In Manado, we were very lucky to meet Bagus Lesmana, the owner of Matahatikita tours which is a local tour operator, based in Manado. Do note that he is an excellent Divemaster with many years of experience in the Indonesian dive industry. Matahatikita tours offer several day tours in North Sulawesi and multi-day tours but also arranges dive trips, http://www.matahatikita.com.
At first, we agreed with Bagus to visit the Tangkoko Nature Reserve and then get a small taste of the Minahasa highlands. Tangkoko Nature Reserve is famous for its unique flora and fauna and for its wildlife. Rare animals such as the tarsiers, the world’s smallest primates, the Macaque Nigra, the black monkey of Sulawesi, tarantulas (!), hornbills, maleo birds and cuscus can all be found there.
John, however, was more into volcanoes so we decided to leave out our beloved creatures in Tangkoko; to be honest I do regret not going on that excursion as I am a passionate animal lover.
Bagus and Noldi (our amazing driver) had a very spacious and new minivan, all for ourselves! They picked us up from Manado and we headed off to see the 2nd biggest statue of Jesus in the World, second only to Cristo Redentor, in Rio de Janeiro.
After visiting the statue, our guides took us to see the Waruga Ancient stone grave of the Minahasa Ancestors from the 15th Century at Airmadidi village. It was very interesting to see that each person’s profession was engraved on his or her gravestone. Our tour also included a visit to see how the locals process their local palm wine, called Tuak; unfortunately, the brewery was closed because of the Ramadan. However, we did get to taste Tuak and trust me, it tastes really good 🙂
The scenery, as we were approaching the highlands was amazing; green valleys to be seen everywhere as well as never-ending rice fields!!! We passed by the Tanggari green valley and also saw the Tondano rice milling machine. We went to a lakeside restaurant, in Tondano, that had its own fish farm where they catch the fish upon your request and cook them to order! That must be as fresh as fish can ever get! We enjoyed some excellent fish delicacies and carried on with our journey.
In Every village we crossed, we saw groups of locals gathering outside their church with a microphone and music. What they do is they stop cars and ask for financial support for their church; this was something I had never seen before. We passed by Pulutan village, which is a ceramic home industry and saw how the whole family, from grandparents through to the grandchildren, all help in the ceramic production.
Then Bagus took us to see how the Woloan Village, Minahasan houses are made, also known as the “knock down” houses. This is because the whole house can be broken down into small pieces and packed in a box very easily. It was interesting to find out that these houses are elevated several meters from the ground. They use the area underneath their homes as storage, but also to help them keep out unwanted visitors such as snakes. Finally, elevated homes offer protection from rain floods.
Before going to our hotel, in Tomohon, we stopped at a beautiful Pagoda from where we could also clearly see the volcano Mt. Mahawu which we were planning to climb the next day.
Onong Palace in Tomohon, http://www.tomohon-onong.com/, is a real jungle hotel :), our wooden bungalow was on top of a small pond and we had a lonely duck following us around, as the frogs sang into the evening. A nice and peaceful hotel in a beautiful setting, simple but yet very unique. Their restaurant has a good variety of Indonesian and Western cuisine. For breakfast we could choose amongst yummy banana or pineapple pancakes, eggs, bread and butter, and fruit. Overall, we had a very enjoyable stay and of course the company of Bagus and Noldi made it even better!
- Onong Palace restaurant is a good choice for dinner
- There is a big supermarket open till late and a KFC in Tomohon
- No wifi in Onong Palace unless you have local internet on the go
- Mosquito repellent and long sleeves are a must especially in the evening
- Do walk outside the hotel and go for a stroll to check out the area and meet very sweet and shy local children