Even though Sulawesi has grown in popularity as a travel destination over the last decade, it still retains an air of a land that time forgot. Trek through dense rainforests around the base of a simmering volcano, stay overnight in traditional tribal villages (where you’ll see rural life as it really is, not put on for tourists) and dive into one of the world's most biodiverse and best-preserved marine environments. Pack your hiking boots, grab your head scarf and get set for one of our favourite Indonesian islands.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Set in Sulawesi’s cooler highland landscape of terraced rice fields, towering cliffs, and the incredibly tranquil Lake Tempe, Tana Toraja is way off the map for typical tourists. Accepting an invitation to a Torajan funeral ceremony isn't something to be taken lightly. Travellers are usually very welcome and it’s customary to bring a suitable gift for the host family. The atmosphere of these three day events can feel more akin to a wedding than a funeral to those unfamiliar with the local customs. At times, they can be fairly graphic, with the slaughtering of pigs taking centre stage. If your visit to the region doesn't coincide with a funeral, however, it will still be a deeply fascinating cultural experience.
Sit on the sweeping, snow-white shores of any island within Bunaken Marine National Park and you'll be hard pushed not to relax. Gently lapping waves, sand-dusted wooden steps, and sumptuous, spicy, smoky smells spiralling from the barbecue: if you're looking to escape, this is where you do it. But it's not just beside the crystal clear waters of the Celebes Sea that travellers get their laid back kicks. The underwater world that awaits puts other diving and snorkelling hot spots in the shade. This protected marine area, full of walls of colourful coral, provides safe haven for stingrays, reef sharks, turtles and octopi. Bunaken is astonishing, like an underwater Amazon rainforest. You won't be disappointed.
Trekking through the steamy rainforests at the base of Mt Tangkoko is sure to heighten your senses. Follow a local ranger into the jungle as leathery wisps of fruit bats swoop from up above and the startled squeals of wild pigs send hikers scuttling for safety. As the sun sets, the animals of day and night collide with a cacophony of calls. Elsewhere in the highlands of central Sulawesi, treks take on a more culturally enlightening angle. Follow paths through bamboo forests and around agricultural rice terraces before bedding down for the night in a traditional Torajan village. You'll be unlikely to encounter any other foreign travellers on this type of trek, although meetings with local villagers are commonplace.