Immediately after leaving Sam Ratulangi, the international airport of Manado, tick forests and waving palm trees make up for a true tropical environment. The road leads past villages, where people move slowly in the equatorial heat. If you have arrived in the weekend, chances are you’ll be invited on a wedding party, inevitably held on a Saturday.
Don’t refuse a good drink of cap tikus, a local and very strong liquor! Coming in from the west or from Singapore, you’ll the contrast can’t be more extreme. Before you’ll know, it you’ll hop on a speed boat, zapping you in no time to one of the dive resorts occupying one of the hundreds small islands in the coastal waters just off the coast. Each and every one of them represents a little piece of self-catering heaven, where all the necessities of modern life have been magically undone.
You may gaze time away on one of the excellent beaches of the resort or venture out on the sea for one of the best snorkeling trips you’ll ever have. A motorized canoe waits to take you to several great spots. To discover the fascinating underwater world is as easy as getting out of the boat and let yourself float along the coast, while being surrounded by hundreds of small, tropic fish and an occasional turtle. Stare into the deep when getting close to a spectacular drop off. The abundant live corals have stunning colors and lie just below the water surface. The water is invitingly warm under a brilliant, sunlit sky. Alternatively you may go for an introductory dive, while experienced divers can go for a full-fledged dive. Even those who don’t dive or snorkel will be entranced by the sheer beauty of sandy beaches, mangroves and the great blue yonder.
You need a land fix? The hinterland of North Sulawesi has enough to offer for a few days off the beaten track. There are mountain villages, spectacular volcanoes, primitive pottery villages, copra farms and entire communities living on and off giant lakes. In some area, gold diggers are looking for fortune almost 24 hours a day. With primitive yet quite effective machineries, they keep on turning the soil until they strike it lucky! Sawangan is known for its cemetery with a difference. Dozens of waruga allow a peek into ancient Minahassa culture. These are sarcophagi, gathered from all over the region in the seventies and eighties, but all predating 1828 when the Dutch banned their use. These grave stones are two meter upright stone boxes with roof-shaped lids, lined up in neat rows. Some of the lids are heavily carved and adorned with human figures, either naked or in seemingly Western attire.
Tangkoko is well within easy distance. It is one of the most accessible nature reserves in Indonesia, and home to black macaques, maleo birds, red-knobbed hornbills and, above all, a tiny nocturnal primate known as tarsier. You will recognizes this species quite easy by its eyes, literally bigger than its stomach. They are in fact so big that they cannot rotate them within their sockets, which is compensated by the fact that they can rotate their heads nearly 360 degrees. They also have huge ears, which can be retracted and unfurled. Their disproportional long legs they allows them to jump ten times their body length. They are found exclusively in some rainforest of Indonesia and the Philippines.