I was filling up my phone with pictures of the incredible mountain ranges just outside my window as we flew in to land in Palu, Central Sulawesi. They felt almost within reach. Like much of Sulawesi, these peaks are only one part of a diverse natural landscape that awaits visitors to the province. Coral reefs, rainforest, waterfalls and deep inland lakes make Central Sulawesi a destination ripe for the intrepid eco traveller.
Palu, Central Sulawesi
Palu sits on the west coast of the central province of Sulawesi, northeast of Jakarta. Positioned on the mouth of the Palu River at the end of a narrow channel the city is protected by mountains at either side. Located in a rain shadow area means the coastal lowlands are drier that elsewhere on the island. A flight delay meant that we only had about 24 hours in Palu. Our trip was brief, but it gave us a taste of what Palu has to offer visitors; a good basic tourist infrastructure of hotels, restaurants, markets and friendly, lively locals. It is also just a short drive or flight to the region’s beautiful rainforests and marine parks.
Talise Beach, Palu
The sun was beginning to set as we touched down and made our way through the city to the Talise Beach promenade. We passed colourful food carts and crowds beginning to gather at the popular sunset spot. Pulling over, we just caught the sun dropping behind the mountains across the water. Surprisingly though, it was the activity closer to us that really caught our attention; locals were scattered along the concrete wall, chatting, texting and eating snacks from the nearby vendors.
Palu isn’t a tourist hot spot just yet, so we soon became a bit of a spectacle in our own right. Passersby beeped and waved from their cars and motorbikes and stopped to pose for photos with us. Some even just pulled over to say halo, in person. One little boy and his parents jumped off their scooter. He then proceeded to run among us, hugging our legs, giving us high-fives, giggling and grinning from ear-to-ear, charming us all.
We made our way to Tanjung Karang Beach in Donggala the next morning which was just over an hour’s drive from our hotel in the city. I loved the drive as the scenery was quite different to North Sulawesi. Houses were painted in pops of bold colour from hot pink to canary yellow and royal blue. Some were a patchwork of the entire palette. Women swept their front gardens, determined to keep the road dust from continuing it’s creep up the colourful walls. We spotted chickens running free and cows feeding on the side of the road. A group of primary school boys sped past on a scooter three-deep on the seat and a local waved to me from the back of a mikrolet as it swung around a bend.
Tanjung Karang Beach, Donggala
We soon stepped out into the sun as we arrived at Prince John Dive Resort at Tanjung Karang Beach in Donggala. Walking between the palms to the waterfront the blues hit. I immediately made a beeline for a beach chair near the water’s edge. As well as a row of loungers and umbrellas, the central area has a bar that serves food and drinks and amenities. The beach is also where you will jump on a boat to go snorkelling or diving around the local area which is what some of our group went off to do. The rest of us took the opportunity to relax. There is bungalow-style accommodation (starting at about $AUD105 per night ) at the resort for those looking to do the same, with transport, transfers and dive tours all available too.
Where: Prince John Dive Resort, Tanjung Karang Beach, Donggala, Central Sulawesi. About 1 hour’s drive from Palu city.
Contact: To book a say visit, stay or tour contact the resort directly.
Cost: Full price list here available here
What to wear/pack: Dress appropriately until you are at the resort). You will need swimmers, comfortable clothing, sandals, a bag with sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat, camera with waterproof housing for snorkelling, a towel and cash to buy food and drinks. Snorkelling and diving equipment is provided on tours.
Exploring Central Sulawesi and Beyond
There is plenty more to see around Central Sulawesi and beyond, if you have longer than we did:
- While in Donggala, go jungle trekking in Lore Lindu National Park or walk through the rainforest from Balumpewa village to see the Wera Waterfall (about 2 kilometres).
- Palu also offers a flight gateway to Luwuk for divers keen to explore the Togean Islands, Poso for those interested in seeing Indonesia’s third-largest lake, Lake Poso or travellers on the way to see orangutans and gibbons in the Kalimantan forests, with direct flights from Palu to Balikpapan.
The Fit Traveller was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry for Tourism for this trip to Sulawesi and Maluku. As always, the opinions, imagery and words are authentically our own.
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.