Travelling through Southeast Asia we have been to many islands, and each and every one of them being a paradise in themselves. But it wasn't until we arrived on Malenge, that we realised what a true paradise looked and felt like.
This fascinating and unspoiled island of Malenge is part of the Togian Islands and sits in central Sulawesi in the Gulf of Tomini, Indonesia. It can be a bit of a pain to get there, but it's only a small price to pay to stay on this secluded island. So secluded that it has no WiFi, bars, restaurants or even phone signal. Transport on the island is also non-existent, as the only way to get around is by boat or trekking through the jungle.
We decided to stay at Sera Cottages, which is on the north side of Malenge, nestled in a pocket bay between the limestone coastline.
Arriving late evening at the port of Malenge, we were greeted by Andy, one of the staff members, who took us on another short boat ride to the resort. We made it just in time for dinner and were welcomed by the other guests and Nuir, who is an exceptional host. After spending the next couple of hours sitting around chatting, we all headed off to bed.
Our bungalow sat right on the beach, meters away from the sea with two hammocks hanging outside. Inside was a basic room with a double bed, mosquito net, 2 chairs, a fan and a decent size bathroom. Although the bathroom only had a bucket shower and toilet, it still had everything we needed. And at a price of only 200,000 Rupiah(15$) per person, it included three full meals, coffee, tea and water all day.
The food was mostly fish based except for breakfast and was some of the best food we had in Sulawesi. In the morning we were served pancakes with a coconut jam filling or homemade banana bread. And for lunch and dinner, we would either have freshly caught barracuda, tuna, or snapper, on a bed of rice with veg. Even though it could get quite repetitive at times, it was still delicious and plentiful.
It wasn't until the next morning that we could really take in the sheer beauty of our surroundings. Stepping out onto our own private beach, covered in soft white sand, swaying palm trees, and crystal clear water, we were in paradise.
Our schedule for the next few days was nothing more than eating, snorkelling, and chilling in our hammocks as we watched dolphins swim by.
Things To Do Around Malenge
Snorkelling just off the beach is probably where we spent the most of our time. Only a few meters in the water, we were already swimming with blue spotted stingrays. Going out further it got a bit more exciting when we came face to face with SHARKS. Okay, they were only baby black tip reef sharks, but it was still pretty cool to have these little fellas swimming next to us.
Sera Cottages also offers snorkelling trips around Malenge for an absolute bargain of 75,000 Rupiah (5-6$). The most popular reefs are #1 and #5. Where reef #1 is mostly known for its colourful coral gardens, reef #5 is more famous for its drop off wall and schools of fishes. Both reefs are buzzing with life, and are well worth a visit.
A Trip To Bajau Village
Besides the snorkelling trips, you can also book a tour to the nearby Bajau Village. The Bajau people, meaning sea gypsies, live a nomadic life, relying on the sea which provides almost everything they need.
Situated on the east side of Malenge, is one of several permanent settlements around the Togian Islands. Built on the offshore reefs, this stilt village is connected to the mainland by a kilometre long wooden bridge.
When we got dropped off, we took a stroll between the local homes and onto the bridge for some pictures. The area is very beautiful and the clear water beneath your feet makes it extremely photogenic.
If you want to spend a few hours away from the sea, and more importantly your hammock, then you can take a small trek across the island and back. We didn't bother going trekking because you couldn't pull us away from our hammocks. But the guys that did the trek said that it was just okay anyway. So we were pretty happy that we stayed behind.
How To Get To Malenge
Malenge To And From Ampana
If you are travelling from south to north Sulawesi, then you can take a day boat from Ampana to Malenge. Be aware though, the boat is not leaving every day. Most likely you will have to spend a night in Ampana.
The Puspita Sari departs at 9.30 am on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, and takes about ten hours to get to Malenge. Don't expect a seat on the boat, as it gets quite full. Grab yourself a spot on the deck and enjoy the views along the way.
Buy your ticket the day you arrive at the Ampana pier. There is a counter with a lady that speaks good English. You will pay ahead 75,000 Rupiah (5-6$) and then pick up your ticket the day you depart.
Leaving Malenge to Ampana you can take the early boat at 6 am on a Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday. Your resort will be more than happy to arrange all of this for you.
Malenge To And From Gorontalo
Coming from Gorontalo you will have to take a night ferry to Wakai, that leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays only. Compared to the Puspita Sari, the Tuna Tomini is a large car ferry that needs 12-14 hours. Expect to pay 89,000 Rupiah (7$).
Arriving in Wakai at 6 am, you can wait for the Ampana boat that late afternoon to Malenge for 30,000 Rupiah (2-3$). If you don't fancy waiting around that long (approx 9 hours), you can always organise a charter boat. This will be a lot more expensive and can cost up towards 600,000 Rupiah (45$).
Going from Malenge to Gorontalo is quite similar. You either take the local boat from Malenge at 6 am to Wakai (arrive 9 am) and wait around for six hours for the night ferry to Gorontalo (depart 3 pm), leaving Mondays and Thursdays only. Or like we did, charter a boat from your resort to Wakai. More than likely you can share the costs with other guests.
Note: there are no ATM's on the island, so plan your stay ahead and take enough cash with you.