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Fancy some exuberant coral and wriggling fish? 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. Across the way, to the east, is the Moluccan Sea. I give you the Google Map below to locate :
I'd been tracking Kampanar for a while, because of a diving resort, the Tompotika Dive Lodgewhich opened there in 2015. Attracted 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…
The splendor of coral
Big advantage of Kampanar, in my opinion: 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 (on days without sun, it's a bit of a mission impossible for wide-angle shots with this underwater "fog", but fortunately there's plenty of fun to be had in macro). On the other hand, in this season, the sea is calm and there are no big waves to crash on the beach. And then the rates are softer, too.
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 the way I like it!!!! 😍 👌 🐠
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 insistent street vendors. No banana boats nor of beach bars connected. No restaurants or gift shops. I love it.
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 underwater all the time, photographing coral and fish, I didn't find time to organize a small excursion to Pulau Dua. It's a bit of a shame. Next time (because I plan to come back), I'll stay a little longer and make sure to plan one or two "off" days to walk around more.
I only admired the island from a distance, from Kampanar beach or the diving boat ...
The tiny village
Shopping addicts, run away! In the village of Kampanar, you can only find 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 grey of the wooden shacks or cinder blocks alternates with touches of bright colours, on a facade, on a fence where the clothes are dried... Pointing towards the sky, the top of the mosque and the inevitable TV parabolas. The atmosphere is peaceful, the people are very nice.
The Tompotika, 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 below their nice video presentation, which allows you to see the resort, the village and the beach from above, thanks to a drone:
I really liked the dive sites I discovered and for the rest, I'm very happy with my stay there. Opo, who supervises everything concerning diving on site and who constantly makes sure that everything goes well at the resort too, has a lot to do with it (read here → My Underwater Guide Opo, A Hero). In short: lovely Indonesian staff, simple, clean and comfortable rooms, varied, hearty and tasty meals, electricity 24 hours a day...
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 phone signal... 😱 (And here's 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 her: "There's now wifi, which is random, but it allows you 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.
This hotspot is easy to find. It's where there are teenagers absorbed by their smartphones, between fishermen repairing their boats and goats frolicking... 😂 High-speed connection in front of the sea! Luxury... At the time, I had posted a live video "story" on Snapchat, which I then saved on Facebook. You can go see her hereIt gives a good idea of the atmosphere !
Finally, the Tompotika is involved in conservation projects in the region, in particular by participating in the protection of the maleoe birds and the marine environment. An eco-friendly initiative to be commended: the resort is financing the cleaning of Kampanar beach by the inhabitants of the village. A dozen people collect every week the various rubbish and plant debris that have accumulated.
Thanks to their efforts, the beach is always clean and crisp. Top! 👍