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Diving in Central Sulawesi

Featuring calm waters, crystal clear visibility and a variety of dive environments, Central Sulawesi is a paradise found for underwater lovers. Endemic species abound in this biodiversity hotspot.

Diving in Central Sulawesi

Quick facts

Home to amazing reefs, rocks, walls, wrecks and caves, the dive sites in Central Sulawesi are the stuff of dreams. Here divers can swim with a huge number of species, from big to small and many endemics. All levels of divers are sure to enjoy diving in Central Sulawesi, but underwater photographers will capture some of their best-ever shots while diving in this pristine environment.

There are three main diving destinations in the province of Central Sulawesi. Those are Donggala near Palu, the Togian Islands and the Banggai Archipelago. Just 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the capital of Palu, Donggala is a small peninsula on the west side of the island surrounded by pristine reefs. It’s here that divers can gape at frogfish and reef sharks. The beauty of the underwater environment draws repeat visitors throughout the year.

The Togian Islands are the best-known diving destination in Central Sulawesi. They are located in the Gulf of Tomini, which is reputed to be the calmest deep water bay in the world. As such, these islands offer excellent training opportunities. The six main islands play host to over 819 species of fish and several endemic species, including 3 species of coral. The crystal clear waters are perfect for exploring the walls of this group of islands.

Finally, the Banggai Archipelago is the most eastern dive location in Central Sulawesi. This area is located in the northern section of Tolo Bay and is only accessible by liveaboard. While many of the reefs have been damaged by destructive fishing practices, those visited by dive boats are still healthy. Because the area is more exposed than the Togian Islands, there are more pelagic species to be seen. In addition, the endemic species known as the Banggai cardinal fish can only be seen in this area.

Divers can expect warm, equatorial weather with waters ranging from 84-91°F (29-33°C) and crystal clear visibility. Keep in mind that visibility may be negatively effected by nearby mangroves. Dive seasons vary based on location. The Tongians’ season lasts from March to December while the Banggai Archipelago can be dived from September to February. Donggala has a dive seasons from December to May and July to September. Wherever you choose to dive, you are sure to have memories that will last a lifetime from Central Sulawesi.

When to go

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Water temperature

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What to see

Marine life is plentiful in Central Sulawesi. Divers can expect to see colorful hard and soft corals, sponges, gorgonians and fans. These include at least three endemic coral species.

819 species of colorful fish shimmer throughout the reefs, walls and wrecks. Reef sharks and schools of blacktail barracudas stalk their prey while bobtail squid and frogfish create odd spectacles. Eagle rays glide past in the blue and hawksbill turtles can be seen eating in the shallows. For the lucky few, a dugong may make an unexpected appearance near the mangrove entrances.

Your dive logs are sure to be full and happy after merely one dive in Central Sulawesi.


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Central Sulawesi is one of six provinces on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. This area is bordered by the provinces of Gorontalo, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi and South East Sulawesi. The largest city, which is also the capital, is Palu. Sulawesi itself is the world’s eleventh largest island and located between Borneo and the Maluku Islands.

Central Sulawesi has history dating back 40,000 years. It was at this time that ancient inhabitants drew still-visible cave pictures. Later, they carved about 400 megaliths to represent various forms including some human shapes. These megaliths are still in existence in the Lore Lindu National Park. Fast forward a few thousand years to Islam arriving in the province during the 17th Century. This was followed by Dutch rule the 18th Century during which time Protestant missionaries tried to convert the island. Today, about 25% of Central Sulawesians are Protestant. More recently, during WWII, the Japanese occupied Sulawesi. Following independence, Central Sulawesi was a part of North Sulawesi but became its own province in 1964.

Since the turn of the century, Central Sulawesi has been plagued by religious tensions. Violence between the Christians and Muslims has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people since 1999. Although violent riots occurred in 2006, it does seem that the area’s instability has been quelled in the last few years. Today, tourism is just beginning to return to this beautiful province. Although it may still be hard to reach, those who visit are rewarded with verdant nature and sunny seascapes.

Other attractions

Most of activities in Central Sulawesi center around the underwater environment. However, visitors should also take some time to enjoy sea kayaking or hiking around Una Una volcano. The other draw in this province is Lore Lindu National Park where guests can see human-form megaliths dating to 1500BC. Day hikes or multi-day treks can be completed in the park.

Getting there

Getting to Central Sulawesi is a bit of a challenge. There are airports in Palu and Luwuk with domestic connections to Manado and Makassar. It is also possible to reach destinations in Central Sulawesi by bus from other provinces on the island. Keep in mind that roads are often damaged and traveling on them can be quite slow. If you are trying to reach a coastal resort, consider a private boat transfer or catching a ride on a local ferry.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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