I can’t say that we saw enough of the city of Manado in Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia to recommend the city itself, but as the gateway to some other amazing experiences, you probably should head that way. If you like trekking active volcanoes, diving off steep cliffs underwater, getting up close and personal with unique monkeys, or just like really friendly and hospitable people who eat the hottest and spiciest food, then you are definitely in the right place.
Why Were We There?
- 1 Why Were We There?
- 2 An Overview
- 3 About Manado in Northern Sulawesi Indonesia
- 4 The People of Manado in Northern Sulawesi – the Minahasa
- 5 The Influence of Others
- 6 Getting to Manado.
- 7 Getting Around the Minahasa Region
- 8 1. Waruga – the Stone Sarcophagi
- 9 2. Tondano Lake
- 10 3. Eating Minahasa Style
- 11 4. Hill of Love or Bukit Kasih
- 12 5. Bunaken National Park
- 13 6. Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve
- 14 7. Black Volcanic Beach
As guests of Indonesia Tourism Board and the #WonderfulIndonesia initiative, Gordon and I were part of a familiarisation media trip. The aim of this was to introduce media representatives to other parts of Indonesia. To say it was a world wind trip would be an understatement. We had 9 planes trips in 7 days, as we got a taste of Northern, Central and Southern Sulawesi, spending the last two days in Ambon and Saparua in the Maluku or Molucca region of Indonesia. What I can tell you is that these experiences have us wanting more, and wanting to share just how stunning, diverse and intriguing we found Indonesia.
We will be writing some more in depth articles of these areas in the coming weeks.
You can read about our experiences in the Indonesian Spice Islands of Saparua and Ambon right here
What we did experience in two days in the Manado area, however, was an excellent taster of what this region has to offer to travellers. We will be unpacking each of these experiences in other articles, but this is a general overview of what amounted to an epic trip.
- Waruga – the Stone Sarcophagi
- Tondano Lake
- Eating Minahasa Style
- Hill of Love or Bukit Kasih
- Bunaken National Par
- Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve
- Black Volcanic Beach
About Manado in Northern Sulawesi Indonesia
Manado is the capital city of the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, and obviously, a business centre based on the number of business people we saw on the flight from Jakarta. It is also a city that travellers use as a gateway to the Minahasa Highlands, the epic dive island of Bunaken, and to see the tarsiers, and the black macaque monkeys in the wild at Tangkoko National Park, not to mention the hot springs dotted throughout this volcanic region.
Looking a little further than the concrete jungle, and the hellish traffic you get a glimpse of why this is an appealing place. Manado is situated on the Bay of Manado and is surrounded by the lush mountains, many of which are active volcanoes. The cone-shaped mountain of Manado Tua can be seen from the city, and you can glimpse some of the active volcanoes of Lokon, Soputan, and Dua Saudara, which are ideal for trekkers.The best way to see these areas is by contacting Visit Manado to help you to organise a bespoke itinerary.
The People of Manado in Northern Sulawesi – the Minahasa
In a predominantly Muslim country, Manado stands out with it multi-denominational population, and they are very proud of this and the harmony that they enjoy. They have a reputation in Indonesia as being friendly people who love life and love welcoming guests to their homes. Based on the people we met at Manado and on the various trips around this region, we would have to agree with the city’s slogan, “Torang Samua Basudara,” meaning:” we are all one family.”
The Influence of Others
Manado is home to the very friendly Minahasa people. As with everywhere in Indonesia, it is impossible to get away from the influences of the Portuguese, Spanish and particularly the Dutch seafaring nations who valued these islands for their many natural resources, and consequently the influence of the The Dutch East India company. North Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s richest producers of coconut, cloves, and nutmeg which all adds to its natural wealth.The Minahasa people identified closely with the Dutch.
“In 1947, a political movement which called itself De Twaalfde Provincie (The Twelfth Province) opted for an incorporation of Minahasa into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The movement was appeased by the appointment of the (Christian) Minahasan Sam Ratulangi as the first Republican governor of the province of East Indonesia in 1946 (in the meantime Tjokorde Gde Rake Sukawati being president of the State of East Indonesia).” Hubert de Vries
Getting to Manado.
It is a 3hr and 20minute flight from Jakarta to the Sam Ratulangi International Airpor in Manado. You can also fly directly from other Indonesian destinations like Bali. It is 3h 30m duration from Singapore to Manado.
Getting Around the Minahasa Region
There are blue mini vans which are the public buses, taxis, motorbikes and cars. My only word of caution is that the traffic is horrendous, and the roads are narrow. This should not deter you at all, but you will need to adjust your timings. If you think it will take you 30 minutes, try multiplying that by at least 4, and you might be closer to the mark. My advice – get a motorbike and you will be a lot better off.
1. Waruga – the Stone Sarcophagi
In the village of Sawangan in the Airmadidi district, we visited the collection of 144 stone sarcophagi, known as the Waruga. These were the burial places for local people. The sarcophagus is where bodies were put in a fetal position, and when the body disintegrated another body was placed on top. The Dutch colonial government stopped the use of these Sarcophagi after an outbreak of cholera and tuberculosis in the 1800’s.
2. Tondano Lake
Tondano Lake is the largest lake in the region. You reach it by a very scenic trip up a mountain and through a village with horse-drawn carriages, a little reminiscent of the Amish. There are fertile rice paddies, and many fish farms along the way. This is a popular area for restaurants overlooking both the lake and the surrounding mountains.
3. Eating Minahasa Style
We stopped at one, the Astomi Cafe on Lake Tondano. This is where we first got to sample the hot sambal that the Minahasa people are justifiably proud of. Our guide tells us we have received the gentler version. It is hot, but it is amazing, so we ask to try the real deal. It is not for the faint-hearted, and we were fans immediately.
Must try dishes are:
ikan mas bajar rica – a locally grilled fish, covered in local spices – which we had assure our guide that we could handle
perkedul milu – corn fritters
ayam rica-rica – grilled chicken topped with the sambal
[clickToTweet tweet=”Around Lake Tondano, you can see the volcanoes of Lokon-Empung, Mahawu, Sempu and Soputan. #travel #indonesia ” quote=”Around Lake Tondano, you can see the volcanoes of Lokon-Empung, Mahawu, Sempu and Soputan.”]
4. Hill of Love or Bukit Kasih
We arrive at the Hill of Love or Bukit Kasih, some 45km south of Manado, but hours by bus. There 2435 steps to the top of Bukit Kasih, though I didn’t walk it. I watched the mist rising from the hot springs at the bottom.The Hill of Love is “a spiritual center where religious followers from various faiths can gather, meditate and worship side by side at the lush and misty tropical hill.” Wonderful Indonesia
There are five houses of worship here; a Catholic Church, a Christian church, a temple, a mosque and Hindu temple that are built on the second peak.
You can also see two faces carved into the cliff face representing the ancestor tribes of Toar and Lumimuut. The faces are carved on the hillside beneath the second peak, and our guide tells us that you can see the features of the Mongolian forebears to the Minahasa people.
If you have climbed the steps, you can then have a foot massage at the base, in the hot spring waters.
5. Bunaken National Park
The Bunaken National Park is considered to be one of the premier dive sites in the world. It takes us about an hour by boat to reach the beach and get fitted for snorkels and goggles before we headed back to Liang Cove and Liquam Reef and Curves 1, 2 and 3 – the drop off walls that beckon divers and snorkelers from around the world.
Many people choose to stay on the island, with full board. We ate at the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious yellow curry and fish.
6. Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve
We then head in nearly the opposite direction, or so it appears to we tired people, but the drive is unusual. We go through heavy traffic, villages and along some quite perilous terrain hugging the side of the mountain as we go. None of us are particularly looking forward to the drive home as we know it will be dark and meeting any incoming traffic will be hazardous. Of course, we met this oncoming traffic in the dark, but our driver knew what he was doing.
Our main objectives at the Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve at the foot of Dua Saudara Mountain, were to see the black macaque monkeys, and at dusk to see the tiny little Tarsiers. We were fortunate to see both in the depths of the jungle.
Black Macaque Monkeys
The Black Macaques are entirely black, except for their hind parts which are called ichial callosities, which are sitting pads that are very hard, very much like the calluses on human hands. Adult females are easily recognized by their red sexual genitalia. This indicates that they are in heat, and ready to be mated.
Tangkoko National Park is home to the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier. These nocturnal tree-dwelling creatures are shy, and a little hard to spot. Go in with a guide who know where to look.
This area is very popular with bird enthusiasts from around the word in search of the maleo birds, and the hornbill birds.
Hint: Use insect repellent and tuck your pants into your socks to minimize insect, leech, and mite bites.
Probably go in the very early morning when the animals are most alert, or at dusk to see the little tarsier monkeys.
7. Black Volcanic Beach
It was dusk, and we made our way to the Black Volcanic Beach not far from where we had watched the grooming practices of the monkeys.
The beach and sunset were amazing, and somewhat settling.
We then headed back up and down the perilous mountain pass in search of some local refreshments and some entertainment.
Who knew that Bintang and a dose of Abba at a local restaurant could be so enjoyable after an epic couple of days in Manado in Northern Sulawesi Indonesia?
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