Resort & Spa’s 5-star PADI dive centre to receive a first theoretical lesson on diving. After having received a comprehensive safety-briefing and having learnt the basics of scuba diving, go for a first try at the resort’s pool. Here, get a feeling for the equipment and practice balance and buoyancy.
In the afternoon, embark on a boat trip to the dive site and come close with the fascinating and beautiful underwater world. The colourful reefs of the marine national park feature hundreds of coral and fish species. While drifting slowly across these submerged gardens, witness the underwater life first hand. Return to the resort in the late afternoon and spend the rest of the day either relaxing at the hotel or lounging on the island’s gorgeous beach.
After breakfast, return to the mainland and continue by road to the city center of MANADO. A short walk will bring you around the city center, where you walk from the Arabian Quarter through China Town, where in the “brokerage street” Jalan Roda everyone from small criminals to high-profile business people and politicians meet for coffee, and continue to the city center where your walk ends by the Sentrum church and the WW II memorial, built in remembrance of the Pacific war from 1940 to 1945 and its victims. It has to be understood in connection with the strategic location of Manado, North Sulawesi and East Indonesia at the border between the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant specializing on satay.
This afternoon, visit the Museum Negeri Propinsi Sulawesi Utara, showcasing the whole region of North Sulawesi with its traditions and history. There are a few quirky hybrid-culture artifacts on display, such as the so called “bamboo clarinet” which is a mix between the European and Dutch-imported clarinets as well as local bamboo instruments. Another colonial heritage is the favorite dessert of the Manado people: Klappertart, which is also a “fusion dish” consisting of western style butter tart filled with coconut custard. Taste and enjoy the sweet dessert with a cup of coffee or tea at one of the town’s best known places for the specialty.
Return to the coast this afternoon for your check-in at a small village outside of Manado.
Overnight at Manado.
DAY 08: MANADO DEPARTURE
Enjoy the morning and relax by the pool until your airport transfer for your onward trip.
Recommended flights: Silk Air from Manado to Singapore MI273 MDC 14:00 - SIN 17:30 Wed, Fri, Sat & Mon) Garuda Indonesia from Manado to Jakarta GA 601 MDC 16:15 – JKT 18:35
Private Tour (for 02 pax, cheaper if more)
Tour Price Includes
07 hotel night accommodation
Local English speaking guide
Meals as mentioned
Boat transfer in Manado and Siladen Island
All sightseeing as specified and entrance fees included
Bottled drinking water per touring days
Tour Price Excludes
Visas if required
Items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks, souvenirs, etc.
Tips for your guide and driver (discretionary)
Any camera or video fees at any sites
When to Go
See estimated monthly temperature and rainfall for this itinerary