I started this day, the last in the Togian islands, by waking up early – before 7 o’clock – to watch for birds before breakfast. It was a small success! I saw several new ones, including the Black Naped Fruit Dove – which was very beautiful. Apparently the trick to birdwatching is being early, who new!?
Those who did not go to Taipr island yesterday, me for example, then jumped into the boat right after breakfast and set off over relatively rough waters (at least for our boat). We passed by several resorts on our way to the former “Taipr Paradise” resort, situated on a small island. Now deserted, you can walk around in the empty shells in this once paradise. But that was not our purpose here! Taipr is surrounded by coral reefs and we had an hour or two to explore the wonderful world below the surface. There were lots of fish and thankfully for me – nearsighted and without contact lenses – many of them were curious about me and swam forward so I could almost touch them. It was certainly the best of the places we had visited for snorkeling so far in Sulawesi. On the way back the boat had a tough time in the waves and rocked worryingly. Irina, our host and guide, leaned over to me and said “If the boat turns over, be prepared to grab your belongings!” At first I thought she was joking but then I remembered that she had already told us about how unstable this kind of boat was and that they had actually turned over with a tourist group once. But all went well and we were back exactly on time for lunch.
In the afternoon, while the tide was low, most of us walked along the shore to the village on the other side of the island. Our main goal was to buy palm sugar, which is produced here. When everybody was happy with their share of the brown sweets, we strolled around the village and greeted its inhabitants. A while after coming back, there was a “quacking” sound from the forest, high up in the canopy. We could not see what it was at first, but finally two magnificent Knobbed Hornbills appeared. This hornbill is endemic to Sulawesi (they live nowhere else) and sadly there are signs that their numbers might be in decline. It is listed as “vulnerable to global extinction”. After dinner there was a big Latvian song sing-along and later some went night snorkeling. Not me though, I was very much inspired by the day’s events, and sat on the veranda of my cottage and wrote this story.
We have already well settled on Togian island and a barracuda for lunch is nothing out of ordinary anymore. Some of us will go to the jellyfish lake today. On contrary from the other group we already have their stories and a suspicion on what awaits us in our hands. We will be joined by Anton, a Catalonian who arrived this morning. Hence at the breakfast table we talk about Baltic Way and the independence of Catalonia. We humm “Saule, Pērkons, Daugava” [a Latvian song that was taken by Catalonians for their independence movement]. Seems that Anton recognises it.
We leave for the lake. An absolute happiness since there still is the morning freshness. We go past two villages. The houses are built on stilts, between them and the steep cliff are only couple of meters. No freshwater. That is brought to the villages in boats from our island as there is a spring on it. After 30 minute ride we reach the Jellyfish lake. That is indeed a lake as it’s not connected to the sea. Very long time ago it has been a part of the sea, so the water in it is salty, but now only rain water is supplying it. We find out from our hostess that there are only 2 lakes like this in the world – the other is somewhere in Americas.
When jumping into the lake, we feel like jumping in a pot of soup as the water is foggy and seems almost hot. There are indeed many jellyfish. Judging by eye looks like 3-5 individuals in every cubic meter of water. The jellyfish are all of the same species – supposedly also blood-relatives. Their tentacles are lighter or darker brown, but the surface almost transparent with violet stripes. The smallest are in the size of a cherry, the biggest around the size of a small watermelon. All of the jelyfish without regards of the size are very peaceful, it was possible to take them in hands and if wished so, also count the tentacles which Agnese also did. Unfortunately when moved close to the surface all the beauty got lost.
Next we go to a wonderful beach with white sand where there are no stones and nothing is hindering getting to the corals. Here the water is completely clear, many fish and lovely corals. We only get out of the water when Irina patiently calls us. On the way home we get a small drizzle. Huh, how we would want for a bigger one!
On the lunch we finish another barracuda. Everyone has such an apetite as would have worked hard. After the lunch we are snoozing in the hammocks. After a short rest the other group gets in the boat and goes to an island where there is an especially great diversity of corals. They return shortly before the sun set excited that they haven’t seen anything like that before. The main event – Vitolds has swam around the whole island! The rest of us will wait for tomorrow impatiently to see it all with our own eyes.
A trip is not created in one day – it takes a lot of work. For an eclipse trip it is even more so because there might be no other initial reason to go to that particular place. For other trips one might want to see a particular landmark, but eclipses are temporary and rarely coincide with touristy places.
It is both a good and a bad thing. Off-the-beaten path is always very alluring, but meanwhile it can be a boring path as well. To make the path more charming, one should read a lot and browse a lot and talk to people a lot, and it might just happen that one of the resources will give inspiration.
For this trip and me it was not Tana Toraja’s burial traditions which other people can find captivating. For me it was the moment I read this post about Togian islands. The post is currently missing somewhere, but the same article is republished here: http://en.paperblog.com/the-most-unique-destination-in-indonesia-the-togean-islands-900795/. Remote islands with seldom electricity, very basic accommodation options, less tourists, but pristine nature and snorkeling – I’m coming! That is – we are coming. I really hope we will all enjoy this place after the long road trip.
After the inspiration is found, growing other things around it is much easier until it’s time to get up from planning, go and start enjoying!