Exubérance multicolore au site Entre la Mer 1. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, juillet 2017)
Multicolored exuberance at the site Between Sea 1. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, July 2017)

Diving away from the crowds

#Sulawesi # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Sulawesi + Raja Ampat - July 2017

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

Craving exuberant coral and wriggling fish? From a little corner of authentic Indonesia? I'll take you diving off Kampanar, in Central Sulawesi!

New adventures in Indonesia

Kampanar is a very small Muslim village of fishermen, located at the very end of the peninsula Central Sulawesi. Opposite, to the east, is the Moluccan Sea. I give you the Google Map below to locate:

How to get there ? The easiest way is to arrive by plane at the airport of Luwuk, (serviced by Indonesian companies Garuda, Sriwijaya, Wings / Lion Air) via Manado, Makassar or Palu in Sulawesi. Attention, as always when traveling in Indonesia, the journey can be more or less chaotic

I had spotted Kampanar for a while, because of a dive resort, the Tompotika Dive Lodge, which opened there in 2015. Tempted by the enthusiastic opinions of other divers on the internet, I finally let myself be tempted in this month of July 2017…

And since I also wanted to go back to diving Lembeh, a macro-photography paradise in North Sulawesi, I thought it would be a good idea to combine these two Sulawesi spots (There are flights Luwuk-Manado to go from one to the other), before taking off again from Manado to finish the stay in Raja Ampat

Profusion de vie au site Entre la Mer 1. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Profusion of life at the site Between Sea 1. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

The splendor of coral

Big advantage of Kampanar, in my eyes: as it is not on the usual tourist routes, there is no crowd either on land or under water. No "bubble factory" here!

Most tourists who undertake the journey to Kampanar and enjoy spending several days there are quite motivated divers - who often already know other dive spots in Indonesia - and that a long journey does not discard, if there is at the end the reward of new splendid underwater landscapes, where the life is dense, abundant, colorful ...

When to go? Good to know : we can dive all year in Kampanar. But beware, between May and September, the visibility underwater is not always at the top in this area that borders the sea of the Moluccas.

Low season: from the beginning of May to the end of September. For my part, I was warned, I knew what to expect in July and I confirm: lots of particles and plankton in suspension (The days without sun, it is a little mission impossible for the pictures with the wide angle with this "fog" underwater, but there is fortunately enough to have fun in macro). On the other hand, in this season, the sea is calm and there are no big waves crashing on the beach. And then the rates are also softer.

High season: from the beginning of October to the end of April. Visibility improves squarely from October, explained me my Opo guide, which was confirmed by other divers who have been there recently. It even seems that the month of October is the ideal period, because at that time there are not too many waves (at other times, it can be a little acrobatic, to embark and disembark the boat from the beach, I was told).

Some pictures are better than a long speech ... I put below a small selection of underwater photos that I made on the sites of Kampanar, to give you an idea of the beautiful atmosphere who reigns under the water. Poiscaille and coral in a mess... just as I like! ! ! 😍 👌 🐠

Profusion de corail au site Ali Baba 2. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, juillet 2017)
Profusion of coral at the site Ali Baba 2. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, July 2017)
Exubérance multicolore au site Entre la Mer 1. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, juillet 2017)
Multicolored exuberance at the site Between Sea 1. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, July 2017)
Sur le récif de Batu Tekek, les coraux mous colorés abondent. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
On the reef of Batu Tekek, colorful soft corals abound. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Au site d'Ali Baba 2, une immense gorgone, autour de laquelle dansent les poissons de verre. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
At the site of Ali Baba 2, a huge gorgon, around which dance the glass fish. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Au site de Batu Gong, l'un de mes préférés, des nuées de poissons-cochers frétillent dans le courant. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
At the Batu Gong site, one of my favorites, swarms of fish-chariots wriggle through the current. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Un bénitier géant au site de Batu Tekek. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
A giant holy water font at the Batu Tekek site. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Au sommet du récif de Batu Tekek. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
At the top of the Batu Tekek Reef. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Détail des délicats polypes de corail, au site Colina Slope 2. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Detail of the delicate coral polyps at Colina Slope 2. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Polypes de corail. Site : Ali Baba, Kampanar. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Coral polyps. Site: Ali Baba, Kampanar. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Un timide poisson clown tente de se cacher dans son anémone. Site : Ali Baba, Kampanar. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
A shy clown fish tries to hide in its anemone. Site: Ali Baba, Kampanar. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Nudibranche. Site : Colina Slope 2, Kampanar. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Nudibranch. Site: Colina Slope 2, Kampanar. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Nudibranche. Site : Ali Baba, Kampanar. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Nudibranch. Site: Ali Baba, Kampanar. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Quand deux nudibranches décident de se reproduire, ça donne ça... Les limaces de mer, hermaphrodites, mettent en contact leur organe génital pour se transmettre mutuellement des gamètes mâles, en vue de féconder leurs gamètes femelles conservés dans une poche. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
When two nudibranchs decide to reproduce, that gives that ... Sea slugs, hermaphrodites, put in contact their genital organ to transmit each other male gametes, in order to fertilize their female gametes preserved in a pocket. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Le site de Colina Slope 2 regorge de limaces de mer délicates. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The Colina Slope 2 site is full of delicate sea slugs. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Serpent "tricot rayé". Site : Colina Slope 2, Kampanar. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
"Striped knit" snake. Site: Colina Slope 2, Kampanar. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
On trouve en nombre de minuscules poulpes sur le house reef du Tompotika. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
There are many tiny octopuses on the house reef of Tompotika. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Un minuscule crabe planqué dans une crinoïde, trouvé sur le house reef du Tompotika. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
A tiny crab stashed in a crinoid, found on the house reef of Tompotika. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Ver plat. Site : Colina Slope 2, Kampanar. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Flat worm. Site: Colina Slope 2, Kampanar. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Les couleurs éclatantes des coraux mous (parfois appelés alcyonaires) au site Entre la Mer 2. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The bright colors of soft corals (sometimes called alcyonaries) at the site Between Sea 2. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Les crinoïdes s'accrochent dans le courant sur cette imposante éponge jaune. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The crinoids cling in the current on this imposing yellow sponge. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Les anthias et les demoiselles frétillent. (Batu Tekek, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Anthias and damsels wriggle. (Batu Tekek, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

The beach not touristy

On the side of earthly pleasures, better to be a natural contemplative day and not need an intense social life at night. Kampanar, despite its privileged location in a beautiful cove, is not a seaside resort ...

Here, fishing boats with rockers line up on the long gray-black sand beach. Chickens and goats trot in freedom under the coconut trees. Hilarious kids spinning at full speed into the sea ...

No ugly rows of umbrellas or pushy street vendors. No banana boats nor of beach bars connected. No restaurants or souvenir shops. I love it! ! !

Face à la mer des Moluques. À l'horizon, l'îlot de Pulau Dua. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Facing the sea of the Moluccas. On the horizon, the island of Pulau Dua. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Jeux d'enfants. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Child games. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Le soleil du matin dore le sable gris. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The morning sun gilds the gray sand. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Les barques de pêcheurs sur la plage de sable gris-noir du village de Kampanar. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The fishing boats on the gray-black sand beach of Kampanar village. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
La plage de Kampanar vue du large. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The beach of Kampanar seen from the sea. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

Pulau Dua

However, rare Indonesian and foreign non-divers sometimes come here to visit Pulau Dua, the island just in front of Kampanar. A path was laid out by the local authorities along the ridge. From above, the view of the bay must be superb.

As I was always underwater, photographing coral and fish, I did not find the time to organize a small trip to Pulau Dua. It is kind of a shame. Next time (because I'm planning to come back), I'll stay a little longer and make sure I have one or two "off" days to go around the area.

I only admired the island from a distance, from Kampanar beach or the diving boat ...

Le soleil se lève sur Kampanar et Pulau Dua, qui se découpe en ombre chinoise à l'horizon. (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The sun rises on Kampanar and Pulau Dua, which is cut out in Chinese shadow on the horizon. (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Pulau Dua vue du large. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Pulau Dua seen from the sea. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Près de Pulau Dua, un impressionnant piton rocheux au-dessus de l'eau. (Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Near Pulau Dua, an impressive rocky peak arises from the water. (Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

The tiny village

Accros of shopping, run away! In the village of Kampanar, there are only tiny stalls selling pell-mell cigarettes, shampoo and instant noodles. Of course, if you can only gossip a few words of Bahasa IndonesiaConversations with shopkeepers will soon be limited.

The visit of the village consists of strolling along the few streets parallel and perpendicular to the beach, where the gray wood huts or breeze blocks alternates with touches of bright colors, on a facade, on a fence where the clothes dry ... Pointés vers the sky, the top of the mosque and the inevitable TV parables. The atmosphere is peaceful, people very friendly.

L'échoppe du coin de la rue. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The stall at the corner of the street. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Couleurs pimpantes dans la rue de sable gris. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Bright colors in gray sand street. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Séchoir made in Kampanar. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Dryer made in Kampanar. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

The diving center

The Tompotika Dive Lodge is for now the only tourist structure from the corner, located in the heart of the village, facing the sea. It is a very small diving resort, at Human scale, which suits me perfectly. When I visited, in early July 2017, there were only three bungalows, two others were under construction (there are now five in all, if I rely on their website).

The Tompotika is managed by Wallacea, company specializing in cruises for divers in Indonesia, created in 2002 by a Frenchman (who has since become Indonesian), Jérôme Doucet, and his Indonesian wife Yani (Suryani Mile). I don't know them personally [update: I met them three years after the publication of this article, at the Salon de laiving 2020 in Paris] and I have no particular connection with them, but I appreciated that Jérôme, having learned my trip a bit chaotic, took the time to call me, just after my landing at Luwuk Airport, to welcome me and make sure that I had been welcomed as planned by his staff on landing from the plane.

I put you below their nice video presentation, which allows to see the resort, the village and the beach from above, thanks to a drone:

I really liked the dive sites that I discovered and for the rest, I am very happy with my stay at home. Opo, who oversees everything about diving on the spot and is always on the lookout for everything going well at the resort, is for many (read here → My Underwater Guide Opo, A Hero). In summary: Indonesian staff adorable, simple rooms, clean and comfortable, varied meals, hearty and tasty, electricity 24/24 ...

Only flats:

  • We are in the heart of an Indonesian village, with what it implies in terms of the soundscape (songs of roosters, barking dogs, petarades of motorcycles, very early call mosques, etc.). I do not mind at all (when I sleep, I sleep), but those who need absolute silence in the evening or in the morning may have trouble ...
  • No hot water (this must be part of the future improvements and I think it has been installed in the new bungalows). The days when it's sunny, it's fine. But for the chilly I am, it's a little limited on days when it is gray. After spending several hours in the water, we finally find the bottom of the air, even tropical, a little cool ...
  • No wifi or telephone signal ... Et (And here is the drama 😂) EDIT: Johanne, a reader of the blog, who was at Tompotika this October 2017, tell me via Facebook that there is now a wifi connection! ! ! I quote it: "There is now wifi (random for sure, but that allows to communicate a little with the rest of the world) ..."

For addicts who have trouble disconnecting like me, the only solution to taste the joys of the internet is to go on a scooter ride to a nearby village about ten minutes from Kampanar. In this village whose name I have forgotten (but the Tompotika people know where it is), there is a 3G network, which we manage to capture near a hut on the beach under the coconut trees.

Le "hotspot" c'est ici ! Le seul endroit où il y a du réseau... (Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The hotspot is here! The only place where there is network ... (Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

This hotspot is easy to find. This is where there are teens absorbed by their smartphones, between fishermen who repair their boats and goats frolicking ... 😂 High-speed connection facing the sea! The luxury ... I posted at the time live on Snapchat a "story" video, which I had saved then on Facebook. You can go see her here, it gives a good idea of the atmosphere!

Finally, the Tompotika is involved in conservation projects in the region, notably by participating in the protection of maleoe birds and the marine environment. Green initiative to salute: the resort finances the cleaning of the Kampanar beach by the inhabitants of the village. A dozen people pick up the various garbage and plant debris that has accumulated each week.

Thanks to their efforts, the beach is always crisp and clean. Top ! 👍

Les habitants du village nettoient régulièrement la plage. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The inhabitants of the village regularly clean the beach. And, yes, the guy on the top left is actually photographing me with his smartphone too ... 😂 (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Ma maison pour la semaine au Tompotika. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
My house for the week in Tompotika. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
L'ambiance est toujours très sympa, quand, le soir, les plongeurs se retrouvent autour d'une même table pour le dîner. (Tompotika, Kampanar, Centre-Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The atmosphere is always very nice, when in the evening, divers find themselves around the same table for dinner. (Tompotika, Kampanar, Center-Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
De nouveaux bungalows étaient en construction de l'autre côté du restaurant, lors de mon séjour. (Tompotika, Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
New bungalows were being built on the other side of the restaurant during my stay. (Tompotika, Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Jeu d'ombres et de lumière sur le Tompotika au lever du soleil. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
Play of shadows and light on the Tompotika at sunrise. (Kampanar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

  Indonesia: Sulawesi + Raja Ampat - July 2017

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  1. Corinne, too top, on and under water! This is true diving leisure and relaxation. It deserves, but once there, the simple happiness. Congratulations and thank you for making us discover this beautiful place and these benevolent people!

    1. @Marc: Yes, I am very happy to have chosen this place at the beginning of your stay. Perfect for immersing yourself peacefully in the Indonesian atmosphere and enjoy without taking the head of the beauty of the underwater world ... "What happiness" as people say ... 😉

    1. @Cem: and thanks to you for taking the time to leave a little message 🙂 I doubt that there are hordes of bubblers to invade the corner anytime soon (well, I hope). And if tourism is to develop in the area, I hope it will be reasonable and reasoned, with respect for the inhabitants and the environment ...

  2. Nice article and beautiful pictures, as usual. thank you Corinne 🙂
    I smiled when you talk about the rooster crowing 🙂 I have too many memories of cocks in Bali; it is now funny with hindsight, but on the spot, I would have gutted one or two!

    1. @Karl: thank you so much !!! 🙂 That, yes, the roosters, it's just the typical typical thing in Indonesia ... 😀 Impossible to escape. In general, they wake me up the first night, but the next ones, my brain has to "integrate" the surrounding noises in one way or another, because I do not hear them anymore ... 😉

  3. Thank you very much Corine for this magnificent testimony of a beautiful region to discover.
    A small detour next summer before joining the Togians and Lembeh.
    Continue to enchant and guide us; your blog is toptop.

    1. @Doh: Yes, Kampanar is a perfect destination to combine with Togian and Lembeh. The only problem in the summer is the lack of sight under water ... A diver who was there a few days during my stay said she was a little disappointed ... Me not at all. Despite the conditions not always optimal, I found my happiness, with very beautiful sites, rich and varied, to explore. Thank you for these words, which touch me, I am sincerely happy to succeed across the screen to "enchant" and "guide" you. It is always a pleasure to learn that my images, my stories and reviews inspire other divers for their next trips ... 🙂

  4. Thank you Corine for this article!
    I love Indo and I did not know this region. There are so many possibilities in Indonesia, difficult to choose and compare !! After already doing Wakatobi and Bira in South Sulawesi, I wanted to do Bunaken, Toggian and Lembeh this winter, it adds another destination!

    1. @Tony: yes, Indonesia is an inexhaustible archipelago, there are so many wonders to discover, on land as under water! Sulawesi, which is huge, alone deserves several trips ...

  5. Selamat Pagi, Siang or Malam! It is several times that I walk on your blog; I'm 16 and just spent my Open Water at Amed I know you know this place; ) And like you, diving fascinates me what incredible sensations! Your photos are just sublime, beautiful nudibranchs! Thank you for making us travel with each new article (very well written and exciting in passing) your blog is great! With my mom we wondered for these last dives what camera you were using and if there was a flash? Keep doing what you do is great!

    1. @Zoe : hello, for me, there is "selamat siang" almost "sore" ... 😉 How lucky to have spent the OW in Amed, it's a wonderful place to make his first bubbles ... Happy that you like it than me and thank you for taking the time to leave a note to say it! It's very nice !

      Yes, for photos I almost always use a flash, otherwise everything would be gray-blue, without brightness, because the colors are gradually absorbed by the water as we go down (the red disappears from 5m) .

      We must bring white light (the flash light) to find the true colors under water. I refer you to the "material" page below, where I detail what I have today as equipment for the photo:
      Otherwise, to start underwater photography, I had gathered some tips here:

      Good bubbles !!! 🙂

    2. Selamat sore!
      Thank you very much for your quick response (unlike mine)! Ah yes the lights and wavelengths it reminds me of physics courses ... thank you I'll go take a look at the links. I hope someday to make pictures as beautiful as yours!
      Always so much fun seeing a new article published! Manta rays are just beautiful! Congratulations for your video

  6. Hello Corinne,
    for years your blog makes me simultaneously drool (envy) and dream (of dives). Or the opposite 😉

    I have the chance to go next March to Sulawesi for ten days.
    Which base camp (s) would you advise me for some nice dives (I am AOW and certified nitrox with a hundred or so dives)?

    If I understand correctly, the ultimate spot is Raja Ampat ??

    Have a good holiday.

    1. @Romain: Hello Romain,

      Sorry to have been slow to answer ... Sulawesi, it's big, very big ... It depends on what you are planning for your stay (only diving, or dives + visits). I loved my stay at Tompotika, but you have to be aware that it is very isolated and not necessarily ideal if you also plan to do some land tourism on only 10 days. Most divers opt for North Sulawesi, easy to reach from Manado, to dive on the side of Bunaken / Lembeh / Bangka, and can be combined with tours of the region.

      Ask about these spots, see what would be most suitable for you, according to your expectations as a diver. For my part, I really like Bangka Island, where I went several times, you will find various posts on the subject on my blog:

      As for Raja Ampat, yes, it's worth the detour ...

      Good preparations!

  7. Thank you for sharing and these beautiful photos!
    We will be in Sulawesi next August for 3-4 weeks, and have planned to do 2 "diving" stages in the Togian Islands and Bunaken (we also plan to hike 1 week in Toraja Country). What do you think of these "diving" steps or which ones would you recommend ???
    What we want is to combine beautiful dives, with a quiet context, off the beaten track as much as possible. Kampanar, might be a better option?
    Side level, my companion is level 2+ nitrox, with a lot of experience ... me on the other hand, freshly arrived in the world of diving since I had my PADI Open Water this summer
    Thank you in advance for your answer!

  8. Good evening,
    The Togians are more famous as a superb relaxing stopover, in a magical setting and to meet the badjaos.
    Bunaken is yes without hesitation but do not miss Lembeh.