Luwuk and the Banggai Islands
Luwuk is situated in Indonesia in the eastern part of Central Sulawesi. The picturesque town stretches along the slopes of the mountain range, which divide this part of Sulawesi from east to west. Luwuk used to be far away from the big tourist highways. However, during the last two or three years due to better flight and ferry connections this town has gained more importance. Today many travellers choose the way via Luwuk to go to the Togean islands. There are regular flight connections from Manado in the North and from Palu in the West. Also Pelni ships regulary visit Luwuk on their way from Makassar to Manado. Up-to-date Pelni schedules can be found here.
Luwuk is also the starting point for a visit of the Banggai Islands. Until now this archipel has no touristic infrastructure at all. In spring 2000 the area was hit by a strong earthquake, which caused considerable tectonical changes. The eastern side of the islands was uplifted while on the western side some small islands disappeared under the sea level. There were also many injuries and deaths among the local people.
As far as diving is concernd there is still much to be discovered in this region. There are hundreds of islands and most of them are surrounded by coral reefs and according to local fishermen there is still much fish to be found here. However, similar to the Togean Islands there is also a lot of destruction caused by dynamite fishing. The Banggais are also home of an endemic species of Cardinal fish.
Climatically there is a diffenrence between Luwuk and the rest of Sulawesi. In the main tourist season from June to August there is like on the Molukkas rainy season and the sea is quite rough and not very clear. The weather is usually better in (european) spring and then again in September/October.
The only possibility to visit and dive this remote region is to stay at Maleo Cottages 3 km to the West of Luwuk airport. Yani and Jerôme Doucet offer at Maleo Cottages simple bungalows under palm trees near a small beach accross the road.
The bungalows cost 5 US$ per night with breakfast included. You can have dinner in the resort´s restaurant for 2 US$. The indonesian-french cuisine is excellent. You should order fresh shrimps. Jerôme used to farm shrimps in a shrimp farm about 60 km further away.
The Doucets also offer cars, boats, motorcycles and bycicles for rent. There is also an interesting offer of trecking tours in the far east of Central Sulawesi.
The latest offer is a "Banggai & Peling Excursion" for US$ 100 pp. The four-day-trip by speedboat leads to the Banggai Islands. The guests stay overnight in two villages on the islands.
Diving on the Banggai Islands is still mostly exploratory diving. There are no dive profiles for the dive sites and there are no diveguides leading you under water. So these diving expeditions are something for the experienced diver only. However those may find exciting new diving possibilities.
Prices: (10.000 Rp = 1 US$, August 2000)
Dive packages (equipement incl.)
Two dives at Pulau Tikus is 175.000 Rp, 3 divers minimum. Two dives at Pulau Lesampuang is 200.000 Rp, 3 divers minimum. A two day diving trip costs depending on the distance around 250.000 Rp. Longer diving trips are possible also and must be arranged in advance. Prices are to negotiated.
Since April 2002 there is a new big deal for divers. Jerôme has realized his dream and has constructed a comfortable liveaboard. From October to May the M/V Paisabatu is cruising the Banggai Islands. The trips last 8 days. With Paisabatu there is at last a comfortable way to discover the Banggai Islands for divers available. During the rainy season in Luwuk from May until September the liveaboard is based in Pagimana on the other side of the peninsula from where trips to the Togean Islands are offered.
The Banggai Tour
Most of the dives are on off shore reefs with vertical drop-offs down
to several hundred meters. The walls often present overhangs, caves, and
are covered with hard and soft coral. You will see turtles, reef sharks
(white and black tips), eagle rays, schools of Trevallies, Surgeonfishes
and Batfishes. Other inhabitants include snappers, groupers and Napoleon
wrasses. On the upper part of the reef is a high concentration and diversity
of butterfly fishes, banner fishes, damselfishes, Anthias sp., dotty backs,
Starting from Luwuk, the cruise goes through Peleng Strait, the location of the first dives (off shore reefs). The dives will mostly take place in the south of the archipelago, on the external part of the 175 kms long barrier reef. If tides and weather conditions are favourable we will also dive on the submerged reefs of Bote Strait and reach the west coast of Taliabu Island.
Further information may be found on their website Wallacea Dive Cruises.
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