North of Sulawesi the archipelagic Sangihe islands string together in the Celebes Sea, forming Sulawesi’s eastern limit and connecting the state of Indonesia with the Philippines. While Bunaken, a short ferry ride away from the second largest city of Sulawesi, Manado, is quite popular for its spectacular diving spots along the steep coral reefs, the other islands remain remarkably untouched by tourism. When boarding the boat to the volcanic island Siau on a wet Saturday morning at the port of Manado, we were the only tourists aboard.
Even though it was terribly cold on the ship due to the AC running on full speed, the kindness of the people around us warmed us from the inside. We were offered cookies, candies and many smiles and even given a gift of a whole box of cookies before we left the ferry. This extraordinarily friendly welcome was followed by a quirky ride with the town’s mayor to our accommodation, which instantly took our breath away!
Kalea Beach Resort is one of those places one immediately falls in love with: A secluded place amid tall palm trees and wild jungle, a little bay with a private beach that offers a stunning view to the active volcano Karangetang and bungalows right at the beach front. Since everything about Kalea Beach was familiar and cosy, it resembled a family homestay rather than a high-end island resort. Freshly picked coconuts replaced fancy welcome drinks and the host’s son introduced us to his favorite comic figures. It was easy to connect with the other travelers (of whom there were only five) and the local staff alike, who went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. Just like in a regular family, we even helped prepare a few meals, which was a wonderful way to learn about the local food culture.
What I really loved about the resort was the very basic and yet inviting accommodation. It helped me understand that we don’t need much to live and be happy. While the host Ayu and her staff do offer some activities (hiking to the volcano and the jungle, snorkeling, diving as well as trips to the hot springs, neighboring islands and nutmeg harvestings), there is not so much to do right at the resort. Swimming, sunbathing, reading and thinking filled our long and lazy days. It was the perfect place to unwind, slow down, relax, and regain new energy. The fact that there was no WiFi either enabled us to engage deeper with our thoughts and focus on other things like talking, reading, simply watching the sea or writing a blog post at the beach for that matter (this one’s for you, Elwira ;)). Accordingly, the laid back island spirit took the speed out of our busy lives and allowed us to breathe a bit deeper and live a bit more consciously.
Coming from the hustle and bustle of a big city, I am one those entertainment-addicts, who constantly longs for mental stimulation. The need to do, see and explore something all the time is somehow omnipresent and makes me feel restless whenever I try to relax. Ergo, I have a really hard time doing nothing. As a good friend of mine said: To relax is the ability to do nothing without getting bored!
If you are the Robinson Crusoe type, who loves remote islands, lonely beaches and a lot of time with yourself, then go to Siau. If you can’t live without hot running water, a tight schedule of activities and WiFi, then better don’t. If you plan to write a book, read a few bestsellers or practice meditation, Siau is the right place to be. The island will make you breathe and relax, set your perspectives right and open your soul. It will also make you taste good, spicy and local food, learn about a unique culture and language (Siau language is quite different from Indonesian), visit remote beaches and villages and encounter the kind spirit of the locals.
Embrace the freedom that Siau will create in your mind and soul while enjoying the remote beauty of this wonderful island.