Destination Guide to South East Sulawesi, Indonesia


When you think of Indonesia most people instinctively imagine Bali. Well did you know that the archipelago of Indonesia is actually made up of over 17,000 islands? With so many islands why not get off the beaten path and check out an island less explored such as Sulawesi.

Sulawesi is the second biggest island in the Indonesian archipelago situated between the island of Borneo and Papua. One of the most sparsely inhabited islands in Indonesia, Sulawesi is still off the beaten track for most travelers, especially the area of South East Sulawesi. The island of Sulawesi features two legs extending down to the south. Located on the left leg of the island, South East Sulawesi is remote and relatively untouched offering world class diving, fresh fish and palm tree lined beaches.

For the adventurous traveler wanting to get right off the beaten track to experience a part of Indonesia few venture to, then you need to head to South East Sulawesi.

Where to go and what to do


Kendari is the capital city of South East Sulawesi and the gateway to anything else you will be doing in the region. Nestled between the wild jungle and ocean the capital of South East Sulawesi, Kendari, a relatively forgotten city is beginning to gain presence. With no main roads that connect it with the rest of the island you start to get a sense immediately of how cut off it is.

Here you will be able to have a look into the culture of South East Sulawesi whilst sampling some of the freshest sea food in Indonesia. Take a walk around the small city, stopping off for delicious ice cold teas or coconut drinks whilst soaking up the atmosphere.

If you want to get away from the coast then take a drive into the North Konawe or South Konawe provinces outside the city. Here you will pass along winding roads surrounded by lush jungle interspersed with small villages. These small villages feature traditional stilt and woven houses and many people still live very traditionally out there. You will never be far from the beach here though and there are beaches dotted along the coastline.

If you are feeling adventurous a two hour scenic into North Konawe will take you to Taipa Beach, a favourite by locals and tourists alike. For something closer to Kendari the famous Moramo Waterfall is only 60kms out of the city and is a must see destination. Featuring seven terraces with natural pools in each one the waterfall is 100 metres tall and the perfect place to cool off and have a swim.


The Wakatobi National Marine Park is situated off the coast of Kendari, comprising of both the islands and the surrounding ocean. The name Wakatobi is an acronym of the first letters of the four main islands: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko. Spanning over 1.4 million hectares the marine park has the highest numbers of fish and reef species in the world.

So why have you never heard of it?

A well kept secret by the worlds dive enthusiasts, Wakatobi offers up something for everyone. Only seven of the 150 islands are inhabited and apart from the four main islands there are other smaller ones such as Hoga Island that offer the perfect place to relax. Snorkel, dive, swim, sit in hammocks, drink from fresh coconuts, eat seafood all day, hike around the islands: the possibilities are endless.

Get to Wakatobi either by flying from Kendari to Wangi-Wangi or by boat from Kendari.

Smaller Islands

The Wakatobi island chain is not the only island paradise you can explore. Just a short boat ride away are the islands of Munda and Bau Bau. If you want to stay closer to Kendari or don’t have the time to explore too far, then consider hiring a boat to explore the closer islands.

Located between a one hour and two hour boat ride away the islands of Lara, Bokroi and Hari offer you a tropical paradise. Complete with untouched reefs, tropical fish, palm trees and white sandy beaches you can easily spend a relaxing day trip on one of these islands. Arrange a private boat to take you to the islands from the hotels in Kendari.

Top Tips to Traveling South East Sulawesi

– A large part of the island is conservative Islamic so make sure you are dressed appropriately. That means no short shorts or bikinis on the beach.

– As a less built up area of Indonesia toilet facilities are often basic. Carry toilet paper on you and if you use tampons make sure you have a big enough supply to last you as these are very hard to find.

– Be ready to be cut off from civilization. Once you head out to the islands phone and internet reception become a thing of the past.

– Boat travel will be a part of your trip in some way. Be prepared for potentially un sea worthy looking vessels and if you get sea sick plan ahead and bring medication with you.

– Your stomach might not take well to some of the new food that you try. It may also not have been prepared as hygienically as you are used to back home. Be prepared for some belly run or food poisoning at some stage. Don’t let it ruin your travels though and pack some medication just in case.

– Tampons are not readily available in this part of the world so bring your own.

– Bring a scarf or sarong with you. It will come in handy wether to cover up for modesty reasons, as a towel or sheet or as sun protection on a boat.

South East Sulawesi is one of the least visited regions in Indonesia and is an off the beaten track destination waiting to be visited. Explore along world class reefs, deserted beaches or simply sit back and relax in a hammock.

Share your stories if you’ve been to Sulawesi!


About Author

Growing up on the isolated West Australian coast Morgan always dreamt of lands far away and at the age of 18 started her world odyssey. After studying abroad twice in Ireland and Greece, interning in Jakarta, volunteering with animal rehabilitation in the Bolivian jungle and travelling to every continent including the great southern icy continent as an Antarctic Youth Ambassador and then volunteering as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in Sulawesi, Indonesia. She is currently based in the Solomon Islands trying to combine her love of travel with her passion for protecting the environment.You can connect with her on twitter @morgan_petters and read more on her blog The Eco Backpacker.

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