You’re thinking of Bunaken National Marine Park, surrounding Siladen Island. And that is only one of the wonders of Sulawesi. You can dive from the glorious beaches of Lembeh Strait, or take a safari through its Tangkoko National Park to see rare monkeys and indigenous wildlife. At Tana Toraja you can unearth the traditional burial beliefs of the Tongkonan, including rock, cave and hanging graves – guarded by sentinels carved from solid rock. And in Bali you can chill on the ultimate paradise beach.
London – Singapore – Manado
You leave London Heathrow just before midday bound for Singapore and Manado.
Arrive in Singapore the following morning to meet your connecting flight to Manado. Once in Manado a car and boat will take you to Siladen Island and your hotel. You’ll be staying in the middle of Bunaken National Marine Park so you’ll have ample opportunity to laze on a pure white beach, indulge in the luxurious amenities of your hotel and swim in a saltwater pool. You’ll also be able to enjoy the marine park’s wonderful diversity of species.
Whether you’re interested in corals, fish, echinoderms or sponges – or all marine creatures – you’ll find a bewildering, colourful display. There are 70 types of coral, innumerable fish and seven species of giant clams. You can also explore the islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Manthage and Nain.
Stay: Five nights in a beach view villa at Siladen Resort.
On Day 7 you’ll journey by boat and car over to Lembeh Strait and a resort that is famous for its critter diving, muck diving, crystal clear waters and unrivalled opportunities for underwater photographers. The land holds treasures too. You can tour Tangkoko National Park to see the world’s smallest primate, the Tarsius Spectrum, and the equally rare Sulawesi black monkey. Much easier to see on your safari will be black crested macaques, hornbills, kus kus and maleo birds, as well as a huge diversity of indigenous plants and trees.
Your final day in Lembeh includes cultural visits to the Minahasa Highlands to tour through towns like Tomohon, with its charming market, and Wolan Village; a centre of traditional pottery production. The countryside around Lake Linow and Tondano Lake is beautiful, and home to a large variety of different birds. Ancient stone graves and a megalithic stone, a local museum and a batik factory tour complete an insight into the history and modern day culture of the region.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe ocean view cottage at Lembeh Resort.
Today you’ll travel by boat to the harbour, where you’ll be met and taken to Manado Airport for a short flight to Makassar. Here you’ll be staying in a stylish modern hotel in the centre of the city.
Stay: One night in a premium pool room at Melia Hotel Makassar.
A long, but extremely scenic, drive through Buginese Villages and past Mount Kabobon takes you from Makassar to Tana Toraja. This area is known for its elaborate funeral ceremonies, cave burials and hanging graves that are watched over by carved guardians. In Tongkonan houses the recent dead are embalmed and dressed and washed regularly until their families can afford to bury them in the traditional manner.
Your private guide will also show you where coffins have been placed amongst rocks, near the village of Londa. The following day you’ll drive past the majestic rice terraces of Batu Tumonga on your way to visit the megaliths and menhirs – over 100 of them – at Bori and see the local Torajan villlages that are famous for their wood carving and weaving.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at the Tana Toraga Heritage.
Now it’s time to travel back to Makassar Airport to catch your plane to Bali. You’ll be taken from Denpasar to your luxurious, beachfront resort for some serious relaxation. A white sand beach awaits, with welcoming warm water and sun loungers shaded by thatched umbrellas. It’s the perfect way to wind down, before exploring the ancient sites, temples and nightlife of this holiday island.
Stay: Two nights in a garden view cottage suite at Belmond Jimbaran Puri.
Denpasar – Singapore – London
You’ll depart from Denpasar Airport in the evening, bound for Singapore and your connecting flight back to the UK, arriving in London early the following morning.