‘You are going to Indonesia? So Bali?’
‘Ah no, there is more to Indonesia than just Bali…..’
This seems to be a a pretty standard conversation when it comes to planning a trip to Indonesia. But what if I told you that there was more to Indonesia than just Bali? What?! You don’t believe me? Well let me tell you about this little hidden gem called Manado in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Manado (pronounced Ma-nado) is the capital city of the North Sulawesi province in Indonesia. In 2010, Manado had a population of 408,000 of some of the happiest people you will ever meet. The name Manado comes from the words manadou which means ‘on the far coast’. Manado has a Spanish and Dutch influence due to early settlement. In 1942, the Japanese captured Manado and the city was heavily damaged by the allies bombing in WWII.
What to see and do:
Waruga Stone – okay so if you are a bit morbid like me, you may enjoy going to old cemeteries to check out the old structures and tombstones. Waruga has these little stone like houses that is a type of sarcophagus that date back to the 9th century. The warugas were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1995.The dead were firstly wrapped in woka which is a type of leaf from a palm. The bodies were then placed inside the stone structures facing north in a kneeling position. The Dutch banned the waruga in 1828 and the locals were then forced to start using coffins.Originally the warugas were located all over North Sulawesi but is was feared that they were behind disease outbreaks (such as typhoid and cholera) so they were all collected and assembled in this one area. Unfortunately, like most cemeteries, most of the waruga have been looted for all of its valuable contents. They have little notches in the side of the roof that indicates how many bodies are inside. The warugas really are quite beautiful. To add to the stark contract, local children run out to meet you and sit on the wall to watch you.
Hill of Love – If you want to feel the burn in your thighs and butt than I would highly recommend this walk for you. The Hill of Love was built in 2002 and is dedicated to the five religions on Manado, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Catholic. When you reach the Hill of Love you have two options, the left path or the right path. The left path will take you up 2,435 steep stairs to reach Bukit Kasih peak which is a giant cross. As you are walking up the stairs you will smell the rotten egg odour of all of the sulphuric clouds spilling out of the ground. The sulphur causes this odd mist that sweeps up and down the mountain side. As you get closer to the top, the path looses its steps and becomes a muddy steep pathway. It is an adventure but be careful as it is very slippery! My tip for you is to NOT wear thongs (aka flip flops) as they tend to break when the wearer slips. If you choose to go right, it is still a lot of steps but no where near as steep. At the top of the loop you come across the five different places of worship with an epic view down below through the sulphur clouds. If you go left or right, it doesn’t really matter as both views are absolutely amazing.
Tangkoko National Park – This is a must see on your Manado list. Do you remember the selfie of the black money that took over Facebook a couple of years ago? Well that cheeky little guy is from this national park and you have the opportunity to get right up close to them. When I was there, I saw both the black macaque (selfie monkey) and the little spectral tarsier – the world’s smallest monkey.
It didn’t take us very long to find the black macaques. There was a lot of them and they were running a muck. They were fantastic to just sit back and watch them do their own thing together, grooming, playing and who knows what else. I am not sure how the tour guides find the spectral tarsier but he was hidden up in the branches, he was such a little cutie. I didn’t see them but there are also cuscus, bats, pigs, babirusa, deer, hornbills that are in the park along with abundant walking tracks.
After seeing both of these monkeys, I got another treat – seeing Tangkoko Beach aka the black sand beach. This has to be one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and it also appeared to be very untouched. Tip – when heading to the park, don’t forget your mozzie repellent!!
Bunaken – Bunaken is a little island that is a part of the Bunaken National Marine Park which is on the northern tip of Sulawesi. If you want to snorkel or scuba dive, this is the place for you to go. This place is an island paradise with beautiful turquoise waters and a lovely resort over looking it all. Once of the most amazing snorkelling spots is right over a cliffs edge. The sealife is The waters of the marine park is up to 1,566m deep and with temperatures ranging from 27 – 29 degrees Celsius. The park has an amazing biodiversity with beautiful corals, sponges, fish, turtles and 7 of the 8 species of giant clams in the world. There is a boat that goes from Manado to Bunaken between 8 and 9am and leaves from Bunaken to Manado between 2 and 3pm. It takes about an hour to get over there and costs IDR 50.000 (approx $5AUD).
Getting to Manado isn’t as difficult as what you think. If you are coming in internationally, your best bet is to fly to either Jakarta or Denpasar (Bali). There are many daily flights to Manado from Jakarta or Denpasar or even other cities around the Indonesian archipelago with airlines such as Garuda, Silk Air, Lion Air or Merpati Airlines. The currency in Indonesian is the Indonesian Rupiah and my tip to you is to try and get it exchanged before getting to Manado as it can get quite expensive (dependant on the amount of the note you are exchanging to the Rupiah). I would highly recommend staying at the Mercure Manado Tateli Beach Resort. This resort is right on the water and has a stunning pool that you can just lounge around at and watch the world go by.
For the best tour guides in Manado, check out either MANADO TOURISM on Facebook or email them for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.