His hand pointed to one of the islands which are cliffs and caves. The surface of the seawater appears to cover half of it. Ali, Ashari’s nickname, is the owner of the boat I was on the first day when I was in the Togian Islands, Central Sulawesi. He often serves guests who want to get around Togian (Togean).
The crocodile cave referred to by Ali is a place for saltwater crocodiles. The location is not far from Kedidiri Beach, one of the favorite tourist destinations for foreign tourists. Its position is between the cliffs of a small uninhabited island that stands upright.
The cluster of islands is a soothing sight in the Togian Islands. This is one of the reasons many travelers visit these islands. In addition, of course, see the unique marine biota. There are many dive points scattered across the Togean.
Unfortunately, in early October 2016, the saltwater crocodile referred to by Ali was nowhere to be seen. After showing me the crocodile cave, Ali took me to a destination that is no less famous, namely the home of the jellyfish or the jellyfish. This location is in the form of a lake and is a paradise for jellyfish in the Togian Islands. This lake is a mixture of seawater and fresh water. The area is more than one hectare surrounded by dense trees.
Colorful birds that sing and perch on branches are a bonus for visitors to this jellyfish. Visitors can splash in jellyfish without fear. Because the jellyfish do not sting and are very tame.
To go to jellyfish is very easy. Moreover, facilities such as bridges for boat moorings and huts that are on the edge of the lake have been built. Even so, this place seemed deserted. There’s no one on guard. However, as a marker, a small gate will appear from a board that says: “Agro Tourism Dagat Molino Lembanato Village.”
Along the sea voyage, I was treated to views of floating house settlements that inhabit many islands. According to Ali, some of the residents come from the Bajo or Togian tribes. When the boat passed, occasionally children and women appeared from behind the windows of their houses which were shaped like stilts. They waved.
Bajo tribe in Kabalutan
According to Ali, many of the Bajo people live in stilt houses scattered across the archipelago. One of the most famous Bajo villages in the Togian Islands is Kabalutan Village, Talatako District, Tojo Una-Una Regency. The central place where the Bajo Tribe gathers. The settlement is very dense. And of course in the form of a stage, although some of them have cement walls and foundations. The house on the foundation is on a small island.
The shape of the Bajo village in Kabalutan Village is quite unique. Some are U-shaped and connected to each other by plank bridges. When exploring this Bajo village, I was accompanied by Muhamad Lailatul Isnaini (19 years). Isnaini is the youth leader of the mosque in Bajo. However, he admits that he was born in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. He was able to get here because his mother remarried someone from the Bajo tribe.
“Many foreign tourists come here. But, rarely stay overnight. This village is famous because there are many fish bombers,” said Isnaini laughing.
Isnaini cannot deny the stigma that the Bajo tribe is the perpetrator of fishing bombing and destroying coral reefs. He himself admitted that it was an open secret. The Bajo people, he said, mostly think practically and instantly. The wisdom of the Bajo people is gone. And fish bombs are a quick way to keep the kitchen steaming.
Isnaini then invited me to meet the head of Kabalutan Village and the head of the BPD (Village Consultative Body), as well as other village officials. Unfortunately, they are not in the village, because they are participating in activities in the district capital, in Ampana. Likewise with residents who are considered community leaders. Then I asked again to meet with the perpetrators of the fish bombing in Bajo.
“They definitely don’t want to meet. Because it is considered to threaten their activities. Moreover, officers from the Polair (Water Police) often come here several times.”
“Usually there are patrols at sea during bombings. But the perpetrators are good at hiding on small islands. And their boat engine has no less capacity than the Polair,” said Isnaini again.
I was then invited by Isnaini to tour the Bajo village. If in a floating house, the connection is a plank bridge, on land it looks like narrow alleys. The road is only 1-2 meters. From children playing to mothers sitting around telling stories, this is a daily sight in Kabalutan.
In the history written by the elders in Benteng Village, Togean District, the Bajo people first came to these islands in 1835, when the Togian Kingdom was led by King Amintasaria. The king then gave conditions to the Bajo people if they wanted to become residents of the Togean kingdom.
Those conditions are; obeying all the orders of the King of Togian and the customary laws that apply, being willing to help fight when there are attacks from outsiders to the kingdom, being willing to maintain work security with the Togian people, and supervising or guard water areas with other soldiers.
“The king at that time gave them the opportunity to make a living at sea, and the king gave them a place to live on small islands,” said Rusli L Andi Ahmad, a traditional elder in Benteng Village.
The Togian Islands are known as a paradise for underwater beauty. Likewise with endemic animals. But not many know that in this area there is also a beautiful orchid garden. The location is very unique, in the mangrove forest.
This park is in Bangkagi Village, Togean District. Towards the orchid garden, tourists generally anchor at the boat moorings of Benteng Village. After that, it only takes six minutes to Bangkagi Village where the road is relatively smooth, even though the terrain is rocky.
In this orchid garden, there is a 371-meter-long bridge that was built in 2014. This yellow wooden bridge connects the mangrove trees embedded with orchid shoots.
Siangka Bunahi is one of the residents who built the bridge. He is a former village head who invited residents to care for orchids with the help of the Department of Agriculture, Plantation, and Animal Health of Tojo Una-una Regency. Previously, without this bridge, orchid plants grew wild on mangrove trunks.
The area of this plant is seven hectares. Because in the mangrove forest, the conditions are watery. According to Siangka, when the tide is high, several crocodiles can be seen. Initially, this crocodile was considered a threat by residents. However, some began to realize that they should not kill the crocodile, and on the contrary, let it live.
One of the famous islands in the Togian Islands is Malenge Island. But not many know that this island is often referred to by local people as monkey island. The name is monkey island because there are many monkeys in the forest. The monkey species in Malenge are very different from those on the mainland of Sulawesi in general, namely macaca to genus or togian monkeys.
“Look there, monkeys hanging from trees,” said Akbar Labata, a resident.
That afternoon, eight monkeys were seen in people’s houses on the coast. Malenge’s topography is hilly with towering trees. A number of residents admitted that the monkey often came down to the village and picked up garden produce.
According to Akbar who works at the Lestari Cottage Inn, some of the Malenge forest area is no longer good because residents have encroached on it. Trees are cut down for the purpose of building houses, expanding fields, and also for making boats.
Apart from monkeys, on the other side of the island, there are hornbills. The bird often flies in pairs, perching on large trees. Not far from there, there is a small island with a settlement. That island is Pulau Papan Village. It is called a plank island because a bridge made of planks of about one kilometer connects the residential area to the end of Malenge.
On Malenge Island there is also a bat cave. Akbar then took me to see the cave. It’s about an hour’s walk into the forest. There are several points on the way up and down. Remnants of rain made the road rather difficult to pass. However, all of that paid off when the bat cave that Akbar had shown appeared clear before his eyes.
Even though the Togian Islands are blessed with the beauty of forests and seas, they are still faced with real threats. If encroachment occurs in the forest, the sound of explosions is often heard in the sea by fishermen who often look for fish in a fast way, without thinking about the damage.
Mongabay Travel: Unforgettable Memories in Pulo Aceh
On Pulo Aceh, there are tours of Nipah Beach, Deumit Beach, Deudap Beach, Alue Reuyeng Beach, and a number of other natural beaches. Here, the beach is neatly maintained. There are no huts for shelter or places to order food and drink. If anyone comes, only tourists or people who want to fish.
On Breuh Island, visitors are not only spoiled by the beautiful expanse of the beach and the crashing waves, and the tempting appearance of the sunset. Here, stands William’s Torren Lighthouse as high as 85 meters which was built by the Dutch in 1875.
This lighthouse is on the edge of a cliff in Meulingge Village, its original purpose was to prepare for the construction of Sabang Port. This twin lighthouse is in the Caribbean Islands which is legendary thanks to the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean”, starring Johnny Deep or better known as Jack Sparrow.
The name William’s Torren is taken from the name of the King of Luxemburg, Willem Alexander Paul Frederich Lodewijk. At that time, he was known as a king who helped build the economy and infrastructure of the Dutch East Indies power. Even though the lighthouse is 139 years old, visitors can still explore every corner of the European-style building. The building is sturdy and is used as a guide for ships passing through the Indian Ocean.
Mustafa said that the depth of the tower’s foundation is the same as its height, about 85 meters. Its foundations are so solid that they did not budge when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Aceh on December 26, 2004. “The walls are one meter thick. When we reached the top, the tower didn’t shake one bit. Visitors will be amazed to see the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca, as well as the beauty of the island of Aceh with white sand when at the top.”
According to Mustafa, about 100 meters from the lighthouse there was once a harbor built by the Dutch. However, because it was not maintained and was hit by a tsunami, the port was destroyed. In addition to guiding ships, the lighthouse complex which covers about five hectares was also a stronghold for the Dutch army. There are many guard posts located about 500 meters from the main building. The complex features fully equipped dormitories with a party room.
Maslan Play Play, an officer sent by the Sabang Navigation District to keep the lights on at night explained, this lighthouse is managed by the Ministry of Transportation.
When the lighthouse was originally built, the light was in the form of a crystal that weighed about three tons. The glass of the lamp is more than five centimeters thick. Although it can still be moved, however, at this time