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Experience the very best of North Sulawesi culture, wildlife and beaches on this whirlwind trip through some of its highlights. Explore the beautiful Minahasa Highlights, climb active volcanoes and wander Tangkoko National Park. Wrap up an memorable Sulawesi adventure with some downtime on one of Indonesia’s most idyllic beaches on Gangga Island.
Go lake hopping in the famously beautiful Minahasa Highlands and discover Sulawesi’s stunning natural beauty.
Visit bustling local markets and fascinating museums for exposure to Sulawesi’s unique culture.
Head to the Bangka Archipelago and wrap up a Sulawesi adventure in true paradise.
North Sulawesi Culture, Wildlife and Beach - 8 Days/ 7 Nights
Recommended arrival flights (not included)
Silk Air from Singapore to Manado MI274 SIN 09:45 – MDC 13:15
Garuda Indonesia from Denpasar to Manado GA 624 DPS 19:15 – MDC 21:50 *requires arrival on the previous day, with separate transfer and a pre-night in Manado or Tomohon or results in the loss of the first program-day.
Garuda Indonesia from Jakarta to Manado GA 602 CKG 05:30 – MDC 09:55 or GA 600 DPS 11:00 - MDC 15:20 * requires either arrival on the previous day, with separate transfer and a pre-night in Manado or Tomohon or results in the loss of parts of the first program-day and will require separate transfer arrangement.
Note in Visa Requirements
For stays of up to 30 days, most nationalities may enter Indonesia at Manado Airport without a visa. The passport has to be valid for at least 6 months from the day of departure from Indonesia, and has to have 2 empty pages for stamps. We will consult individually for visa requirements.
Arrive this afternoon at Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado (MDC). While heading through immigration, baggage claim and customs, be greeted by the local guide.
The airport 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”. Later today, check-in at the Gardenia Country Inn, which is the private residence of the Ratulangi family, and known for its beauty of the surrounding gardens overlooking the majestic and active Lokon Volcano.
Before heading to the Minahasa Highlands however, go for a short exploration of Manado City. A short walk heads to the city centre. From here, walk from the Arabian Quarter through Chinatown to an area known as “Brokerage Street” where many locals meet for coffee. Then continue to the city centre where the walk ends by the Sentrum Church and the WWII memorial there.
The favourite dessert of the Manado people is Klapper tart, which is kind of a “fusion dish” consisting of western style butter tart filled with coconut custard. Taste and enjoy this sweet dessert with a cup of coffee or tea at one of the town’s best-known places for the specialty (the order of visits may be changed according to traffic or preferences. At some times, it can be advantageous to visit the Klapper tart bakery first). Continue to the small town of Tomohon in the Minahasa Highlands for check-in at the hotel.
Overnight in Tomohon.
After 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.
Then, embark today on a discovery of the Minahasa Highlands. Continue for a short stop at Woloan, one of the last villages where the wooden typical Sulawesian-style houses can still be seen. Arrive at 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.
Visit 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 aquaculture farms and seafood restaurants, one of which will be the host of today’s lunch.
Pulutan is a pottery village, where nearly every household is involved in pottery. Pieces such as pots, vases or also sets of small pottery tables and chairs have traditionally been produced for the local market and nowadays are mostly commissioned to create 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 for new shapes and means of production.
Continue this afternoon to Museum Pinawetengan, which gives an overview of Minahasan culture and traditions. It also hosts the world’s largest trumpet according to the Guinness Book of Records. There are several other music instruments such as the “hybrid” bamboo clarinet, which is a mix of traditional bamboo flutes and the Dutch-imported clarinets.
Then, visit Linow Lake, where the smell of sulphur fills the air and the fascinating turquoise surface of the lake indicates its volcanic origin. Relax with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy a local specialty which is typical for Indonesian: fried banana. However, here in North Sulawesi, fried banana is not enjoyed with honey or sweet dips, but comes with spicy chili sauce.
Return to the hotel.
Overnight at the Gardenia Country Inn in Tomohon.
This morning, visit the neighboring Ekayana Pagoda. While North Sulawesi is mainly Christian, there are also other religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism present. On the path to the main building 18 gold-coloured so called Lohan statues are lining the way, and depict sinners who returned to the right path. Should the afternoon haze allow for it, there may be 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 fulfil a wish symbolised by the position chose at the pond’s side: there is wealth, luck, fame, longevity, and happiness.
The Ratulangi family is not only known for being fantastic hosts and garden architects, but also for their excellent fresh food sourced from the local surroundings. Enjoy a cooking class with some insights into the local Minahasa cuisine, one among the best in Indonesia. Learn how to prepare different dishes that are typical for the region in the beautiful surroundings. Enjoy a self-prepared lunch among the flower gardens.
After lunch, continue on the road through the Minahasa Highlands towards Lembeh Strait. On the way stop at the majestic Mount Mahawun, one of the three active volcanoes around Tomohon. A short walk up the hills leads to an observation platform at the crater rim. From here, peer into the caldera and observe the surrounding area. There is also an opportunity to walk around the crater rim and descend the slopes of the volcano to a small local warung, where coffee is served.
In Airmadidi, stop to visit an ancient graveyard with sarcophagi that stand out with their peculiar shapes. The cube-shaped bases of the several hundreds and up to more than thousand-years-old burial stones keep the deceased bodies in a fetal position. The roof-shaped lid depicts images of the life scenes of the occupants.
Continue further towards Lembeh Strait and check into a resort there later in the afternoon.
Overnight at Lembeh Strait
After breakfast, depart for an educational experience at the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre. Meet one of the researchers and learn about the trade of protected species in Southeast Asia and strategies to prevent it.
While walking through the premises, see how animals that have been kept in captivity are rehabilitated and prepared for release in the wilderness where they belong to their roles in the local ecosystem.
At noon, move to an observation tower by the shore with panoramic views over the rescue centre, surrounding forest and the Lembeh Strait.
In the kitchen and community room of the lodge where the environmentalists live and work, a simple local lunch will be prepared while observing the beautiful surroundings.
Continue to Tangkoko National Park where the next highlight for today awaits. 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’s never a guarantee to see animals, but the probability is very high. There is a very high biodiversity in Tangkoko National Park 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”.
Continue the journey towards Lembeh Strait for an overnight stay.
Overnight at Lembeh Strait.
Check out after breakfast and transfer to the harbour. For those who choose to, there is an opportunity to have lunch before hopping on a boat and heading ot Gannga Island.
Gannga Island is part of the Gangga and Bangka Archipelago. Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle and considered to be one of the world’s top marine biodiversity hotspots, it’s at the conjunction between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Apart from the many coconut trees and two small fishermen villages, there is not much on this little islet, which measures just a few hundred metres in diameter. It is surrounded by a white sand beach and beautiful coral reefs. There are numerous snorkelling and diving spots around the island, and the resort’s pristine white sand beach invites for relaxed hours by the sea and under the sun.
Check-in at the Gangga Island Resort & Spa. Here, enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight at Gangga Island
Today is a leisure day.
The resort offers plenty of opportunities for diving, snorkelling and other activities (not included, although an activity pass if offered at reasonable price).
Overnight at Gangga Island
Today is at leisure.
Overnight at Gannga Island
This morning is at leisure until transferring to the airport (by resort crew) for a departure flight.
The official check-out time is 12:00 o’clock noon.In order to catch the flight to Denpasar, a very early departure at 05am is required.
Recommended flights (not included)
Silk Air from Manado to Singapore MI273 MDC 14:00 - SIN 17:30
Garuda Indonesia from Manado to Denpasar GA625 departing at 07:55 and arriving at 10:20 or Garuda Indonesia from Makassar to Surabaya GA630 departing at 19:00 and arriving at 19:30.
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