On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

When You Travel in Indonesia

  Indonesia : Sulawesi + Raja Ampat – July 2017

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Ah, Indonesia!!! My favorite destination for scuba diving! But before being able to blow bubbles with the fish, you sometimes have to face the dreaded jam karet, the "elastic time"...

A long trip to Indonesia

That's right! In this month of July 2017, I flew (again) to Indonesia! 😎 Arriving in Jakarta, the capital, on the island of Java, is easy. It's after that it gets harder...

Nothing is ever certain when you travel in the huge Indonesian archipelago. A volcano can wake up (like the Sinabung, at the moment when I publish this post, at the beginning of August 2017). Or the weather to make his. In Indonesia, late planes are the norm, and on many roads in poor condition, the speed limit is never more than 50 km/hr. Over there, you never count in kilometers, but in hours. You're never sure what time you're leaving and what time you're arriving. When you travel in Indonesia, the only thing you're supposed to do is put yourself in "patience and zenitude" mode.. And to tame the jam karet, the "elastic time"...

Any journey, any transport is potentially synonymous with hazards, delays, unforeseen events, delays. We must make do. And tell you it does not matter. Because at the end of the end, you always end up reaching your destination. Wonderful Indonesia, as says the tourist office.

On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

For the first leg of this new dive trip to Indonesia, I opted for a lost corner, not far from the usual tourist routes. I have already made more crooked way, so I'm reasonably optimistic.

I booked in a tiny dive structure (only three bungalows for now, soon five), the owl Tompotika Dive LodgeIt is located in Kampanar, a small Muslim fishing village on the eastern peninsula of Central Sulawesi. This is the place:

The fishing boats on the gray-black sand beach of Kampanar village. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The fishing boats on the gray-black sand beach of Kampanar village. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

It is far from everything and very nice. With, as is often the case in small Indonesian villages, the typical sound environment that's going well ... ???? Strident cries of children playing, unintended choir of dogs barking, petarades of motorcycles and boat engines, competition of cocoricos ragged between cocks and Very early morning calls from mosques ...

I love to be in this kind of atmosphere and not much wakes me up at night. At the risk of sounding like a lecturer, I'll leave a little warning here for travelers who love "authentic": in Indonesia, the peaceful atmosphere of a village is not necessarily synonymous with silence and tranquility... 😉 I'm delighted with my stay in Kampanar. I will tell you about it in a future post.


So this is it. I arrived in Jakarta July 1st at 7am, after a fifteen-hour flight from France. I end up in the late morning with a domestic flight to the city of Luwuk, Sulawesi, with the Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air and its subsidiary Wings Air.

I'm supposed to land in Luwuk at 4:50 pm I will then only have two to three hours to Kampanar. A driver sent by the Tompotika must pick me up at Luwuk airport in the late afternoon. (Yes, long journeys do not scare me, when it is to go diving ... ????)

The weather stretches ... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The weather stretches ... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

But this flight Jakarta-Luwuk is not direct. There is a stopover and change of aircraft in Makassar, the big city of South Sulawesi. And that's where the jam karetthe famous "elastic time", takes back its rights...

At the Makassar airport, at the boarding counter for correspondence, the young woman in charge of picking up the passengers told me to sit down and wait. The flight will be delayed.

Good. Nothing more normal, in Indonesia. In fact, I was rather surprised at the punctuality of the first plane between Jakarta and Makassar ...


30 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and a half pass. I'm coming back at regular intervals if we always leave from the same door, the 5. (Because I've already been hit by the unexpected door change, at Makassar airport.) Yes, yes, reassure me -your. And I reconfirm the delay.

I am coolitude and zenitude embodied. Jam karet ...

Flight reported

Late afternoon. Of course, because of the late arrivals, the flight ends up being cancelled!

"Bad weather in Luwuk", an airport employee explains to me. An Indonesian guy I'm chatting with tells me that he called a friend in Luwuk, and it's flooding over there! A huge storm, with waterspouts. 😱

The small crowd of passengers patiently waiting in front of the door then followed suit by an airport attendant in an orange vest, who led us down the halls to the entrance to the terminal, where we were all entered. the lobby of the Ibis Budget hotel. I remember that I already slept here, between two planes, during previous trips to Raja Ampat. You can hear the airport announcements in the rooms very well!

Everyone must have their ID and boarding pass at the front desk. We are staying there for the night. It's a bit of a bazaar, I almost ended up in the room of an Indian businessman (we were the only two passengers to present foreign passports, we thought we were traveling together ????).

But finally, everything is organized not so bad. You just have to wait. Time is still stretching, endlessly. Jam karet ...

The receptionists have a lot of work to do ... It is necessary to lodge for the night all the passengers of the plane! (Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The receptionists have their work cut out for them... We have to accommodate all the passengers on the plane for the night! (Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The room at Ibis Budget Makassar Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The room at Ibis Budget Makassar Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

Three guys from the airport come and go, taking care of picking up the checked baggage of those who ask for it. I am soon reassured to see that my bag followed me well to Makassar.

The flight is postponed to the next morning, at 6 am. You just have to show the same boarding pass and leave the tags on your luggage. I get the information repeated three times to be sure of the time. By the guy at the airport. By the Lion Air office employee. By an Indonesian passenger speaking good English.

I did well to buy a local SIM card at an airport shop when I arrived in Jakarta. I was able to keep up with my contact for the Tompotika as and when.

In the evening, two Lion Air employees knock on my door. They confirm me again the flight of 6am and ceremoniously give me 300,000 Rupees (about 20 €, it's huge for there, I ate for 30,000 Rp) compensation in cuts of 50,000, against the signing of a received and photocopy of my passport and boarding pass. I am pleasantly surprised, finally the company manages rather well the situation, I think.

Finally Luwuk!

At dawn, I find in the lobby of the Ibis Budget the guy speaking good English with whom I chatted the day before. I'm a bit indecisive: should we wait here for the airport employees? He tells me we can go straight there. Other passengers whose faces I recognize are there. A woman with her daughter, and another guy. We all decide to go together.

We are now patient in front of the famous door 5. There is no sign, no screen, no announcement about our flight. We have to wait, that's all. Yeah, it smells jam karet, that ... My Indonesian companions do not look more worried than that. The young woman has bought brioches, she offers us one to each. We chat, we joke. But I am much less relaxed than them.

My companions "shipwrecked from the sky" are much cooler with the "jam karet" than me ... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
My "shipwrecked" companions are much cooler with the "jam karet" than me... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
It is not yet day, we embark, finally! (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
It is not yet day, we embark, finally! (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Small pleasure of a flight Lion Air: one finds there the famous pamphlet of prayers intended for the travelers, for all the confessions. (Indonesia, Sulawesi, July 2017)
Little pleasure of a Lion Air flight: you will find there the famous book of prayers for travelers, for all faiths. (Indonesia, Sulawesi, July 2017)
Happy to finally land in Luwuk! (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Glad to finally land in Luwuk! (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

Finally, shortly before 6am, we are signalled to board! Phew, no jam karet this time ... About an hour later, here I am on the shining tarmac of Luwuk airport.

A young man wearing the Tompotika T-shirt is here to welcome me. He is in charge of picking up my bag and carrying it to the car where the driver is waiting for us. And here we are, the three of us, off to Kampanar!

Flooding on the road

Very happy to finally be in Sulawesi, I am in a good mood despite the rotten road (jalan rusak) and gray weather. I jibe everything I know about Bahasa IndonesiaI'm doing selfies with both guys, who are thrilled. It's still raining a little at times.

And then after an hour and a half of driving, after a fork in the road, we have to turn back. I'm learning a new word: Banjir. Flood.

Selfie! (Luwuk, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Selfie! (Luwuk, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Only motorcycles and pedestrians pass. The road is cut off by floods. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Only motorcycles and pedestrians pass. The road is cut off by floods. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

We can not go through there, the road is impassable. We will try another route. Jam karet ... 

But via the bis route, it's the same. We are soon immobilized behind a long line of vehicles. The river of the corner and the rice fields overflowed on the roadway. So we wait. The driver and the guy from Tompotika go on the news. No problem, I have water, biscuits. The time is getting longer. Jam karet ...

It will take a car, stuck in front, decided to try the crossing and succeed, so that other drivers, including mine, embolden and imitate.

I let you appreciate the atmosphere, with the little video shot with the iPhone below... 😉

Finally, we will take more than five hours, instead of the estimated three hours, to reach Kampanar. Coolness and Zenitude, I am. Wonderful Indonesia. Jam karet ... 😂 

  Indonesia : Sulawesi + Raja Ampat – July 2017

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  1. Ah the happiness of travelling in Asia 🙂 I really like the way you tell about this trip, it sounded laborious but it's worth it I guess !
    I lived a little bit the same thing in Laos, what a pain!

    1. @Bettina: yes, it was worth it! I still prefer that they cancel the flight rather than send the plane in a storm ... It has postponed my arrival a day ... On a stay of almost a month, it is not very serious.

  2. It's enormous ! That's also why I love Indonesia. But for sleeping at Makassar airport, it is also done. But I was surprised at the new airport.

    1. @Remi: yes, that's part of the charm of Indonesia ... We always end up where we want to go, it just takes a little longer than expected, sometimes ... Makassar airport is a big "hub" air between east and west of the archipelago. I discover through Wikipedia that the new terminal was inaugurated in August 2008 ...

  3. We were in Lembeh during this time... and we understand then why the weather wasn't nice either, but fortunately always so extraordinary underneath! Thank you for this nice C/R which brings back some memories...we start to miss the songs of the cocks and karaoke speakers 🙂 !

    1. @Pascal: I went to Lembeh the following week... 😉 I was lucky, the weather improved a lot afterwards.
      Hey, hey, yes, I forgot it: sometimes, we also have the right speakers ... (While walking around Lembeh, I remember admiring in the villages of imposing "sound-systems" sometimes in front of the huts not paying not mine ...)

  4. We could have crossed each other because we left on the 19/07 ! I'm looking forward to your comparison Kampanar / Lembeh 😉 ! Good dives !

    1. @Pascal:Indeed, we were at the same place at the same time... 😉 In Kampanar and Lembeh, I didn't really do the same kind of dives. Beautiful coral reefs offshore for the first one, mainly muck-dive in the strait for the second one... But I'll be back to tell you all about it very soon! 😎

  5. I confirm: Nam Air canceled me a flight (maumere - kupang) at the last moment (the same morning), because of "plane crash". I had left my email and bought the flight two days before, but I have never received a notification by email. I was offered to stay at the hotel and the company bought me a ticket on Wings Air on the next day flight. The proposed hotel ("city hotel") did not please me, so I was compensated with 300,000 rupees, and I went back to my super hotel on Kupang (Hotel on the Rock), which cost 600,000. Evidently, the next day flight of Nam Air had reappeared (repaired plane?). In short, I recommend rather Wings on this one, because they had two flights a day on this link and only one for Nam ...

    1. @Robin: #WonderfulIndonesia 😀 Yes, Lion Air / Wings still makes me feel a little more reliable than others (it even came out of the famous "black list", I was talking about it there : Say Your Prayers on Lion Air (bis)).

      Regarding Kupang, I went back to see on my post of 2012, where I retraced my journey to Alor and Raja Ampat : I flew on Garuda to Bali-Kupang, then on Lion Air to Kupang-Makassar (via Surabaya).


      For my part, I took Nam Air twice, during this new trip in July 2017, and everything went well: a Manado-Sorong flight (but I don't know why I chose this flight, which was really very early at 4am and some in the morning, it's only after I discovered that there was a Garuda at more decent hours), then at the end of the trip the direct Sorong-Jakarta flight, very convenient... 😉

  6. Hello Corinne, I revel in your travel stories, especially as I'm planning for our stay in Asia from January to April. And this time Sulawesi and Raja Ampat is on our list for the end of February and 1 month (maybe more!)
    Can you reassure me on one point? I read in the little smart that to go to Papua you must make a request to Jakarta at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Is RajaAmpat part of Papua-West Papua? Excuse my great ignorance about this lost corner, I visited only Bali-Lombok and Gili. For now I made a reservation at Tapokreng on Waigo Island and I hesitate to go on Kri having read about the boat that devastated the reefs this spring. I would like not to plan in advance my travel and accommodation but I have a doubt about the ease of doing it once there, what do you think? You represent a great wealth of experience for me, I thank you in advance! Look forward to reading you again!
    Sincerely, Louise

    1. @Louise: thank you for your little message! In Asia from January to April? Veinaaarde !!!!

      First, on Raja Ampat, I refer you to the page where I compiled a lot of information, if it can help you, it seems to me that I had mentioned somewhere this history of permit for Papua:

      I have not done any recent research on the subject, so I do not know what it is currently, but one thing is certain: you do not need any license from the Indonesian authorities to tourism in the Raja Ampat archipelago.

      I believe that this formality is only required when planning to move elsewhere in Papua (Baliem Valley and others). The authorities thus wish to control the comings and goings of foreigners in this sensitive province, and in particular to avoid that journalists come to take an interest in the Papuan independence movement (I remember that two French journalists reporting to Arte, it seems to me, had been arrested, some time ago ...). I have already been to in the region of Kaimana, further south in Papua, as a simple tourist, without particular care.

      The only formality that is required for Raja Ampat is the tax for the national maritime park, which is currently one million rupees (I mention in the practical article on Raja Ampat which I put the link upper).

      Finally, you'd be wrong to stay in Waigeo and not go to Kri and other islands. I think that at a distance, you do not realize, but the marine park is huge and represents several hours of navigation from one end to the other ... I dived a fortnight ago on the reef (his name: Cross Over) that the vessel has plowed: only a very small part is damaged (even if it is obviously already too much). The ship did not break during its passage all the reefs of all the maritime park, which is immense !!!!

      To reassure you, you can go see the selection of photos that I took under the water to Raja Ampat during this trip of July 2017 and that I already posted on Facebook, as a mouth-watering:
      Most of these images were made on sites close to Kri, which is conveniently located just minutes from the most famous spots and the most beautiful ...

      If the choice of accommodation and the quality of the dives are priority criteria for your trip, I would advise you to book if possible, because you will be there during the peak tourist season. Otherwise, if we do not have any particular expectations, I think we can always find a plan B, even at the last minute.

      Here, do not hesitate to comment on the page of the article on Raja Ampat, if you have other questions (you can also write to me in private if you wish).

      Good preparation! 😉

    2. Thank you Corinne! You reassure me. And no, I do not want to stay on an island alone, and I'm aware of the long distances between them, so I have to do some research to find out which tour would be the best. the ideal would be a live aboard but it is overpriced!
      The positive side is our great flexibility, only the time of stay limits us, and again! I will surely have other questions to ask you, in the meantime I thank you a thousand times.

  7. In the Dominican Republic, they say that for them "Tiempo es Tiempo" and for the Europeans "Tiempo es dineros"! And again the nomads in the desert "you have the time, I have time" ... There is only us to run all the time and to care! This is how! Super article Corinne!

  8. thank you for your story; we were in sorong a few years ago via Makassar; the same for airplanes; delays, cancellation etc .; this year, for Komodo, no pb; Garuda Bali plane to maumere, for cruise waow (yesiiiiiiiiii) from maumere to Bali; too much happiness; in the meantime, my wife and I went diving in the Tuamotu and we drank coral wine to your health (following your blog) it was a great rangiroa and fakarava moment; next year we are targeting cenotes in mexico, do you know,? And at the end of the year, re waow j hope; in short thank you for your writings that make you dream and we will probably meet one another or a dive; wear well; marc

  9. It is true that delays in Indonesia have a different pace than the SNCF ... but in my experience Cebu Pacific is not bad either.
    I confirm: it was very bad in Brittany in July! And then the Mediterranean was cold in June.
    So long live Asia which is still a paradise for divers.

    1. @Feulvarch: mouhahaha... Yes, long live Asia, long live Indonesia!!!! I don't dive in Brittany anymore, I confess. As for the Mediterranean, it's still too cold for me. And then it lacks a little bit of fish... One day, I might decide to try the wet suit and enjoy diving in France. For the moment, despite the hazards of the trip, I prefer Indonesia, there's no photo... 😉